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Facebook will pay $52M to US content moderators for trauma on the job. What about its international contractors?

Facebook will pay $52M to US content moderators for trauma on the job. What about its international contractors?

By
Lydia Emmanouilidou

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A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020.

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In a landmark decision that could have implications for content moderators around the world, Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to compensate some US-based workers for the trauma they endured on the job.

Related: Twitter and Facebook are collaborating to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Is it enough?

According to the agreement announced on Tuesday, Facebook will make payments to more than 10,000 current and former content moderators to settle a class-action lawsuit they brought against the company alleging that they developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions as a result of the work. The settlement was first reported by the technology publication, The Verge.

Facebook relies on tens of thousands of content moderators around the world to review often graphic and disturbing posts and determine whether they should be removed from the platform. Many of these workers are contractors, employed by third-party firms that work with Facebook.

Related: Catholic Twitter debates Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic

This is the first time a social media company will pay workers who say their mental health suffered as a result of exposure to disturbing content, according to lawyers who represented the content moderators in the lawsuit. The new settlement covers only workers based in the US, but the unprecedented move could have an impact on content moderators in other parts of the world.

“What we’ve seen is that after kind of years of holding out their workforce of content moderators at arm’s length, Facebook is at least trying to take some responsibility for the mental health of some of its content moderators.”

Cori Crider, Foxglove

“What we’ve seen is that after kind of years of holding out their workforce of content moderators at arm’s length, Facebook is at least trying to take some responsibility for the mental health of some of its content moderators,” said Cori Crider, director of Foxglove, a London-based nonprofit that’s assisting with a separate lawsuit launched by content moderators in Europe.

“And I would put it in front of a court pretty much anywhere and say, look, if they take responsibility for [content moderators] in the [United States], they should take responsibility for them in India. They should take responsibility for them in South America. They should take responsibility for them in Europe.

Related: ‘Straight-up debunking’: How a fact-checker vets fake news

“The last thing you want to see is a kind of half-measure payment to some workers in the United States, but people in even more precarious situations in North Africa, and India and all other places where content moderation is done get nothing and see no improvement in their conditions,” Crider said.

Is 2020 an economic write-off?

Is 2020 an economic write-off?

By
The World staff

Producer
April Peavey

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People wait in line at a food bank at St. Bartholomew Church, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Elmhurst section of Queens, New York City, New York, May 15, 2020.

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Brendan McDermid/Reuters 

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The US Commerce Department said retail sales, a significant portion of the economy, plunged 16.4% last month, the biggest decline since the government started tracking the figures in 1992. That data followed a historic 20.5 million job losses last month.

Germany’s economy slumped in the first quarter at its steepest rate since 2009 with worse expected by mid-year, but it is weathering fallout from the coronavirus better than other EU states where outbreaks have been more disruptive.

Indian lenders are facing a jump in virus-related defaults on credit card dues and personal and vehicle loans, forcing them to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars and take steps like asking sales staff to track down borrowers who have vanished.

These dramatic movements in the economy are happening all over the globe. Simon Cox is the emerging markets editor for The Economist. He spoke to The World’s Marco Werman from Hong Kong for the worldwide perspective on the economy.

Marco Werman: So, Simon, I guess there’s bad and then there’s really bad. How does this economic meltdown compare to the Great Recession back in 2008 or other downturns?

Simon Cox: It’s far worse. I mean, if you look at the global economy as a whole, it actually takes quite a lot to make it shrink. And back in the global financial crisis, which was this unprecedented depression-like event, it shrank, but only a very small amount. This pandemic, though, is going to produce a convulsion, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

Related: Brexit? It’s still a thing. 

So, are we talking about the entire world being engulfed by this or are there some areas that are harder hit than others and will continue to be harder hit?

There’s almost nowhere that’s escaped. In Asia, Singapore has been very hard hit. It’s obviously a hub; it depends very much on people feeling free to move about. Thailand’s been very hard hit because of the tourism industry. Then, there are countries like Taiwan, and China itself that are going to come through it with actually less damage than some of their neighbors. Vietnam is another country that’s been damaged, but it’s less so.

Related: Is Vietnam the coronavirus-fighting champ of the world?  

So, what makes a difference between countries that are better positioned to weather the economic storm? You mentioned Vietnam, like what went right there? What did they have that kind of shielded them?

So, it’s a combination of two things. First, it’s a fairly quick response to the pandemic itself. So, good public health response, including surveillance, tracking. Vietnam actually has quite a lot of experience in dealing with flus of various kinds. So, it was set up to sort of deal with this. It has high state capacity, to use the term. And then the second thing is a reasonably robust economic position at the beginning. So, countries that were able to respond to this slowdown with a fair amount of stimulus, perhaps because their fiscal situation wasn’t too stretched beforehand, perhaps their central banks had room to cut interest rates. Those things combined are what you really need to come through this with the minimum damage.

Related: Amsterdam’s coronavirus recovery plan embraces ‘doughnut economics’ for people and the planet

So, the US and China have been sparring, but that’s really been happening since President Donald Trump came into office. Trump has long talked about shifting production away from China. Do you think the pandemic could achieve what Trump so far has not been able to do? And what could the implications be for other countries in China’s orbit and in the kind of US-China orbit?

Yes, we have seen some of that. There is some sense supply chains are going to get shorter. An announcement just this week was that one of the big Taiwan semiconductor factories would set up a plant in the US. Now, that comes with some efficiency costs. It’s obviously more efficient to produce goods wherever they’re cheapest to produce. But I suppose for the populists and the people who are very keen to repatriate manufacturing, they see this, perhaps, as a good side of the pandemic.

Related: What will a post-coronavirus world look like? 

From an economic standpoint, is this year a total write-off, and more focus is just going to be put on 2021? Or is it too soon to even focus on 2021?

It’s a little bit staggered. So, you know, the countries that got hit first are going to recover first. China being the most obvious example. So, for those countries that can hope to see some sort of recovery in the second half of this year. Everyone else is going to have to wait until 2021. And even then, it’s going to be a very qualified recovery. You know, we might get back to where we were in late 2019, but we’re never going to get back to where we would have been if this pandemic had never struck. And it’s important to bear that in mind, I think.

Related: The slow burn of a long-term slowdown

Finally, help us understand — why it seems that is the case, but markets globally are shaken, but not really stirred to the degree that a lot of fearmongers were predicting?

Yeah, no, that’s quite interesting. It’s partly because of the response of central banks. They’ve been very active, I think, commendably so, in trying to ensure financial stability. It’s also because financial markets are very forward-looking, so they’re pricing, not just this year’s earnings, not just next year’s earnings, but the next 20 years’ earnings. And over that kind of timescale, perhaps, the pandemic begins to look like a smaller event. And it’s also that clearly, it’s got a bit carried away. I think there was quite a lot of cash on the sidelines looking for buying opportunities. And the fear of missing out kicks in quite quickly once the sort of fear of losses subsides. And so, I think the rally got a bit ahead of itself. And we’re already seeing this week some pullback.

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

Israeli plans for annexation weigh heavily on Jordan Valley residents

Israeli plans for annexation weigh heavily on Jordan Valley residents

Under a United States peace plan unveiled earlier this year, Israel had the US's green light to annex large parts of the West Bank. If that happens, life for the Palestinians and Israeli settlers who live there could get even more complicated.

By
Ariel Oseran

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Palestinian residents of the village of Fasayil in the Jordan Valley sit together for an afternoon tea break.

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Ariel Oseran/The World

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a lightning trip abroad Wednesday, spending less than a day in Israel meeting with leaders. The unofficial focus of his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s plans to annex large parts of the West Bank. 

In the months leading up to the visit, Netanyahu said the plans were subject to US agreement, while Pompeo said it’s up to the Israelis to decide. Both sides are pushing to move forward on the issue. But reports this week suggested the goal of Pompeo’s trip was to caution Israeli leadership against moving too quickly.

Most of the world is not aligned on the annexation. Governments in Europe and the Arab world are solidly against it, with some European leaders saying they might consider imposing economic sanctions on Israel if it moves ahead with annexation. Meanwhile, Palestinians, some 2.8 million of whom live in the West Bank, consider it the heartland of their future independent state. 

A key territory included in the plan for annexation is the Jordan Valley, a long and narrow strip of land that comprises about a third of the West Bank and is home to roughly 8,000 Jews and 52,000 Palestinians, of whom 4,400 reside in the part of the Jordan Valley that Israel intends to annex, according to separate figures from Israeli and Palestinian official surveys. 

As Israeli plans for annexation have yet to be fully drawn up, it remains unclear what status will be granted to the Palestinians living there today once implemented.

As Israeli plans for annexation have yet to be fully drawn up, it remains unclear what status will be granted to the Palestinians living there today once implemented. 

At approximately 1,300 feet below sea level, the Jordan Valley is the lowest valley on earth. It is bisected by the famous Jordan River, which serves as a natural dividing line between Jordan and the West Bank.  

Related: Israel’s Arab citizens contemplate their future under the Trump peace plan

Its fertile soil has made this place an agricultural breadbasket going back thousands of years. The Palestinian population living in this area is sparse, spread out over dozens of communities of shepherds and small villages.

Noor Ebbaya is a 43-year-old Palestinian mother of seven who lives in the village of Fasayil. It’s right in the center of the Jordan Valley, near the Palestinian city of Jericho. On an overcast, warm afternoon in late February, she watched over her flock of sheep on a rocky hilltop while her husband prayed in the nearby mosque. 

“When I was growing up, my family raised sheep here,” she said. “And after I got married, my husband and I now are raising sheep.”

Iyad Ebbayat, left, his younger sister, and his mother, Noor Ebbayat with their sheep in the Palestinian village of Fasayil. 

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Ariel Oseran/The World

But the lack of infrastructure, limited job opportunities and low wages have taken a heavy toll on Ebbayat and her family, along with hundreds of other families living in the area. “Our life here in Fasayil is hell,” she said. “In the summer, there’s no electricity and hardly any water. Our situation is very difficult.”

Since 1994, roughly 90% of the Jordan Valley has been under full Israeli control. Under the Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the Palestinians, the West Bank was divided into three separate territories: areas A, B and C. 

Fasayil and most of the Jordan Valley are classified as Israeli-controlled area C. But parts of it are located in area B, which is under Palestinian administrative control. But the village of Fasayil straddles two zones. Half of it is on area C, the Israeli administered land, while the other falls under the Palestinian Authority. 

Ibrahim Ebbayat is the head of the village council in Fasayil. He explains that new construction in the village is essentially banned by Israel. And it gets worse. 

“There are currently more than 60 house demolition orders,” he said. He pulls out a letter to show that includes his own home. 

Despite reporting to the Palestinian Authority, Ebbayat says he doesn’t care who officially rules over the area. 

“We don’t care what government is in charge, we will stay here. The important thing for the people of Fasayil is to remain on our land. Palestinian identity is embedded in our hearts.”

Ibrahim Ebbayat, head of village council, Fasayil, West Bank

“We don’t care what government is in charge, we will stay here,” he said. “The important thing for the people of Fasayil is to remain on our land. Palestinian identity is embedded in our hearts.” 

Most Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley work in Israeli settlements. A few minutes’ drive from Fasayil is the settlement of Nativ Hagdud. Reuven Cohen, 69, has been living there for 45 years. He’s a farmer who runs a packaging factory that employs 30 Palestinians. 

Cohen says he and his wife, Mimi, came to the Jordan Valley because of ideological reasons regarding security. He explains that at the time, the Israeli government told them they needed to be here to help defend Israel from the Arabs, essentially helping establish a line of defense from Jordan in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. 

“In 1975 nobody spoke about the West Bank,” he said. “Nobody thought that there would be 400,000 Jews in the West Bank. Nobody speak about it.” 

But times have changed. Now, right-wing Israelis — including many of Cohen’s neighbors in West Bank settlements — support annexing the Jordan Valley and making it part of the State of Israel.  

Related: Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan. This Palestinian analyst says it’s a ‘scam.’

Despite that support from Israeli citizens, the current security threat on Israel’s eastern border may not require it to resort to annexation, according to Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians during the Clinton administration. 

“It has been quiet for quite a number of years,” said Eran, now a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel (INSS). “And assuming that the current regime continues to rule in Jordan for years to come, from the security point of view, I’m not so sure that this is a priority for the Israeli government.”

Eran says imposing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

“There are arrangements that fall short of annexation. It’s absolutely unnecessary.”

Oded Eran, former Israeli ambassador to Jordan

“There are arrangements that fall short of annexation,” he said. “It’s absolutely unnecessary.”

Palestinian leaders see Israel imposing its sovereignty over the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, not only unnecessary but as a red line that must not be crossed. 

“We have informed the relevant international parties, including the American and the Israeli governments, that we will not stand hand-cuffed if Israel announces the annexation of any part of our land,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last month. “We would regard agreements with Israel and the United States completely null and void.”  

Opponents of Israeli annexation say it would just bring more violence. On Tuesday, in a different part of the West Bank, a 21-year-old Israeli soldier was killed during a raid. 

It was the first fatality for the Israeli military this year. Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed that “Israel’s long arm will reach the terrorist and hold him accountable.” The Palestinian militant group Hamas praised the killing, saying that annexation will be met with more violent resistance.

Cohen says all the talk of annexation is simply empty political rhetoric. 

“Politicians are politicians. Can you believe a politician?” Cohen said. “I remember from the movie ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,’ the guy says, ‘If you want to shoot, shoot.’ If you want to talk, talk. You know, to talk doesn’t cost any money. So I don’t know.” 

For Cohen, what is truly important is a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He says he fought in a war in 1973, and his son has fought in a war too. So, enough already, he says. 

“I believe in peace. I want to make peace with the Arabs. Really, I want to emphasize this. I don’t want to control their life.”

Reuven Cohen, Israeli farmer

“I hope that my grandson will not be in the war,” Cohen said. “I believe in peace. I want to make peace with the Arabs. Really, I want to emphasize this. I don’t want to control their life. I prefer not to do it. I hope that in the future, but probably it won’t be in my future.”

