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Can Biden turn out Latinos to vote? Advocacy groups aren’t sure.

Can Biden turn out Latinos to vote? Advocacy groups aren't sure.

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Daisy Contreras

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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks as former Vice President Joe Biden reacts during the ninth Democratic 2020 US presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas Nevada, on Feb. 19, 2020.

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Mike Blake/Reuters

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Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

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Michael Fox

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro reacts while addressing the media during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasília, Brazil, April 24, 2020.

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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters 

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On Tuesday night, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met with reporters in Brasília. The country had surpassed China in the total number of deaths from the coronavirus and had just registered its highest death count in a 24-hour period: 474 people.

In China, 82,858 cases have been confirmed to date, with the official death toll at 4,633. As of Wednesday, Brazil has seen 74,493 infections and 5,158 deaths.

“So what? I’m sorry, what do you want me to do about it?” Bolsonaro said Tuesday.

His statement went viral, as did the response. Brazilians took to social media to attack the already embattled president.

“So what?” in portuguese “E daí ?”

said Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, about more than 5000 deaths by coronavirus. Confirmed deaths in Brazil today exceed China. pic.twitter.com/vQ4GDa3lEP

— Sheila de Carvalho (@she_carvalho) April 29, 2020

 

1/ “So what?” Jair Bolsonaro told reporters when asked about the record 474 deaths that day in Brazil. “I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?”
“E daí” https://t.co/cymzTkiVCi pic.twitter.com/hNXcoJIy4O

— Leticia Kawano-Dourado (@leticiakawano) April 29, 2020

 

Brazil: 5k dead. 500 in 24 hours.
70k confirmed cases. Some state health systems already collapsing.
Bolsonaro responds: “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? I’m a Messiah (Messias is one of his surnames), but I don’t do miracles.”…

— Daniel (@Daniel_IV_) April 28, 2020

Bolsonaro has fought hard against social restrictions in response to the coronavirus, attending rallies and demanding the economy be reopened. Two weeks ago, he forced out his health minister for vocally defending quarantine measures.

Brazilian President Bolsonaro greeted a few dozen supporters protesting quarantines in Brasilia today. He told them that 70% of the country was going to get sick sooner or later so everyone should just get back to work. #coronavirus #covid19 #Brazil pic.twitter.com/mMmfZR5Rsj

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) April 18, 2020

This is only the latest as Bolsonaro wades through the worst political crisis of his administration — and the calls from Bolsonaro’s supporters for a return to military rule don’t help. 

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

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into Bolsonaro’s alleged interference with police investigations for political gain. This case against him stems from allegations made by Bolsonaro’s former star Justice Minister Sérgio Moro’s resignation, who stepped down after the president fired federal police chief Maurício Valeixo.

“It’s clear that there was interference in the federal police,” Moro told reporters on Friday when he announced his resignation. “The president told me more than once that he wanted someone in direct contact with him. He wanted to be able to call someone. He wanted to be able to have access to information and intelligence reports.”

It’s widely held that Bolsonaro’s sudden interest in the federal police stems from his hope to block criminal inquiries into his three sons, who are under investigation for a series of crimes, including running a fake news scheme, money laundering and embezzlement.

According to the Supreme Court documents, there are seven accusations against the president, including malfeasance and obstruction of justice. The federal police now have 60 days to question Moro over the charges. If confirmed, Congress could begin a process of impeachment.

So far, 31 requests for impeachment have been submitted to Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, including from members of Bolsonaro’s previous allies. But Maia has so far said impeachment is not the priority amid the coronavirus crisis.

Regardless, the turmoil isn’t likely to encourage the president to change his tone.

“Bolsonarism is a political ideology that depends on enemies. If they don’t exist, the president has to invent them every couple of days. In order to justify his behavior and mobilize his followers, he consistently needs new enemies and traitors.”

Maurício Santoro, Rio de Janeiro State University

“Bolsonarism is a political ideology that depends on enemies. If they don’t exist, the president has to invent them every couple of days,” said Maurício Santoro, a political scientist at the Rio de Janeiro State University. “In order to justify his behavior and mobilize his followers, he consistently needs new enemies and traitors.”

Related: Advocates raise alarm as countries fail to collect racial data of coronavirus patients

This was again overtly clear when Bolsonaro ignored quarantine measures a week and a half ago and participated in a rally in front of the army headquarters.

AI-5 has been trending all day in #Brazil.

AI-5 was the 1968 dictatorship decree, which suspended Congress, habeas corpus, etc.

It’s essentially what Bolsonaro’s supporters called for today @ a rally in Brasilia attended by the president.@LemusteleSURpic.twitter.com/jLSXY6UypC

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) April 20, 2020

A few hundred of his supporters protested social restrictions and called for a return to the dictatorship and the disbanding of Congress and the Supreme Court — claiming that these institutions are actively working against the president.

“Now, the people are in power,” Bolsonaro told the crowd. “More than a right, you have the obligation of fighting for your country.”

Calls demanding military intervention aren’t new in Brazil, but Bolsonaro’s presence at the rally was a disturbing sign.

Bolsonaro is a former military captain who has praised known torturers and the military regime that controlled Brazil from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. He has more military officials in his government than any since the end of the dictatorship — a third of his cabinet members, including his vice president and chief of staff — have military backgrounds.

Related: Bolsonaro’s denial of coronavirus puts the country at risk

“There is much to be concerned about. There is always a type of military threat hanging over the heads of the Brazilian people. So, you live in a state of permanent siege.”

Emiliano Jose, retired journalism professor

“There is much to be concerned about. There is always a type of military threat hanging over the heads of the Brazilian people,” said Emiliano Jose, a retired journalism professor, who was detained and tortured for many years under a dictatorship in Brazil. “So, you live in a state of permanent siege.”

The Brazilian dictatorship was a brutal period. Hundreds of people were disappeared. Thousands were imprisoned. Roughly 30,000 were tortured, according to a 2007 report from a government commission investigating state crimes.

In Brazil, the threat of military rule is never far from sight. On the night Bolsonaro won the October 2018 presidential elections, gun-wielding soldiers in fatigues celebrated by riding through the streets of Niterói on top of a procession of military transport vehicles.

Last October, the president’s son, congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, told a reporter that if leftist Brazilians hit the streets in mass protests, the government would have to sink the country into a dictatorship, suspending habeas corpus and the rule of law.

This rhetoric actually goes over well with Bolsonaro’s supporters, many of whom look back on the military regime with nostalgia for what they call order and progress.

On the heels of military rule, truth commissions revealed the horrors of the past, but no one has ever been held responsible.

Related: Bolsonaro is still downplaying the coronavirus. Many worry about the impact on the most vulnerable.

Federal University of Santa Catarina Historian Cristina Wolff says this failure to confront Brazil’s dark history is key to understanding why many still feel empowered to demand its return.

“I do believe that this issue of never holding anyone accountable for the crimes of the dictatorship makes a big difference. Because in Argentina, where torturers were brought to justice, people could watch the trials on TV. The press covered it. So, the people had to remember.”

Cristina Wolff, Federal University of Santa Catarina

“I do believe that this issue of never holding anyone accountable for the crimes of the dictatorship makes a big difference,” she said. “Because in Argentina, where torturers were brought to justice, people could watch the trials on TV. The press covered it. So, the people had to remember.”

We are not likely to see tanks rolling on the streets in the coming days. But the strength of the military is expected to grow inside Bolsonaro’s government as it descends into deeper turmoil and attempts to battle the growing financial, political and health crises.

That, more than anything else, may be driving Bolsonaro’s rhetoric these days. 

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

As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico's food prices soar

By
Emily Green

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Maria Solis, a street vendor selling fruit, shows a sign that says “The coronavirus won’t kill me, hunger will. Here you can do your panic buying too,” as the spread of COVID-19 continues in Mexico City, Mexico, March 25, 2020.

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Carlos Perez Gallardo/Reuters

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French dentists strip naked to protest lack of protective gear

French dentists strip naked to protest lack of protective gear

Producer
Lucy Martirosyan

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Dr. Maud Braun-Reys, left, a dental surgeon in Obernai, France, posted an image on Facebook of herself naked in her office along with her father, Dr. Daniel Reys, also a dentist, to protest the lack of PPE.

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Courtesy of Dr. Maud Braun-Reys

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It will be a couple of weeks before people get back to work in France. But for now, the country’s dentists are feeling especially vulnerable.

Many of them say they won’t have enough personal protective equipment, or PPE, to protect them from the coronavirus as they treat their patients. So they’re protesting in a unique way: They’re stripping down.

Dozens of dentists have taken pictures of themselves naked in their offices and posted the photos online with the hashtag #dentisteapoil — or, dentists in the buff. The photos are composed with carefully positioned props like books and flowers to conceal their private parts.

Dental surgeon Dr. Maud Braun-Reys posted a photo of herself naked in her office in Obernai, near Strasbourg, France. She also posted a naked photo of her 72-year-old father, Dr. Daniel Reys, who is also a dentist. 

“If tomorrow the health ministry doesn’t free up this talk of PPE that is currently blocked or give us the possibility to order, it will be like going naked to work,” Braun-Reys said. “The fact is that because of the shortage of masks in the hospital, all dentists make a donation of their stock of PPE. So without protection for us and for our patients, it’s really impossible to face COVID.” 

Screengrab of naked German doctors protesting in the nude because of lack of PPE during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Credit:

Blankebedenken

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World 

The French dentists are joined by health specialists throughout Europe posing naked to demonstrate their vulnerability. In Germany, nude photos appear on a website urging politicians to ensure doctors and clinics have enough protective gear.

“I learned how to stitch wounds, why do I now have to learn how to stitch masks?” reads a placard held by a female doctor with a stethoscope and a red mask in one photo. The naked doctors said that outpatient and general practice care for COVID-19 patients was as important as hospital care, putting them on the front line in the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to the French dentists’ protest, the country’s government said it will provide the dentists extra masks when the country’s lockdown begins to lift on May 11.

“Last week we announced an extra 150,000 FFP2 masks to be provided to them by the 11th of May to allow some cabinets [offices] to reopen and handle relative emergencies,” a spokesperson for the French ministry of health told The World. “After the 11th of May, we will progressively reopen all dentists and provide the necessary PPE for this activity to be possible.”

“It’s not enough for 42,000 dentists. It will just only last for one day of work.”

Maud Braun-Reys, dentist

According to Braun-Reys, much more gear is needed: “It’s not enough for 42,000 dentists. It will just only last for one day of work.” 

Braun-Reys noted that the images have shocked people around the world, particularly in the US. But the intention was not to draw attention to French dentists’ naked bodies, she said.

“It’s just to explain that we are totally defenseless,” she said. “So it was really to shock maybe a little bit the opinion, but also to alert the authorities. And we are all united in this movement. All the dental profession is united. We have made 260 photos for the moment and it’s going to grow and grow all over the world.” 

Reuters contributed to this report. Editor’s note: A previous version of this story used the wrong image for Dr. Daniel Reys.

Chile’s ‘COVID-19 card’ sparks controversy over ‘uncertainty of evidence’ about immunity

Chile’s ‘COVID-19 card’ sparks controversy over ‘uncertainty of evidence’ about immunity

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The World staff

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Amulya Shankar

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A man wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rests in a public square in Valparaiso, Chile, April 27, 2020. 

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Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters 

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Chile is one of several countries trying to plan ahead for a return to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its health ministry has pushed for the use of so-called “immunity passports” — an all-clear card of sorts issued to people who have already had the illness — so that parts of the population can return to work. 

Related: Countries herald lifting of coronavirus lockdowns, but UK says not yet

But scientists, doctors and researchers still lack much information about the coronavirus and how it works. Experts with the World Health Organization worry about moving too quickly and have advised against the use of such passport documentation to indicate immunity from COVID-19. 

Paula Daza, sub-secretary of Chile’s health ministry, told reporters on Sunday that while many uncertainties remain about the coronavirus pandemic, evidence points to a reduced risk after the first bout of the coronavirus.

“One of the things we know is that a person who has…lived through the disease is less likely to become ill again,” Daza said. She said certifying this status was the “goal of the COVID-19 card that is being prepared will soon be delivered” to patients.

WHO said that issuing certificates could inspire false confidence and increase the risk of spreading the virus. People who have recovered may ignore advice about taking precautions against the virus, the WHO said.

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” said WHO. 

Daza clarified on Sunday that the certificates Chile planned to issue did not certify immunity.

“It is very important, and I want to reiterate, that we have not talked about an immunity card,” she said.

But Chile’s top health official, Jaime Manalich, said early in April that those who have recovered from the coronavirus represented a population that was immune to it and incapable of transmitting it.

He said those with the medical discharge certificate would be “freed from all types of quarantine or restriction, specifically because they can help their communities enormously since they pose no risk.”

Daza did not specifically address the contradiction when asked by a reporter Sunday.

Chile has confirmed 14,885 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began in the South American nation in early March, as well as 216 deaths.

Related: Kids in Spain venture outside for first time in weeks

Dr. Cristóbal Cuadrado is a professor of public health at the University of Chile who joined host Marco Werman from Santiago to discuss the idea behind the immunity passport concept — and why it sparked so much controversy. 

Marco Werman: Dr. Cuadrado, can you tell us what Chile has decided with regard to the immunity passports?

Dr. Cristóbal Cuadrado: There has been a lot of controversy regarding this issue in the last weeks. At the beginning, the Ministry of Health wanted to give this kind of immunity passport to any person that had acquired the disease in the last two weeks. So, any person that has been diagnosed and cleared from the disease was suspected to be immune, and therefore, given this kind of passport. Additionally, there was a discussion into if antibody testing should be added to the definition.

But the problem, as World Health Organization has mentioned, is that we don’t know if this rapid testing available now in the market really is able to detect effective antibodies on how long this potential immunity could last. So, I think there is a lot of controversy at this point in Chile, and also in other countries that are looking forward to move on these kinds of measures.

Right, and depending on how you feel about this idea, I suspect you may or may not agree with even whether to call it an “immunity passport.” The WHO has recommended against them because there is no evidence currently supporting immunity. The idea that if you’ve been infected once that you can’t be reinfected — we just don’t know. So, has the Chilean government addressed these concerns in any way?

The use of this documentation is not clear any longer because the initial idea of the government was to produce this documentation so people could move freely and not be forced to stay at home, for example, when quarantines were in place in some cities. But just recently, a few days ago, they needed to step back on this and they stopped calling this an immunity passport. So, this is still something that is ongoing and probably we will hear from the Chilean government in the next week, how they are going to or plan to use this documentation if it’s not aiming to warrant immunity to the persons that are holding it.

So in a matter of a few weeks, the Chilean government contradicted itself on this. What kind of reaction has there been to the plan so far?

In the media, it has been very clear that there were profound differences with the ministry of health. For example, the Chilean Society of Immunology or the Chilean Society of Infectology were both calling for prudence on the implementation of these measures in the context of uncertainty of the evidence. And I think the message from the World Health Organization during the last week was also very, very influential for the decision of the government to step back on this decision.

Will it give people false confidence when we just don’t have full details on immunity to COVID-19?

Yeah, absolutely. I think that one of the main criticisms of this idea of the immunity passport is not to be transparent in the uncertainties behind the idea. So, I think you can implement something like this, but you need to be very, very transparent to the public. What we do know and what we don’t know. I think that is, of course, a point of contention, because the economy needs to start working again. But we need to do it in a way that we protect the population’s health as well.

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

1.5 billion could lose livelihoods; International students caught in limbo; Ghana’s dancing pallbearers go ‘viral’

1.5 billion could lose livelihoods; International students caught in limbo; Ghana's dancing pallbearers go 'viral'

By
The World staff

A general view of an empty high street in Hemel Hempstead as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain March 24, 2020.

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Matthew Childs/Reuters

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South Korea reels from latest high-tech, online sex trafficking case

South Korea reels from latest high-tech, online sex trafficking case

By
Kelly Kasulis

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Cho Ju-bin, leader of South Korea’s online sexual blackmail ring known as the “Nth room” walks out of a police station as he is transferred to a prosecutor’s office in Seoul, South Korea, March 25, 2020. 

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Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters 

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One story might be dominating South Korean headlines even more than COVID-19: The Nth Room sex trafficking scandal.

In late March, Korean news organizations began revealing details about a series of pay-to-view, sex trafficking chat rooms on multipurpose, encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram and Discord. The Nth room — which is actually eight different chat rooms on Telegram — circulated footage of at least 74 women and 16 minors performing forced sex acts for thousands of users who paid cryptocurrency to view it.

Many of the women and children, who were referred to as “slaves” in the chat room, were blackmailed using private information illegally obtained from government offices. On camera, the victims were raped, beaten and forced to self-mutilate. 

Related: South Korea’s controversial ‘life-size’ sex doll imports

Even worse, it’s unclear how many men paid for this footage, how many messaging apps are involved or how many copycat chat rooms have been made. Several minors between the ages of 12 and 17 are also being investigated for managing similar chat rooms and circulating or selling videos of rape and sexual assault.

“At least up to 10,000 men in Korea have had access to that chatroom, and they shared videos of sexually assaulting a bunch of minors,” said Yudori, a feminist graphic novelist and cartoonist who uses a pen name to protect her identity.

Yudori, like many other South Korean women observing these issues unfold in the media, is skeptical about whether the victims will see justice. Already, one of the individuals involved with creating the Nth room was sentenced to just 42 months — 3.5 years — in prison.

“I feel like there is still a possibility that they will get very, very lenient sentencing,” Yudori said. 

The Nth Room is a shock to many in South Korea, but it’s part of a greater trend of high-tech, national sex crimes. There was the Sora.net scandal in 2016, in which thousands of illegally filmed, nonconsensual spycam porn videos were circulated to up to 1 million site visitors. (One of the site’s co-founders was sentenced to four years in prison last year.) Similarly, in 2018, thousands of women rallied against spycam porn filmed inside hotels, spas and public bathrooms around the country.

Related: These Argentine women fight against a justice system ‘written by men’ 

“The platforms change and the message and the details change, and the patterns are similar and you see the same patterns in the nth room, and that’s treating the sexual objectification and the dehumanization of women as a game.”

Haeryun Kang, freelance journalist, South Korea

Haeryun Kang, a freelance journalist from South Korea and the creative director of a media startup called VideocusIN, recently created a short film called “Color of Rage: The Nth Room” that addresses the impact of these sex crimes on women.

“The platforms change and the message and the details change, and the patterns are similar and you see the same patterns in the nth room, and that’s treating the sexual objectification and the dehumanization of women as a game,” Kang said. 

But even as a journalist who reports on these issues frequently, the cruel nature of the Nth Room was hard for Kang to imagine.

“The Nth Room shocked me because of the way these women were treated and the things they were coerced into doing,” she said. “Yes, those actions were shocking to me, but what was shocking to me, even more, was the callousness of the language, and how people just talked about rape as if it was just a joke.”

For now, it’s unclear how the government will react to the Nth Room in the long run. Police are investigating several chat room handlers, and the story continues to develop in South Korea on a daily basis.

Lee Soo-jung, a professor of criminal psychology at Kyonggi University, said it’s time for the government to create laws that crack down harder on internet sex crimes.

Related: In Japan, sexual harassment isn’t a crime

“This is an astonishing case for people who didn’t know about cyberspace, the dark web and how the world works. How can there be a place where such inhumane, uncivilized crime can happen in secret?” 

Lee Soo-jung, professor of criminal pyschology, Kyonggi University, South Korea

“This is an astonishing case for people who didn’t know about cyberspace, the dark web and how the world works. How can there be a place where such inhumane, uncivilized crime can happen in secret?” she said. “We’re running into a problem where offline law and order does not yet apply to the online world. So, how do we make a law that can cover all kinds of dubious, illegal activity in cyberspace? That’s our homework for now.”

Mitch S. Shin contributed to this report.

Actor Irrfan Khan, star of ‘Life of Pi, ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ dies at 53

Actor Irrfan Khan, star of 'Life of Pi, 'Slumdog Millionaire,' dies at 53

Indian actor Irrfan Khan arrives for the screening of the film “Dabba (The Lunchbox)” at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival, 2013.

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Mark Blinch/Reuters

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Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.

Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.

If you think the war metaphor is being overused, you’re not alone. But why is this kind of rhetoric such a go-to for world leaders? And should we consider other metaphors? 

By
Patrick Cox

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This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects), also known as the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab which was isolated from a patient in the US. 

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NIAID-RML/Handout via Reuters 

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Very few of us have experienced anything quite like the crisis we’re going through now. We don’t know how to describe it, or what to call it, or what to compare it to.

Our leaders, though, seem pretty certain. China’s Xi Jinping set the tone in February when he called for a “people’s war” against the virus. On April 1, Donald Trump declared that the US continued to “wage all-out war to defeat the virus.” On April 26, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that every Indian complying with that country’s lockdown “was a soldier in this fight.”

French President Emmanuel Macron was perhaps the most succinct. As he prepared to shut his country down in March, he simply told the French people, “We are at war.”

Related: Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes

If you think the war metaphor is being overused, you’re not alone. But why is this kind of rhetoric such a go-to for world leaders? And should we consider other metaphors?

Metaphors allow us to see one thing in terms of another. Arguably, they are most effective when the comparison transforms our thinking. But there’s a danger in that, too.

“The choice of metaphor can affect not just the way in which we talk about something.”

Elena Semino, linguist, Lancaster University in Britain

“The choice of metaphor can affect not just the way in which we talk about something,” said Elena Semino, a linguist at Lancaster University in Britain. That choice, she said, can also “change the way we think about something and experience it.”

Related: ‘Stay home or dance with us’: Ghana’s dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

We’re not at war, we all know that. But our situation bears enough resemblance to life during wartime so as to make the metaphor appealing.

The ability of metaphor to change how we think, and maybe act, is at the root of the power of the war metaphor. It is why leaders confronted with this pandemic reached so quickly for the language of bombardment and trenches and sacrifice. They need to convey the peril in the starkest of terms.

In a way, they’re all trying to channel the likes of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who of course had to deal with a real war.

“What crimes has Hitler and all that Hitler stands for brought upon Europe and the world?” asked Churchill in 1941. “The outrage of the unopposed air bombing applied with calculated and scientific cruelty to helpless populations.”

Once Churchill had established the existential nature of the threat, he made his appeal for renewed resistance with a combination of hard truths and optimism.

Related: Shutdowns have led to cleaner air quality. Is it sustainable?

“Lift up your hearts,” he continued. “All will come right out of the depths of sorrow and of sacrifice.”

With a formula as powerful as that, why wouldn’t a president or governor declare that we’re at war with a virus? And why wouldn’t we buy it?

“I have to say that I, too, sometimes slip up and fall into that language. But I think it’s really important to correct ourselves and think about the impact that can be had when you’re using really violent language at a time when people are already anxious and already scared.”

Seema Yasmin, Stanford University

“I have to say that I, too, sometimes slip up and fall into that language,” said Seema Yasmin who teaches medicine and journalism at Stanford University. “But I think it’s really important to correct ourselves and think about the impact that can be had when you’re using really violent language at a time when people are already anxious and already scared.”

The trouble is, Yasmin says, this stuff is almost hardwired in us. We’ve deployed war metaphors to describe our attempts to control epidemics since at least the mid-1600s when a prominent British doctor called Thomas Sydenham made the comparison.

Related: Amid pandemic, Animal Crossing gamers create dreamy ‘islands,’ travel and mingle with friendly (and really cute) animal neighbors

“I attack the enemy within,” Sydenham declared. “A murderous array of disease has to be fought against, and the battle is not a battle for the sluggard.”

“This might be one of the earliest instances of that kind of violent language in medicine,” Yasmin said. She notes that French biologist Louis Pasteur spoke of infectious diseases as “invading armies that lay siege to our bodies.”

Yasmin says that in the 1920s, cancer cells were described as anarchists or Bolsheviks, the enemies of that era. And in 1971, Richard Nixon took aim with his own “war on cancer.”

So, are there better ways to talk about our current situation? Lancaster University’s Semino says yes. She oversees a crowdsourced project called Metaphor Menu, which lists the many ways people with cancer think of their condition. Weaponizing their struggle works for some patients, she says. But others prefer to think of being on a journey, or in a difficult relationship — or for one person, like having a stone in her shoe. As for the coronavirus, Semino says it might be time to drop the war talk.

“If a war is protracted, people could become fed up with it,” she said. “They could think there is no victory in sight, so the messages could become less effective.”

Semino has come across several other metaphors that she thinks work better. The most comprehensive one compares the pandemic to a forest fire.

“There are firefighters fighting it directly, such as doctors and nurses,” she said. “But other people have to be vigilant in order not to get in the way and not to be in danger themselves.”

The metaphor can be extended. When the main fire appears under control, we might still have to continue to modify our behavior so that it doesn’t flare up again. Even after it has been all but extinguished, smoldering ashes could reignite the forest.

“To avoid future fires, you need to look after the wood and the land,” Semino said.

If the forest fire metaphor proves inaccurate or unwieldy, Semino has found others on Twitter and elsewhere. These include comparisons with child development, orchestras and parachutes.

Social distancing is like asking a string section to play pianissimo: it only works if everyone does it. pic.twitter.com/KowZA7dOHG

— Classic FM (@ClassicFM) March 27, 2020

Patrick Cox is with the language-themed podcast, Subtitle, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

‘Stay home or dance with us’: Ghana’s dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

'Stay home or dance with us': Ghana's dancing pallbearers urge social distancing

By
The World staff

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Ghana’s dancing pallbearers – BBC Africa

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COVID-19 shakes up international student life — and university budgets

COVID-19 shakes up international student life — and university budgets

More than a month after the coronavirus pandemic shut down US universities, international students continue to face uncertainty over what the coming school year will look like — some aren't sure if they would be able to come back to campus. What kind of financial hit could US universities expect if there's a drop in enrollment among international students?

By
Marnette Federis

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A student carries bags to her car before a deadline to vacate University of Dayton in Ohio on-campus housing due to measures to combat the spread of novel coronavirus, in Dayton, Ohio, March 11, 2020.

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Bryan Woolston/Reuters

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When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced US university closures in March, Julia Jing, a sophomore at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, wasn’t sure if she should return home to Beijing or to stay in the US. 

The journalism and art design student eventually purchased a ticket home to China, but that flight was canceled. Jing has since been hunkering down in her apartment near campus and taking classes remotely. But she’s also spending a lot of her time contacting the US embassy in China and trying to figure out what she’ll do next. 

“It’s hard to connect with the embassies. They didn’t answer my phone and they didn’t reply to my email. And I don’t know what to do right now.”

Julia Jing, sophomore, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“It’s hard to connect with the embassies. They didn’t answer my phone and they didn’t reply to my email,” Jing said. “And I don’t know what to do right now.”

An estimated 1.1 million international students were enrolled at US universities during the 2018-19 academic year. And by paying tuition, renting apartments and buying books and supplies, they contributed an estimated $41 billion to the US economy, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. 