Cohen isn’t the only one worried about the future. Back in the Palestinian village of Fasayil, Ebbayat’s oldest son, 18-year-old Iyad, joins his mother to help look after the sheep. He left school two years ago to help provide for the family.

“Work is my future,” Iyad said. “To grow peppers in the fields of Fasayil. But I know that it’s pointless.” 

His mother explained there is no motivation for the local youth to stay in school. She says they’ve seen how educated teens all end up working for Israeli farmers in the area. 

“So why study, they say,” she said. “Why worry about getting an education? They’ll just end up working in the settlements anyway.” 

When asked what he dreams to become one day, Iyad simply laughed. “Nothing,” he said. “I have no dreams.”

Coronavirus — and locusts — threaten Kenya’s food security

Coronavirus — and locusts — threaten Kenya’s food security

Producer
Anna Kusmer

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Residents of Mahiga-Meru village chase desert locusts using old aluminum cooking pots, iron sheets and twigs, in Laikipia County, Kenya, Feb. 25, 2020. 

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Dominic Kirui/Reuters

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Food supply chains are being disrupted all over the world due to restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Related: Global disruption of supply chains impacts food security

In East Africa, it’s not just a pandemic making life difficult. Heavy rains during the most recent harvest and an ongoing locust outbreak devastated crops. Then, open-air food markets were closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

All of that creates major concerns over food security.

The locusts crossed into Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia at the end of 2019 and have so far infested 26 Kenyan counties. As the eggs they have laid hatch, food experts have warned a second wave of young locusts will further destroy crops and vegetation, intensifying hunger and environmental damage.

Related: How Africa risks reeling from a health crisis to a food crisis

A man attempts to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts at a ranch near the town of Nanyuki in Laikipia county, Kenya, Feb. 21, 2020. 

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Baz Ratner/Reuters

In Kenya, officials say around 12 million people don’t have enough food right now. Timothy Njagi, an expert in food security at Egerton University in Nairobi, spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman, about what this means for the region. 

Marco Werman: We’ve all seen some of the videos of these swarms of locusts devastating fields. Millions of insects eating pretty much everything in sight. Even without COVID-19, how bad has this year been for herders and farmers?

Timothy Njagi: We have yet to establish the precise effects for what has happened. But I think, as you’ve seen even in the pictures, this is the worst locust invasion we’ve had in the country. This year, because we had above-average rainfall in most parts of the country, there was going to be adequate pasture were it not for the locust invasion. Farmers were expecting to have more in terms of production for both meat and milk. But right now, they’re struggling because there’s less pasture. 

Timothy, it sounds like you’re in lockdown, judging from the children in the background. I’m just curious, as a food security expert in Kenya, how hard does it make your job not be able to go out in the field? 

Actually, it is quite difficult because some of the information that we get sometimes you have to verify because sometimes, especially when respondents know how you’re going to use information, there’s the likelihood of exaggeration. But then also, in some areas, you still cannot get information on what is happening in those areas. 

Related: Doctors wait hours to fill tanks as Venezuela faces fuel shortages

What limitations has COVID-19 actually put on food producers and how has it made it harder to fight the locusts? 

So, for the locusts, the major strategy that the government has gone with is to use chemical pesticides. And most of these chemical pesticides are not manufactured locally. So, they have to be imported from outside. In March, we lost, like, two to three weeks because of the challenges in logistics. For food supply, again, we had a similar shock because Kenya announced the restrictions in mid-March. Immediately after that, we saw some local governments closing markets. 

You’re talking about outdoor, informal markets, right? 

Yes. Like, 85% of all food goes through the outdoor, informal markets. What happened was that some markets were closed. Some of these markets [are] very key distribution points, especially in urban areas. This means that for producers, it’s a terrible place to be, especially for farmers who are doing fresh fruits and vegetables and other perishable commodities like dairy, because you cannot store it. For the consumers, it means that you’re likely to pay slightly more because there are perceived, artificial shortages in the supply. 

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

For Kenyans who could not afford to pay more for food, what have they been eating? 

So, one of the challenges we’ve had for COVID is that people have also lost jobs. What we’ve seen was a lot of individuals doing a lot of charitable work. And then this quickly spreads to the civil society organizations, and now the government, as well, is also distributing food. So, right now, it’s more just an immediate response. It’s very short term, but we do hope that even as we go through the post-COVID period, we’ll be able to map out areas where people need more support in terms of access to food. And then we can have structured interventions. 

So, planting season is happening now. Are you — are farmers — worried about next year? 

We are really worried about next year, especially if the current crisis prolongs into summer. We import quite a number of inputs, including seed and fertilizer, and if the current scenarios persist, then we are really worried because that’s going to constrain access to inputs. Labor has also been a challenge right now. And one of the other problems is that agriculture in Kenya is highly labor-intensive. So, that has also been affected. So, when you have constrained labor and transportation, that really affects your efficiency when you’re trying to produce. 

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

The slow burn of a long-term slowdown

The slow burn of a long-term slowdown

By
Sarah Leeson

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The Flatiron Building stands next to Madison Square Park as streets remain less busy due to the continuing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York, May 5, 2020.

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We’re not in a space race anymore, or an arms race, or any kind of race right now. And even if we were, it doesn’t seem like we’d be winning.

As fast-moving as it may feel, the world has really been slowing down for decades. From the global population, to the economy, to technology, the rate of innovation and growth has practically ground to a halt. That’s according to Danny Dorling, a professor of geography at Oxford University and author of Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration — and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives.

Related: What will a post-coronavirus world look like?

“We don’t expect our children to have that different a life from ours, and, although our life is more different to our parents, their lives were much more different to their parents,” Dorling said. “And this is everything from chance of dying, to what they consume, to what they throw away.”

The idea that we’re slowing down or reaching a growth plateau seems to run counter to concerns about overpopulation. The Earth’s human population went from about 1 billion at the start of the 1800s to nearly 8 billion now. Dorling said that our population doubling, and doubling, and doubling again in the span of just a few hundred years has never happened before to our species, and it won’t happen again.

“The UN and many other bodies that look at demographic trends say that within the next century, maybe within just 70 or 60 years, we’ll hit stability,” Dorling said. “Population on the planet will stop growing for human beings and then we’ll have a slight reduction.”

Related: The economics of a global emergency

The clearest proof of this gradual population slowdown is the steadily dipping birth rates around the world. In many countries, birth rates have fallen below two children per woman in a lifetime, putting population growth below replacement level. In South Korea, the rate has dropped below one child per woman, meaning the population is poised to halve in a single generation.

We can see this larger slowdown in other areas, too. Even before the pandemic shut down economies around the world, global GDP had seen less and less growth for decades. Similarly, our technological innovations, which, for hundreds of years, grew in leaps and bounds, have been tapering off.

“We cannot do things fundamentally differently to how we did them 10 or 20 years ago, whereas the difference for our grandparents and parents was much, much bigger in their lifetime,” Dorling said.

As an example, the tractor is only a little more than a century old, and before that, we were using horses, which Dorling calls “an enormous change.” By comparison, our lives since birth have changed very little.

Related: A path out of a pandemic

Some of this may seem like bad news. On the surface, a slowdown sounds like a decline, whether it’s for our quality of life or for our expected wealth. But Dorling says this slowdown might just be what the world needs. For one thing, fewer people means less consumption, and less consumption means less pollution. Plus, Dorling says it’s worthwhile to ask ourselves what the purpose is of the innovations we’re still making.

“I quite like the idea of my children living a life that is not dramatically different to mine,” Dorling said. “I don’t think that some of the ways in which we’ve accelerated our lives have necessarily improved our lives — we’ve just done it because we can.”

Sarah Leeson is an associate producer on Innovation Hub. You can follow her on Twitter at @sarabration

 

Baltic ‘bubble’ looks to reopen regional travel

Baltic 'bubble' looks to reopen regional travel

The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are poised to become one of the first blocs to reopen regional travel, thanks to their swift response to the pandemic and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

By
Indra Ekmanis

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Christopher Woolf

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A bicyclist rides next to a billboard, a part of a “Mask Fashion Week” during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 5, 2020. 

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Migrant farmworkers in US deemed essential — but lack basic protections

Migrant farmworkers in US deemed essential — but lack basic protections

Migrant farmworkers tend to work low-paying jobs. Few, if any, have benefits, and many are undocumented. These factors make them "uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic," says Marc Grossman of United Farm Workers of America.

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Adam Wernick

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Migrant workers harvest corn on Uesugi Farms in Gilroy, California, Aug. 28, 2013.

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Migrant farmworkers have been deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic so that they may continue to tend and harvest the crops that feed America. Yet most of these workers don’t enjoy essential benefits and worker protections, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay and access to health insurance — or workplace protocols that would prevent them from contracting the virus itself.

“We’ve all seen the empty shelves of the supermarkets, of paper goods and toilet paper and so on. But imagine if the pandemic takes hold in the farmworker community, what would happen to the nation’s food supply,” says Marc Grossman, a spokesperson for United Farm Workers of America (UFW).

RelatedFood supply logistics need a coronavirus ‘reset,’ says UN economist

Even before the pandemic, Grossman points out, farmworkers faced daunting challenges.

“We know that they’re mostly immigrants today, in very low paying jobs. With the exception of a small number that are protected by union contracts, they have few, if any, benefits. … They must live, commute and work in very close quarters, often in substandard, unsanitary and crowded conditions.”

“We know that they’re mostly immigrants today, in very low-paying jobs. With the exception of a small number that are protected by union contracts, they have few, if any, benefits,” he explains. “They must live, commute and work in very close quarters, often in substandard, unsanitary and crowded conditions.”

“We know from the US Department of Labor that at least half are undocumented, which makes them even more vulnerable to abuse,” Grossman adds. “All of these factors make them uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic.”

When the pandemic began, Grossman says, the UFW went directly to individual growers who are under a union contract to discuss altering picking practices and styles and to implement other social distancing practices, even if productivity was reduced. The constructive response from these companies only highlights the urgent need for more widespread action at non-union companies, Grossman says. Some employers are stepping up — but many others are not.

RelatedFarmworkers are now deemed essential. But are they protected?

“[T]here is too often a gap between what the laws and the regulations and the government agencies require and the actual enforcement and implementation in the fields.”

California leads the nation in protective laws and regulations for farmworkers — everything from minimum wages and hours to pesticide protections to sexual harassment, Grossman notes, but “there is too often a gap between what the laws and the regulations and the government agencies require and the actual enforcement and implementation in the fields.”

What’s more, the great majority of farmworkers in non-union companies do not have access to health care. Nor are many of them able to receive paid sick leave should they fall ill, Grossman says.

“One of the problems with paid sick leave is that some growers have made it difficult for workers to actually claim it,” he explains. “Sometimes they require a doctor’s note. But since most workers have no health care, they don’t have doctors. Or some companies have a waiting period of 30 or 90 days before new workers can claim sick leave benefits — if they exist. All of those things represent challenges that must be overcome quickly if paid sick leave is going to become a reality [for these workers].”

The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law from the New Deal era that granted industrial workers simple benefits like overtime after an eight-hour workday, excludes farmworkers. “It was only in 2016 that the UFW got a law passed in California that provides phased in overtime after eight hours a day, over a four year period,” Grossman notes.

In addition, most farmworkers, unlike some of their counterparts in the retail food industry, are not receiving additional hazard pay.

Many migrant farmworkers face the daily fear of being deported, even while being deemed essential to the nation by the same government threatening to deport them.

On top of all of this, many of these workers face the daily fear of being deported, even while being deemed essential to the nation by the same government threatening to deport them.

“I believe ICE has indicated that they’re holding off on enforcement actions in the interior of the country, but remember: For years, there has been a palpable fear in foreign workers just of going to work,” Grossman says. “So, in addition to the danger of exposing themselves and their family members to infections, many undocumented farmworkers find it very difficult to abandon their fear of being apprehended and deported.”

Last December, the US House of Representatives passed an agricultural immigration bill — for the first time in decades, Grossman says — that would allow undocumented farmworkers already in the country to earn the legal right to stay permanently by continuing to work in agriculture. The bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote and is now in the United States Senate.

“It would go a long way toward eliminating the fear and the terror that undocumented farmworkers live with every day,” Grossman says.

Grossman hopes that during the pandemic Americans will examine their society and look more closely at equity issues, like the denial of essential rights and benefits to farmworkers.

“We’re hoping that people use this as an opportunity for much-needed reflection on eliminating the inequities and the injustices that have plagued farmworkers and other people who are vulnerable,” Grossman says.

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

Twitter and Facebook are collaborating to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Is it enough?

Twitter and Facebook are collaborating to stop the spread of coronavirus misinformation. Is it enough?

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The World staff

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Lydia Emmanouilidou

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An example image from Twitter shows how the company will add warnings to some tweets with misleading information related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

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Twitter/via Reuters 

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Rumors, conspiracy theories and false information about the coronavirus have spread wildly on social media since the pandemic began.

False claims have ranged from bogus cures to misinformation linking the virus with conspiracy theories on 5G mobile phone technology or high-profile figures such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

To combat disinformation, Twitter announced on Monday that it will start flagging misleading posts related to the coronavirus.  

Twitter’s new labels will provide links to more information in cases where people could be confused or misled, the company said in a blog post. Warnings may also be added to say that a tweet conflicts with guidance from public health experts before a user views it. 

Related: Internet restrictions make it virtually impossible for Kashmiris to get COVID-19 info

Similarly, Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners, which include Reuters, rate and debunk viral content on the site with labels. Last month, YouTube also said it would start showing information panels with third-party, fact-checked articles for US video search results.  

Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter, and Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, have been working together to tackle disinformation during the pandemic. Roth and Gleicher spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about their efforts to fight against fake news and the challenges they face.

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

Marco Werman: Given that the COVID-19 pandemic is such a global problem, what new strategies have you had to come up with to deal with disinformation on your platforms? 

Nathaniel Gleicher: The truth is that disinformation or misinformation isn’t something that any one platform — or quite frankly, any one industry — can tackle by itself. We see the actors engaged here, leveraging a wide range of social media platforms, also targeting traditional media and other forms of communications.

One of the key benefits here, as we think about bad guys trying to manipulate across the internet, is we focus on behavior that they engage in — if they’re using fake accounts, if they’re using networks of deceptive pages or groups.

The behavior behind these operations is very similar whether you’re talking about coronavirus or the 2020 election or any other topic, if you’re trying to sell or scam people online. And so the tools and techniques we built to deal with political manipulation, foreign interference and other challenges actually apply very effectively because the behaviors are the same. 

You’ve both mentioned bad guys and malicious actors. Who are they? How much do you know about them and how does that knowledge inform how you deal with individual threats of disinformation? 

Yoel Roth: Our primary focus is on understanding what somebody might be trying to accomplish when they’re trying to influence the conversation on our service. If you’re thinking about somebody who’s trying to make a quick buck by capitalizing on a discussion happening on Twitter, you could imagine somebody who is engaging in spammy behavior to try and get you to click on a link or buy a product.

If you make it harder and more expensive for them to do what they’re doing, then generally, that’s going to be a strong deterrent. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with somebody who’s motivated by ideology or somebody who might be backed by a nation-state, oftentimes, you’re going to need to focus on not only removing that from your service, but we believe that it’s important to be public with the world about the activity that we’re seeing. 

Related: As pandemic disrupts US elections, states look for online alternatives

Where do most of the disinformation and conspiracy theories originate? Is it with individuals? Are they coordinated efforts by either governmental or nongovernmental actors? 

Gleicher: I think a lot of people have a lot of preconceptions about who is running influence operations on the internet. Everyone focuses, for example, on influence operations coming out of Iran, coming out of Russia. And we’ve found and removed a number of networks coming from those countries, including just last month.

But the truth is, the majority of influence operations that we see around the world are actually individuals or groups operating within their own country and trying to influence public debate locally. This is why when we conduct our investigations, we focus so clearly on behavior: What are the patterns or deceptive techniques that someone is using that allow us to say that’s not OK. No one should be able to do that. 

Nathaniel, you said that when determining what to take down, Facebook tends to focus on the behavior, the bad actors rather than content. But I think about the so-called “Plandemic” video, a 26-minute video produced by an anti-vaxxer. And it racks up millions of views precisely because it’s posted and reposted again and again. How do you deal with videos like that, which go viral? 

Gleicher: That’s a good question, and it gets to the fact that there’s no single tool that you can use to respond in this space because people talk about disinformation or misinformation. But really, it’s a range of different challenges that all sit next to each other. There are times when content crosses very specific lines in our community standards such that it could lead to imminent harm; it could be hate speech or otherwise violate our policies.

For example, in the video that you mentioned, one of the things that happened in there was that it suggested that wearing a mask could make you sick. That’s the sort of thing that could lead to imminent harm. So, in that case, we removed the video based on that content, even though there wasn’t necessarily deceptive behavior behind the spreading.

And then finally, there are some actors that are sort of consistent repeat offenders — we might take action against an actor regardless of what they’re saying and regardless of the behavior that they’re engaged in. A really good example of this is the Russian Internet Research Agency and the organizations that still persist that are related back to it. They have engaged in enough deceptive behavior that if we see anything linked to them, we will take action on it, regardless of the content, regardless of the behaviors. 

 

Last Friday, a State Department official said they identified “a new network of inauthentic accounts” on Twitter that are pushing Chinese propaganda, trying to spread this narrative that China’s not responsible for the spread of COVID-19. And State Department officials say they suspect China and Russia are behind this effort. Twitter disputes at least some of this. Can you explain, though, what is Twitter disputing precisely?

Roth: Last Thursday, we were provided with more than 5,000 accounts that the State Department indicated were associated with China and were engaged in some sort of inauthentic or inorganic activity. We’ve started to investigate them. And much of what we’ve analyzed thus far shows no indication that the accounts were supportive of Chinese positions.

And then in a lot of cases, we actually saw accounts that were openly critical of China. And so, this really highlights one of the challenges of doing this type of research.

Oftentimes, you need a lot of information specifically about who the threat actors are, how they’re accessing your service, what the technical indicators are of what they’re doing in order to reach a conclusion about whether something is inauthentic or coordinated. And that’s not what we saw thus far in our investigation of the accounts we received from the State Department. 

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

Malaysia eradicated Nipah virus. Now it’s a leader in the battle against coronavirus.

Malaysia eradicated Nipah virus. Now it’s a leader in the battle against coronavirus.

Some scientists and researchers say that its success in staving off COVID-19 is directly related to its history of fighting zoonotic diseases. 

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Kyle Vass

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A man wearing protective face mask jogs under a rainbow as Malaysia reopens a majority of businesses after a movement control order was imposed to fight the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 4, 2020.

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Since the coronavirus outbreak began, there’s been special attention paid to lessons learned. One case in recent history that’s worth looking at again is Malaysia’s outbreak of the Nipah virus, which was first recognized in 1999.

The Nipah virus killed more than 100 people and led to nearly a million pigs being culled. But ultimately, the Nipah virus outbreak was a success story for Malaysia. The country eradicated the Nipah virus, and today, it seems to be effectively staving off the coronavirus, as well.

As of Tuesday, Malaysia had reported 6,742 cases of the coronavirus and 109 deaths, putting it just behind South Korea. Some scientists and researchers say its success in handling COVID-19 is directly related to its history of fighting zoonotic diseases like the Nipah virus.

Related: Shanghai Disneyland reopens — with face masks, social distancing and QR health codes

In the late ’90s, the Nipah virus outbreak all started with pig farmers deciding to grow fruit on their property. Pigs were dying, people were getting sick, and everyone knew the two were somehow connected.

“Initially, this is something where no one knew what it was.”

Tom Hughes, EcoHealth Alliance

“Initially, this is something where no one knew what it was,” said Tom Hughes, a scientist with EcoHealth Alliance in Malaysia.

He says at first, the Malaysian government thought there was just a bad case of Japanese encephalitis — a disease spread by mosquitoes — going around.

“The Malaysian government quickly realized that wasn’t the case. They were dealing with something they hadn’t seen before. And, it turned out, it was Nipah virus.”

The virus got its name from Sungai Nipah, a small village surrounded by jungle. Farmers raising pigs there planted fruit trees to make a second income. And Hughes says the fruit attracted flying foxes from the jungle, also known as bats.

“They fed on these fruit trees. They dropped chewed fruit. They urinated. They defecated into the pig pens. And this virus that had been carried by flying foxes for tens of thousands of years was able to move from the flying foxes into the pigs.”

Related: ‘Reckoning day’ could be ahead for airline industry facing coronavirus challenges

At first, the virus from the bats wasn’t a threat to pigs. But random mutations and constant exposure to this new species of animal allowed it to adapt, and jump from bats to pigs.

“The pigs amplified this virus. They made it stronger so that it could then infect humans.”

When the Malaysian government learned about this new virus infecting pigs, they shut down pig farms and killed almost a million pigs in a single day.

“And that ended up decimating the Malaysian pork industry. It cost the economy $550 million. If we could go back five years before that outbreak and educate those farmers about the risk of planting those fruit trees — which seemed innocent then — we could’ve prevented this from happening.”

Tom Hughes, EcoHealth Alliance

“And that ended up decimating the Malaysian pork industry. It cost the economy $550 million. If we could go back five years before that outbreak and educate those farmers about the risk of planting those fruit trees — which seemed innocent then — we could’ve prevented this from happening.”

Related: Women leaders eschew ‘macho-man’ politics in COVID-19 response

More than 100 people got sick and died from the virus. Most of them were pig farm workers. In a documentary from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Yee Ah Moi holds up a picture of her deceased husband.

“I was also really worried,” she says in the film. “We were told it was mosquitoes. My husband said, ‘Mosquitoes? What’s there to be afraid of?’”

Malaysia eradicated the Nipah virus. But it later reemerged in Bangladesh, as recently as this year. And the fatality rate there is 50% or more. Nipah virus, HIV, malaria, Ebola and the virus that causes COVID-19 are all zoonotic in origin.

“Zoonosis, or zoonotic diseases, are diseases that can spread between human and nonhuman animals,” said Steve Unwin, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. 

He says about 75% of new and emerging diseases come from animals. He also says that this number should not surprise us.

“Approximately 75% to 80% of the terrestrial landmass has been altered in some way by human activity. So, this activity has brought humans in closer contact with nonhuman animals. If we consider that humans are just another animal, it kind of makes perfect sense that diseases can go backward and forward.”

Related: Amsterdam’s coronavirus recovery plan embraces ‘doughnut economics’ for people and the planet

Unwin says zoonosis is a two-way street. When people expose animals in the wild to human diseases, that gives viruses a new host species to thrive in. These viruses can become much stronger.

“If you see a great ape with a runny nose, it’s quite likely they’re carrying a rhinovirus from a human source. If we continue to treat other creatures on the planet as something lesser than ourselves, then we do so at our peril because we are part of that same ecosystem and environment.”

Steve Unwin, University of Birmingham

“If you see a great ape with a runny nose, it’s quite likely they’re carrying a rhinovirus from a human source. If we continue to treat other creatures on the planet as something lesser than ourselves, then we do so at our peril because we are part of that same ecosystem and environment.”

Unwin and Tom Hughes are part of a movement called, “One Health.” It brings together veterinary scientists, epidemiologists, public health officials, economists and ecologists with the goal of coordinating their efforts to quash zoonotic disease outbreaks early on.

Hughes says Malaysia adopted the One Health concept early on and used it to control the Nipah virus. Several government agencies collaborated “to break the transmission chain to understand where the virus came from.”

In his view, “The One Health concept is pretty simple. It’s something my children are able to grasp, but adults seem to struggle with. The idea is if we want to have healthy people, we need to have a healthy environment, healthy livestock and healthy wildlife. We are all interconnected.”

As for COVID-19, Malaysia only has about 200 cases per 1 million people. That’s just behind South Korea. Hughes says the country’s relative success is directly related to its history of fighting zoonotic diseases.

“Just looking at how Malaysia is responding to COVID-19 and how well we are doing to maintain the spread of this virus. They’re doing an amazing job to keep the public informed, and it really shows just how well Malaysia has embraced these kinds of ideas. Malaysia is really showing itself as a regional leader in dealing with zoonosis.”

Tom Hughes, EcoHealth Alliance

“Just looking at how Malaysia is responding to COVID-19 and how well we are doing to maintain the spread of this virus. They’re doing an amazing job to keep the public informed, and it really shows just how well Malaysia has embraced these kinds of ideas. Malaysia is really showing itself as a regional leader in dealing with zoonosis.”

The Malaysian government has a text-messaging system set up for relaying real-time updates about the country’s movement control order and have ramped up their testing capacity to test 11,500 samples a day across 48 different testing centers.

Hughes points out that Southeast Asia is home to a lot of research on zoonotic disease transmission because countries in tropical climates are more prone to zoonotic disease emergence.

“You’ve got high population densities. Lots of natural, pristine environments with high wildlife biodiversity. But, at the same time, you have a huge amount of pressure to expand our urban environment and expand our agricultural areas, which is what is causing these viruses to spill over. In the US and the UK and Europe, most of our development happened decades and centuries ago, whereas this sort of development is happening right now in the tropics.

He says it is the responsibility of wealthier nations to fund zoonotic disease research in these countries because, as COVID-19 has demonstrated, we are all one.

Japan’s Studio Ghibli teaches fans how to draw its beloved character Totoro

Japan’s Studio Ghibli teaches fans how to draw its beloved character Totoro

Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli became the heavyweight champion of anime in Japan and the rest of the world. One of its anime producers has uploaded a video tutorial explaining how to draw Totoro from the popular 1988 film "My Neighbor Totoro."

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Lucy Martirosyan

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A stuffed animal Totoro and other characters from the 1988 Japanese anime film “My Neighbor Totoro.”

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Paradasos via Creative Commons

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If you’re stuck at home with children during the coronavirus pandemic looking for something to do, it might be a good opportunity to watch some of Japan’s classic animated films.

Or better yet, draw the characters.

Toshio Suzuki, a Japanese animation producer, is proposing just that. The former president of Japan’s Studio Ghibli uploaded a video tutorial explaining how to draw one of the company’s beloved characters: Totoro from the 1988 film “My Neighbor Totoro.” 

Suzuki says the most important part of drawing Totoro — who is also Studio Ghibli’s mascot — is nailing down his circular, wide-set eyes. 

The tutorial was originally intended for children in lockdown in Nagoya, Japan — where Suzuki is originally from. It was featured on a city website that has also posted video messages from celebrities and athletes linked to Nagoya. But Suzuki’s tutorial has reached Studio Ghibli fans far and wide.

“This is something you can do at home. Everyone, please draw pictures,” he said.

“My Neighbor Totoro,” a fantasy film, centers around two sisters who move to a country house with their father as they wait for their ailing mother to recover at a hospital. That’s where they come across Totoro, a big, cuddly flying spirit who looks like a cross between an inflated cat, a bunny rabbit and an owl. 

Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli became the heavyweight champion of anime in Japan and the rest of the world, with most of its success accredited to co-founder and animator Hayao Miyazaki. In the 1990s, the Walt Disney Company signed a deal with Studio Ghibli to introduce the movies to a Western audience.  Studio Ghibli has created more than 20 acclaimed movies that follow themes of nature, friendship, and what some might describe as girl power or feminism.

Miyazaki, who is famous for mostly hand-drawing his animations, dominated the box office and gained global success among anime fans and children alike. His film “Spirited Away” about a lost young girl remains the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan since its release in 2001. It won an Academy Award in 2003. Tokyo’s Mitaka Ghibli Museum, which features Miyazaki’s artwork, remains closed due to COVID-19.  

But the studio is still coming up with ways to keep fans entertained safely at home. It has created free downloadable movie backgrounds for the video conference-app Zoom and a set of vinyl collections to the soundtrack of the 1997 film “Princess Monoke”, which will be released on July 24.