But those students have been forced to scramble as universities across the country closed in-person education this spring to slow the spread of the virus. Some who lived on campus had to find a new place to live, while others rushed to get back to their home countries before flights were canceled or national governments shut down borders. There is still uncertainty about what the coming academic year will look like for international students. Some, like Jing, aren’t sure if they’ll be able to return to campus in the fall. 

Related: International students displaced by COVID-19 face headaches with online classes

Her student visa expires in June, and the US government requires her to return to China to renew it. But flight cancellations may stretch into the coming months, and services at US embassies may still be suspended this summer. And if Jing does go home and can’t renew her visa, she’s not sure if she will be able to return to Illinois and enroll in the fall.

“If I cannot come back, I would just get a year off and stay in China,” she said. 

The American Council on Education predicts that “enrollment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, including a projected decline of 25% for international students,” according to letters it submitted to Congress. That could have serious effects on institutions’ budgets. The organization is advocating for more financial aid for higher education institutions to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World

The potential decline is a troubling scenario for many in higher education. 

International students typically pay full tuition at colleges, which means they pay higher rates compared to most domestic students, said Dick Startz, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“Universities all use that money to help subsidize the education of American students. If we lost a whole lot of our international students, a lot of universities would have a really serious financial shock.”

Dick Startz, economics professor, University of California, Santa Barbara 

“Universities all use that money to help subsidize the education of American students,” Startz said. “If we lost a whole lot of our international students, a lot of universities would have a really serious financial shock.”

Already, since 2016 fewer new international students have been choosing to study in the US. Higher education experts attribute that decline to the Trump administration’s stricter immigration policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

Rachel Banks, senior director for public policy and legislative strategy with NAFSA, said the pandemic will only accelerate the decline. If the number of international students falls, Banks says, the impacts will not just be financial, but could also extend to research and the overall academic learning environment of universities.

Related: Indians stranded in the US due to coronavirus face headaches for online classes

“At the graduate level, a majority of international students are here studying … in STEM fields, and they serve a role on campus as student teachers, supporting faculty and working in research labs,” said Banks.

Universities say they are preparing for all possible scenarios and potential financial losses. But many questions remain unanswered. For example, it’s unclear if international travel will still be limited in the coming months. The overall health of the global economy could impact international students’ ability to enroll. And it’s uncertain if US embassies and consulates around the world will be able to open up and issue student visas for those that need them in time for the fall. 

Another big question is whether the Department of Homeland Security will allow current international students to take classes online next semester.

Another big question is whether the Department of Homeland Security will allow current international students to take classes online next semester. Typically, those with student visas can only count one online class to their full course to remain eligible. But the agency temporarily suspended the rule in light of the pandemic this spring. It’s also unclear if newly admitted international students would be allowed to take classes remotely.

“We don’t know what it’s going to look like in August,” said Martin McFarlane, director of International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign said. “But these things are going to be restricting for returning students, just like they’re going to be restricting to new students, as well.”

At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, McFarlane said accepted international students still have a lot of interest in coming to the US.

“I did speak to the admissions office very recently,” said McFarlane. “They say the number of international students accepting their offer remains on pace with what we’ve seen in recent years. Our incoming class at the moment are hopeful and believe they’re going to be able to attend and fall.” 

Jing also wonders how new international students will fare in the fall, especially if classes are remote. She said she decided to study in the US for the experience of being on campus and meeting new people. 

“I like to experience the life here, how you join some clubs, hang out with friends … having this experience is more special for me,” Jing said.

She hopes to be able to continue studying in Illinois in the fall and to be with her friends, but if classes continue to be remote, she said she’ll enroll to make sure she can graduate on time.  

“I’m worried about my future,” she said. 

The economics of a global emergency

The economics of a global emergency

By
Sarah Leeson

A “telepresence” robot which provides face-to-face medical consultation is pictured at Changi Exhibition Centre which has been repurposed into a community isolation facility that will house recovering or early COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, during the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Singapore, April 24, 2020.

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Edgar Su/Reuters

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Everyone is feeling the impact of the pandemic in one way or another, and those feeling it financially are in the millions. Current estimates put the United States’ unemployment rate in the teens, and there has been a record number of unemployment benefits claims. The International Monetary Fund said it expects this to be the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression. 

When it comes to what happens next, nothing is certain. According to David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-chair of the MIT Work of the Future Task Force, the recession ultimately could be “transformative” for the country’s economy —  both positively and negatively  —  but this type of crash is almost unprecedented.

“We can’t really be super confident in the projections that we typically use,” Autor said. “For example, the Congressional Budget Office has terrific models that they use to forecast the unemployment rate, the return to growth, the output gap between potential and actual, and how that affects the rate of reemployment. But those models are based on past history, and that may not be a good guide.”

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World

The main difference, Autor said, is that this crash wasn’t due to a bubble. It wasn’t a sluggish or fundamentally unhealthy economy that caused the current decline. Instead, it was a necessary, society-wide reaction to a pandemic. Economic models haven’t really taken that into account.

While we can’t know for sure how this will play out, we are seeing that anyone can be affected. Kate, who asked that her real name not be used because of concerns about future job prospects, is one of millions who has been laid off in the last few weeks. Up until recently, she thought that her job working in a DNA sequencing lab was stable. But as more places shut down, there were fewer samples to collect and Kate was let go.

“I didn’t think my job, the company, or any of it was in peril,” Kate said. “It was just like, ‘Oh, shut down for a month and everything’s fine, everyone will go back.’ But the fact that it might not be fine is starting to sink in.”

Logan Patino was also in an industry that seemed untouchable: technology.

“I think I was a bit naive when I started hearing about it,” Patino said. “I think I understood early on how serious it was from a health perspective, but when it came to the economy and people’s jobs and everything, I kind of thought, ‘Well, okay, I’m in tech, and tech always has jobs.’”

The startup Patino was working for had just received $400 million in funding in February, but that didn’t save his job.

“I mean, it can affect pretty much everybody —  and it will for the near future for sure,” Patino said.

While neither blue nor white-collar jobs are certain in the face of the recession, many blue-collar positions face the added threat of automation, which, according to Autor, is imminent. Studies tell us that automation does not happen in a linear fashion. Instead, robots are introduced to the workplace in bursts, largely concentrated during times of economic downturn, such as right now. In fact, Autor called the current recession “an automation forcing event.”

“Employers are going to learn quickly things that they could do without workers, that they thought they needed workers to do,” Autor said, “And once things go back to normal, employers are not going to unlearn that lesson.”

For people working jobs that remain driven by humans, though, there may be a bright side. Autor suggests that society may have a chance to re-examine how we treat and compensate people in positions that have proven to be essential in the current crisis, including caretakers, grocery store workers, trash collectors and janitorial staff.

“A lot of those people are taking great risks and they’re not well remunerated,” Autor said. “And we have an opportunity to re-examine whether that’s the deal we want to offer them because it doesn’t have to be that way.” 

Sarah Leeson is an associate producer with Innovation Hub. You can follow her @sarahbration.

Brazilian Supreme Court orders probe into Bolsonaro; El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread; Harvard student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston

Brazilian Supreme Court orders probe into Bolsonaro; El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread; Harvard student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston

By
The World staff

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro walks as he leaves the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 22, 2020.

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Adriano Machado/Reuters

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

Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered an investigation into accusations from Sergio Moro, the former justice minister, that allege President Jair Bolsonaro tried to “interfere” with police work for political gain. Moro — previously an anti-corruption judge — resigned last week, sending the administration into turmoil. A majority of Brazilians believe there is truth to accusations against Bolsonaro, but are split on whether or not he should be impeached.

And: Embraer takes Boeing to arbitration over failed deal as Brazil eyes China tie-up

Also: A Republican effort to sabotage Obamacare was just rejected by the Supreme Court

El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread

“No ray of sunlight” will enter prison cells holding gang members, said El Salvador’s security minister Osiris Luna, after a spate of homicides occured over the weekend. The government says prisoners were passing messages to the outside about the targets of the killings. Photos released by the office of President Nayib Bukele show inmates stripped down to shorts and crammed together on prison floors, most with no protection from the spread of the novel coronavirus. Human rights organizations have warned about the deadly consequences of the virus in Latin America’s overcrowded prison facilities. 

And: ‘Calamitous’ — domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown

WHO warns children could die as vaccinations for other diseases are delayed

The World Health Organization warns that children are at risk as the pandemic has created vaccine shortages in at least 21 countries for other potentially deadly diseases. Immunizations and treatment for diseases such as malaria have been put on hold, which could lead to a spike in cases later. “The tragic reality is children will die as a result,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urging countries to ensure vaccine programs are funded. 

Also: Vaccine rates drop dangerously as parents avoid doctor’s visits

And: US was warned of threat from anti-vaxxers in event of pandemic

Discussion today: Pandemic exposes health inequities

With the coronavirus pandemic making its way around the globe, poor communities and communities of color have been hit particularly hard, exposing longstanding health disparities. As part of our weekly series, The World’s Elana Gordon will be taking your questions and moderating a conversation with Dr. Mary Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former commissioner of health for New York City, on Tuesday, April 28 at 12 p.m. ET.

Harvard grad student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston

The coronavirus pandemic is creating an insatiable demand for medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) that has overwhelmed the world market. China has ramped up the production of needed supplies by bringing new manufacturers online. In an international marketplace where companies, federal and state agencies are fighting for equipment, Harvard business student Sophie Bai and her colleagues are creating a new supply chain.

And: Shutdowns have led to cleaner air quality. Is it sustainable?

COVID-19 interrupts fertility plans for hopeful couples in the UK

Thousands of women may lose out on their chance to have a baby because of COVID-19. Fertility clinics across Britain shut their doors in mid-April, pausing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment for many women midcycle. The decision has left thousands in limbo. No one knows when the clinics will open up again and for those who have spent years trying to conceive — the closure is a cruel blow.

Also: Kids in Spain venture outside for the first time in weeks as lockdown gradually eases up

Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes

A map of Europe and North Africa showing locations where people have tagged recordings uploaded to the crowdsourced project, Corona Diaries.

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Corona Diaries

During the novel coronavirus pandemic, some are turning to their diaries to document this incredible time. Fellows from Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism had a different idea to chronicle daily life. They have started the “Corona Diaries” — an open-source audio project where anyone — including you — can contribute their audio story.

Morning meme

Chris Woodhead is taking a more permanent approach to tracking his pandemic experience: a tattoo for every day in lockdown.

    View this post on Instagram         

Self-isolation tattoo no.31

A post shared by Chris Woodhead (@adverse.camber) on Apr 16, 2020 at 6:39am PDT

In case you missed itListen: As some countries ease lockdowns, UK’s Boris Johnson asks Britons to be patient

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street after recovering from the coronavirus, in London, England, April 27, 2020.

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Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/handout via Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on the job and urging the public to be patient with the lockdown restrictions. Meanwhile, the British parliament is back up and running though, without the traditional rancor for which the body is known. And, different countries are enforcing rules on self-isolation and quarantine differently. In the Philippines, a large part of the country is on lockdown with potentially deadly curfews. Also, the “Corona Diaries” gives people an opportunity to share their experiences of life under lockdown. 

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

Harvard grad student creates a new PPE supply chain from China to Boston

Harvard grad student creates a new PPE supply chain from China to Boston

By
Rachel Rock

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Personal protective equipment brought to the US through an operation run by Harvard Business School student Sophie Bai.

 

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Courtesy of Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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Recently, Brigham and Women’s Hospital received a shipment of 3,000 face shields and goggles through an unusual channel — a Harvard Business School student from China, Sophie Bai, and a team of classmates and medical advisers working pro bono around the clock.

Dr. Mark Davis, vice president of Brigham Health International, said he has seen his own procurement office tirelessly search for supplies as their normal distributors have run dry. They, too, have created innovative solutions, such as sterilizing disposable equipment for reuse. But, with an endless demand, Davis and his colleagues welcomed the additional gear.

Related: Kids in Spain venture outside for the first time in weeks as lockdown gradually eases up

“Through this donation, we are able to prove the reliability of this really new sourcing mechanism. It’s something that’s new, it’s critically important and I think it will be instrumental to giving us the sort of PPE that we need here and around the country.”

Dr. Mark Davis, Brigham Health International, vice president

“Through this donation, we are able to prove the reliability of this really new sourcing mechanism,” Davis said. “It’s something that’s new, it’s critically important and I think it will be instrumental to giving us the sort of PPE that we need here and around the country.”

The coronavirus pandemic is creating an insatiable demand for medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) that has overwhelmed the world market. China has ramped up the production of needed supplies by bringing new manufacturers online. In an international marketplace where companies, federal and state agencies are fighting for equipment, Bai and her colleagues are creating a new supply chain.

Bai first came from China to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10 years ago to pursue an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. After stints as a private consultant, she decided to get a degree from the Harvard Business School. When Harvard’s campus shut down in mid-March, she said she had time on her hands and saw a way to help protect Boston’s front-line workers in hospitals, some of whom were her friends.

Bai said she has a family friend back home in China who is an established distributor of medical equipment, which provides Bai with direct access to supplies and reliable export infrastructure. So many new factories are now producing supplies that Bai said it’s hard to know which ones can be trusted to deliver quality goods efficiently.

Related: Shutdowns have led to cleaner air quality. Is it sustainable?

“Because my friends have direct access with the factories, they would actually fly there, do the sample testing themselves and be there to get the PPE out when goods are available. This is really important in terms of quality control.”