Shanghai Disneyland reopens — with face masks, social distancing and QR health codes

Shanghai Disneyland reopens — with face masks, social distancing and QR health codes

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Rebecca Kanthor

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A visitor dressed as a Disney character takes a selfie while wearing a protective face mask at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 11, 2020. 

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Shanghai’s Disneyland became the first Disney amusement park to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, sending a strong signal of recovery in Shanghai. But it was not back to normal.

Related: What will a post-coronavirus world look like?

The park, which had been closed for three months, took numerous precautions to ensure safety and prevent crowding, including limiting visitor numbers to well below normal. Disney’s chief executive officer, Bob Chapek, said that the company hopes to increase the number of visitors by 5,000 each week until it reaches the 30% cap set by the government.

Related: India begins to ease restrictions on areas with no new coronavirus cases 

Opening day tickets sold out within minutes, and tickets for the rest of the week sold out quickly as well. Many of those who came on opening day were annual pass holders, eager to return with their children whom they dressed up as Disney characters.

A girl wearing face mask poses for a picture at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 11, 2020. 

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Aly Song/Reuters

With school still not back in session for younger students in Shanghai, parents were taking advantage of the reopening to enjoy some added perks, including shorter lines and fewer crowds. Xia Yang, a 29-year-old father from Shanghai, brought his two children to the park with his wife to celebrate his 4-year-old son’s birthday. “It felt great! The lines were so short, only five to 10 minutes for each attraction. In the peak season, we normally have to wait over two hours for some rides,” he said.

Daisy Chen, 35, from Fujian province, took the day off her job as a marketing executive in Shanghai to bring her 5-year-old daughter Nuan Bao to the park. Dressed as Minnie Mouse, she and her daughter were selected to join the opening ceremony and got to see all the Disney characters appear — a special opening-day perk that was not afforded to regular visitors.

Actors dressed as Disney characters are seen at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 11, 2020. 

Credit:

Aly Song/Reuters

During this reopening period, the park has announced that there will be no close-up photo opportunities with Disney employees dressed up as characters.

“We didn’t really join in any big shows, because some of the shows were closed, but it was just fun, happy to hear the music, to see everyone smile, although everyone was wearing the masks and the social distance was kept very well,” she said.

The park enforced social distancing through stickers on the ground to show people where to stand in line. Visitors had to go through multiple temperature checks and had to provide their health QR code, which is used as a safety measure to track individuals’ contacts.

Related: Amsterdam’s coronavirus recovery plan embraces ‘doughnut economics’ for people and the planet

Workers wearing face masks prepare social distancing markers at Shanghai Disney Resort a day before the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 10, 2020. 

Credit:

Aly Song/Reuters  

All employees and most visitors were wearing masks, and hand sanitizer was provided at entrances to indoor areas. The park has suspended parades, fireworks and performances during this period. But play areas outside the park were filled with children climbing up and down on the playground equipment.

Luna Qian, from Shanghai, brought her sons, ages 6 and 3, to the park with her husband. “I think if it wasn’t safe enough, they wouldn’t open Disneyland, so I see everything they take care, like hand wash, hand sanitizers, and people have distance so, I feel quite safe,” she said.

Related: Confusion over the UK’s plan for lifting coronavirus restrictions

Even with the lower numbers in the park, there were plenty of people in the surrounding Disneytown shopping area. Visitors streamed out with shopping bags full of merchandise. Inside the Disney store, Jennifer Wong and her husband were wandering the aisles with their 4-year old daughter. “She’s so happy, she’s been inside for so long, she was really wanting to come,” she said. “Every time we come here, we always have to buy something. Today, we’ll probably buy her a watch.”

Reopening the park sends a strong signal of economic recovery to Shanghai and China.

Top US health officials to testify in Senate on coronavirus, economic reopening

Top US health officials to testify in Senate on coronavirus, economic reopening

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The top infectious disease official in the United States, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, is set to testify on Tuesday before the US Senate and is expected to warn against the risks of reopening the economy too soon.

Fauci suggested that states that forge ahead without meeting administration guidelines for declining coronavirus cases first will risk lives and economic recovery, the New York Times reported.

“If we skip over the checkpoints … we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci said. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn are also scheduled to testify before the panel.

Related: India begins to ease restrictions on areas with no new coronavirus cases

Each of the witnesses will testify remotely at Tuesday’s hearing, according to a committee aide. The virus is shaking the nation’s capital, with two known cases of infection emerging inside the White House and leading top U.S. health officials to isolate themselves as a precaution.

Fauci, Redfield and Hahn have been taking self-quarantine steps after announcements they had come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, which causes the highly contagious respiratory disease COVID-19.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander is also self-quarantining in his home state of Tennessee for 14 days after a member of his staff tested positive. He will chair the hearing virtually, his office said on Sunday.

The shuttering of businesses to combat the spread of the coronavirus has led to mass layoffs of workers, sparking the greatest economic disruption to the United States since the Great Depression nearly a century ago.

President Donald Trump, who previously made the strength of the economy central to his pitch for his November re-election bid, has encouraged states to reopen businesses that had been deemed non-essential amid the pandemic.

So far, his administration has largely left it to states to decide whether and how to reopen. State governors are taking varying approaches, with a growing number relaxing tough restrictions enacted to slow the outbreak, even as opinion polls show most Americans are concerned about reopening too fast.

Worker safety

Trump and his task force coordinating Washington’s response to the coronavirus have faced questions on how US workers will be kept safe during reopening, especially after two staffers working within the White House tested positive for the virus.

One of the staffers is Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, the wife of senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller. The other is a valet to the president.

Related: Table for One in Sweden is an ode to solo dining

So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 80,000 people in the United States, the highest death toll of any country. Some experts say testing for the virus in most parts of the country continues to fall short of what would be needed to safely reopen.

Senate Democrats, including Patty Murray, her party’s senior member on the Senate health committee, called on Trump to allocate $25 billion in funding to ramp up testing.

Fauci’s appearance at the Republican-controlled Senate committee comes after the White House blocked the 79-year-old infectious disease expert from testifying to a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives panel, calling it “counterproductive.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to unveil a sweeping coronavirus-response bill, possibly this week, that would likely provide more funding for testing, new state and local government aid and another round of direct payments to people to help them meet their daily living costs.

Congress has already passed trillions of dollars in emergency relief. Senate Republicans, some of whom have expressed doubts about the need for more federal aid, are scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House later on Tuesday.

By Makini Brice and Richard Cowan/Reuters

India begins to ease restrictions on areas with no new coronavirus cases 

India begins to ease restrictions on areas with no new coronavirus cases 

The government is taking a phased approach to the lockdown, easing restrictions only on areas that haven’t seen infections for a month. That’s despite the fact that India recently saw a spike in cases of the coronavirus, and projections show they still have not peaked.

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Rupa Shenoy

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Stranded residents of Ladakh, a union territory in India, wait in a stadium for being thermal screened before taking buses back to Ladakh, after few restrictions were lifted by Delhi government during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Delhi, India, May 11, 2020.

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Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters 

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When India’s lockdown began six weeks ago, millions of migrant workers lost construction and factory jobs in big cities.

Many tried to walk back to their villages when public transportation shut down, but police sealed the borders. Last week, 16 migrants who were sleeping on train tracks were run over.

“It’s difficult to find something to eat or a place to sleep anywhere,” one of the stranded workers, Mohamad Jalal, said in Hindi in a BBC interview. “They tell us to stay in one place. But can we stay hungry?”

As the crisis grew, some in Mumbai took action, including advertising consultant Mazher Ramzanali, whose group of about 50 volunteers partnered with high-end restaurants to deliver simple vegetarian meals to 80,000 people every day.

Related: Women leaders eschew ‘macho-man’ politics in COVID-19 response 

“If somebody told me — and I was not involved — I would not believe it was possible to do it — just citizens coming together and figuring it out. … And it was amazing. I feel so gratified.”

Citizens came together to help India’s 1.3 billion people during the lockdown, said Vijay Chauthaiwale, who directs the Foreign Affairs Department of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. There was unprecedented cooperation between India’s federal government and its states, he said, and political parties put aside their divisions.

“In this hour of crisis, all these political parties have shown enormous consensus.”

Vijay Chauthaiwale, Bharatiya Janata Party

“In this hour of crisis, all these political parties have shown enormous consensus,” Chauthaiwale said.

That consensus among politicians has had an impact, he said — it helped keep India’s number of cases of the coronavirus low at under 70,000. Skeptics believe that number is low because there hasn’t been enough testing, but Chauthaiwale dismisses those concerns.

“India is doing adequate testing, and it is comparable to other countries like South Korea or Germany where the disease has been managed very well,” he said.

Now, with India’s unemployment at a record high of 27%, the country is gradually lifting its lockdown. The government is arranging special trains to take migrants to their home villages. Officials are also in the early stages of bringing back 200,000 Indian citizens who were stranded abroad when the country locked down.

Related: With test kits so scarce, doctors in Yemen are flying blind

“This will be the most complex and the biggest rescue operation in the world any country has ever taken,” Chauthaiwale said.

The government is taking a phased approach to the lockdown, easing restrictions only on areas that haven’t seen infections for a month. That’s despite the fact that India recently saw a spike in cases of the coronavirus, and projections show they still have not peaked. State hospitals are already overwhelmed and don’t have enough ventilators.

At the same time, critics say religious tensions that were rising before the pandemic have continued, with the help of the country’s largest newspapers and television networks.

“The mainstream media are continuously spreading fake [news] against Muslims,” said Sanjar Alam, an engineer and activist in Delhi. He said the media have blamed Muslims for the spread of the virus.

“This Islamophobic propaganda by media and some political leaders has serious consequences on the ground, they are the main reason, the main cause of Hindu-Muslim violence in India.”

Sanjar Alam, engineer and activist, Delhi

“This Islamophobic propaganda by media and some political leaders has serious consequences on the ground, they are the main reason, the main cause of Hindu-Muslim violence in India.”

Before the coronavirus hit, violence against Muslims was rising in India. Alam worries that attacks on Muslims will go up again once the lockdown is lifted. And he said India’s Hindu nationalist government may let it happen, as they have before. Yet, Alam feels he has to be optimistic.

Related: Researchers in Senegal are developing a coronavirus test kit to be used across Africa

“We are going through a tough time, but we have hopes here,” he said.

He said it’s a relatively small group of people who are responsible for the increase in religious tension. As the lockdown is lifted, Alam believes most Indians want their country to return to being a place where people of all faiths can prosper.

Iranian sailors dead after ‘friendly fire’ incident; India, UK ease restrictions, but Brazil struggles as hot spot

Iranian sailors dead after 'friendly fire' incident; India, UK ease restrictions, but Brazil struggles as hot spot

By
The World staff

A warship sails in the Sea of Oman during the first day of joint Iran, Russia and China naval war games in Chabahar port, at the Sea of Oman, Iran, 2019.

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Mohsen Ataei/Fars news agency/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

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

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

Lebanese protesters are back in the streets with increasing desperation as the country sinks. 

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Rebecca Collard

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Police in riot gear stand in a line as protesters block a main road in Beirut, Lebanon, May 2020. 

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Rebecca Collard/The World 

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In the narrow streets of Beirut’s Bourj al-Hammoud neighborhood, Baruyr Solakian sits outside a small shop. On a small portable radio, he listens to the local news — and it’s not good.

“No one is working and there is no money, no food. … Many families go to sleep without eating.”

Baruyr Solakian, Beirut, Lebanon

“No one is working and there is no money, no food,” said Solakian. “Many families go to sleep without eating.”

Neighborhoods like this one have been hit the hardest in Lebanon’s crisis. Like many in the country, Solakian was just scraping by. His work as a security guard earned him enough money to pay rent and feed his family of five. 

Baruyr Solakian sits outside a shop in Beirut’s Bourj al-Hammoud neighborhood. 

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Rebecca Collard/The World 

As the financial crisis hit in the fall —sparking the first wave of protests — things got harder, but he managed. 

Now, Lebanon’s currency is in freefall. That means inflation is rising so quickly that the prices of some goods change overnight. The Lebanese currency was pegged to the US dollar at 1,500 lira for decades, but earlier this year it doubled to 3,000 on the black market. 

Related: Hezbollah’s latest front line? The fight against coronavirus.

Then came the novel coronavirus pandemic. In March, experts warned that an outbreak in Lebanon would be a disaster. The country locked down fast and the infection curve flatted quickly — but inflation did not. 

“I bought milk for 5,000 lira. After one week I bought it for 10,000,” Solakian said. Prices are going up but salaries for most Lebanese are not. 

“If they didn’t shut down there would be much more illness, that is for sure,” said Solakian. “But the people are poor.” 

Late last month, just as the country announced it would be easing the lockdown, the Lebanese lira jumped to over 4,000 lira to the US dollar, and the prices of food and other goods also jumped. Those who were just scraping by could no longer sustain their lives. And people took to the streets again.

Related: Lebanon’s ‘two crises’: coronavirus and financial collapse 

Lebanese citizens have been on the streets since October demanding an end to corruption and a new, non-sectarian political system. But now the protests are about survival for the most vulnerable. 

In the northern city of Tripoli, protesters smashed and burned banks and clashed with security forces. 

Before the pandemic, the World Bank estimated that 45% of Lebanese could soon be below the poverty line. Now the Lebanese government has put that prediction over 70%. 

Related: Foreign domestic workers stuck in Lebanon as economy spirals

At a protest in Beirut last week, a crowd blocked the main road. “Some people are dying because they don’t have a shelter to live in, food to eat,” said Mohamed Kaadan, a medical technician among the protesters. 

He said, of course, he’s worried about COVID-19, but that the situation is becoming too desperate to stay silent. His salary as a medical technician has been slashed by more than two-thirds because of out-of-control inflation. 

“So that’s it,” Kaadan said. “I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Some protesters were wearing masks, trying to keep a safe social distance between them. 

Others were clearly not. They shouted in the faces of a row of police officers in riot gear as smoke rose from a nearby garbage pile, set on fire by the demonstrators. Another group of police officers handed out medical masks to protesters, some of whom are carrying gas masks — in case the police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

On a quiet day this week in Martyrs Square, which has held some of Beirut’s biggest demonstrations, Ghazi Alam al-Din sat chatting with a friend on the curb.

A year ago, he explained, he was making about 50-60,000 Lebanese pounds per day. Then, that was about $35 or $40. It wasn’t great, but it was enough to pay his rent, feed his family and even take them out once in a while. As the crisis hit in the fall and inflation rose, things got tougher. Then came COVID-19, and his work stopped completely.

“I’m not receiving any money from anywhere,” he said. 

He pulled out his pockets to show nothing but a singular key, explaining that his wife and children now must stay with his in-law because he can not put food on the table. Thankfully, because of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, a mosque near his house offers free meals in the evening, he said. 

“Some days I go there to take food from them,” Alam al-Din said. “Sometimes people are nice and they give me food.”

Ghazi Alam al-Din standing near Martyrs’ Square in Beirut, Lebanon. 

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Rebecca Collard/The World 

Alam al-Din’s face is pained as he tries to fight back the tears. He said the situation is tough for everyone now,  and that means friends and relatives can’t help. He said that he heard that Syrian refugees are even trying to flee Lebanon back into the war zone next door.

“Lebanon is a beautiful place. I want Lebanon to stand up on its two feet again,” he said. “I want it to go back to where it was in the past.” 

But it’s hard to be optimistic. 

Back in Bourj al-Hamoud, Solakian said the government has done almost nothing to help those suffering the double whammy of the financial crisis and Covid-19. Instead, he received a box of food from a local church — rice, oil and milk. He never thought he’d be taking handouts. 

“When corona[virus] came, Canada, the United States, Europe, all the governments helped their people. They say ‘stay at home’ but they paid them,” Solakian said. “But here, there is no money.  No one helps us.”

US-China relationship headed toward ‘permanent lasting rupture,’ analyst says

US-China relationship headed toward ‘permanent lasting rupture,’ analyst says

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The World staff

Producer
Joyce Hackel

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a media briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 6, 2020.

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday renewed his aggressive criticism of China, blaming it for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the coronavirus and demanding again that it share information about the outbreak.

“They knew. China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. China could have spared the world descent into global economic malaise,” Pompeo told a State Department news conference.

Pompeo pushed back against suggestions that he and other members of the Trump administration have issued conflicting statements about the exact origins of the novel coronavirus while blaming China for the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

Relations between Beijing and Washington have long been rocky. But now many leaders in both capitals see a more serious rupture as inevitable — or even desirable.

Related: Nick Burns: US ‘unusual’ absence from world stage is bad for Americans

“You’ve got officials in both sides who are gearing up for a permanent lasting rupture in the relationship. And I think you’ve got populations in both countries that are becoming increasingly supportive of that idea,” said Jude Blanchette, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Blanchette told The World’s Marco Werman he sees the rivalry between the two superpowers growing increasingly ominous.

“Senior leadership in Beijing has been calling for decoupling for a very long time and has really believed the narrative that the United States is intent on stifling China’s rise and that China needs to take preparatory steps. We’re seeing that same message now coming out of this administration, which is, the communist party’s a fundamental bad actor,” Blanchette said. “I think there is a teased out narrative of ‘the Chinese people need to need to think about a different leadership structure.’ That’s a recipe for a more prolonged rivalry and one where there’s not much imaginative thinking, I think, on either side.”

Related: World leaders pledge $8 billion to fight the coronavirus

Marco Werman: What you’re describing sounds dramatic. It sounds historic. What would it even mean? Can you then wrap your head around the scenarios if there is a very serious rupture?

Jude Blanchette: Well, we had something like this before. It was called the Cold War. And we are going to see decoupling. It’s not a question of if we decouple or not. The question really is how much do we decouple? How much do we decouple on trade? How much do we decouple on technology? I’m not advocating these. I’m simply saying this is happening right now.

And yet within the White House, we’re hearing mixed messages and disagreement. President Donald Trump is keen to get this trade deal really finalized with China. And at the end of March, he called President Xi Jinping and tweeted much respect for his handling of the virus. How does China hope to emerge from this crisis?

China is not going to emerge well. And that’s because China went through its own period in the first couple of months after the outbreak of the coronavirus, where it was silencing doctors. The elements of political control that we’ve seen the Communist Party build up over the past several decades were really brought to bear in dealing with this. And while we’re looking at governance failures here in the United States, it’s important to remember that we had roughly a month and a half or two months of governance failures in China.

China, then, pivoted very quickly from getting the situation under control domestically to what I would call a global victory lap in a way that really engendered some frustration and even outright anger by a lot of countries who were in the midst of dealing with this coronavirus, which emerged, as best we know, from China. And we had this “in your face” approach from the Chinese, including what they’re now calling their “wolf warrior” style of diplomacy, of course, coming from a popular nationalist military film in China. But this is not working in China’s favor. And what could have been, I think, a relatively straightforward soft power victory by China in taking up the mantle of leadership in the absence of US leadership has actually turned into neither country demonstrating leadership. And I think both countries are going to come out of this quite tarnished in terms of their reputation in that context.

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

This week, we heard from Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger. He delivered a speech to the University of Virginia in Mandarin. A US official speaking out in Mandarin — that in itself is pretty rare. Then Pottinger went on to call on Chinese authorities to recognize diverse opinions, urging, “A little more populism, a little less nationalism.” How provocative was that at this moment?

I don’t think this was a call for regime change by Matt. I think this was an attempt to try to play up the more liberal elements in China’s history. The problem is, that message is absolutely going to get lost in this whipsaw motion that we just discussed at the senior level. So anything that anyone below Trump does, doesn’t land as so long as you have a president who is hemming and hawing back and forth on these issues.

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

Discussion: What are the potential vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus?

Discussion: What are the potential vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus?

Updated:

May 07, 2020 · 12:45 PM EDT

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The World staff

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World leaders and organizations came together virtually this week and pledged $8 billion to research, manufacture and distribute a possible vaccine and treatments for the new coronavirus.

The funding pledge comes as the number of people infected with COVID-19  worldwide was more than 3.7 million with over 258,000 killed, according to a Reuters tally.

Health authorities are working to turn the page on the fractious and haphazard initial global response to the coronavirus crisis. Many leaders stressed that any treatment or vaccine must be available to everyone. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it should not just be for rich countries.

“We can’t just have the wealthiest countries, the most successful scientific countries, have this success and not share it with the world, because we will not be safer until we’re able to share it with the world,” he said.

Related discussion: Mental health, stress and resiliency during the coronavirus pandemic

As part of our weekly series taking your questions to the experts, The World’s Jonathan Dyer moderated a discussion with Dr. Barry Bloom, the Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Research Professor of Public Health and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who addressed the current thinking about possible COVID-19 treatments.

Inside the global network of scientists racing to curb the spread of coronavirus

Inside the global network of scientists racing to curb the spread of coronavirus

The pandemic’s deadly grip has sparked a global race to understand how the virus is evolving and spreading — and the clues are in its genetic code. A worldwide network of scientists is trying to map and understand the genomic makeup of the new coronavirus in near real time.

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Elana Gordon

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Geneticist Harm van Bakel, right, has been racing to map the new coronavirus at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

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The coronavirus pandemic postponed Stephanie Goya’s plan to finally defend her dissertation and complete her PhD in genomics. Like many scientists around the world, Goya, a virologist in Buenos Aires, quickly changed course to focus on the new coronavirus.  

“A lot of hands were needed, so with my expertise in viral genomics, I could help with different projects,” said Goya, who works for Argentina’s Dr. Ricardo Gutiérrez Children’s Hospital. “I love it. I love to help society to bring expertise in something helpful, and this is the most helpful work I have ever done.”

The pandemic’s deadly grip has sparked a global race to understand how the virus is evolving and spreading — and the clues are in its genetic code. Goya is now part of a worldwide network of thousands of scientists trying to map and understand the genomic makeup of SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the new coronavirus, in near real time. They’re drilling into the virus’s structure to uncover clues about how it works, how it spreads, and ultimately, how it can be treated.

There is a lot to learn because this pathogen is new in humans. What excites Goya and other scientists is the unprecedented level of information scientists are sharing at a rapid pace. It’s all possible through advances in genomic sequencing technology and improvements in the scientific culture of sharing. 

Their work is helped along by online initiatives such as GISAID that facilitates the analysis and exchange of information. More than 20,000 people around the globe are registered to use its data.  

“It’s a beginning of a new era.”

Stephanie Goya, virologist, Buenos Aires

“It’s a beginning of a new era,” Goya said.

SARS-CoV-2 is complex. It contains a code of nearly 30,000 letters that represent the tiny structural units, or nucleotides, that make up the genome. Newer sequencing technology and algorithms have enabled the coding of virus samples in a matter of days and even hours, whereas in the past it would have taken weeks. 

Scientists have used full genomic sequencing to understand and respond to other outbreaks, most recently Ebola. But never before has it been used at this speed and scale. 

Critical to comprehending the nature of this virus is scientists’ willingness and ability to share information from the start, as opposed to delaying the release of data until the full publication of its analysis, which can take months or years. 

Related: COVID-19: The latest from The World

One of Africa’s leading scientists, Christian Happi, is heading the effort to map the genome of the new coronavirus across the continent. He directs the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria and had helped sequence the Ebola genome — then used sequencing technology to track its spread. In February, Happi got a sample of SARS-CoV-2 from a patient in his lab in Ede. He immediately got to work and shared the results. 

“We had the whole genome of the virus lined up, the whole genetic map. That was unprecedented because we were able to do it in 48 hours.”

 Christian Happi, director,  African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Redeemer’s University, Nigeria

“We had the whole genome of the virus lined up, the whole genetic map,” Happi said. “That was unprecedented because we were able to do it in 48 hours.”

Tracking how the virus spreads

Halfway across the world in New York City, geneticist Harm van Bakel has been racing to map the new coronavirus, too. The lab he runs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is collecting samples from infected patients across New York City and countries that don’t yet have the lab capacity. 

“Given the number of samples we’re currently processing, we sequence maybe 100 viruses every two to three days,” van Bakel said. 

Van Bakel normally studies the spread of other pathogens such as seasonal influenza. He stressed that the speed at which researchers are able to sequence and understand so many samples of the new coronavirus allows them to track its transmission. That’s because as the virus spreads, “it accumulates small changes in its genetic code,” van Bakel said.

These changes occur because when a virus infects someone new, it makes lots of copies, creating new virus particles. The machinery that does this isn’t perfect. It can make small mistakes as it replicates. Those mistakes — or mutations — give each virus its own unique tag, like a scratch on a car.

“It doesn’t necessarily impact how the car functions, but it allows you to differentiate one particular car from a different car of the same type,” van Bakel said.

Related: Studies on whales, cosmos among research derailed by pandemic

These scratches help scientists identify the path of this virus, while also tracking whether any of those changes impact the virus’s behavior, which scientists continue to monitor.

When pieced together through this global sharing of sequencing information, Happi has been able to see how the virus spread to Nigeria from China. Van Bakel was able to glean that the virus in New York appeared very similar to the one that was circulating in Europe.

“And what that tells us in return is that as the virus spread from Asia, it didn’t come directly to New York — but rather, it took a detour through Europe.”

Harm van Bakel, geneticist, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City 

“And what that tells us in return is that as the virus spread from Asia, it didn’t come directly to New York — but rather, it took a detour through Europe,” van Bakel said.

Data generated by scientists like Happi and van Bakel is helping other researchers understand where variations of the coronavirus have spread around the world. That piece of the puzzle could help policymakers respond to new outbreaks.

Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland and Nextstrain, has been downloading that data to create a kind of global map of the virus called a phylogenetic tree.

The branches represent evolutionary relationships of the virus. The whole map currently includes more than 10,000 sequences of the new coronavirus. 

“So, if we can find out what were the dangers beforehand, how did this virus spread effectively between different states or between different cities, we can keep an eye on that as we come out of lockdown to make sure that we don’t give the virus that advantage when we try and start re-allowing movement and reopening shops and this kind of thing,” Hodcroft said.

A growing culture of sharing

Being able to source and analyze all this data is no small feat: It requires a credible system for sharing this information and scientists who are willing to participate. Several platforms now exist — such as Genbank, EMBL-EBI, and a global consortium, the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration. One of the main public-private initiatives that Hodcroft and others take part in is GISAID, the nonprofit Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data. 

With scientific advisers across the world, GISAID was already a well-oiled system when the coronavirus hit.  

“It’s an exponential growth that is staggering.”

Peter Bogner, founder, GISAID

“We were called earlier this year, the first week of January, by our partners in China and various public health laboratories to see if we could assist with the sharing of a newly emerging coronavirus,” said GISAID’s founder, Peter Bogner. “It’s an exponential growth that is staggering.”

Anyone can access GISAID, so long as they register and agree to credit the scientist whose data in any resulting research. Bogner said those conditions helped relieve tension among scientists who may have been reluctant to share data prepublication because “they were worried about being scooped.”

The initiative has existed since 2008. It emerged from a system of labs around the world that track and share genetic data for flu viruses. GISAID is a critical source for identifying strains for developing annual flu vaccines.

Global health hinges on this kind of collaboration. But there are major gaps: Not all countries have the capacity to collect and sequence the new coronavirus, which leads to blind spots in tracing it. 

For example, it wasn’t until late April that researchers in Argentina had the necessary ingredients to sequence and share the first genomes of the virus there, said Goya, the Buenos Aires virologist. Bogner said GISAID is working with scientists in Tehran, to help the country begin sequencing the genome and sharing it.

For Happi, the scientist in Nigeria, another question looms: Who benefits when these sequences lead to an effective vaccine or treatment? 

“The companies that are developing tools and diagnostics and vaccines should understand that because we shared the data that we should share in terms of the benefit,” he said. 

Happi worries that communities vital to effort may not have equal access to lifesaving treatment once genomic data is used to successfully develop it. Or that the treatment might be too expensive. Scientists and policymakers haven’t solved that problem — at least, not yet.