Sophie Bai, Harvard University, business school student

“Because my friends have direct access with the factories, they would actually fly there, do the sample testing themselves and be there to get the PPE out when goods are available,” Bai said. “This is really important in terms of quality control.”

Bai said she has also worked to interpret the complex dual standards of medical goods between China and the US. She said she has scoured FDA databases to verify a factory’s claim to be certified for a given product and reviewed pages of testing data to reconcile the different standards used in each country. She also researched the comparison between the FDA-approved N95 masks and the KN95 surgical masks from China.

“So, what you really have to look into is the bacterial filtration, particle filtration, fluid resistance, the differential pressure, the flammability,” Bai said. “You have to look into those specs to understand what are the differences. What do those mean.”

In addition to working with the Brigham, WGBH News has confirmed that Bai procured supplies for Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, Boston Medical Center and Hebrew SeniorLife, a large provider of senior health care and living communities. In total, the team has secured 1.4 million pieces of critically needed medical and PPE. Some 300,000 pieces have already arrived, and Bai said she expects to receive another 400,000 pieces soon, with the rest to follow shortly.

Related: Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes

Bai and her team have procured 1.7 million pieces of PPE so far for 12 area hospitals, community health centers and senior living facilities in the state. 

Bai and a team of 11 volunteers in Boston and Los Angeles, mainly her other classmates from Harvard, communicate in Mandarin with Chinese companies and in English with institutions in the US. Having a friend on the West Coast allows Bai to operate nearly around the clock. Even so, though, Bai said she has lost out on opportunities to grab critical goods due to her lack of immediate access to cash to pay for the goods.

Bai’s Harvard Business School professor, Jeff Bussgang, said the international market for PPE is chaotic.

“It feels more like the [New York] Stock Exchange trading floor. People are aggressively pursuing supply, bidding and paying upfront on the spot.”

 Jeff Bussgang, Harvard Business School, professor

“It feels more like the [New York] Stock Exchange trading floor,” Bussgang said. “People are aggressively pursuing supply, bidding and paying upfront on the spot.”

Harvard Business School has no official involvement in the operation, but to connect Bai with quicker access to the funds needed to secure the PPE, Bussgang introduced Bai to The Boston Foundation, which usually funds community programs, including WGBH. The foundation’s Tim Smith said they set up a new funding mechanism specifically to buy medical supplies through Bai’s operation — something they’ve never done before. They partnered with Flywire, a Boston-based financial technology company that wires money between countries faster than traditional banks.

“It’s nontraditional to use a charitable fund to essentially purchase goods and deliver them to local hospitals,” said Smith, the Foundation’s senior director of philanthropy. “It’s definitely a new thing for us and I think it can make a significant impact.”

Related: COVID-19 interrupts fertility plans for hopeful couples in the United Kingdom

The fund currently has over $3 million from at least 29 donors. 

Bai said she’s seen an outpouring of support both in China and from Chinese communities around the U.S. eager to help Boston. And she knows why. Boston is a mecca for Chinese students, she said, and they want to give back to a place they see as their second home.

“There is really an emotional tie between the Chinese community to Boston in general because so many of us had a transformative experience growing up from our late teens to our early 20s,” Bai said.

This story was originally published by WGBH. 

Discussion: Pandemic exposes health inequities in vulnerable communities

Discussion: Pandemic exposes health inequities in vulnerable communities

By
The World staff

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A World Bank pandemic funding program will see more than $195 million distributed as soon as next week to help tackle the novel coronavirus among 64 of the world’s poorest countries that have reported cases of the fast-spreading disease, the lender said on Monday.

The World Bank launched a number of instruments under its Pandemic Emergency Financing program to provide rapid financing to affected poor countries after the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that killed at least 11,300 people.

Related discussion: On the front lines of the coronavirus crisis

While developed countries are funneling trillions of dollars into their own virus stricken economies, many poor nations lack the means to mitigate the hit from the pandemic.

But even in the United States, poorer communities, along with Black and Hispanic people, are taking the biggest hit from the novel coronavirus. According to a new report from Pew Research Center, low-income workers, including people of color and those without college degrees, are more likely to report job losses or pay cuts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit underserved populations and communities of color particularly hard, exacerbating longstanding health disparities in the US and around the world.

As part of our weekly series taking your questions to the experts, in partnership with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The World’s Elana Gordon moderated a conversation with Dr. Mary Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former commissioner of health for New York City. Bassett discussed underserved populations amid COVID-19 and address the urgent need for data exploring health inequities.

The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch

The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch

By
Patrick Cox

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Moroccan-born Dutch writer Hassnae Bouazza

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Patrick Cox/Subtitle

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In Hassnae Bouazza’s memory, learning to speak Dutch happened very suddenly.

“I remember very vividly the moment that I realized that I had learned Dutch,” Bouazza said. “I was playing with children at kindergarten. All of sudden realized, I speak Dutch.”

Bouazza, now in her 40s, is the youngest of seven siblings. Her family moved to the Netherlands from Morocco in the 1970s after her father left Morocco to seek work in Europe. In 1977, the rest of the family joined him and settled in a Dutch village — the only immigrants to live there. 

This Moroccan family might have been called model immigrants, if the Dutch government had a model in mind. As Dutch speakers, the family was different from the vast majority of immigrants who moved to Dutch cities, but remained largely separated from Dutch society. 

“Nothing was done to integrate them in the society,” said Ricky van Oers, an immigration law professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen. “The authorities thought too easily of asking someone to come over to work, stay for 20 years and then go back.”

Large-scale migration from Morocco to the Netherlands started in the 1960s under a guest worker program largely geared toward temporary work for men. But many immigrants decided to stay, and in the 1970s, family reunification law allowed guest laborers to bring their families to join them. 

When Dutch officials realized that families from Morocco and elsewhere weren’t returning to their homelands, they tried to get them to learn Dutch. When that only partially worked — it was too late for many — attitudes hardened.

Anti-immigrant sentiment increased around Sept. 11, 2001, when a series of anti-immigrant political parties started winning seats in Dutch elections. Today, the leader of that faction is Geert Wilders.

“There is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe,” Wilders told reporters during the 2017 election campaign in which his party came in second.  

Wilders and his followers have pushed exclusionary language laws for immigrants. That message is gaining popularity: The Dutch government requires people who want long-term work permits to take private Dutch classes and pass a language proficiency exam. 

“If they don’t pass this exam within three years, they are fined,” Radboud University’s Van Oers said. “The Netherlands can be perceived as sort of a guiding country. It is very proud to have taken up that role. And you see that different European countries have copied the Dutch model.”

Those efforts are also inspiring the Trump administration. In May 2019, the White House proposed an overhaul of US immigration law that would include language proficiency regulations. 

“Future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the Rose Garden announcement. Currently, there is no indication that Congress would pass such a measure.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch government has recognized that its system is broken: Immigrants don’t learn Dutch, the government doesn’t offer proper support, and there is no end in sight to right-wing politicians calling immigrants “scum.” The country faces another general election in 2021, and many expect immigration to be a major issue. Some moderates in the ruling coalition think that promises to get tougher on immigrants is a zero-sum game.

“[In an election year] it’s easy to say: ‘We’re just going to make life harder for people who come here,’” said Jan Paternotte, a member of parliament with one of the coalition’s centrist parties. “That’s a signal to everyone else: Don’t come to the Netherlands.”

Paternotte is among those trying to change the system so that immigrants feel incentivized rather than forced to learn Dutch — more like the way Bouazza picked up the language in a village school in the 1980s.

“One of the Dutch values used to be something they were very proud of: tolerance,” said Bouazza, referring to tolerance of other cultures, languages and ideas. “And that’s nearly lost.”

Bouazza now writes books in Dutch that call on her fellow citizens to regain that tolerance. 

Patrick Cox is with the language-themed podcast Subtitle, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Libyans are caught between coronavirus and conflict 

Libyans are caught between coronavirus and conflict 

The recent escalation in fighting has dashed hopes that the pandemic might succeed where previous attempts at diplomacy and sanctions had failed.

By
Halima Gikandi

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Libyan boys check a damaged car after a shell fell on a residential area at Hadba al-Badri district, in Tripoli, Libya, Jan. 28, 2020.

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Ismail Zitouny/Reuters 

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As the number of coronavirus cases steadily climbs in Libya, fighting in and around the besieged capital of Tripoli continues to worsen by the day, as the forces of Gen. Khalifa Haftar continues a yearlong offensive against the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

The recent escalation in fighting has dashed hopes that the pandemic might succeed where previous attempts at diplomacy and sanctions had failed.

“We had hoped from the very beginning that the COVID-19 would have resulted in some sort of ceasefire or at least a truce.”

Kasper Engborg, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Libya Office (OCHA)

“We had hoped from the very beginning that the COVID-19 would have resulted in some sort of ceasefire or at least a truce,” said Kasper Engborg, the acting head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Libya Office (OCHA).

Related: Pandemic security must be ‘top line concern’ says former Amb. Power

“That, unfortunately, has not happened. The fighting has continued, it has even escalated in some areas over the past weeks,” Engborg said. “We still experience heavy shelling that indiscriminately impacts and hits civilian and urban areas where civilians are living,” he continued, citing recent attacks on medical facilities.

Fueled by competing foreign powers, militias, mercenaries and unending proliferation of arms, the latest fighting has become the worst in recent memory for Tripoli residents.

“I remember my mom telling me about a relative of ours who was hit while they were doing barbecue at night,” said Maysem Mabruk, the co-founder of a charity organization called Tripoli Good and a dentist by training.

Mabruk was living in Tripoli until September, when she moved to England to pursue a master’s degree in international development. Like many in the diaspora, she worries about what the tragic combination of the coronavirus and constant shelling will mean for her family and friends back home.

“These incidents aren’t happening in the suburbs of Tripoli or the outside. It’s actually happening downtown,” said Mabruk, who added that the city is now under lockdown due to COVID-19.

Related: US and Mexico are blocking kids from asking for asylum because of coronavirus

“They don’t feel safe at home. But they don’t have the option to leave because there’s nowhere else to go,” she continued.

A fragile health care system

The coronavirus is also putting new pressures on a health care system already struggling with lack of medical personnel and medical supplies.

“Now in Libya, when you go to the public facilities, you often have to bring the gloves, the antiseptics, because the hospitals don’t have anything.”

Dr. Mohamed Aburawi, Harvard University, fellow

“Now in Libya, when you go to the public facilities, you often have to bring the gloves, the antiseptics, because the hospitals don’t have anything,” said Libyan Dr. Mohamed Aburawi, who is currently living in Boston for a fellowship at Harvard University.

Before Libya closed its borders due to the coronavirus, residents who could afford it would typically seek medical treatment abroad. “If you go to the west or east [in Libya], you will see lines of ambulances bumper to bumper looking for health care outside of the country,” Aburawi recalled.

Digital solutions 

When Libya recorded its first case of the coronavirus in March, many feared that the hospital system would quickly become overwhelmed, unable to manage a national epidemiological response.

“There was an issue about tracing, keeping track of people, screening, triaging,” said Aburawi, who stays in touch with colleagues in Tripoli.

Related: Xenophobia ‘takes its toll’ as Trump works to curb immigration

That’s when Aburawi received a call from local health officials. “To help them develop a platform that will basically screen and triage patients,” he said.

Aburawi is no stranger to finding digital solutions to Libya’s health care problems. In 2016, he founded Speetar, a mobile telemedicine platform to help address some of the key challenges facing underserved Libyans, especially those who cannot find specialists in local hospitals or afford to go abroad for treatment.

“We use telemedicine to connect physicians abroad who are qualified and have the same kind of cultural background to many of the countries that need their help,” he said.

Last week, Speetar launched a pilot version of an app for the coronavirus in partnership with the Libyan National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), which is leading the country’s response to COVID-19.

Libyans with the access code can log onto the mobile app to fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms and relevant health history.

“The application will automatically classify patients into low risk or high risk,” said Dr. Enas Ali Engab, who works for NCDC’s COVID-19 task force in Tripoli.

Related: Can Asia’s largest armed group fend off coronavirus?

Engab has been training local medical personnel to use the mobile app. “If they are high risk, they will be directed to doctors at the NCDC. Those are experts in dealing with COVID-19 cases,” she continued.

While still in its early stages, the mobile app could help Libyan health officials streamline their response to the virus and improve tracking and tracing of cases — and centralize data.

“We allow these patients once they test positive to go to their phone book and check all the contacts that they came across during the past 14 days, and those contacts will get automatic anonymous messages to tell them they have come in contact with someone who may have tested positive,” Aburawi explained.

Health officials rushing to contain the pandemic hope the mobile app, along with a national hotline dedicated to virus questions, will provide enough transparency to incentivize people to stay away from public spaces.

“COVID-19 is very contagious. It’s transmissible at a very high rate, so we don’t want people to go out of their homes. Because we don’t have the facilities to cover all of these patients.”

Dr. Enas Ali Engab, NCDC’s COVID-19 task force in Tripoli

“COVID-19 is very contagious. It’s transmissible at a very high rate, so we don’t want people to go out of their homes,” Engab said. “Because we don’t have the facilities to cover all of these patients.”

Still, even the most ambitious mobile app will find it hard to maneuver around Libya’s ongoing civil war, where rival parties have divided the country into east and west, and continue to compete over the oil-rich country’s top institutions and resources.

Nor will it provide much relief for the hundreds of thousands of Libyans who are internally displaced, stranded or detained migrants and residents whose homes are no longer safe due to indiscriminate shellings.  

Yet, with no end in sight for Libya’s conflict, Engab sees even more use for telemedicine and other digital solutions.

“Sometimes when there is a conflict or something the streets get blocked, and you might need to go to that hospital or meet with that doctor, but because the streets are blocked you can’t leave your house. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Engab said.

“Telemedicine was required before, but now it is urgently needed,” she added. 

In fight against coronavirus, Ghana uses drones to speed up testing

In fight against coronavirus, Ghana uses drones to speed up testing

Ghana is the first African country to ease its lockdown in response to the coronavirus. The country is using drones to deliver samples collected in more than 1,000 health facilities across the country.

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María Elena Romero

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Lydia Emmanouilidou

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COVID-19 tests samples are being delivered from rural areas of Ghana to testing centers in urban areas using drone technology.

 

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This week, Ghana became the first African country to ease its nearly three-week lockdown against the coronavirus.

While large gatherings are still banned, and schools remain closed, some nonessential businesses were allowed to open in Accra and Kumasi, the two main metropolitan areas in the country. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said his decision came about after increasing the country’s capacity to fight the pandemic, including aggressive contact tracing and expansion of testing. 

Ghana is using a unique approach to reduce the amount of time it takes to get COVID-19 test samples from remote rural areas to labs: drones. Instead of waiting for days for a batch of samples to be transported by truck, tests from rural areas can be delivered for analysis in less than an hour.

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World 

The Ministry of Health expanded its partnership with Zipline, an American company that uses drones to deliver medical supplies. Zipline has set up a system to deliver samples collected in more than 1,000 health facilities across the country.

Zipline’s drones are automated, but they’re also being monitored and, when needed, controlled, by humans. On April 17, on Zipline’s first flight, 51 samples were flown from the Omenako drone distribution center to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, 45 miles away, in what could be the first time that drones have been used to deliver COVID-19 test samples. 

The COVID-19 test samples are packed in special red boxes using guidelines issued by the World Health Organization and then placed inside the belly of the drone. The drone is then put on a launcher, and it’s off to its destination for delivery.

Zipline’s drones are automated but they’re also being monitored and, when needed, controlled, by humans.

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Courtesy of Zipline

The delivery is contactless. Once at the testing facility, the drone opens up its belly and drops the box filled with samples using a parachute to ease the landing. A health care worker sprays the box down with disinfectant and takes it inside to be processed. 

For nearly a year, Zipline has been delivering vaccines and medications to hospitals around Ghana. It also operates in Rwanda, where it uses its drones to deliver blood samples.

Wilmot James, a visiting professor at Columbia University who has advised the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on biosecurity, has been following Zipline’s operations for years and says the company has a clean track safety record. But he stressed that biosafety is critical in this kind of work and the fact that there is an inherent risk to these types of operations. 

“In this particular instance, we’re dealing with samples that are pathogenic,” James said. “An Ebola sample is another one; you have to make sure that you have proper protocols around that.”

Zipline says they’ve done that in consultation with experts and WHO. 

Ghana conducted more than 68,000 tests during lockdown, and some18,000 testing samples remain outstanding. The country has only  67 ventilators available in its public hospitals for a population of almost 30 million.

In Greece, refugees and migrants turn to each other to get through coronavirus pandemic

In Greece, refugees and migrants turn to each other to get through coronavirus pandemic

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Fahrinisa Campana

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Arash Hampay and a group of volunteers pack and distribute “hope bags” for refugees and the homeless in Athens, Greece. 

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On a warm April evening in downtown Athens, Greece, Arash Hampay was handing out pink, plastic shopping bags filled with food, soap, hand sanitizer and face masks to refugees and the homeless.

It’s his way of helping the community fight against the coronavirus.

“Just imagine thousands of homeless and refugee families that live on the street. They don’t have the money to go to a hotel or rent a house, and they don’t have the money to buy masks, so how can they protect themselves. Who has to help them?”

Arash Hampay, community acvitist and volunteer, Athens, Greece

“Just imagine thousands of homeless and refugee families that live on the street,” said Hampay, an Iranian refugee who arrived in Greece in 2016. “They don’t have the money to go to a hotel or rent a house, and they don’t have the money to buy masks, so how can they protect themselves. Who has to help them?”

Related: This beloved school gave migrants on Lesbos an escape. A fire turned it to rubble.

Greece closed schools and other places where large groups of people congregate on March 10, and imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 23. Its early and prolonged measures to combat COVID-19 has meant fewer confirmed cases or deaths than many other European countries. As of Thursday, Greece had reported 2,463 cases of COVID-19 and 125 deaths.

Also on Thursday, Greece extended its lockdown by a week to May 4, saying any relaxation would be staggered over May and June. The government has been praised for being proactive to protect its citizens, but concern is mounting over the plight of refugees and migrants.

Dozens of refugees — including many single-parent families — accommodated at a hostel in southern Greece tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. The hostel, quarantined since April 16, is the the third refugee facility in the country to be hit by the virus.

Related: Cross-border tensions over migrants wreak havoc on bucolic Greek village

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in Greece, some have sounded the alarm about the lack of resources allocated toward the 115,000 refugees and migrants the country hosts. And now, at least two camps have been put on total lockdown due to a sudden surge in cases. That means tens of thousands of refugees can’t leave their settlements to get basic supplies.

In the absence of adequate support, some refugees have taken it upon themselves to find their own solutions. That includes Hampay, who, before coming to Athens, lived with his younger brother in the infamous Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

Hampay has long been an active humanitarian and activist. When his brother was held in immigration detention after they first got to Greece, and threatened with deportation back to Turkey, Hampay held a monthlong hunger strike while camping out in the main square in Mytilini.

Arash Hampay smokes in front of Cafe Patogh before the volunteers arrive to start packing and distributing the “hope bags” in Athens, Greece.

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The Greek government has granted refugee status to the brothers, and they have relocated to Athens where they share an apartment. In 2018, Hampay opened a community center in the neighborhood to help feed poor people in the city. It’s called Cafe Patogh, which means “hangout” in Farsi.

Now, with the coronavirus outbreak, Hampay sees an even greater need to support refugees and locals struggling to protect themselves. Finding other volunteers to help with the supermarket shopping and preparing the food bags, which they call “hope bags,” has never been an issue.

Related: Xenophobia ‘takes its toll’ as Trump works to curb immigration

On any given afternoon, at least a dozen volunteers, all refugees like himself, help Hampay dole out food and supplies. Recently, they had prepared two dozen bags, though the number varies day by day — they try to give out food every night, but don’t always have the money. 

Securing consistent funding for the bags has been difficult. Hampay isn’t running a formal nonprofit, at least not yet — he’s hired a lawyer and begun the process of registering the community center as a nongovernmental organization, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, everything has stalled.

Instead, Hampay gets funds for what he’s doing in more informal ways — by word of mouth and social media. He has PayPal linked to his social media so that he can receive donations.

Arash Hampay shows his Instagram account where he makes announcements about pickup times for “hope bags” in Athens, Greece. It’s his way to help in the fight against the coronavirus — bringing much-needed supplies and food to refugees and the homeless. 

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This week, he put a call out for help covering the community center’s rent and utility bills, which are still due even though the place is closed under the lockdown restrictions. Hampay needs to raise nearly 1,500 euros ($1,622) to keep the community center running. He also needs help paying for the hope bags, which cost a little over 9 euros, or $10 apiece to put together.

“They can send it to our PayPal, but I will show you our PayPal — 9 euros, 3 euros, 2 euros.” 

Arash Hampay, community acvitist and volunteer, Athens, Greece

“They can send it to our PayPal, but I will show you our PayPal — 9 euros, 3 euros, 2 euros,” he said with a laugh. Two euros is worth about $2.

Still, he usually has enough money to put some cooking oil, rice, pasta and fresh vegetables in the bags. “When we have good money, we put also sometimes meat and more things.” 

Though this month will be tight, Hampay remains upbeat.

Related: Can Asia’s largest armed group fend off coronavirus?

He hummed as he placed the bright, pink bags in a line outside the door of the community center. Most people who receive the bags know what time to arrive for pickup, but for newcomers to Athens, he spreads the word with short videos on Instagram.

Arash Hampay, who is an Iranian refugee, is trying to bring food and supplies to other refugees and the homeless in Athens, Greece.

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Fahrinisa Campana/The World 

As a recognized refugee who doesn’t live in one of the many refugee camps spread across Greece, Hampay has an unusual amount of freedom. But he knows many others aren’t as fortunate.

Sohaila Shojayie is a 15-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan who lives with her family in a tent in the Moria refugee camp. Roughly 20,000 people are crammed into the camp that was built to hold under 3,000.

“Moria itself is a virus for asylum-seekers. There’s no soap, nothing,” she said over WhatsApp. Like everyone, Shojayie is worried about the coronavirus and the potential for a massive outbreak in the camp.

“So, some of us Afghan girls and women, we started working hard making masks for our people, for the asylum-seekers. We want to avoid getting coronavirus at Moria camp.”

Sohaila Shojayie, 15-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan

“So, some of us Afghan girls and women, we started working hard making masks for our people, for the asylum-seekers. We want to avoid getting coronavirus at Moria camp,” she said.

Shojayie and her peers are producing more than 6,000 masks a day, which they’re able to do with the support of an NGO called Team Humanity. The NGO has been arranging weekly deliveries of mask-making materials — including professional-grade, polypropylene nonwoven fabric.

Salam Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, says the mask-making team can supply each camp resident with two masks every three or four days.

“We’re distributing them in the camp with two pieces of soap to each person,” he said. “They’re reusable, and people can wash it. We [give] them also a flyer where it says in four languages how to wash their hands, how to boil the mask — you can boil it in water if you cannot wash it — and you need to do it two times in a day.”

So far, Moria camp has managed to avoid an outbreak of the coronavirus. Shojayie hopes that she and the other volunteers will be able to keep it that way.

“The refugees are happy and appreciate us,” Shojayie said. “They said that if they hadn’t gotten these masks from us, then where would they be able to get them from?”

Recently, Greek authorities have stepped up actions to protect some refugees. Over the weekend of April 18, when most Greeks were celebrating Greek Orthodox Easter in their homes, the government transferred 49 unaccompanied minors from island camps to Germany.

They’re also promising to relocate people who are especially vulnerable to hotels on the mainland. The plan has hit a snag, however, over concerns of spreading the virus. The move will now likely take place on April 25 and with a smaller number than the 2,000 originally announced.

For at least some refugees stuck in the camps, they often have to turn to each other to try to fill whatever gaps they can.

“Here we are taking care of each other,” Shojayie said. 

Reuters contributed to this report. 

How coronavirus is changing the way Muslims celebrate Ramadan

How coronavirus is changing the way Muslims celebrate Ramadan

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The World staff

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Stephen Snyder

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An aerial Muslims attend Friday prayers in the courtyard of a housing estate next to the small BBC community center and mosque in east London, Britain, July 10, 2015. 

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Ramadan begins Thursday evening. It’s the monthlong observance by many Muslims around the globe marked by fasting and prayers. 

In a normal year, Muslims typically fast during daylight hours and gather together to break the fast every evening. This year, though, Islamic communities are adapting to the reality of marking the holy month during a pandemic. 

Noor Hadi is an imam in South London for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He spoke to The World’s Marco Werman about how the families he serves are adapting to a month of worship, fasting, sharing food — and social distancing.

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World 

Noor Hadi, an imam in south London.

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Courtesy of Noor Hadi

Marco Werman: How is this year’s Ramadan different from past years?

Noor Hadi: For us Muslims in the UK, as you, of course, know, we’re going through a lockdown across the country. So of course, Muslims won’t be able to congregate at the mosques when Ramadan begins. I think what’s different this year is the fact that what we will usually do at a mosque, we’re bringing [it] all online, going to be going live, delivering them lectures. What’s different this year as well [is], because Ramadan usually brings such a togetherness feeling, people usually break their fast together. They usually open their fast together, as well, before sunrise and after sunset. So they’re going to miss that feeling of breaking and eating together. 

And just practically, for people to break the fast together, you’re going to be encouraging families to put a laptop in the kitchen. 

Yeah, exactly. And so — we’ve set up a virtual breaking of the fast together. And before actually breaking the fast, we normally have a custom in the mosque where there’s short talks and there’s inspiring lectures and prayers together. Those short talks will be online. You know, they will be virtually eating together and breaking the fast together. 

Related: Amid lockdowns, churches find creative ways to keep in touch with the masses

So it feels like you’ve got online workarounds to help people who would normally be isolated. What do you do for people, for families, who don’t have computers or wifi? 

Without having a computer or wifi, we’ve actually set up a helpline. We have a national charity in the UK known as Humanity First with a helpline. Even if you don’t have Internet, just contact us through your local telephone. And we have youth members actively waiting for those calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. And we tried to dispatch someone on that very day to go to those families and actually help them [with] running errands, like getting groceries or prescriptions, medication. Just through the helpline service, [we] helped around 5,000 of all UK households. 

Related: Wajahat Ali on maintaining one’s faith through crises

It occurs to me that congregating as Muslims in the UK isn’t just an expression of faith, whether it’s Ramadan or Friday prayer, it’s also an expression of solidarity in the face of continuing microaggressions and outright animosity. What does the Muslim community lose by not having the monthlong moment of community and solidarity of Ramadan? 

There’s this whole idea that, fine, Ramadan does bring a lot of togetherness and this sense of congregation and community aspect to it. But it’s easily forgotten that … there’s another aspect to Ramadan, and that’s the whole purpose of being able to self-reflect and improve yourself as Muslims. You try to stay optimistic and positive when it comes to this. And this month is giving us a time, just like the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, spent in isolation during Ramadan. And it’s giving a month of days just to actually self-reflect, try to improve your morals, try to increase or enhance your worship as an individual. 