Coronavirus upended her family. But this Latina teen is determined to make her vote count.

Coronavirus upended her family. But this Latina teen is determined to make her vote count.

By
Max Rivlin-Nadler

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Marlene Herrera, a first-time voter in San Diego County, is undecided when it comes to the 2020 presidential election. The coronavirus has upended the issues she is watching.

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Max Rivlin-Nadler/The World

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Marlene Herrera has her entire life planned out in a color-coordinated notebook. It’s helped the 17-year-old high school senior in San Diego County keep track of her schedule and big events such as grad night, an annual celebration for graduating seniors.

But the coronavirus pandemic has turned Herrera’s carefully planned world upside down. No grad night, no prom, no graduation ceremony. It’s brought a new set of worries: She’s on track to be the first person in her family to attend college this fall, but how will she pay for it? How will her uninsured family members access health care? And when will her mother’s unemployment benefits start coming? 

Those concerns are shaping how Herrera views the 2020 presidential election campaign. Herrera is an undecided voter in California, a state where Latinos overwhelmingly support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently dropped out of the presidential race. Sanders beat former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by almost 30% among Latinos in California’s March 3 primary election. Sanders also came out ahead 54 percentage points in front of Biden for voters under the age of 29. 

“I don’t know where I stand. Even then I didn’t know where I stand, but now it’s even worse.”

Marlene Herrera, 17, first-time voter

“When I found out Sanders left, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s the one who was on our side about college, thinking about health care and stuff, compared to the two we have now,” said Herrera, whose grandparents are immigrants from Mexico. “I don’t know where I stand. Even then, I didn’t know where I stand, but now, it’s even worse.”

So far, experts are unsure whether Biden can convince the nation’s Latinos to support him — and come out to vote for him in November. Latinos are an important voting bloc: They are on track to become the nation’s second-largest voter group this fall after whites, surpassing black voters for the first time, according to the Pew Research Center. 

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

More than 30.5% of eligible voters in California are Latino, the highest share of any state. While California has become reliably Democrat over the past two decades, its Latino voters are a big enough bloc to swing the state one way or another if they vote in big numbers. 

Herrera said she worries the US is heading toward a repeat of the 2016 presidential election, where her family members were turned off by both parties’ failed promises to Latino voters on issues such as immigration and health care. 

“My family members, once it came down to the two candidates, they just didn’t vote,” she said of the 2016 race.

Herrera wasn’t yet eligible to vote in California’s primary because she hadn’t yet turned 18. She plans to register to vote after her birthday next month. Still, she was following the election closely before the pandemic hit. 

In March, she said she was happy to see Sanders win the California primary. But she acknowledged much of what he was campaigning for — “free this, free that” — was unlikely to come to fruition. 

“As much as he wants it to be free, it’s going to take a lot that has to happen to get it to that point,” Herrera said.

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

‘You can see how tired he is’

Throughout the pandemic, Herrera has split her time between her two parents’ homes. The pandemic has upended their lives, too.

For the first month of California’s lockdown, Herrera and her younger brother stayed with her father, a Mexican American born in the US. He manages a grocery store and has been working nonstop during the pandemic. 

“You can noticeably see how much more tired he is,” she said. “There’s times he doesn’t even want to stay up to eat because he’s that tired. A lot of times when he gets home, my brother and I just say, ‘Here’s your blanket, here’s your pillow.’ He does this thing where he passes out on the couch first before he goes to bed.”

While her father was at work, Herrera and her brother were stuck inside. Herrera spent time taking online classes from a nearby community college, doing Zoom classes for high school and gaming. She borrowed her brother’s PlayStation 4 and started meeting her friends virtually in the video game, Grand Theft Auto. 

“We joked that we were going to use the pier in the game as our grad night,” she said. She faces the prospect of celebrating her birthday online as well: “You can find me celebrating on the virtual roller coaster.” 

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

Herrera just moved back in with her mother, who spent weeks at home sick with flulike symptoms. She never got tested for the coronavirus because she is uninsured and worried about the cost. 

While Herrera’s mother was paid during the time she was sick, she was recently laid off from her job at a law office. Her unemployment benefits will help support Herrera and several other family members who live with them.

Californians face a weeks-long backlog to start receiving unemployment benefits. And the family is still waiting for Herrera’s mother’s application to be processed.

But Californians face a weekslong backlog to start receiving unemployment benefits. And the family is still waiting for Herrera’s mother’s application to be processed.

Faced with inadequate health care and a lack of state support, Herrera said she was disappointed to see Sanders leave the race. His platforms focused on expanding programs that have proven to be vital safety nets during the pandemic.

Even with all the uncertainty, Herrera has reasons to celebrate. She was accepted to her top college choices. In the fall, she’ll move to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University, where she wants to study psychology. 

Herrera said she is closely watching how the country’s health care industry is responding to the pandemic.

Herrera said her family has experienced what happens when health care comes at a cost. 

“I am low-income as well. I know that feeling,” she said. “Thank God my little sister and I have [health insurance], but my mom doesn’t. When she gets sick, she needs to just fight through it. She’s worried about how much it’s going to cost. It frustrates me.”

With the pandemic still raging, the US general election is still far from Herrera’s mind. 

“Especially because I’m not happy with either of the candidates. Putting aside what I feel for the candidate is different from politically what they’ll bring to the government, and I’ll have to see which one is the best option.”

She said her mom suggested leaving that line of the ballot empty. 

But Herrera said she will cast her vote for president. She’s determined to make her vote count in November.

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

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

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

By
Lucia Benavides

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Stay Homas, a band of three roommate musicians in Barcelona, Spain, perform songs from their rooftop to get us through our COVID-19 “confinement blues.” 

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Courtesy of Marco Vosa

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Spain is one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, with the second-highest number of cases after the United States. In recent weeks, the daily fatality rate and the number of new infections have been decreasing, and the Spanish government announced a de-escalation plan of its quarantine measures expected to last through the end of June, if not longer.

Until then, people continue to be confined at home, with few chances to get out: They can only leave to buy food, walk the dog, go to work, or — starting May 2 — do outdoor exercise.

But for the past six weeks, three musician roommates in Barcelona have been getting people through their confinement blues through originally written songs about the pandemic.

Related: Artists flock to the only ‘festival’ still on during COVID-19

They became an overnight sensation with a reggae-style song urging people to stay home that one band member posted on his Instagram on March 15, just one day after the Spanish government announced a state of emergency and imposed the lockdown. Within hours, the song had thousands of views. 

    View this post on Instagram         

Reposting our 2nd song from last week! It’s crazy how far this has arrived! STAY HOMA❤️

A post shared by STAY HOMAS (@stay.homas) on Mar 23, 2020 at 5:42am PDT

“People kept asking for more,” said Rai Benet, one member of the trio. “And we thought, why not? We have nothing else to do.”

He and his two roommates — Klaus Stroink and Guillem Boltó — were already musicians playing in other bands, but with the global crisis, they were left without jobs. 

Benet says they wrote these songs to pass the time at first, propped up in their apartment terrace and drinking beers under the Mediterranean sun. But when they saw they were a hit, they kept going. Within a week, they had a name for the new band – Stay Homas — as well as their own Instagram and YouTube channels. 

Now, after six weeks and 24 songs, they have hundreds of thousands of followers from all over the world.

Related: Quarantine projects curate pandemic-inspired art 

“It was sort of strange,” said Benet. “Because we didn’t have any kind of intention with this. And suddenly, we saw that what we had created was growing quickly. It caught us off guard.”

They post a new song roughly every other day, sometimes doing collaborations with other artists through videos. Their songs are in Spanish, English and the regional language of Catalan, and they talk about things like life under quarantine, missing a loved one or taking care of the community.

“We want our lyrics to be socially conscious, whether it’s at an individual or global level. … Sometimes we do it through humor, but the goal is to make more than just music. We want people to reflect, especially during these times.”

Guillem Boltó, Stay Homas band member, Barcelona, Spain

“We want our lyrics to be socially conscious, whether it’s at an individual or global level,” said Boltó. “Sometimes we do it through humor, but the goal is to make more than just music. We want people to reflect, especially during these times.”

Their songs incorporate a range of genres: from trap to flamenco to pop. Canadian singer Michael Bublé even covered one of their songs.

“They asked us for the rights of that song,” said Stroink of their experience with Bublé’s manager. “And that’s when we realized we didn’t have any of our songs copywritten. They were in this legal gray zone that is Instagram.”

That’s when the group finally registered their songs and hired a manager. It was uncharted territory for them — they had never had to deal with the bureaucracy of the music industry, they said, and they were forced to figure it out in only a few weeks’ time. 

The newfound fame is exciting and they say they’ve never been busier. Their days are filled with either songwriting — thinking up topics and melodies and lyrics — or interviews. On the day they spoke with The World, they said they had six interviews lined up, with publications from China and Russia. 

And as the gradual easing of the lockdown begins in the coming weeks, the three bandmates are already looking forward to what comes next.

“We’ll continue writing songs as Stay Homas,” says Boltó. “Although, I assume, we’ll do it with less frequency and talk about things other than the pandemic.”

This once-frozen pass is a trove of Viking artifacts. Now, there’s a race to preserve them.

This once-frozen pass is a trove of Viking artifacts. Now, there's a race to preserve them.

Since 2011, a mountain pass in central Norway has seen unusually warm summers linked to climate change. The melt has revealed an unexpected treasure trove of more than 1,000 remarkably preserved artifacts.

By
The World staff

Producer
Carol Hills

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Wooden bit made from juniper for goat kids and lambs to prevent them suckling their mother, as the milk was processed for human consumption. Found in the pass area at Lendbreen. Such bits were used locally until the 1930s, but this specimen is radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century AD.

Credit:

Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice.com

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Human touch is essential. How are people coping with ‘skin hunger’?

Human touch is essential. How are people coping with ‘skin hunger’?

By
Orla Barry

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Henri de Chassey, wearing a protective face mask, kisses his partner Margaux Rebois — who is returning to Paris on a Thalys high-speed train after spending two months in Brussels — at Midi/Zuid station on the first day of the easing of lockdown measures during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Brussels, Belgium, May 4, 2020. 

Credit:

Yves Herman/Reuters

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“Don’t touch your face.” “Avoid hugging.” Stand 6 feet apart.” 

So many rules about preventing the spread of the coronavirus warn against touching other people. For the last two months, grandparents have been advised against holding their grandchildren while sick patients cannot grasp a relative’s hand.

What kind of effect does this lack of human touch have on people?

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

Amanda Whitlock, 39, a photo editor in Chicago, describes herself as a natural introvert. She lives on her own, with her cat Mr. B, and a newly adopted kitten and says she’s usually very content in her own company. Whitlock went into a self-imposed lockdown in early March and hasn’t had any physical contact with another person since. She says it’s all starting to get to her.

“I’m someone that has anxiety anyway. The last few days, I think it’s really been pretty heavy on me. You know, it would be nice to be able to go out and hang out with someone and hold their hand. You know, something as simple as that,” she said.

There’s a good reason why Whitlock’s anxiety is on the rise. Studies show physical contact with other people reduces feelings of stress. British evolutionary psychologist and professor Robin Dunbar says it can all be traced back to our monkey ancestry. Grooming each other’s fur is how apes build friendships. Humans have substituted that grooming with stroking and cuddling, he says and that act of physical touch has a profound effect on our health.

Related: Mourning in the midst of a pandemic

“Not only does [touch] build friendships directly and indirectly, but those friendships have a dramatic effect on your well-being, your general health, your ability to recover from illnesses and even your longevity.”

Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychologist and professor 

Not only does it build friendships directly and indirectly, but those friendships have a dramatic effect on your well-being, your general health, your ability to recover from illnesses and even your longevity.”   

It’s too early to tell whether the absence of human touch during the pandemic will have long-term consequences. Some groups are particularly vulnerable, like older people living alone, Dunbar says. Playwright Eve Ensler, who now goes by the name V, is worried about how the virus is changing the way we view our bodies. She fears that people are linking human touch with illness. 

“I think there’s something about going out and seeing people being afraid of each other and afraid of each other’s bodies. Touch is becoming something equated with sickness and death, and that scares me deeply.”

V, formerly known as Eve Ensler

“I think there’s something about going out and seeing people being afraid of each other and afraid of each other’s bodies. Touch is becoming something equated with sickness and death, and that scares me deeply,” she said. 

The pandemic reminds V of the 1980s when the AIDS virus first became known. Fear of contracting HIV changed attitudes toward sex, and she worries the coronavirus will alter our behavior, too. 

“[AIDS] definitely changed our relationship to sex and to freedom. Drastically. I so don’t want COVID-19 to do this to our relationship to touch. That would be a huge loss for human beings,” she said.

Charlotte Rose is an advocate for sex workers and a former sex worker in Britain.

Credit:

Courtesy of Charlotte Rose

Sexual intimacy is off the table for many people right now. But for some in the sex industry, it’s business as usual. Charlotte Rose, an advocate for sex workers in Britain, says many in the industry are still working because they’re not entitled to government support.

“There is a large percentage that are still working because they can’t claim benefits. A lot of sex workers — especially migrant sex workers — aren’t eligible either. So, unfortunately, people are still offering skin-on-skin contact.

Rose used to work in the industry and many of her clients had disabilities. She says for them, it was often not just about sex, but about simple physical contact with another person.

“For probably about 90% of my clients, it wasn’t even about the intercourse side of it, it was just skin-on-skin contact. I mean, I was predominantly seeing people with disabilities. And, you know, they’re already a very marginalized and vulnerable group, and they’re the ones that are suffering incredibly at this particular time,” she said. 

Rose has maintained contact with some of those clients and says a number of them are really struggling with social isolation right now. 

Related: Many people aren’t putting love on hold during COVID-19

Sports and remedial massage therapist Ruth McKinnon knows the importance of human touch in her work, too. Originally from Toronto, McKinnon moved to London in 2017 and began working as a registered massage therapist in the city’s financial district.

While many of her clients had physical injuries, McKinnon says there’s no question that stress is what brought a lot of people to her clinic. A massage fires up the dopamine in the brain, helping you to relax and ultimately sleep better, she says. But McKinnon hasn’t been able to work since mid-March when the British government announced that all clinics must close because of the pandemic.

McKinnon says she’s feeling the effect of the lack of physical contact, too.

“Even for myself, not having that regular touch with lots of different people is hard. My husband has noticed an increased amount of touching that I’m doing with him. It’s so vital,” she said.

McKinnon has no idea when her clinic will open again, but is hopeful she will be able to get back to work soon even if it means wearing protective clothing. 

In the meantime, it’s not all gloom. There are some things you can do to ease the “skin hunger” you may be feeling. Professor Dunbar says connecting with someone over Skype or Zoom doesn’t compare to a good hug — but it helps. He jokes that it’s probably why we have these “enormous great white eyeballs.” 

“There’s something about being able to stare into the whites of other people’s eyes that seems to be really important in creating that sense of intimacy. On Skype, you stare into the eyeballs and you can see the smile breaking on their face before you even finish the punchline of the joke you’re telling them,” he said.

In Chicago, Whitlock has been FaceTiming a man she met through a mutual friend. They haven’t been on a real-life date yet. This week, they’re planning to act out Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” together — on FaceTime. But Whitlock says she longs for the day they can meet in person.

“I would love to be able to text him and be like, ‘Hey, let’s meet up.’ Or, you know, since we can’t really go anywhere, let’s find a safe way in one of our places to meet. That would be awesome,” she said. 

But Whitlock says she doesn’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. For now, it’s just Mr. B and SP, her two cats that are keeping her company.  

“I think that if I didn’t have my pets — they’re my family. If I didn’t have them, I would definitely be climbing the walls right now for some human contact.”

Discussion: Mental health, stress and resiliency during the coronavirus pandemic

Discussion: Mental health, stress and resiliency during the coronavirus pandemic

By
The World staff

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Italy is among several countries that began easing social distancing restrictions on Monday, including reopening factories, construction sites, hairdressers and libraries.

Others included Spain, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Malaysia and Lebanon. And, several states in the United States began loosening lockdown restrictions.

More than 3.52 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally, and more than 240,000 have died.

The move by several countries to loosen restrictions suggests that the rate of infections may be starting to flatten.

Related discussion: Pandemic exposes health inequities in vulnerable communities

New Zealand and Australia said discussions are underway for the potential creation of a “travel bubble” between the two countries and in South Korea, shoppers and travelers crowded malls and beaches on the first long weekend since the country began easing curbs last month.

But, COVID-19 continues to cost lives, sicken millions and force physical distancing. And we may only be beginning to see the psychological impacts of the pandemic.

As part of a weekly series taking your questions to the experts, The World’s Elana Gordon moderated a discussion with Dr. Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

If you or a family member need assistance with a mental health or substance abuse problem, you can call:

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-4357

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
 
You can also learn more about the weekly online forum about mental health and COVID-19 that Koenen and her colleagues host.

Quarantine projects curate pandemic-inspired art

Quarantine projects curate pandemic-inspired art

Today, thanks to the internet, we’re not so alone during our lives in lockdown. Numerous international art projects are harnessing the crowdsourcing power of the internet to curate art about life in quarantine. 

By
Will Coley

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The sound collage, “Social Distance, Haiku, and You,” pulls together haikus about life in quarantine from all over the world.  

Credit:

Courtesy of the Orange County Museum of Art. 

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Throughout history, quarantines have spurred artists to create (think Shakespeare, Frida Kahlo or Edvard Munch, among others).

Today, thanks to the internet, we’re not so alone during our lives in lockdown. People all over the world are figuring out creative ways to use this time. They’re hosting virtual parties, cooking meals together and posting videos on TikTok.

And, a number of international art projects are harnessing the internet’s crowdsourcing power to curate art about life in quarantine. Many are inviting public participation in the work or finding new ways to bring art to people — and sharing messages of hope and solidarity or “stay home.” 

Related: During social distancing, artists collaborate on ‘Long Distance Art’

Here are just a handful of those art projects, from the United States to the Netherlands to Spain: 

Sound collage 

In Southern California, curator Cassandra Coblentz at the Orange County Museum of Art wanted to document quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic with an online project.

She realized that many people are tired of looking at digital screens so the museum team commissioned sound artist Alan Nakagawa to create a collaborative sound collage titled, “Social Distance, Haiku, and You.”

In order to make it less daunting for people to participate, Nakagawa decided to use haikus, a Japanese form of poetry with 17 syllables within three lines.

“Haikus are fun because it’s less about creating a masterpiece poem. And it’s more about, ‘Yeah, I could do that, you know — three lines.’”

Alan Nakagawa, sound artist

“Haikus are fun because it’s less about creating a masterpiece poem. And it’s more about, ‘Yeah, I could do that, you know — three lines,’” Nakagawa said.

The museum invited the public to submit haikus via voice memos.

“Originally, we were worried that we weren’t going to get that many, actually. We had no idea that we were going to get over 550 haikus,” Coblentz said.

Related: Artists flock to the only ‘festival’ still on during COVID-19

“From all over the world!” Nakagawa said.

Here are some of the haikus they received: 

Reeking of Clorox,

I become unclean again,

Return to the sink

– Sarah Gomez

 

Alone, I live mute 

Unsure if my voice still works 

Testing one, two, three. 

– Tricia (Canberra, Australia)

 

Long calls, vibrant chats,

Friends, families, catching up—

Closer—but not quite.

– Rebekah C. Mambiar (Metro Manila, Philippines)

Nakagawa connected all of the 550 submissions into a 90-minute time capsule on SoundCloud, which you can listen to here or read here.

A digital museum 

Many visual artists are choosing Instagram as the platform to share their art. That’s where three creatives in Spain host the Covid Art Museum. Every day, they meet via WhatsApp to select images submitted by artists from around the world. The project is only a month old, but it has over 65,000 followers on Instagram.

Related: In a new MoMA audio guide, security guards are the art experts

Irene Llorca is one of the project’s founders. She’s an art director at an ad agency in Barcelona.

“We realized that many of our friends were sharing art about the pandemic. That’s when we decided to create a digital museum to collect all the amazing artwork that was being born.”

Irene Llorca, Covid Art Museum

The Covid Art Museum “began during the first days of quarantine in Spain. We realized that many of our friends were sharing art about the pandemic. That’s when we decided to create a digital museum to collect all the amazing artwork that was being born,” Llorca said.

To encourage submissions, Llorca and her friends connected with ArteInformado, an Iberoamerican contemporary art market. So far, they’ve received nearly 5,000 submissions from 50 different countries. (Submit your own art to the museum here.)

One of Llorca’s favorites is a painting by Mauro C. Martinez of an American couple on vacation with tan lines on their faces outlining where masks would be.

    View this post on Instagram         

by @ztm_oruam _______ Follow for more: @CovidArtMuseum Share your artwork with us #CovidArtMuseum The world’s 1st museum for art born during Covid19 quarantine #CovidArt #Covid19 #QuarantineArt

A post shared by CAM The Covid Art Museum (@covidartmuseum) on Apr 21, 2020 at 10:00am PDT

It’s “the things we never thought of, you know, but probably what is going to happen this summer,” she said.

Related: 5 museums offering virtual art while you’re quarantined

As a curator of @covidartmuseum, Llorca is able to spot worldwide trends in the art. There are toilet paper jokes before infection rates peak in a country. During the peak, the art is all about solidarity.

    View this post on Instagram         

by @gatotonto _________________ Follow for more: @CovidArtMuseum Share your artwork with us #CovidArtMuseum The world’s 1st museum for art born during Covid19 quarantine #CovidArt #Covid19 #QuarantineArt

A post shared by CAM The Covid Art Museum (@covidartmuseum) on Apr 28, 2020 at 2:54pm PDT

 

Stay home and enjoy these hopeful messages  

In the Netherlands, another project aims to get art off the internet and onto people’s walls. In March, two graphic designers, Max Lennarts and Menno de Bruijn, created Stay-Sane-Stay-Safe.com at the suggestion of their friend who is a nurse at a hospital.

“He was asking if we had a nice poster which we can send to him with a nice uplifting message to help the people a bit,” De Bruijn said. “So, then Max thought, yeah, OK, but why only help one friend or one hospital?”

Lennarts and De Bruijn quickly built a website and put out a worldwide call for poster designs targeted at two different audiences: They aimed to send encouraging messages to medical workers and to ask everyone else to stay home. Several graphic design web magazines covered their launch.

As a result, artists in 81 countries have submitted more than 1,500 posters. One poster is an image of two hands wrapped in rubber gloves making a heart symbol.

    View this post on Instagram         

🍒🍒 Times are tough, show some love. We need more posters for our medical staff and caretakers, so keep ‘em coming. In the meantime we’re partnering up with print parties to print a first batch of posters and send them to the first hospitals (in the Netherlands). Fuck yes! Feel free to do the same in your country

A post shared by Stay Sane, Stay Safe (@staysanestaysafe) on Mar 31, 2020 at 6:16am PDT

Another neon-colored poster reads in bold letters, “We will get through this together.”

    View this post on Instagram         

Today we’ve received 2500 posters all printed by our friends over at @drkkrijtielen . We’ve selected 10 different designs, which are yours and some of our own. Monday they will be shipped to 30 hospitals in the Netherlands. Big thanks to Drukkerij Tielen and @stroom_den_haag for helping us out by funding the shipment! Times are tough, show some love. @staysanestaysafe @studio_lennartsendebruijn @overdeschreef #staysanestaysafe #posters #print #help #typosters #graphicdesign #graphicindex #typography #illustration #staysafe #designfeed #curatedcontent #digitalarchive #behance #thebrandidentity #itsnicethat #eyeondesign

A post shared by Lennarts & De Bruijn (@studio_lennartsendebruijn) on Apr 10, 2020 at 8:45am PDT

Anyone can download and print out the posters for free. A printer in Utrecht made hundreds of posters for Dutch hospitals, which they say the staff loves.

“The nice thing about the project is that it’s such a shared crisis that everybody understands the message we want to share.”

Menno de Bruijn, graphic artist

“The nice thing about the project is that it’s such a shared crisis that everybody understands the message we want to share,” De Bruijn said.

(Submit your own poster design here.)

Dreaming of a just future 

In the US, a project in Philadelphia called “Fill the Walls with Hope, Rage, Resources, and Dreams” is printing out crowdsourced posters for empty spaces left by closed businesses and schools. Mark Strandquist says he launched the project to help his neighbors dream of a just future.

This poster, “We Keep Each Other Safe,” by Monica Trinidad, is part of the “Fill the Walls with Hope, Rage, Resources, and Dreams” project. People can download their posters for free.  

Credit:

Courtesy of the “Fill the Walls with Hope, Rage, Resources, and Dreams” project

This poster submitted by an anonymous artist conveys a public service announcement. 

Credit:

Courtesy of the “Fill the Walls with Rage, Hope, Resources and Dreams” project 

Strandquist and friends use wheat paste to post them around the city, including in and around all of Philadelphia’s free food distribution sites.

Meanwhile, in New York, artists are collaborating to make the most of the empty billboard space in Times Square.

    View this post on Instagram         

We’re excited to announce the launch of a citywide public art campaign featuring artist-designed PSAs and messages of love, solidarity, and gratitude to New York City’s health care and essential workers. We’ve teamed up with Poster House, Print Magazine, and For Freedoms to turn the screens of Times Square, the digital billboards over Lincoln Tunnel, and nearly 1800 LinkNYC kiosks across the city into platforms of public service and appreciation.⁣ ⁣ Messages from dozens of established and emerging designers and visual artists from around the world will be rolling out as stand united and resilient amidst this global crisis. Thank you @americaneagle, @morgan.stanely, 20 Times Square (@timessquareedition), @brandedcities, @nasdaq, @reuters, @linknycofficial, @silvercastmedia above Lincoln Tunnel for donating screen time. ⁣⁣ ⁣ We ❤️ NY. ⁣⁣ ⁣ 1. Together Apart by Debbie Millman⁣ 2. Love in the Time of Corona by Maira Kalman⁣⁣ 3. Thank You Essential Workers by Gemma O’Brian⁣⁣ 4. The Future is in Our Hands by Zipeng Zhu⁣⁣ 5. 6 Feet is 6 Feet by Matt Dorfman⁣⁣ 6. Call a Loved One by Pablo Delcan⁣⁣ 7. New York Loves You by Edel Rodriguez⁣⁣ ⁣ #PSA #NYStrong #StaySafe #CombatCovid #SomeGoodNews

A post shared by Times Square Arts (@tsqarts) on Apr 17, 2020 at 11:59am PDT

Also, check out DearFrontline and Amplifier’s Global Open Call for Art.

    View this post on Instagram         

Presenting Valor & Grace by Shepard Fairey! In honor of the frontline workers and everything they do, we have an exclusive piece by @obeygiant . Go to www.DearFrontline.com to use this art to send a message of thanks to frontline workers! #ThankTheFrontline #DearFrontline #ValorandGrace #ShepardFairey #obeygiant #art #InternationalWorkersDay

A post shared by Dear Frontline (@dearfrontline) on May 1, 2020 at 8:59am PDT

    View this post on Instagram         

Super Nurse on the streets of The Netherlands by @iamfake From the artist: “Super Nurse is a tribute to all healthcare professionals around the world. To encourage them in these challenging times, to lift their spirits and send them love and appreciation, when so much is expected of them and so many people depend on their work.” Tag a healthcare worker below to show them some love 💎💎💎

A post shared by Amplifier (@amplifierart) on Apr 17, 2020 at 5:36pm PDT

Ultimately, all of these projects address the shared experience of quarantine. That’s exactly what the haiku project wants to capture.

Nakagawa trained as a drummer and appreciates “the pocket,” or the space between beats, which is why he loves haikus.

“Haikus are amazing that way in that it just invites your experiences to fill in the blanks and the empty space.”

Alan Nakagawa, sound artist

“Haikus are amazing that way in that it just invites your experiences to fill in the blanks and the empty space,” he said. 

sharing old stories

waiting to create new ones

locked down together

– Laurence Sullivan (UK)

 

The telephone rings

Put on my mask to answer

I’m losing my mind

– Beverly Hritz

People often turn to art to document and make sense of hard times. And our collective quarantine has been unavoidably digital. It’s no wonder that we’re turning to the internet and art to make sense of and document this unprecedented moment in world history. 

Anti-China sentiment on the rise; Italy slowly emerging from lockdown; Pandemic exposes the ‘violence of social inequality’

Anti-China sentiment on the rise; Italy slowly emerging from lockdown; Pandemic exposes the 'violence of social inequality'

By
The World staff

The Chinese national flag flies at half-mast behind a statue of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Wuhan during a national mourning for those who died of the coronavirus, April 2020.

Credit:

Aly Song/Reuters/File Photo

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Masked and gloved, Italy joins nations creeping out of lockdown

Masked and gloved, Italy joins nations creeping out of lockdown

A rally organized by small business owners stops by the Rialto bridge to commemorate the health care workers who died amid the outbreak, as Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown due to a spread of the coronavirus, in Venice, Italy, May 4, 2020.

Credit:

Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

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Italy, among the world’s hardest-hit countries, on Monday started to relax the longest lockdown in Europe, allowing about 4.5 million people to return to work after nearly two months at home. Construction work can resume and relatives can reunite.

“I woke up at 5.30 a.m. I was so excited,” said Maria Antonietta Galluzzo, a grandmother taking her three-year-old grandson for a walk in Rome’s Villa Borghese park, the first time they had seen each other in eight weeks.

“He has grown by this much,” she said, holding up three horizontal fingers.

Spain, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Israel, Tunisia and Lebanon were also among countries easing some coronavirus restrictions, variously reopening factories, construction sites, parks, hairdressers and libraries. In the United States, around half of states partially reopened their economies over the weekend.

Related: Parents refuse to send children to school in Denmark as coronavirus restrictions lift

The easing comes as the daily rate of new COVID-19 cases worldwide has been sitting in a 2%-3% range over the past week, down from a peak of around 13% in mid-March.

Global cases have risen to around 3.52 million, according to a Reuters tally based on government data. However, cases may cause only mild symptoms and not everyone with symptoms is tested, while most countries only record hospital deaths.  

“We still have to be skeptical about the numbers we get,” said Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital. “We could easily have a second or a third wave because a lot of places aren’t immune.”

Phased reopening

Countries are only gradually reopening due to such fears and warnings from officials not to lower their guard.

In the United States, even as warm weather led sunseekers to flock to green spaces in Manhattan, an epidemic epicenter, President Donald Trump warned the national death toll — now at almost 68,000 — could rise to 100,000.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his country, where the novel coronavirus has killed almost 29,000 people and over a thousand new cases are reported daily, was still in the “full throes of the pandemic.”

Friends in the country are still barred from meeting up, most shops must stay shut until May 18, and schools, cinemas and theaters remain closed indefinitely.

“It is good to be back, but the world has totally changed,” said Gianluca Martucci, pulling up the shutters on the small warehouse of a catering business in the backstreets of Rome.

“The government has been very wise so far, but I worry that we might be starting up a little too soon … I don’t know if the country could survive a second wave.”

Israel, after weeks of strict closures, has also started to relax curbs in a phased manner. Schools for children in grades 1-3, aged six to nine, have reopened, following the opening of some stores in late April.    

Masks, gloves, distance

People around the world are adjusting to a new normal.

A continuous hum of cars, buses and motorbikes pointed to an increase in early morning commuting in Rome, but traffic was noticeably lighter than before the virus struck and those out appeared to be following the guidelines on social distancing.

In Beirut, restaurants began to reopen but were removing chairs and tables in compliance with government rules that they do not fill beyond 30% of their capacity.

“This is a great step,” said Ralph Malak, a bar owner. “It’s very good for the staff to start to get motivated again, to come back to work, and for the economy to start moving.”

Hairdressers were allowed to partially reopen, with barbers operating on certain days and women’s salons on others.

Iran, which has reported more than 6,000 deaths, is due to reopen mosques in 132 cities on Monday. Worshippers must maintain social distancing, wear masks and gloves and not stay for more than half an hour, the ISNA news agency reported.

War of words on virus

While stringent measures to curb the outbreak have often been broadly backed by the public, governments are counting the economic price.

Factory activity was ravaged across the world in April, business surveys showed, and the outlook looked bleak as shutdowns froze global production and slashed demand. As a result, the global economy is expected to suffer its steepest contraction on record this year.

“This past week saw the amazing coincidence of the publication of the deepest quarterly economic decline in the Western world in almost 100 years and the conclusion to the strongest monthly equity rally in more than 30 years,” said Erik Nielsen, chief economist at UniCredit.

Escalating tensions between the United States and China over the origin of the pandemic drove down stock markets and oil prices on Monday as investors feared a new trade war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the virus emerged from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. He did not provide evidence or dispute an earlier US intelligence conclusion that the virus was not man-made.

An editorial in China’s Global Times, run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said he was “bluffing” and called on Washington to present its evidence.

By Crispian Balmer and Jonathan Allen/Reuters

Young Ellens – Moneyseeka Lyrics (feat. Chivv)

[Songtekst van “Moneyseeka” ft. Chivv]

[Intro: Chivv]
Ze loevt me
Shawty zegt ze loevt me om die

[Pre-Chorus: Chivv]
Shawty zegt ze loevt me
Om de money die ik heb
Mijn niggers pakken checks
Dus ik blow het direct
Ik kom fully drip en ik doe niet eens mijn best
En ik ben on my way met al mijn niggers in een jet

[Chorus: Chivv]
Zeg me wat je wilt, ik ben die moneyseeka
Moneyseeka, moneyseeka
Zeg me wat je wilt, ik ben die moneyseeka
Moneyseeka, moneyseeka

[Verse 1: You
Ik ben op die high top shit
In die hard top whip
Mijn chains geven dom licht
Bust down thotiana, breek mijn beeldscherm
Die RS3 is erg, we parkeren hem belachelijk
Praat geen hete dingen op die okkie, want ze tappen het
VVS is in mijn chain en ze zijn flawless
Ben een dreamchaser, dit zijn wins en losses
Christian Dior en schoenen heeft reflector
En ik blijf draaien net banden van een tractor
Suicide doors, Louboutin als ik uitstap
Jump out gang ik kan sprayen net een tuinslang
Suicide doors, Louboutin als ik uitstap
Jump out gang ik kan sprayen net een tuinslang

[Pre-Chorus: Chivv]
Shawty zegt ze loevt me
Om de money die ik heb
Mijn niggers pakken checks
Dus ik blow het direct
Ik kom fully drip en ik doe niet eens mijn best

En ik ben on my way met al mijn niggers in een jet

[Chorus: Chivv]
Zeg me wat je wilt, ik ben die moneyseeka
Moneyseeka, moneyseeka
Zeg me wat je wilt, ik ben die moneyseeka
Moneyseeka, moneyseeka

[Verse 2: Chivv]
Blow 10k, het gaat de lucht in net als fireworks
Mijn bitch is constant aan het zeuren dus ik buy een purse
Als die nigger op mij lurkt stuur ik hem naar de church
In 4011 ik ben loaded met mijn kraaien birds
What you mean f*ck boy, what you mean?
Die chain om je nek dezelfde waarde van mijn riem
Ik ben zeker van mijn zaken, hier doen we niet aan misschien
Shoutout naar Chivv hij [?] gecreamed
Ik heb je bitch op mijn dick, dat is gelijk eten
Sla de hele nacht voor die thoties moet je de tijd nemen
Geen Ajax – Chelsea, hier doen we niet aan gelijk spelen
Ik ben met Ellens, we zijn lens en jij moet bijbenen

[Pre-Chorus: Chivv]
Shawty zegt ze loevt me
Om de money die ik heb
Mijn niggers pakken checks
Dus ik blow het direct
Ik kom fully drip en ik doe niet eens mijn best
En ik ben on my way met al mijn niggers in een jet

[Chorus: Chivv]
Zeg me wat je wilt, ik ben die moneyseeka
Moneyseeka, moneyseeka
Zeg me wat je wilt, ik ben die moneyseeka
Moneyseeka, moneyseeka

Bethel Music – Peace Lyrics

[Verse 1]
When my mind is like a battlefield
And my heart is overcome by fear
And hope seems like a ship that’s lost at sea
My enemies on every side
And I’m tempted to run and hide
Your gentle whisper reaches out to me

[Chorus]
Peace holds me when I’m broken
Sweet peace that passes understanding
When the whole wide world is crashing down, I fall to my knees
And breathe in Your peace

[Verse 2]
Fiery arrows whistling
The terror of the night sets in
But I can feel Your angels all around
I am resting underneath
The shelter of Your mighty wings
Your promises are where my hope is found, all my hope is—

[Chorus]
Peace holds me when I’m broken
Sweet peace that passes understanding

When the whole wide world is crashing down, I fall to my knees
And breathe in Your peace

[Bridge]
I remember who You are
You’re the God who’s never far
So I will not be afraid
God, You always keep me safe in Your arms
I remember who You are
You’re the God who’s never far
So I will not be afraid
God, You always, You always keep me safe

[Chorus]
You give me peace that holds me when I’m broken
Sweet peace that passes understanding
When the whole wide world is crashing down, I fall to my knees
And breathe in—

[Outro]
I breathe You, I breathe You in
Take a deep breath and be still and know that You are God alone

Aidan Fine – Day By Day Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Sometimes I wonder
Does anything matter?
Is anything badder
Than hearing no laughter?
We finished, no chatter
I done been around
When nobody make a sound
It’s a whole new feeling
Like you’re tryna write it down
But the word’s lack meaning
It’s okay, tomorrow is another day
And God told me, what’s your reason
Why you feeling beaten?
Don’t I make the grass green
In the right season?
Don’t I make the birds the fly
When the air needs em?
Don’t you see the flowers of the field still grow?
Life ain’t food and the body ain’t clothes
But you fast and you ask what to eat
Just believe, I will see what you need when you need, capeesh?
I’m just tryna be myself
In this mad life
I don’t gotta see or tell
Of my past life
Only now, I am proud of my sound
And the world that I’m going in
Fittin in my origin, flowing in
And knowing there’s, always
An opponent, who done wrote better
Knows better, flows better
But that’s okay
And I know I won’t be always
Be happy
You always gotta pay to play
And if my coins run out
We take it day by day

[Chorus]
No one knows
Your mind and soul
Hold it close

Don’t run away

Before you grow
You feel the pain
I know you know
We take it, we take it
Day by day

[Verse 2]
How can life be
So damn feisty?
Swing a left hook
And she don’t take it lightly
The world’s getting hot
But the flow so icy, huh
You don’t like me?
You fishy like Pisces, huh
I know I might be
Living up in your psyche
It’s likely, they spite me
Doing the right think like Spike Lee
Want me some like Nike’s
So lemme keep it frank
I’m up in it till it sink
I was given everything
That I need to make a stank face
On every damn face
In the place, when they play
What I say, when I say
Imma play then I play till I’m grey
I relay what He say, so I pray every day
It’s a race to erase all my faults
When I’m lost in the costs of the world
So I swerve, on my path
And imma make it last
While I can, going fast
While I make my way
And at last when I crash
Take it day by day

[Chorus]
No one knows
Your mind and soul
Hold it close
Don’t run away

Before you grow
You feel the pain
I know you know
We take it, we take it
Day by day

Tryo – Champagne Lyrics

La nuit promet d’être belle
Car voici qu’au fond du ciel
Apparaît la lune rousse
La nuit promet d’être belle
Car voici qu’au fond du ciel
Apparaît la lune rousse
Saisi d’une sainte frousse
Tout le commun des mortels
Croit voir le diable à ses trousses
Valets volages et vulgaires
Ouvrez mon sarcophage
Et vous pages pervers
Courrez au cimetière
Prévenez de ma part
Mes amis nécrophages
Que ce soir nous sommes attendus dans les marécages

Voici mon message
Cauchemars, fantômes et squelettes
Laissez flotter vos idées noires
Près de la mare aux oubliettes
Tenue du suaire obligatoire

Lutins, lucioles, feux-follets
Elfes, faunes et farfadets
Effraient mes grands carnassiers
Une muse un peu dodue
Me dit d’un air entendu
Vous auriez pu vous raser
Comme je lui fais remarquer
Deux, trois pendus attablés
Qui sont venus sans cravate
Elle me lance un oeil hagard
Et vomit sans crier gare
Quelques vipères écarlates

Vampires éblouis
Par de lubriques vestales
Égéries insatiables
Chevauchant des Walkyries
Infernales appétits de frénésies bacchanales

Qui charment nos âmes envahies par la mélancolie

Envoi !
Satyres joufflus, boucs émissaires
Gargouilles émues, fières gorgones
Laissez ma couronne aux sorcières
Et mes chimères à la licorne

Soudain les arbres frissonnent
Car Lucifer en personne
Fait une courte apparition
L’air tellement accablé
Qu’on lui donnerait volontiers
Le bon Dieu sans confession
S’il ne laissait malicieux
Courir le bout de sa queue
Devant ses yeux maléfiques
Et ne se dressait d’un bond
Dans un concert de jurons
Disant d’un ton pathétique
Que les damnés obscènes cyniques et corrompus
Fassent griefs de leur peine à ceux qu’ils ont élus
Car devant tant de problèmes
Et de malentendus
Les dieux et les diables en sont venus à douter d’eux-mêmes
Oh dédain suprême

Mais voici déjà que le ciel blanchit
Esprits je vous remercie
De m’avoir si bien reçu
Cocher lugubre et bossu, déposez-moi au manoir
Et lâchez le crucifix
Décrochez-moi ces gousses d’ail
Qui déshonorent mon portail
Et me chercher sans retard, sans retard
L’ami qui soigne et guérit
La folie qui m’accompagne
Et qui jamais ne m’a trahi
Champagne !