This year is peculiar in so many ways. What does Ramadan mean to you this year? 

For me, I see that this Ramadan, not only do I get a lot of time to actually self-reflect and try to improve myself as a human being, but because I am Muslim, a huge part of your faith is that you also help one another. We believe that one of the rights that Islam or your religion has upon you is that you take care of humanity and you try to serve God’s creation. So now that we see that our neighbors are in need, it gives us extra zeal this Ramadan, because we know that doing this and helping others is actually increasing our spirituality and helping us get closer to God as well. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Syrian officials on trial for war crimes in Germany

Syrian officials on trial for war crimes in Germany

The pandemic has led to delays for many cases across the country, but the court deemed the first criminal trial worldwide on Syrian state torture too urgent to postpone. 

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Holly Young

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Syrian defendant Eyad A. hides himself under his hood prior to the first trial of suspected members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, in Koblenz, Germany, April 23, 2020.

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The first criminal trial worldwide on Syrian state torture began Thursday in Koblenz, a city on the banks of the Rhine in western Germany.

The pandemic has led to delays for many cases across the country, but the court deemed this too urgent to postpone.

Anwar Raslan, a former colonel, and Eyad al-Gharib, a former security officer. 

The two Syrian defendants, Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, were arrested early last year — one in Berlin, the other near Frankfurt. Both are believed to have been officials in President Bashar al-Assad’s security apparatus before defecting from their positions and arriving in Germany as refugees, in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

Related: ISIS families held in Syrian camps face uncertain futures. Now, the coronavirus also looms.

The accused face charges of crimes against humanity commited between 2011-2012 — including murder and rape. Raslan, a former colonel and the more senior of the pair, is suspected of complicity in the torture of at least 4,000 people, 58 of whom died as a result, at a detention center in Damascus known as al-Khatib — or Branch 251. Gharib is accused of assistance to torture and murder.

The indictment from the court states prisoners of Branch 251 are believed to have suffered psychological and physical abuse — including beatings, electrocutions and being hung from their wrists — as well as inhumane and degrading conditions.

As joint plaintiffs, six Syrians who were detained and tortured at Branch 251 have the right to appear in court.

“They want to reveal the truth about this whole system. They want to make clear that everybody hears not only what has happened to them, but to others. They know there are so many others that cannot speak anymore because maybe they are afraid or still in detention, or have disappeared and died under torture.”

Patrick Kroker, lawyer representing witnesses and co-plaintiffs in the trial

“They want to reveal the truth about this whole system,” said Patrick Kroker, the lawyer representing witnesses and co-plaintiffs in the trial. “They want to make clear that everybody hears not only what has happened to them, but to others. They know there are so many others that cannot speak anymore because maybe they are afraid or still in detention, or have disappeared and died under torture.” 

Related: Can COVID-19 be contained in war-torn Syria?

Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of legal nonprofit European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin, says putting two Syrian officials on trial is an important milestone.

“It is very significant because so far Western European countries did only arrest and prosecute those who were fighting in the various militias such as ISIS and others,” Kaleck said. “But to cover the magnitude of what happened in Syria in the last 10 years, we need to investigate the torture regime of President Assad.”

Alongside a network of European partners, civil society organizations and public prosecutors, Kaleck’s organization ECCHR has spent years gathering evidence and testimonies on Syrian state crimes.

The ongoing conflict and no prospect for justice in Syria itself were the main obstacles to prosecutions so far, Kaleck explained. In addition, efforts to put Syrians on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have failed. Syria is not a signatory to the ICC, and Russia and China have blocked attempts to refer Syrian crimes to the court.

Related: Analysis: Nine years on, we still dream of a free Syria

Universal jurisdiction, a legal principle that allows states to prosecute certain crimes even if they are committed elsewhere, has provided an alternative route to justice.

Germany enacted universal jurisdiction in 2002, and it is under this that the Koblenz trial is taking place. Universal jurisdiction is also behind a number of other ongoing criminal complaints regarding Syrian state torture across Europe.

Yet, the Koblenz trial shows Germany to be at the forefront of this legal wave, something Kaleck ultimately credits to the presence of a large Syrian community in the country.

Mariana Karkoutly, law student and member of nonprofit Adopt a Revolution, is one of many Syrians in Germany who have worked extensively over recent years to gather evidence of torture in state detention centers.

“There is a sense of [a] kind of justice that people can feel that can be delivered,” Karkoutly said. “I feel we are witnessing a historic moment.”

Karkoutly says Syrians like her living in Germany will be watching the trial very closely.

“Today, there’s an acknowledgment that this happened, and this is still happening. So, in this sense, I feel like it’s a moment of hope. … this could be the beginning of a long road towards justice.”

Mariana Karkoutly, law student and member of nonprofit Adopt a Revolution

“Today, there’s an acknowledgment that this happened, and this is still happening,” she said. “So, in this sense, I feel like it’s a moment of hope. For lots of Syrians who I interviewed, it was a moment of, ‘Yes, but this is not the justice we’re looking for. We want to establish justice in Syria.’ But this could be the beginning of a long road towards justice.”

Related: The world must step up to save Syrians displaced from Idlib

As a Syrian human rights lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni has spent the last three decades fighting on behalf of victims of state detention and torture. Now based in Berlin, he has worked alongside ECCHR in recent years. He believes the Koblenz case will go beyond the individual alleged crimes of the defendants and help build evidence of how torture has been used systematically.

“It’s not just justice for the people, it’s justice for Syria,” Bunni said. “These people here that are arrested are parts from the whole machine.”

Syrians back home will be carefully following events in Koblenz, he added: “I think all the Syrians now look for what happened against these criminals: many [are paying] attention; many questions we have.”

Kaleck hopes the Koblenz trail is just the beginning.

“We hope that the upcoming trial will be like an icebreaker,” Kaleck said. “[It] will put a new dynamic on the perpetrator, as well as on the victims side, so Syrians should see that the impunity will not be forever and President Assad and his regime will not be untouchable forever.”

Pandemic security must be ‘top line concern’ says former Amb. Power

Pandemic security must be ‘top line concern’ says former Amb. Power

By
The World staff

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Joyce Hackel

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United States then-Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses media at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York City, Dec. 19, 2016.

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Combatting the novel coronavirus is a herculean effort that many experts say depends on global solidarity and cooperation. But the US response to the novel coronavirus pandemic has brought into question the role of American leadership on the world stage.

That’s a stark contrast to six years ago, when the US under former President Barack Obama worked to assemble a global coalition to fight the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.  

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power was part of that US effort in 2014. Power describes that work in her recent memoir, “The Education of an Idealist.” During the Ebola outbreak, she says, the US collaborated with other nations to stem the spread of the outbreak at its source.

She says the coronavirus can only be tackled if wealthy nations work hand-in-hand with the developing world.

Power spoke with The World’s host Marco Werman about how lessons from that experience apply to the pandemic the globe is facing today. 

COVID-19: The latest from The World

Marco Werman: Ambassador Power, you helped assemble the global coalition to combat Ebola in 2014. That was a very deadly outbreak. It took some 11,000 lives — mainly in West Africa — with just one fatality here in the US. Looking back at that time, did we just get lucky?

Samantha Power: I don’t think so.  One of the greatest professional experiences of my life was to be tapped by President Obama who said, ‘Go to the Chinese, go to the French, go to the British.’ Secretary of State John Kerry [was] doing the same. Our diplomats all around the world [were] going to governments and hustling them to try to secure resources.

And it’s just the kind of global campaign that’s needed now. Given that developed economies, of course, are having their own severe challenges and are suffering heartbreaking losses, to still, at the same time, be organizing in order to help those countries that have nowhere near the infrastructure or the resources that these developed economies have, we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Because even if you’re only looking at it from the narrowest, most self-interested perspective, for as long as this pandemic is raging in parts of the developing world, it’s going to be very hard to restore economic normalcy globally.

Related: Samantha Power stresses ‘political evolution, rather than revolution’

So did other countries step up? I mean, what were the results of that hustle?

Absolutely. I mean, 60 to 70 countries were part of the coalition. The United States took a leadership role in the country of Liberia in West Africa. But we went to the British and said, “OK, you take Sierra Leone.” And the British stepped up in really important ways in a leadership role, backing, of course, the work of the Africans on the ground, which was the most important. The French stepped up in Guinea. Cuba — this tiny country with whom we were estranged at the time, we’ve not reopen diplomatic relations — Cuba’s incredible medical professional corps was taken advantage of and they deployed more doctors per capita to West Africa than any other country involved in the coalition. Malaysia sent rubber gloves. Japan worked on the hazmat suits to try to make them cooler.

Related: Is coronavirus reshuffling the global power deck?

I’m just curious, I mean, are there some legitimate concerns about China’s approach to the pandemic, as well as its transparency, that may not allow the same level of cooperation today?

I think there are more than legitimate concerns. I mean, China’s response was that of a cover-up in the earliest stages, firing whistleblowers, locking people up who tried to raise the alarm. China has a huge amount to answer to. China now, of course, is trying to rehabilitate itself in relation to this pandemic and is shipping vast supplies to particularly developing countries that don’t have those supplies on hand. But many of those supplies are defective. China does not yet really work effectively at building global coalitions around what they themselves do. China is much more interested in its brand and in bilateral assistance and not really yet in a position to or really showing much interest in leading the world.

Related: US leads in coronavirus cases, but retreats from global leadership

So COVID-19 is very different from Ebola. It’s often asymptomatic, and an individual can be contagious and asymptomatic at the same time. Like Ebola, though, COVID-19 represents a national security threat. I’d just love to hear from you, though, Ambassador Power, what kind of national security threat does COVID-19 pose?

Pandemic security always needed to be a top-line concern. I think it was in the Obama administration, but it’s been very hard over the decades to secure adequate funding and resources. So you have heard it talked about as a core security threat, but compared to the resources deployed, for example, in fighting terrorism, it’s just night and day. I mean, since 2010, the United States has spent $180 billion a year on counterterrorism operations and just $2 billion a year on pandemic and infectious disease response infrastructure. So that gives you a sense of how much more weighted America’s understanding of national security has been toward hard security, counterterrorism, the military, than toward crises like this, which proved far more lethal when they strike.

Related: High-profile Syrian war crimes trial opens in Germany

Global cooperation is also the US reaching out when it needs help. South Korea sending half a million test kits to Maryland. It’s a move that appears to have annoyed President Trump. As this crisis continues, do you think the Trump administration will be open to receiving more international help?

Well, I think states are open because state governors and state officials are on the frontlines seeing, every day, the human consequences of the lack of stockpiles and the lack of prevention. So what you’re seeing now is everything from California to Maryland to the city of New York reaching out to whatever international partner they can find. Bill de Blasio went to the United Nations in order to get a stash of masks — tens of thousands of masks from the United Nations headquarters in the earliest stages of his pandemic. I don’t think that urgency is evident at the highest levels of the federal government, unfortunately. And I wonder if that’s just because of the remove that federal officials may feel from the frontlines where this crisis is striking so many thousands of American families. I can’t really explain it.

But what’s important is that those supplies are procured, that our frontline workers have the prophylactic provisions that they need. They’re already risking so much in service of our broader communities. And, you know, it’s admirable to see governors hustling. But it shouldn’t be necessary. We have a whole apparatus that carries out our foreign policy every day. And to the degree that we can’t make up the shortfall through national production and manufacturing, that foreign policy apparatus — which unfortunately, of course, has been gutted in large measure by the Trump administration — but that should be deployed in getting other countries to provide the kinds of supplies that we do not have on hand.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

High-profile Syrian war crimes trial opens; Countries debate rescue packages, billionaires ask for bailouts; Missouri sues China over economic coronavirus losses

High-profile Syrian war crimes trial opens; Countries debate rescue packages, billionaires ask for bailouts; Missouri sues China over economic coronavirus losses

By
The World staff

Syrian defendant Eyad A. hides himself under his hood prior to the first trial of suspected members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, in Koblenz, Germany, April 23, 2020.

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Credit: Thomas Lohnes/Pool via Reuters

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

Germany began the trial of two accused Syrian war criminals Thursday: Anwar Raslan, a former colonel, and Eyad al-Gharib, a former security officer. Raslan is the first high-ranking Syrian official in service of President Bashar al-Assad to face charges of crimes against humanity, and the trial is the first in the world to deal with state-sponsored torture in the Syrian war. The case will be decided by five judges, and is expected to take up to two years.

And in the US, the response to the coronavirus pandemic is “shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism” and the leadership role the US has played on a global scale since WWII. Former Ambassador Samantha Power will discuss with host Marco Werman on The World today. 

Also: In Central African Republic, a colossal struggle against COVID-19

Countries debate rescue packages, billionaires ask for bailouts

European Union leaders are debating a rescue package in the trillions of euros to protect the bloc’s single market. In the US, the House of Representatives will vote on a $484 billion package that would refill a loan program for small businesses and provide health care funds, but no money for state governments. 

In the UK, billionaire Richard Branson is asking for a bailout for his Virgin Group airline and hospitality company, saying he would offer his own Caribbean private islands as collateral. And the Trump Organization is seeking a bail out from the UK and Ireland for its European golf resorts. 

Also: Why major food and hotel chains are getting stimulus money meant for small businesses

Missouri sues China over economic coronavirus losses

The US state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government over the novel coronavirus pandemic. The state says China mishandled the disease and did little to stop its spread, leading to billions of dollars in economic losses for Missouri residents. But the legal ground for a US state to sue a sovereign nation is shaky. Experts question how far the case will get — and if resources are being diverted from other pressing matters. 

And: In shadow of coronavirus, China steps up manuvers near Taiwan

Narcotics dealers take hit during pandemic

The novel coronavirus pandemic has slowed cross-border trade across the world. One area that’s been hit hard? Drug cartels. Sourcing chemicals for drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl has been disrupted, and the bars and nightclubs that often serve as fertile ground for dealers are closed. And with supply limited, prices are soaring. “Virtually every illicit drug has been impacted, with supply chain disruptions at both the wholesale and retail level,” AP reports.

And: Keep critical food supply chains operating to save lives during COVID-19, urges new UN-backed report

Also: 4.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, as economic pain continued across the United States

How science denial hampers the US response to COVID-19

Science denial in the United States has for decades fueled resistance to taking action on climate change. As a consequence, the battle to prevent its worst effects may already be lost. That same science denial continues today as the country fights to fend off or delay the worst effects of COVID-19.

And: How do you stop the spread of misinformation?

US and Mexico block children from asking for asylum because of coronavirus

A migrant child, who is seeking asylum in the US, wears a protective mask as he stands in line for food, amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the migrant camp of Matamoros, Mexico, April 1, 2020.

Credit:

Go Nakamura/Reuters

As the coronavirus crisis sweeps across the US, asylum-seekers stuck in Mexico have grown increasingly desperate, terrified for themselves and for the children they have in tow. An untold number have decided their children’s best hope is to try and enter the US alone, even if that means never seeing them again.

From The World: Xenophobia ‘takes its toll’ as Trump works to curb immigration

Also: Trump signs order pausing immigration for 60 days, with exceptions

Morning meme

Do you have trouble judging six feet of distance? This machine might be for you. #canttouchthis

In case you missed itListen: Europe takes tentative first steps to reopen

An employee places a sign as she prepares to reopen a shop after a partial end of the lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Berlin, Germany, April 18, 2020. Sign reads: “Please keep your distance! 1.50 meters to the next person.”

Credit:

Christian Mang/Reuters

In Europe, a number of countries are taking tentative steps to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis. The key concern is a relapse and no one at this point can be sure what will happen next. After almost a decade of civil war in Syria, two former Syrian government officials will go on trial in Germany. Also, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, Scotland, Serbia and more, environmentalists around the world are connecting online to celebrate Earth Day.

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

Prior exposure to air pollution increases risk of death from COVID-19, new research suggests

Prior exposure to air pollution increases risk of death from COVID-19, new research suggests

Writer
Adam Wernick

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Los Angeles, California, on a smoggy day.

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Emerging research indicates the novel coronavirus is deadlier to people with long-term exposure to high air pollution and hits minority communities particularly hard.

Biostatisticians at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health compared death rates from COVID-19 with air quality records in 3,000 counties. They found that in areas with just a small increase in long-term rates of fine particle pollution, 15% more people are likely to be killed by the virus.

Researchers at the University of Siena in northern Italy also suggest there is an association between the region’s long history of high air pollution and the high pandemic death rates.

RelatedWhat can COVID-19 teach us about the global climate crisis?

Fine particle air pollution is any type of matter that is suspended in the air. It can come from burning wood, ground up gravel that rises into the air, dust, even salt that gets washed up from the shore. And, of course, from burning fossil fuels.

Particulate matter generally gets evaluated for its effect on human health based on its diameter. Air quality rules for the United States tend to focus on PM2.5, matter that is about 1/20th the diameter of a human hair.

A large body of research has shown that the more particulate matter people breathe, the more likely they are to die, particularly if they’re older, says pediatrician Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. Bernstein did not work on the Harvard study.

PM2.5 can cause heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer and there’s strong evidence now that it can promote the development of Type II diabetes, contribute to mental health problems and affect a developing fetus, Bernstein adds. There’s also increasing evidence that it can damage the brain and that it could contribute to cases of dementia and autism.

“The bottom line is particulate matter is just generically really bad for us. And in many places in the world, including the United States, the major source is from burning fossil fuels. In other places, where people are using indoor cookstoves, for instance, and burning wood or dung or other things in their homes, that’s a major source.”

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, Harvard University

“The bottom line is particulate matter is just generically really bad for us,” Bernstein says. “And in many places in the world, including the United States, the major source is from burning fossil fuels. In other places, where people are using indoor cookstoves, for instance, and burning wood or dung or other things in their homes, that’s a major source.”

Now, scientists have noted a link between the likelihood of a COVID-19 patient dying from the disease and the patient’s exposure to particulate matter air pollution.

“In the last week, we’ve had evidence specifically on COVID-19 in the United States showing that…if you’ve lived in a place with overall worse air pollution, the death rate increases by 15% for every one microgram per meter cubed of air particulate matter air pollution,” Bernstein says.

To put that in context, Bernstein says, in Boston, where he lives, particulate matter levels will rise to 15 or 20 micrograms per cubed meter on a bad day. In many places in the United States, levels can rise to 30. So, data showing that a one-microgram-per-meter-cubed difference over long periods leads to a 15% increase in the death rate from COVID-19 is significant.

The researchers controlled for other factors such as wealth, baseline health levels, access to health care and host of other things, Bernstein points out, and, even accounting for all those things, they still found that small differences in exposure to air pollution can affect whether a patient will die of COVID-19 or not.

All told, particulate matter kills between 7 and 10 million people every year around the world, mostly in Asia. “It’s in the top 10 causes of death, maybe in the top five, by some estimates,” Bernstein says.

In the US, between 100,000 to 200,000 people die every year from exposure to particulate matter, but that death toll is not distributed evenly across the population.

“If you’re poor, if you’re African American, if you’re Latino, your odds of getting sick and dying from particular matter are much higher than other folks.”

“If you’re poor, if you’re African American, if you’re Latino, your odds of getting sick and dying from particular matter are much higher than other folks,” Bernstein says. “And we know, of course, that, short of death, there are a lot of bad things that happen to people from air pollution.”

“As a pediatrician, I know that air pollution can be a major risk for everything from ear infections to pneumonia,” he adds. In addition, particulate matter can both cause and exacerbate asthma in children and adults.

Like other scientists and health professionals, Bernstein also notes a direct link between air pollution in the form of particulate matter and climate change. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels contributes to an enormous number of deaths and fossil fuels are also responsible for about 70% of global carbon emissions. So, reducing or eliminating fossil fuels is a win-win.

Related: Mutual aid groups respond to double threat of coronavirus and climate change

“If we get off fossil fuels, we get rid of huge burdens of disease right now,” Bernstein says. “I think it’s critical [that] we don’t wait for months or years. When you stop burning coal in a power plant and convert it to renewables, the change in health happens right now. … And, of course, that means there are also less carbon emissions, which protects the climate moving forward.”

“I’ve been saying for the past several weeks that climate actions are pandemic prevention actions, and a lot of folks, I think understandably, get rankled by that,” he continues. “‘How can you be talking about climate change when people are dying of an infectious disease right now?’ And my answer to that is pretty easy: …[W]e know now that our health, the population health of people in this country, is a huge factor in how we deal with something like COVID-19.”

During the pandemic, US President Donald Trump and the US Environmental Protection Agency have continued to loosen rules controlling air pollution of all kinds, heightening concerns among public health professionals. Even before the latest round of regulation, air pollution levels in the US rose in the last three years, for the first time in decades, Bernstein notes.

“So, we already have this uptick in air pollution; now we have evidence that air pollution may be more risky; and we potentially have an EPA that’s saying, ‘Let’s not pay as much attention to air pollution.’ That would certainly give me pause, particularly for those folks in our communities that are most at risk,” Bernstein says.

As for how to deal with the present crisis, Bernstein advises parents and children to continue to pay attention to the hygiene and distance guidelines put out by health experts because even if your own risk is low, your actions help protect the people most at risk.

“There aren’t a lot of silver linings in this mess, but one of them could be that we cultivate a cohort of children who really get that we do things not always for ourselves.”

“There aren’t a lot of silver linings in this mess, but one of them could be that we cultivate a cohort of children who really get that we do things not always for ourselves,” Bernstein says. “That sometimes the right thing to do, which may not be something that we would do for ourselves otherwise, is important to do because it saves lives [and] keeps the people in our communities healthy — that we make decisions that matter beyond ourselves.” 

Related: Coronavirus is changing how people think about fighting climate change

He adds: “There’s been no experience in recent memory that has made it clearer than this one that our health is absolutely tied to the communities we live in and to the living world and that we simply must move forward on that basis if we want to make sure that our children grow up to have the opportunities and health that so many of us have enjoyed.”

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

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

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

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Adam Wernick

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Science denial has led to delays in government responses to COVID-19 and climate change and eroded public trust in the very institutions we rely on to solve large-scale problems.

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Science denial in the United States has for decades fueled resistance to taking action on climate change. As a consequence, the battle to prevent its worst effects may already be lost. That same science denial continues today as the country fights to fend off or delay the worst effects of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump and several Republican governors delayed action and failed to heed the warnings of the nation’s healthcare science advisors, while leaders in other countries, such as South Korea and Germany, have taken more timely and successful actions.

A decade ago, Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard history of science professor, compared climate change denial to tobacco danger denial in her book, “Merchants of Doubt,” which was penned with Eric Conway and later made into a documentary film. The two then wrote a science fiction novel, “The Collapse of Western Civilization,” that explored a future where denial about climate science in Western countries kept them from responding to the climate crisis, while an authoritarian China did.

The argument about the role of government and its relationship to science remains tragically relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The irony, we believed, was that by delaying action on climate change, they actually made the problem worse and they increased the odds that the kind of government that they hate would, in fact, actually come to pass…”

“Eric and I had been talking for a long time about what we saw as a central irony in the story of ‘Merchants of Doubt,’” Oreskes says. “And that was that the people we were studying, the people we refer to as merchants of doubt, [believed they] were fighting to protect freedom, that they were defending American democracy, American freedom, and individual liberty, against the encroachment of big government. But the irony, we believed, was that by delaying action on climate change, they actually made the problem worse and they increased the odds that the kind of government that they hate would, in fact, actually come to pass, as we had to deal with the unfolding crisis. So, the idea was to write a story that would make that point.”

Related: Mutual aid groups respond to double threat of coronavirus and climate change

When countries experience a large-scale problem like a pandemic that doesn’t respect borders, a political system that centralizes power is better able to respond quickly than one in which power is more distributed, Oreskes says. “So, even though we might dislike centralized power in certain ways, there are certain kinds of problems for which centralized power is really important and may, in fact, be the only way to address the issue.”

Until fairly recently, Trump was unwilling to use the authority that he has, Oreskes notes. When the seriousness of the virus first became identified, back in January, he didn’t empower the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health to mount a strong response. He also chose early on not to use such powers as the Defense Production Act to compel the private sector to manufacture ventilators, face masks or other necessary medical equipment.

“Now, three months in, he is finally doing that, and suddenly we see the private sector — GM, Ford — being enlisted to do this sort of work,” Oreskes says.

Oreskes believes Trump’s hesitancy stemmed, in part, from a basic conservative reluctance to enlarge the size and role of the federal government.

“Tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans will die — Americans whose lives could have been saved if we had acted more quickly and with more organization in the early stages of this disease.”

“In this case, the consequence of that reluctance is that the virus essentially went out of control,” Oreskes notes. “And now, tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans will die — Americans whose lives could have been saved if we had acted more quickly and with more organization in the early stages of this disease.”

Conservatives have for 30 years been promoting the myth that there’s no way to solve problems like climate change without succumbing to totalitarianism, Oreskes maintains. But, “you don’t have to be a communist country to have an organized coherent response to a challenge,” she says.

Related: Coronavirus is changing how people think about fighting climate change

“The experience of South Korea, and to some extent Germany, as well, shows it’s not about being totalitarian,” she says. “It’s about paying attention to evidence, respecting facts, respecting expertise, and then mobilizing the resources that you have in line with what the expertise is telling you.”

What we’re seeing now in the US validates what she and Eric Conway predicted in “The Collapse of Western Civilization.”

“The idea that we were somehow protecting our freedom by disrespecting science — we’ve now seen how bankrupt that idea is.”

“Look at what’s happening now: We’ve lost huge amounts of freedom,” she points out. “The idea that we were somehow protecting our freedom by disrespecting science — we’ve now seen how bankrupt that idea is. I’m stuck at home and so are 200 million Americans. We’ve lost tremendous amounts of personal liberty, and we don’t know how long this is going to go on. We’ve also lost income. We’re seeing endless amounts of damage that could have been avoided if we had been willing to listen to and act upon the advice of experts.”

South Korea acted on the advice of scientific experts early on, whereas in the United States, “we have a president who has shown his utter disdain for and disrespect for science,” Oreskes points out. “He has been disdainful of the scientific evidence regarding climate change, he has been disdainful of the evidence regarding the safety of vaccinations against diseases like measles. And he is hostile to science.”

Related: What can COVID-19 teach us about the global climate crisis?

“Many of us … who do science, have been warning for a long time that if you undermine scientific agencies and the federal government, this will have consequences,” she says. “And now I think we are seeing those consequences in a very, very vivid way.”

In the 1950s and 60s, Oreskes notes, the federal government was not only putting a lot of money into science, but it was also “telling us a story about why science mattered.”

“Why did the American people believe in the importance of the Apollo program? It’s because we were told a story, a good story, a true story, about how science could help build America, how it could build our economy, how it could help build our educational systems and how we could do cool things like put men on the moon,” she says. “So, I think we need to recapture that commitment to science and to scientific institutions and to scientists.”

Equally important, Oreskes says, is to rebuild trust in government, Oreskes says. Science bashing has been linked in a direct way to a more general argument against the so-called “big government.” She believes Ronald Reagan’s slogan that “government is not the solution to our problem, the government is the problem,” has been “deeply, deeply damaging.”

“For 40 years, we have heard that argument made by political leaders on the conservative side of the spectrum, so much so that a lot of ordinary people don’t understand why we even have a Centers for Disease Control, much less why we really need to count on them now in this current moment,” Oreskes says. If the public is constantly hearing that government is bad or corrupt or inefficient, she adds, chances are they will begin to believe it.

“And the irony is that this can become true because, of course, if you put people in control of the government who don’t actually believe in governance, then they’re not going to do a good job in building the institutions that we need,” Oreskes adds.

“We have a lot of dysfunction in Washington, DC right now, and so people aren’t wrong,” she says. “People correctly perceive that Congress is dysfunctional, but that dysfunction is a product of 40 years of essentially anti-government policies.”

The coronavirus pandemic shows us why the country can’t wait until a crisis is upon us to mobilize the necessary resources, Oreskes insists. She uses military readiness as an analogy. Almost all Americans, she points out, accept the need for an army because we know that if we were to be attacked, we would be unable to mobilize an army overnight. “And we certainly wouldn’t be able to build battleships and airplanes and aircraft carriers,” she says. “We know that we have to do that in advance.”

“We have a notion of readiness when it comes to military matters, but many of us don’t have a similar notion of readiness when it comes to public health and medicine,” she maintains. “And yet, it’s exactly the same. If we’re not ready in advance, we will not be able to protect ourselves from a viral attack.”

If Oreskes were to write a story about how this particular crisis plays out, it would be a happy story about how it became a turning point and how, “because these issues became truly matters of life and death in front of our eyes, the American people began to wake up, and they began to realize that there’s a reason we have government and there’s a reason we have scientific institutions and there’s a reason why we spend money preparing for crises that may not happen.”

“[Similarly], nobody knows absolutely, positively for sure exactly how climate change will play out, but we know that climate change will play out and it will be very damaging,” she says. “And many of the kinds of damage that will occur, we can predict, even if we can’t predict exactly when or exactly where.”

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

Nasty C – I’m sorry Lyrics

Play this song

[Chorus]
Ever so often, the thought just crosses
Maybe you casted the spell up me
On me, on me
Cause every heart I’ve ever broken wants me
Haunts me, taunts me
No peace in my sleep am tossing
Tossing, I’m sorry

[Verse 1]
Maybe I deserve it, ’cause I don’t pick up
Responsible for our hate
’cause we lacking communication
’cause I would rather talk to the liquor
I promised and then I switch up I’m battling with anxiety
Struggling with my temper it’s like I only remember
The times when you didn’t love me and not the reason behind

I see all your mistakes
But to all of mine I’m blind
I don’t even put effort in lying
Bout how I’m trying
I saw the end up was coming but
I told myself I will be fine
But I’m not

Ahh, I’m a universal, wait for me, I’m more of
Bumping sad songs
Hard; ain’t playing for shit
Am on tight jealous hating everyones relationships
Yeah right, like a loyal woman really makes me sick ughh
Calling on me bad… calling on me monster
Calling on me me dune whatever you choose
Call on me papa
Couldn’t exchange hearts as promised
But I robbed you
My guilty conscious must be the… or the karma

[Chorus]
Ever so often, the thought just crosses
Maybe you casted the spell upon me, on me (Yeah) on me
Cause every heart I’ve ever broken wants me
Haunts me, taunts me
No peace in my sleep am tossing
Tossing, I’m sorry

[Verse 2]
And I try a new love, I do
I try not to think about you
I see you posting pics with dude
And I try not to lose my cool
You know I channel my wolve on who
I tell the bros I got news for you
Everything and anything that helped
Me deal with losing you
I…I…I…I think am losing you
Anh anh anh anh anh anh…with a ??
Anh anh anh
Yeah yeah yeah

[Chorus] x 2
Ever so often, the thought just crosses
Maybe you casted the spell upon me, on me (Yeah) on me
Cause every heart I’ve ever broken wants me
Haunts me, taunts me
No peace in my sleep am tossing
Tossing, I’m sorry

YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Treat You Better Lyrics

Play this song

[Chorus]
Be with the one who love you (This Vade on the keys)
I think he could treat you better
I ain’t got no trust, that’s why I thug you
When I know I should do better, when I know I should be better, I do better
Let me love you in my own way, that’s from a distance
I said “Fuck you,” I was on them drugs and I was trippin’
I can’t be for you ’cause I’m not for no one, but like no one, I’ll be there for you
I’ma have your back and blow my strap just like a thug do

[Verse 1]
Ayy, hit my phone if that pussy nigga rough you
Make ’em bump it down with them cutters when we come through
Your lil’ nigga ’til the end, baby, I can’t never dump you
When you can’t make it to your friends, baby, I’m the one you run to
I’m high, if you could, then look me in my eyes, baby
Don’t tell no lies, baby, don’t come out in disguise, baby
You feeling dude, he turn you up, I’m on the side, baby
I’m just thinkin’, is it that I’m crazy?
I’m completely out of my mind, baby
We tote four tools, we be tryna knock ’em when we slide
I zip four fools, I probably zip your manes and make you cry
Ayy, I can’t hold you, I don’t stay the same, you gon’ need another guy
I done passed my level, way beyond, on top the sky and still gon’ tell you

[Chorus]
Be with the one who love you
I think he could treat you better
I ain’t got no trust, that’s why I thug you
When I know I should do better, when I know I should be better, I do better
Let me love you in my own way, that’s from a distance
I said “Fuck you,” I was on them drugs and I was trippin’
I can’t be for you ’cause I’m not for no one, but like no one, I’ll be there for you
I’ma have your back and blow my strap just like a thug do

[Verse 2]
I can’t tell that you been real, one hundred, true
That you love me, bitches love me, too
Numbers don’t lie, ho, I’m AI
And I can tell
You fuck with me but you fuck with that too
So for that, I can’t fuck with you

[Chorus]
Be with the one who love you
I think he could treat you better
I ain’t got no trust, that’s why I thug you
When I know I should do better, when I know I should be better, I do better
Let me love you in my own way, that’s from a distance
I said “Fuck you,” I was on them drugs and I was trippin’
I can’t be for you ’cause I’m not for no one, but like no one, I’ll be there for you
I’ma have your back and blow my strap just like a thug do

The Killers – Blowback Lyrics

Play this song

[Verse 1]
She’s reaching for her backpack
Puts out a cigarette and gets on the bus
She’s seating on a secret she didn’t ask for
No girl ever did

[Verse 2]
There’s a whisper in her heartbeat
She can hear it just enough to keep her alive
But she’s breathing in the blowback
There’s nothing you can offer she ain’t already tried

[Chorus]
She’s breathing in the blowback
Born into poor white trash and always type-cast
But she’s gonna break out, boy you better know that
It’s just a matter of time
She fights back
Breathing in the blowback

[Verse 3]
She is sucking on a Tic-tac
A good man is a mystery, she’s looking for clues
Whoa, you better check that buddy
‘Cause the blacktop’s burning up what’s left of the fuse

[Verse 4]
She knows where she comes from
Doesn’t need you dragging her all through it again
It’s like breathing in the blowback
It’s a highjack, now how much sure are you willing to spend?

[Chorus]
She’s breathing in the blowback
Born into poor white trash and always type-cast
But she’s gonna break out, boy you better know that
It’s just a matter of time
She fights back
Breathing in the blowback

[Verse 5]
Pinwheels spinning, roller skates and red flags
Breathing in the blowback
She’s gonna break out, boy, you better know that

Can you cast out a demon?
Can you wrangle the wind?
Will you stay when she’s breathing the blowback again?

YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Top Files Lyrics

Play this song

[Intro]
(That’s Vade on the keys)
Free Von, nigga
I just gone and did it
Lil Top, nigga, YoungBoy

[Chorus]
They don’t like who I am
I don’t like it one bit myself (Not one bit)
They don’t understand me (‘Stand me)
I don’t understand myself (Myself)
My sis say that she heard “Boom”
As they tried bringin’ grandma on back inside the livin’ room, oh, ah-ah
I been doin’ right knowin’ you do right by your child (Oh, God)
I say I trust you, so don’t get BaBa

[Verse 1]
Self-made warrior (Warrior), I done slept on concrete beds and all (And all)
Got tears fallin’ down (Down), you can’t tell behind the collect calls (You can’t)
If I stay against the wall (Wall), even if I don’t, we all fall (All fall)
Black man, can you lend a hand? (Hand) We loadin’ up, takin’ back what’s ours (Takin’)
Uncle died breakin’ in a house, this shit so grimy (So grimy)
He gon’ do that time to take your time, the shit’s so slimy (Slimy)
Inside a house, split a bedroom, I guess what I miss (What I miss)
Inside the streets where I lay, outside that buildin’ I is (Where I is)
It’s some street nigga facts, this ain’t no poetry (No)
Outside that wall we leavin’ blood in the street (No)
Fuck the wicked now, my soul, my family, she keep
I’m already burnt, someone please hold on to me

[Chorus]
They don’t like who I am
I don’t like it one bit myself (I don’t like it one bit myself)
They don’t understand me (They don’t understand me)
I don’t understand myself (I don’t understand myself)
My sis say that she heard “Boom”
As they tried bringin’ grandma on back inside the livin’ room, oh, ah-ah
I been doin’ right knowin’ you do right by your child (Oh, God)
I say I trust you, so don’t get BaBa

[Verse 2]
I ain’t in the skies, head in the skies, plenty times I done cried (Cried)
Plenty nights outside steady slangin’ fire, bet my life for a while
I done been baptized, but still I don’t know
Are we forgave for killin’ ones who tried?
Or for murderin’ ones who murdered our brothers?
And the shooters see God, those the ones died
And that shit made me can’t sleep at night
Wake up at six every mornin’, blame it on drank, I don’t know why
The one that sleep outside every night, you know that that’s a lie
Destiny, give me a rush, say what’s the hype
You got the drop, then what’s the price?

[Outro]
Yeah, we gon’ pop his head tonight (Pop), we gon’ knock him off tonight (Pop)
Pop, pop, pop, pop
Ohh-ohh-ohh

Lil Durk – Viral Moment Lyrics

Play this song

[Intro]
TouchofTrent be wildin’ with it

[Verse 1]
I pour an eight inside the Lamb’ truck, fell asleep flyin’
I thought them niggas had my back, but I’m steady seein’ signs
And I can’t turn my back on [?] like I ain’t see him tryin’
These tears shed, whenever he dead, it’s different seein’ him die
Bah, get close up on ’em, you know that shit be graphic
You gotta pop out with that ratchet, you know this shit get tragic
And you can’t fumble with that stick, you know this shit ain’t Madden
All that shit you did in the streets, you know that shit gon’ vanish
Yeah, I pop these pills, they try to read my thoughts
And you can’t dig back in your past ’cause you got time you lost
And make that time up for your kids ’cause you know time ain’t bought
Booka brought me a diamond cross, but he know he won’t cross me
They turnt their back and said they’d kill me, yeah, that’s when they lost me
I put baguettie inside the Cartier because I’m feelin’ bossy
They feel some type of way in the county jail, I told them, “Call me”
I built a relationship with the real with niggas who never saw me
Yeah, I seen my chance and that’s when I grabbed it
Fuck bein’ a hunnid, I spent a couple hunnids on niggas’ tablets
Lean gave me chest pains, that’s when I popped the Perky tablet
I tried to get that family vibe for niggas who wasn’t established
You do that shit again, what you did to bro, gon’ get you a casket
I did shit for niggas without them askin’
I broke pounds for niggas without them matchin’
I don’t fuck with you, I’ma tell y’all now even though I got it

[Break]
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

[Verse 2]
This shit was different, we was together like ten years ago
And I don’t talk to a lotta niggas, but they still the bros
The one I ain’t talk to like that back then know they still hoes
And some niggas try to hide their hate but that shit still shows
I never fucked on block hoes because I call ’em sisters
One hate me right now as I speak because I called her a hooker
Cut the loose ends, I cut ’em off, they try to stay I’m a butcher
Bitch, you a rat, never mind, I changed my life, I’m Muslim
I talked to Chops on FaceTime, he say, “Damn, you back smokin’”
He say, “That back door damn near closed,” I say, “It’s back open”
I say, “These blocks could be back one,” he say, “You back hopin’”
You gotta watch the niggas you love ’cause they still backdoorin’
He ain’t got no hope in beatin’ his trial because he lost his motion
Bro got life, he don’t know how pussy smell, that’s why he fuck his lotion
I know some real niggas would lose it all for a viral moment
My dreads swing, I feel like Wayne, show me my opponent

[Outro]
And I like talkin’ to the streets, like
When you say you the voice, you gotta, like, open up, like
Tell motherfuckers like what it is, like, you can’t hold nothin’ back
You gotta relate to them, relate to the poverty, you know what I’m sayin’?
Relate to the trenches (Yeah, yeah)
You know what I’m sayin’, I can’t be talkin’ ’bout a Richard Mille all the time (Yeah, yeah, yeah)
Know what I’m sayin’? (Yeah)
Some of the guys don’t even know what the fuck a Richard Mille is
Know what I’m sayin’? You gotta relate, all angles, know what I’m sayin’?
The voice
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah