During social distancing, artists collaborate on 'Long Distance Art'
Artist Liza Merkalova painted this piece for the Long Distance Art Series, as part of a collaboration with musician Charlie Rauh. “In conversations with both Liza and Charlie, we decided on a process that involved Liza sending Charlie an existing painting of hers, which he used as inspiration to compose new guitar music,” Long Distance Art series creator Nick Green said.
Courtesty of Liza Merkalova
“My dream is to hear the story of two artists that have met through my site and collaborate on some really profound piece of art,” Greenin March. His site aggregates content from artists whose performances have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. “And they live across the world and never would have met, otherwise.”
Weeks later, Green’s dream came to fruition.
“It’s quite poetic that we’re speaking again, given the last words in our last interview of what my big dream was — to have this become more of a collaborative project,” Green told The World more recently. “And now, there have been some new projects happening that are really, really exciting. It’s called Long Distance Art.”
, which launched this week, is an international, multidisciplinary collaborative art series that emerged from The Social Distancing Festival. Artists can contact Green and inquire about collaborating with another artist they’ve seen on the site, or have Green pair them with another artist of his choosing. There is no cost to the artists.
“For online art, I’ve become a matchmaker.”
Nick Green, creator, Social Distancing Festival
“For online art, I’ve become a matchmaker,” he joked. “I don’t want to be too instructive. So for the most part, I tell [the collaborators], ‘You two are brilliant artists. Go. Do whatever. I’m happy with anything you come up with.’”
Green’s matchmaking magic has recently connected a team of Canadian musicians with a dancer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Barbara Johnston, a member of the Toronto-based composing team alongside Anika Johnson and Suzy Wilde, was contacted by Green and immediately thought the idea was “the most exciting thing possible in the world.” Once paired with Tanzanian dancer, Johnston’s team got to work.
“Everybody was so excited to create this song and collaborate with the dancer in this way,” Johnston said. “We just wrote an email about what we felt the song was about, how we thought the themes could be expanded upon, how certain aspects of what’s going on in the world can relate to what this song is about. And he wrote us back this beautiful email the next day. And we just began sharing emails back and forth, talking about our process, talking about the song and the movement to the song.”
The final product of the collaboration is a video showing Alawi dancing to Wild Heart, a song composed by Johnston and. It’s a partnership unlike any Johnston’s been a part of, she said, but one she wants to explore more.
Johnston said she was amazed the nearly 8,000-mile distance between Tanzania and Toronto felt so small.
“It’s just amazing how quickly we connected as collaborators without ever having met, and with being, you know, literally a world apart,” ” Johnston said. “All I want to do now is try to find ways to connect with people. And I feel that this is an opportunity to see beyond the barriers that exist and have existed, because we’re in unknown land now. We’re just trusting in the process. And it’s kind of, you know, it’s intimidating. But I’m excited for the adventure of it, and I’m really excited to see what comes out of it.”
Other collaborations in the Long Distance Art series’ unveiling include work between Calgary, Canada-based visual artistand , a Cleveland, Ohio based multimedia designer. Painter , based in Adelaide, Australia, also teamed up with New York musician .
Simone Saunders, a visual artist based in Calgary, Canada, created this piece for the Long Distance Art series.
Courtesy of Simone Saunders
The Long Distance Art series lives online for now, with many artists working in their apartments and childhood homes instead of their studios and theaters. Though the past week has revealed glimpses of a post-lockdown world as some countries begin reopening, , and , experts suggest for the economy to return to what it once was. Theaters, museums and venues — reliant on crowds of people — are also among those expected to stay closed long after restaurants, schools, and small businesses open again.
But as venue doors remain closed, laptop computers remain open. Green said his aspirations for The Social Distancing Festival and The Long Distance Art series aren’t canceled — but they need funds to sustain themselves.
“A dream of mine is that there might be someone or an organization out there who sees that this is the artistic embodiment of connecting people across the world and global conversations about humanity and lived experiences,” Green said. “And they might say, ‘Hey, you know, that aligns really well with what we, as an organization, are doing. Why don’t we put some money into this? Why don’t we fund some of these artists or somehow buy one of the works?’”
This is “new territory,” Green said, and he isn’t sure how The Social Distancing Festival and the Long Distance Art series will evolve. But speaking his dreams into existence has worked so far. Green added: “Why stop now?”
Workers' movements advocate for rights on May Day; Saudi activists allege man killed over megacity plans; Doctors wait hours as Venezuela faces fuel shortages
Trade union leaders carry a wreath of flowers as they attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day, during a three-day curfew amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2020.
'We're dead here': Migrants stranded in Panama rainforest amid coronavirus
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Migrants are seen at temporary shelter in the village of La Penita, Panama, on August 23, 2019.
Immigrant ‘digital first responders’ provide vital services. They're in a financial crisis.
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Harjot Singh Khalsa (left) and Rajkaranbir Singh are hosts of Punjabi Radio USA, which provides valuable information to immigrant workers.
Courtesy of Punjabi Radio USA
Doctors wait hours to fill tanks as Venezuela faces fuel shortages
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Customers wait while a fuel dispenser machine is fixed at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, April 23, 2020.
When Dr. Arturo Martínez woke up in his Honda Civic, his car was a mess. It looked like a small apartment — full of pillows, blankets, cutlery and Tupperware with the leftovers of yesterday’s dinner.
“We prepared ourselves to spend the night here to be able to refuel. We brought some food and pillows to be a little bit more comfortable while waiting,” Martínez said.
Martínez was one of the hundreds of motorists waiting for gasoline in a miles-long line at a station in eastern Caracas. He arrived at 2 a.m., but five hours later, he wasn’t even close to reaching the pumps.
This is an unusual scene for Caracas’ residents. Lines to buy fuel have been common in parts of Venezuela for years. But, in recent weeks, the problem has arrived in the capital where drivers are now waiting hours to fill their tanks.
Every day before dawn in Caracas, essential workers, like doctors, line up for hours at the few gas stations that still have fuel. The OPEC nation with the world’s largest oil reserves is short on gas because its refineries have collapsed, and the country can’t import fuel due to US sanctions.
Martínez feels frustrated, he says — the shortages are limiting his ability to function as a doctor. His car is the only way he can get to work due to a lack of public transportation.
“There will come a time when there will be such great discomfort that doctors will say, ‘I am not going to work. I am not going because I have to suffer to get gasoline, and I am exposing myself to the virus while being in line.’”
Dr. Arturo Martínez
“There will come a time when there will be such great discomfort that doctors will say, ‘I am not going to work. I am not going because I have to suffer to get gasoline, and I am exposing myself to the virus while being in line,’” he said.
Further back in line, Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez is also waiting for gas.
“I arrived at 5 a.m. It’s 9 a.m.,” Rodriguez said. “I should be in the hospital right now. Fortunately, what we do as colleagues is that we cover somebody’s shift when that person is queuing for gas. This is what we do, but it shouldn’t be like that.”
The government has promised that doctors and hospital workers will have preferential access to fuel stations. But Rodriguez has found the solution to be less than useful.
“I’ve had to line up within a special queue for doctors, but it’s still a line. They are daylong lines, practically. I don’t know if ambulances get preference, but my car doesn’t.”
Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez
“I’ve had to line up within a special queue for doctors, but it’s still a line. They are daylong lines, practically. I don’t know if ambulances get preference, but my car doesn’t,” he said.
Some fuel stations in Caracas were shut down in recent days, as authorities try to ensure the effective fulfillment of a nationwide quarantine and contain the spread of the coronavirus. The measure also aims to ration the country’s dwindling gasoline inventories.
According to fuel stations workers in Caracas, authorities are rationing gasoline by limiting drivers to five gallons for small cars and 10 gallons for trucks, vans and ambulances.
Increasing petrol shortages is making Venezuelans’ lives tougher. When the pandemic struck, Venezuela was already suffering from hyperinflation and a battered health system. Critics of President Nicolás Maduro blame the collapse on government corruption and mismanagement. The government blames US sanctions.
In Venezuela, filling a tank is basically free. Thanks to government subsidies, a full tank could cost less than a penny. But, out of desperation, some people, like Jesus Peña, who sells chicken at an open-air market, are now turning to the expensive black market for fuel.
Peña pays between $1 and $2 per liter. But, few people can afford those prices in a country where the.
Venezuela has less than 500 reported cases of the coronavirus. The country imposed a nationwide lockdown in March when just a few cases were detected. Since then, Peña hasn’t been able to fill his tank at a station due to long lines.
“Yesterday, my neighbor sold me 20 liters that he took out of his car. I paid $20 for it. This problem is going to get worse. I have more than one colleague who is not delivering anymore because they ran out of gasoline.”
Jesus Peña, vendor at open-air market
“Yesterday, my neighbor sold me 20 liters that he took out of his car. I paid $20 for it. This problem is going to get worse. I have more than one colleague who is not delivering anymore because they ran out of gasoline,” Peña said.
The fuel shortages are already harming food production and delivery. Producers are not being able to get their goods to markets, and farmers are being forced to let crops rot in fields.
Even though Peña desperately needs the gas to keep his business going, he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep paying the high prices.
“I have gasoline for this week, I don’t know what will happen the next one. It’s worrying. I’m really worried,” he said.
Back at the gas station, as the line advances, some drivers, like Martínez, push their cars rather than turning on the ignition. Anything to save just a little extra gas.
What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US
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Pauline Daemgen (right foreground) and Quang Anh Paasch (left) lead the crowd at a Fridays for Future demonstration Aug. 27, 2019 in Berlin.
Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News
A longer version of this story wasby InsideClimate News.
Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power.
Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits — and much of the control — to local communities.
The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change.
Last summer, I went to Germany to figure out where the energy transition, or “Energiewende,” stands today, with climate change blaring like a siren across a nation already alarmed. Record-breaking heat in successive summers had left the fabled German forests dotted with clumps of dead brown trees. My hotel room in Berlin was broiling.
As a longtime energy reporter, my working hypothesis was that Germany’s experience held many lessons for the United States.
While Germany has made immense progress on climate and clean energy, the United States has lagged far behind. Germany now generates 43% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with 17.5% in the United States.
“What Germany did has made a huge difference for everybody, for the whole world.”
Greg Nemet, University of Wisconsin
“What Germany did has made a huge difference for everybody, for the whole world,” and the United States should pay attention to that, said Greg Nemet, a University of Wisconsin public affairs professor who has spent years studying German energy policy.
Yet Germany’s energy transition was hardly a straight-line journey of success.
Hope, disillusionment, then hope renewed
It was a time of far-reaching optimism and ambition in 1998, when German voters thrust a center-left coalition into power. The new government aimed to dramatically increase renewable energy while phasing out nuclear power.
Two years later, lawmakers passed landmark legislation that provided the financial incentives for the coming boom in wind, solar and other renewable energy. The 2000 law was in many ways the starting point for the intense period of progress that followed.
“We thought we could change everything,” said Eveline Lemke, a member of Alliance 90/The Greens, the coalition partner that made clean energy a centerpiece of national policy.
The new policies transformed the energy economy, making it cleaner and less centralized. Solar panels popped up on roofs and giant wind turbines sprouted across the countryside.
Eveline Lemke was a consultant and campaigner for Alliance 90/The Greens and went on to be the party’s leader in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. She now leads a sustainability think tank, Thinking Circular.
Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News
But the growth wasn’t sustained. By 2014, the steep cost of renewable energy subsidies produced high electric bills and a conservative backlash. Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose center-right government was first elected in 2005, responded by making changes to clean energy laws that slowed development.
The momentum faded into disappointment for many Germans. One of the big problems was that emissions from vehicles were essentially flat. This meant that Germany was on track to miss its emissions-cutting target for 2020, which was to reduce emissions 40% from 1990 levels.
But last year, spurred by mounting protests and calls for more aggressive climate action, Merkel’s government took a series of steps to assert the country’s commitment to move away from fossil fuels.
The German Parliament passed a $60 billion proposal that would, for the first time, impose a tax on nearly all carbon dioxide emissions. It also provided additional subsidies for wind and solar energy, and accelerated the push to cut emissions from automobiles, trucks and airplanes. The parliament also adopted a plan to shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2038 and provide $45 billion to help coal miners and their communities through the changes.
A bubbling up of grassroots enthusiasm has given renewed hope to many people at the heart of the early-2000s push for renewable energy.
Yet environmental activists are quick to note that the new momentum did not originate in the halls of parliament. It came from the cities and villages, and from the massive Fridays for Future demonstrations inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist — a bubbling up of grassroots enthusiasm that has given renewed hope to many people who were at the heart of the early-2000s push for renewable energy.
That new hope was what I had come to Germany to see.
A scorching summer
One of the first things I noticed in Berlin was the heat. My hotel and most of the offices I visited did not have air conditioning, having been built at a time when cooling was rarely needed in this northern city.
Scientists say it’s not possible to attribute a single heatwave or unusually hot summer to climate change. But the long-term trend is clear: Berlin and indeed, all of Germany are getting hotter, as is the world.
And that feels particularly dire for people whose work is tied to the energy transition.
One of those people is Karsten Neuhoff, head of climate policy for the German Institute for Economic Research. On my second day in Berlin, I went to his austere office building, located near Checkpoint Charlie, a former border checkpoint from when Berlin was a divided city during the Cold War.
Karsten Neuhoff is the head of the climate policy department at the German Institute for Economic Research.
Dan Gearino/InsideClimate News
For me, this was much more than an ordinary interview with a policy expert.
I grew up in Norwalk, Iowa, a small city near Des Moines. When I was a freshman in high school in the 1990s, an exchange student from Germany lived with a host family across the street from my parents’ house. He and I were in band and speech classes together. He was funny and friendly, with an exceptionally wavy head of hair. His name was Karsten Neuhoff.
As I was preparing to travel last summer, I asked researchers in the United States to recommend German experts I should interview. One of the names they gave me was Karsten Neuhoff.
I assumed there was no way that this energy economist could be the same person who was in marching band with me. Then I saw his photo. It was.
When we met in Berlin, I saw that his warmth and smile were just as I remembered, but his head of hair was sadly lost to time.
He told me about his vivid memories of how his host family in our town felt pride that Iowa farmers provide corn for the world, and how this would later inform the way he viewed Germany’s transition to clean energy.
The key, he said, is for people to have some control over renewable energy development and to directly benefit from it, as opposed to having the development imposed on them.
He added, “Citizens must have confidence in the ultimate goals of the system: Why are we doing this?”
A village finds a new income source: Renewable energy
To see what a decentralized energy system looked like up close, I made the daylong journey by train to Wildpoldsried, a village of about 2,600 residents that produces about eight times more energy than it consumes, and sells the surplus back to the grid.
“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me.”
Günter Mögele, Wildpoldsried deputy mayor
“I always try to tell people that we are a totally normal village, but nobody believes me,” said Günter Mögele, a high school teacher who has served as deputy mayor since the late-1990s.
Renewable energy can be seen from almost every vantage point in the village, with solar panels fastened to clay-tile roofs and wind turbines in the distance.
What I found most remarkable about Wildpoldsried wasn’t how extensively renewable energy was relied on, but what leaders chose to do with the financial proceeds. By selling electricity to the grid, the village gave itself a new income source and improved the lives of residents, offsetting most of the costs for preschool, child care, sports and community theater.
Many other communities have their own version of Wildpoldsried’s energy accomplishments and have used money from wind turbines and solar arrays to improve services and lower taxes.
In a battle over cost, Merkel’s conservatism wins out
But the momentum of the early years of the Energiewende didn’t last. Merkel and her government began to change the formula that had led to the rapid growth of renewable energy.
Merkel agreed with the country’s broad consensus that carbon emissions must be drastically reduced. But she wanted to do it in a way that was mindful of costs.
It wasn’t hard to make the case that the costs were too high, considering that the renewable energy surcharge had more than tripled from 2010 to 2014. For a small household, the cost had risen to about 20 euros — or $22 per month.
By 2014, the government had agreed to overhaul renewable energy policy, a change that took several years to implement. Instead of being open to almost everyone, groups that wanted to create renewable energy projects and sell the power to the grid needed to compete in auctions to see who could offer the lowest price.
Solar and wind power continued to grow, but the new rules meant that small players had a much more difficult time. The energy transition was becoming the realm of big developers.
Now Mögele and many other local leaders are calling for the government to overhaul the rules once again, making it easier for small local energy producers. Wildpoldsried had already done enough to secure its financial stability, he said, but he could see how those opportunities were vanishing for others.
“It will change. It has to change,” he said.
A teenage protester helps revitalize a movement
There is no clear point at which the Energiewende began its revitalization, but one of the central factors was the arrival on the scene of Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old in Sweden, who skipped school to stage a one-person demonstration outside her country’s parliament building in 2018 to call attention to the failure of leaders to address climate change.
Thunberg’s message and ongoing activism gripped much of the world, and had a particularly strong effect in Germany.
Climate change environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg participates in a climate strike rally in Iowa City, Iowa, US, on Oct. 4, 2019.
Merkel’s government has seen the rise in public interest in climate change and has taken steps to address some of the most vexing challenges in the energy transition. But Merkel is also on her way out, planning to step down ahead of the next election.
And yet, there are vital ingredients still missing. Critics of the government’s recent actions say more needs to be done to reinvigorate the small, local projects that were so important to creating the sense of shared benefits in the early days of the energy transition.
But many here say it’s the first step in a process, a signal that the country has a renewed focus.
An unexpected crisis and a warning for the future
Earlier this month, I called Karsten Neuhoff on Skype. Our countries were several weeks into coronavirus lockdowns.
I wanted to know how the global crisis had affected the trajectory of German climate policy, and to see how he was coping with the pandemic.
“Sometimes doomsday scenarios can happen.”
Karsten Neuhoff, German Institute for Economic Research
“It demonstrates that sometimes doomsday scenarios can happen,” he said, speaking from his kitchen table, late in the evening. “The idea of viruses that spread globally were the stuff of TV movies, and suddenly it became reality.”
He added that he thought this had implications for climate policy, because the public might now have a deeper understanding of the economic disruption that is possible if climate change is unchecked.
We agreed, though, that the crisis could also have detrimental effects on climate policy, with the sudden drop in emissions caused by the economic fallout potentially giving cover to backslide on climate. Indeed, a recent forecast shows Germany is now likely to reach its emissions-cutting target for 2020, a goal that previously seemed out of reach.
What about the big takeaway from my time in Germany, the idea that the success of the energy transition is closely tied to whether the public is engaged and feels like it has a stake?
That hasn’t changed a bit, Neuhoff said. The virus, and people’s response to it, has demonstrated that we’re all in this together, a sentiment repeated often in recent weeks, both in Germany and in the United States.
Neuhoff said he is hopeful that the US government and the public will embrace this idea as it applies to climate change. If and when that happens, Germany has two decades worth of trial and error to show how this can be done.
Swedish town uses chicken manure to disperse crowds — and stop spread of coronavirus
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Garden worker Robert Nilsson shows chicken manure with which he fertilizes lawns in Stadsparken in an attempt to prevent residents from gathering for the traditional celebrations to mark the Walpurgis Night amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lund, Sweden April 30, 2020.
Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency/via Reuters
A town in southern Sweden has turned to a traditional source to try to prevent the coronavirus spreading during an annual festive event on Thursday — chicken manure.
The university town of Lund began spreading chicken droppings in its central park to put off would-be revellers who would usually come on April 30 to celebrate Walpurgis Night.
The occasion, marking the shift away from dark, chilly winter days towards brighter spring and summer days, is typically celebrated with picnics, parties and bonfires across the country, and regularly attracts thousands of students.
“This is a park where usually 30,000 people gather, but with COVID-19 this is now unthinkable,” the town’s mayor, Philip Sandberg, told Reuters. “We don’t want Lund to become an epicentre for the spread of the disease.”
Sweden has taken a softer approach than many other countries to preventing the spread of the respiratory disease that the coronavirus can cause, asking rather than ordering people to maintain social distancing.
In line with this policy, authorities have requested people avoid gathering for this year’s Walpurgis Night, but have not banned festivities.
The authorities fear young people, especially students, will still want to enjoy a picnic and drink in the park.
“Most students in Lund and other parts of Sweden respect the recommendations … although even a small number of people still going to the park can become a big risk,” Sandberg said.
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A laboratory technician is seen at the Inselspital Universitaetsspital Bern university hospital during research for a vaccine against the coronavirus in Switzerland, April 22, 2020.
Fauci says leak concerns fueled his White House revelation of Gilead drug results
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci attends a coronavirus response meeting at the White House, April 29, 2020.
Concerns over leaks compelled the top US infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci in the Oval Office on Wednesday, to reveal positive data on Gilead Sciences experimental drug remdesivir, the first in a scientifically rigorous clinical trial to show benefit in treating COVID-19.
The dramatic announcement by Fauci prompted concerns among scientists that the Trump administration was raising hopes about a coronavirus treatment before sharing the full data with researchers.
As a cautionary example of inflating the potential value of a therapy, some pointed to President Donald Trump’s repeated endorsements of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, with no evidence that it works.
Newer data suggests the malaria treatments may carry significant risks for some sufferers of the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is running the trial, said he took the first opportunity to get the word out that patients taking a dummy treatment or placebo should be switched to remdesivir in hopes of benefiting from it.
He expressed concern that leaks of partial information would lead to confusion. Since the White House was not planning a daily virus briefing, Fauci said he was invited to release the news at a news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“It was purely driven by ethical concerns,” Fauci told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I would love to wait to present it at a scientific meeting, but it’s just not in the cards when you have a situation where the ethical concern about getting the drug to people on placebo dominates the conversation.”
An independent data safety and monitoring board, which had looked at the preliminary results of the NIAID trial, determined it had met its primary goal of reducing hospital stays.
On Tuesday evening, that information was conveyed in a conference call to scientists studying the drug globally.
“There are literally dozens and dozens of investigators around the world,” Fauci said. “People were starting to leak it.” But he did not give details of where the unreported data was being shared.
Several scientists interviewed by Reuters felt the White House setting seemed inappropriate for the release of highly anticipated government-funded trial data on the Gilead therapy.
They had expected it to be presented simultaneously in a detailed news release, a briefing at a medical meeting or in a scientific journal, allowing researchers to review the data.
Information from various trials of remdesivir has been leaked to media in recent weeks. In a statement on Wednesday, Gilead said the NIAID’s much anticipated trial had met its primary goal, but gave no details.
Data in a separate NIAID statement after Fauci spoke detailed preliminary results showing that patients who got the drug had a 31 percent faster time to recovery than those who got a placebo, cutting hospital stays by four days.
The trial also came close to showing the drug helped people survive the disease, but the data fell just short of statistical significance.
“I want to see the full data. I want to understand the statistics. I want to understand the benefit and risk. I want to understand the structure of the study, and all of it,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, the chief academic officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Am I encouraged from what I’ve heard? Yes, I’m encouraged. But I want to get a full understanding of what happened here, and not get it via a photo opportunity from the Oval Office.”
Data Gilead released on its own trial of remdesivir drew less attention, as it did not compare outcomes between those receiving therapy and those who did not.
Results from a third study in China suggesting remdesivir failed to help COVID-19 patients were released in the British medical journal the Lancet after review by a peer group of scientists.
“That’s the only thing I’ll hang my hat on, and that was negative,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.
He was unimpressed by remdesivir’s modest benefit.
“It was expected to be a whopping effect,” Topol added. “It clearly does not have that.”
At the Oval Office news conference, Fauci compared the study findings to AZT, the first drug to show any benefit against HIV, decades ago.
“We know that was an imperfect drug. It was the first step,” Fauci said in the interview.
“Similar to AZT, it’s (remdesivir) the first baby step towards what hopefully will be a number of better drugs that will come in and be able to treat people with COVID-19.”
By Julie Steenhuysen/Reuters
Can Biden turn out Latinos to vote? Advocacy groups aren't sure.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks as former Vice President Joe Biden reacts during the ninth Democratic 2020 US presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas Nevada, on Feb. 19, 2020.
As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico's food prices soar
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Maria Solis, a street vendor selling fruit, shows a sign that says “The coronavirus won’t kill me, hunger will. Here you can do your panic buying too,” as the spread of COVID-19 continues in Mexico City, Mexico, March 25, 2020.
Carlos Perez Gallardo/Reuters
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A general view of an empty high street in Hemel Hempstead as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Britain March 24, 2020.
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Indian actor Irrfan Khan arrives for the screening of the film “Dabba (The Lunchbox)” at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival, 2013.
Fires, orchestras, parachutes. Some other ways to describe coronavirus — besides war.
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This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects), also known as the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab which was isolated from a patient in the US.
NIAID-RML/Handout via Reuters
Very few of us have experienced anything quite like the crisis we’re going through now. We don’t know how to describe it, or what to call it, or what to compare it to.
Our leaders, though, seem pretty certain. China’s Xi Jinping set the tone in February when he. On April 1, Donald Trump declared that the On April 26, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that
French President Emmanuel Macron was perhaps the most succinct. As he prepared to shut his country down in March, he
If you think the war metaphor is being overused, you’re not alone. But why is this kind of rhetoric such a go-to for world leaders? And should we consider other metaphors?
Metaphors allow us to see one thing in terms of another. Arguably, they are most effective when the comparison transforms our thinking. But there’s a danger in that, too.
“The choice of metaphor can affect not just the way in which we talk about something.”
Elena Semino, linguist, Lancaster University in Britain
“The choice of metaphor can affect not just the way in which we talk about something,” said. That choice, she said, can also “change the way we think about something and experience it.”
We’re not at war, we all know that. But our situation bears enough resemblance to life during wartime so as to make the metaphor appealing.
The ability of metaphor to change how we think, and maybe act, is at the root of the power of the war metaphor. It is why leaders confronted with this pandemic reached so quickly for the language of bombardment and trenches and sacrifice. They need to convey the peril in the starkest of terms.
In a way, they’re all trying to channel the likes of, who of course had to deal with a real war.
“What crimes has Hitler and all that Hitler stands for brought upon Europe and the world?” asked Churchill in 1941. “The outrage of the unopposed air bombing applied with calculated and scientific cruelty to helpless populations.”
Once Churchill had established the existential nature of the threat, he made his appeal for renewed resistance with a combination of hard truths and optimism.
“Lift up your hearts,” he continued. “All will come right out of the depths of sorrow and of sacrifice.”
With a formula as powerful as that, why wouldn’t a president or governor declare that we’re at war with a virus? And why wouldn’t we buy it?
“I have to say that I, too, sometimes slip up and fall into that language. But I think it’s really important to correct ourselves and think about the impact that can be had when you’re using really violent language at a time when people are already anxious and already scared.”
Seema Yasmin, Stanford University
“I have to say that I, too, sometimes slip up and fall into that language,” said. “But I think it’s really important to correct ourselves and think about the impact that can be had when you’re using really violent language at a time when people are already anxious and already scared.”
The trouble is, Yasmin says, this stuff is almost hardwired in us. We’ve deployed war metaphors to describe our attempts to control epidemics since at least the mid-1600s when a prominentmade the comparison.
“I attack the enemy within,” Sydenham declared. “A murderous array of disease has to be fought against, and the battle is not a battle for the sluggard.”
“This might be one of the earliest instances of that kind of violent language in medicine,” Yasmin said. She notes thatspoke of infectious diseases as “invading armies that lay siege to our bodies.”
Yasmin says that in the 1920s, cancer cells were described as anarchists or Bolsheviks, the enemies of that era. And in 1971, Richard Nixon took aim
So, are there better ways to talk about our current situation? Lancaster University’s Semino says yes. She oversees a crowdsourced project called, which lists the many ways people with cancer think of their condition. Weaponizing their struggle works for some patients, she says. But others prefer to think of being on a journey, or in a difficult relationship — or for one person, like having a stone in her shoe. As for the coronavirus, Semino says it might be time to drop the war talk.
“If a war is protracted, people could become fed up with it,” she said. “They could think there is no victory in sight, so the messages could become less effective.”
Semino has come across several other metaphors that she thinks work better. The most comprehensive one compares the pandemic to a forest fire.
“There are firefighters fighting it directly, such as doctors and nurses,” she said. “But other people have to be vigilant in order not to get in the way and not to be in danger themselves.”
The metaphor can be extended. When the main fire appears under control, we might still have to continue to modify our behavior so that it doesn’t flare up again. Even after it has been all but extinguished, smoldering ashes could reignite the forest.
“To avoid future fires, you need to look after the wood and the land,” Semino said.
If the forest fire metaphor proves inaccurate or unwieldy, Semino has found others on Twitter and elsewhere. These include comparisons with child development,and .
Social distancing is like asking a string section to play pianissimo: it only works if everyone does it.
— Classic FM (@ClassicFM)
Patrick Cox is with the language-themed podcast,, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
'Stay home or dance with us': Ghana's dancing pallbearers urge social distancing
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Ghana’s dancing pallbearers – BBC Africa
COVID-19 shakes up international student life — and university budgets
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A student carries bags to her car before a deadline to vacate University of Dayton in Ohio on-campus housing due to measures to combat the spread of novel coronavirus, in Dayton, Ohio, March 11, 2020.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced US university closures in March, Julia Jing, a sophomore at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, wasn’t sure if she should return home to Beijing or to stay in the US.
The journalism and art design student eventually purchased a ticket home to China, but that flight was canceled. Jing has since been hunkering down in her apartment near campus and taking classes remotely. But she’s also spending a lot of her time contacting the US embassy in China and trying to figure out what she’ll do next.
“It’s hard to connect with the embassies. They didn’t answer my phone and they didn’t reply to my email. And I don’t know what to do right now.”
Julia Jing, sophomore, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
“It’s hard to connect with the embassies. They didn’t answer my phone and they didn’t reply to my email,” Jing said. “And I don’t know what to do right now.”
An estimatedwere enrolled at US universities during the 2018-19 academic year. And by paying tuition, renting apartments and buying books and supplies, they contributed an estimated , according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
But those students have been forced to scramble as universities across the country closed in-person education this spring to slow the spread of the virus. Some who lived on campus had to find a new place to live, while others rushed to get back to their home countries before flights were canceled or national governments shut down borders. There is still uncertainty about what the coming academic year will look like for international students. Some, like Jing, aren’t sure if they’ll be able to return to campus in the fall.
Her student visa expires in June, and the US government requires her to return to China to renew it. But flight cancellations may stretch into the coming months, and services at US embassies may still be suspended this summer. And if Jing does go home and can’t renew her visa, she’s not sure if she will be able to return to Illinois and enroll in the fall.
“If I cannot come back, I would just get a year off and stay in China,” she said.
The American Council on Education predicts that “enrollment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, including a projected decline of,” according to letters it submitted to Congress. That could have serious effects on institutions’ budgets. The organization is advocating for more financial aid for higher education institutions to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
The potential decline is a troubling scenario for many in higher education.
International students typically pay full tuition at colleges, which means they pay higher rates compared to most domestic students, said Dick Startz, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“Universities all use that money to help subsidize the education of American students. If we lost a whole lot of our international students, a lot of universities would have a really serious financial shock.”
Dick Startz, economics professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Universities all use that money to help subsidize the education of American students,” Startz said. “If we lost a whole lot of our international students, a lot of universities would have a really serious financial shock.”
Already, since 2016 fewer new international students have been choosing to study in the US. Higher education expertsthat decline to the Trump administration’s stricter immigration policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Rachel Banks, senior director for public policy and legislative strategy with NAFSA, said the pandemic will only accelerate the decline. If the number of international students falls, Banks says, the impacts will not just be financial, but could also extend to research and the overall academic learning environment of universities.
“At the graduate level, a majority of international students are here studying … in STEM fields, and they serve a role on campus as student teachers, supporting faculty and working in research labs,” said Banks.
Universities say they are preparing for all possible scenarios and potential financial losses. But many questions remain unanswered. For example, it’s unclear if international travel will still be limited in the coming months. The overall health of the global economy could impact international students’ ability to enroll. And it’s uncertain if US embassies and consulates around the world will be able to open up and issue student visas for those that need them in time for the fall.
Another big question is whether the Department of Homeland Security will allow current international students to take classes online next semester.
Another big question is whether the Department of Homeland Security will allow current international students to take classes online next semester. Typically, those with student visas can only count one online class to their full course to remain eligible. But the agencythe rule in light of the pandemic this spring. It’s also unclear if newly admitted international students would be allowed to take classes remotely.
“We don’t know what it’s going to look like in August,” said Martin McFarlane, director of International Student and Scholar Services at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign said. “But these things are going to be restricting for returning students, just like they’re going to be restricting to new students, as well.”
At the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, McFarlane said accepted international students still have a lot of interest in coming to the US.
“I did speak to the admissions office very recently,” said McFarlane. “They say the number of international students accepting their offer remains on pace with what we’ve seen in recent years. Our incoming class at the moment are hopeful and believe they’re going to be able to attend and fall.”
Jing also wonders how new international students will fare in the fall, especially if classes are remote. She said she decided to study in the US for the experience of being on campus and meeting new people.
“I like to experience the life here, how you join some clubs, hang out with friends … having this experience is more special for me,” Jing said.
She hopes to be able to continue studying in Illinois in the fall and to be with her friends, but if classes continue to be remote, she said she’ll enroll to make sure she can graduate on time.
“I’m worried about my future,” she said.
Brazilian Supreme Court orders probe into Bolsonaro; El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread; Harvard student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro walks as he leaves the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 22, 2020.
Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World..
Brazil’s Supreme Courtinto accusations from Sergio Moro, the former justice minister, that allege President Jair Bolsonaro tried to “interfere” with police work for political gain. Moro — previously an anti-corruption judge — resigned last week, sending the administration into turmoil. A majority of Brazilians believe there is truth to accusations against Bolsonaro, but are split on whether or not .
El Salvador prison crackdown risks coronavirus spread
“No ray of sunlight” will enter, said El Salvador’s security minister Osiris Luna, after a spate of homicides occured over the weekend. The government says prisoners were passing messages to the outside about the targets of the killings. Photos released by the office of President Nayib Bukele show inmates stripped down to shorts and crammed together on prison floors, most with . Human rights organizations have warned about the deadly consequences of the virus in Latin America’s overcrowded prison facilities.
WHO warns children could die as vaccinations for other diseases are delayed
The World Health Organization warns thatas the pandemic has created vaccine shortages in at least 21 countries for other potentially deadly diseases. Immunizations and treatment for diseases such as malaria have been put on hold, which could lead to a spike in cases later. “The tragic reality is children will die as a result,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urging countries to ensure vaccine programs are funded.
Discussion today: Pandemic exposes health inequities
With the coronavirus pandemic making its way around the globe, poor communities and communities of color have been hit particularly hard, exposing longstanding health disparities. As part of our weekly series, The World’s Elana Gordon will be taking your questions and , director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former commissioner of health for New York City, on Tuesday, April 28 at 12 p.m. ET.
Harvard grad student creates PPE supply chain from China to Boston
The coronavirus pandemic is creating an(PPE) that has overwhelmed the world market. China has ramped up the production of needed supplies by bringing new manufacturers online. In an international marketplace where companies, federal and state agencies are fighting for equipment, Harvard business student Sophie Bai and her colleagues are creating a new supply chain.
COVID-19 interrupts fertility plans for hopeful couples in the UK
Thousands of women may lose out on their chance to have a baby because of COVID-19. Fertility clinics across Britain shut their doors in mid-April, pausing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment for many women midcycle. The decision has left thousands in limbo. No one knows when the clinics will open up again and for those who have spent years trying to conceive — the closure is a cruel blow.
Corona Diaries: Open-source project chronicles pandemic life via voice notes
A map of Europe and North Africa showing locations where people have tagged recordings uploaded to the crowdsourced project, Corona Diaries.
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, some are turning to their diaries to document this incredible time. Fellows from Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism had a different idea to chronicle daily life. They have started the “Corona Diaries” — an open-source audio project where anyone — including you —.
Chris Woodhead is taking a more permanent approach to tracking his pandemic experience:.
A post shared by(@adverse.camber) on Apr 16, 2020 at 6:39am PDT
In case you missed itListen: As some countries ease lockdowns, UK’s Boris Johnson asks Britons to be patient
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks outside 10 Downing Street after recovering from the coronavirus, in London, England, April 27, 2020.
Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/handout via Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on the job and urging the public to be patient with the lockdown restrictions. Meanwhile, the British parliament is back up and running though, without the traditional rancor for which the body is known. And, different countries are enforcing rules on self-isolation and quarantine differently. In the Philippines, a large part of the country is on lockdown with potentially deadly curfews. Also, the “Corona Diaries” gives people an opportunity to share their experiences of life under lockdown.
Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player:, , , ,
Harvard grad student creates a new PPE supply chain from China to Boston
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Personal protective equipment brought to the US through an operation run by Harvard Business School student Sophie Bai.
Courtesy of Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Recently, Brigham and Women’s Hospital received a shipment of 3,000 face shields and goggles through an unusual channel — a Harvard Business School student from China, Sophie Bai, and a team of classmates and medical advisers working pro bono around the clock.
Dr. Mark Davis, vice president of Brigham Health International, said he has seen his own procurement office tirelessly search for supplies as their normal distributors have run dry. They, too, have created innovative solutions, such as sterilizing disposable equipment for reuse. But, with an endless demand, Davis and his colleagues welcomed the additional gear.
“Through this donation, we are able to prove the reliability of this really new sourcing mechanism. It’s something that’s new, it’s critically important and I think it will be instrumental to giving us the sort of PPE that we need here and around the country.”
Dr. Mark Davis, Brigham Health International, vice president
“Through this donation, we are able to prove the reliability of this really new sourcing mechanism,” Davis said. “It’s something that’s new, it’s critically important and I think it will be instrumental to giving us the sort of PPE that we need here and around the country.”
The coronavirus pandemic is creating an insatiable demand for medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) that has overwhelmed the world market. China has ramped up the production of needed supplies by bringing new manufacturers online. In an international marketplace where companies, federal and state agencies are fighting for equipment, Bai and her colleagues are creating a new supply chain.
Bai first came from China to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10 years ago to pursue an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. After stints as a private consultant, she decided to get a degree from the Harvard Business School. When Harvard’s campus shut down in mid-March, she said she had time on her hands and saw a way to help protect Boston’s front-line workers in hospitals, some of whom were her friends.
Bai said she has a family friend back home in China who is an established distributor of medical equipment, which provides Bai with direct access to supplies and reliable export infrastructure. So many new factories are now producing supplies that Bai said it’s hard to know which ones can be trusted to deliver quality goods efficiently.
“Because my friends have direct access with the factories, they would actually fly there, do the sample testing themselves and be there to get the PPE out when goods are available. This is really important in terms of quality control.”
Sophie Bai, Harvard University, business school student
“Because my friends have direct access with the factories, they would actually fly there, do the sample testing themselves and be there to get the PPE out when goods are available,” Bai said. “This is really important in terms of quality control.”
Bai said she has also worked to interpret the complex dual standards of medical goods between China and the US. She said she has scoured FDA databases to verify a factory’s claim to be certified for a given product and reviewed pages of testing data to reconcile the different standards used in each country. She also researched the comparison between the FDA-approved N95 masks and the KN95 surgical masks from China.
“So, what you really have to look into is the bacterial filtration, particle filtration, fluid resistance, the differential pressure, the flammability,” Bai said. “You have to look into those specs to understand what are the differences. What do those mean.”
In addition to working with the Brigham, WGBH News has confirmed that Bai procured supplies for Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, Boston Medical Center and, a large provider of senior health care and living communities. In total, the team has secured 1.4 million pieces of critically needed medical and PPE. Some 300,000 pieces have already arrived, and Bai said she expects to receive another 400,000 pieces soon, with the rest to follow shortly.
Bai and her team have procured 1.7 million pieces of PPE so far for 12 area hospitals, community health centers and senior living facilities in the state.
Bai and a team of 11 volunteers in Boston and Los Angeles, mainly her other classmates from Harvard, communicate in Mandarin with Chinese companies and in English with institutions in the US. Having a friend on the West Coast allows Bai to operate nearly around the clock. Even so, though, Bai said she has lost out on opportunities to grab critical goods due to her lack of immediate access to cash to pay for the goods.
Bai’s Harvard Business School professor, Jeff Bussgang, said the international market for PPE is chaotic.
“It feels more like the [New York] Stock Exchange trading floor. People are aggressively pursuing supply, bidding and paying upfront on the spot.”
Jeff Bussgang, Harvard Business School, professor
“It feels more like the [New York] Stock Exchange trading floor,” Bussgang said. “People are aggressively pursuing supply, bidding and paying upfront on the spot.”
Harvard Business School has no official involvement in the operation, but to connect Bai with quicker access to the funds needed to secure the PPE, Bussgang introduced Bai to, which usually funds community programs, including WGBH. The foundation’s Tim Smith said they set up a new funding mechanism specifically to buy medical supplies through Bai’s operation — something they’ve never done before. They partnered with that wires money between countries faster than traditional banks.
“It’s nontraditional to use a charitable fund to essentially purchase goods and deliver them to local hospitals,” said Smith, the Foundation’s senior director of philanthropy. “It’s definitely a new thing for us and I think it can make a significant impact.”
The fund currently has over $3 million from at least 29 donors.
Bai said she’s seen an outpouring of support both in China and from Chinese communities around the U.S. eager to help Boston. And she knows why. Boston is a mecca for Chinese students, she said, and they want to give back to a place they see as their second home.
“There is really an emotional tie between the Chinese community to Boston in general because so many of us had a transformative experience growing up from our late teens to our early 20s,” Bai said.
This story was
Discussion: Pandemic exposes health inequities in vulnerable communities
A World Bank pandemic funding program will see more than $195 million distributed as soon as next week to help tackle the novel coronavirus among 64 of the world’s poorest countries that have reported cases of the fast-spreading disease, the lender said on Monday.
The World Bankunder its Pandemic Emergency Financing program to provide rapid financing to affected poor countries after the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that killed at least 11,300 people.
While developed countries are funneling trillions of dollars into their own virus stricken economies, many poor nations lack the means to mitigate the hit from the pandemic.
But even in the United States, poorer communities, along with Black and Hispanic people, are taking the biggest hit from the novel coronavirus. According tofrom Pew Research Center, low-income workers, including people of color and those without college degrees, are more likely to report job losses or pay cuts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit underserved populations and communities of color particularly hard, exacerbating longstanding health disparities in the US and around the world.
As part of our, The World’s Elana Gordon moderated a conversation with Dr. Mary Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and former commissioner of health for New York City. Bassett discussed underserved populations amid COVID-19 and address the for data exploring health inequities.
The Netherlands to immigrants: Speak Dutch
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Moroccan-born Dutch writer Hassnae Bouazza
In Hassnae Bouazza’s memory, learning to speak Dutch happened very suddenly.
“I remember very vividly the moment that I realized that I had learned Dutch,” Bouazza said. “I was playing with children at kindergarten. All of sudden realized, I speak Dutch.”
Bouazza, now in her 40s, is the youngest of seven siblings. Her family moved to the Netherlands from Morocco in the 1970s after her father left Morocco to seek work in Europe. In 1977, the rest of the family joined him and settled in a Dutch village — the only immigrants to live there.
This Moroccan family might have been called model immigrants, if the Dutch government had a model in mind. As Dutch speakers, the family was different from the vast majority of immigrants who moved to Dutch cities, but remained largely separated from Dutch society.
“Nothing was done to integrate them in the society,” said Ricky van Oers, an immigration law professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen. “The authorities thought too easily of asking someone to come over to work, stay for 20 years and then go back.”
from Morocco to the Netherlands started in the 1960s under a guest worker program largely geared toward temporary work for men. But many immigrants decided to stay, and in the 1970s, family reunification law allowed guest laborers to bring their families to join them.
When Dutch officials realized that families from Morocco and elsewhere weren’t returning to their homelands, they tried to get them to learn Dutch. When that only partially worked — it was too late for many — attitudes hardened.
Anti-immigrant sentiment increased around Sept. 11, 2001, when a series of anti-immigrant political parties started winning seats in Dutch elections. Today, the leader of that faction is.
“There is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe,”during the 2017 election campaign in which his party came in second.
Wilders and his followers have pushed exclusionary language laws for immigrants. That message is gaining popularity: The Dutch government requires people who want long-term work permits to take private Dutch classes and pass a language proficiency exam.
“If they don’t pass this exam within three years, they are fined,” Radboud University’s Van Oers said. “The Netherlands can be perceived as sort of a guiding country. It is very proud to have taken up that role. And you see that different European countries have copied the Dutch model.”
Those efforts are also inspiring the Trump administration. In May 2019, the White House proposed an overhaul of US immigration law that would include language proficiency regulations.
“Future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the Rose Garden announcement. Currently, there is no indication that Congress would pass such a measure.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch government has recognized that its system is broken: Immigrants don’t learn Dutch, the government doesn’t offer proper support, and there is no end in sight to right-wing politicians calling immigrants “scum.” The country faces another general election in 2021, and many expect immigration to be a major issue. Some moderates in the ruling coalition think that promises to get tougher on immigrants is a zero-sum game.
“[In an election year] it’s easy to say: ‘We’re just going to make life harder for people who come here,’” said Jan Paternotte, a member of parliament with one of the coalition’s centrist parties. “That’s a signal to everyone else: Don’t come to the Netherlands.”
Paternotte is among those trying to change the system so that immigrants feel incentivized rather than forced to learn Dutch — more like the way Bouazza picked up the language in a village school in the 1980s.
“One of the Dutch values used to be something they were very proud of: tolerance,” said Bouazza, referring to tolerance of other cultures, languages and ideas. “And that’s nearly lost.”
Bouazza nowin Dutch that call on her fellow citizens to regain that tolerance.
Patrick Cox is with the language-themed podcast, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Libyans are caught between coronavirus and conflict
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Libyan boys check a damaged car after a shell fell on a residential area at Hadba al-Badri district, in Tripoli, Libya, Jan. 28, 2020.
As the number of coronavirus cases steadily climbs in Libya, fighting in and around the besieged capital of Tripoli continues to worsen by the day, as the forces of Gen.continues a yearlong offensive against the UN-backed Government of National Accord.
The recentin fighting has dashed that the pandemic might succeed where previous attempts at and sanctions had failed.
“We had hoped from the very beginning that the COVID-19 would have resulted in some sort of ceasefire or at least a truce.”
Kasper Engborg, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Libya Office (OCHA)
“We had hoped from the very beginning that the COVID-19 would have resulted in some sort of ceasefire or at least a truce,” said, the acting head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Libya Office (OCHA).
“That, unfortunately, has not happened. The fighting has continued, it has even escalated in some areas over the past weeks,” Engborg said. “We still experience heavy shelling that indiscriminately impacts and hits civilian and urban areas where civilians are living,” he continued, citing recent attacks on.
Fueled by competing, militias, and unending proliferation of , the latest fighting has become the worst in recent memory for Tripoli residents.
“I remember my mom telling me about a relative of ours who was hit while they were doing barbecue at night,” said Maysem Mabruk, the co-founder of a charity organization called Tripoli Good and a dentist by training.
Mabruk was living in Tripoli until September, when she moved to England to pursue a master’s degree in international development. Like many in the diaspora, she worries about what the tragic combination of the coronavirus and constant shelling will mean for her family and friends back home.
“These incidents aren’t happening in the suburbs of Tripoli or the outside. It’s actually happening downtown,” said Mabruk, who added that the city is now underdue to COVID-19.
“They don’t feel safe at home. But they don’t have the option to leave because there’s nowhere else to go,” she continued.
A fragile health care system
The coronavirus is also putting new pressures on a health care system already struggling with lack of medical personnel and medical supplies.
“Now in Libya, when you go to the public facilities, you often have to bring the gloves, the antiseptics, because the hospitals don’t have anything.”
Dr. Mohamed Aburawi, Harvard University, fellow
“Now in Libya, when you go to the public facilities, you often have to bring the gloves, the antiseptics, because the hospitals don’t have anything,” said Libyan, who is currently living in Boston for a fellowship at Harvard University.
Before Libyadue to the coronavirus, residents who could afford it would typically seek medical treatment abroad. “If you go to the west or east [in Libya], you will see lines of ambulances bumper to bumper looking for health care outside of the country,” Aburawi recalled.
When Libya recorded its first case of the coronavirus in March, many feared that the hospital system would quickly become overwhelmed, unable to manage a national epidemiological response.
“There was an issue about tracing, keeping track of people, screening, triaging,” said Aburawi, who stays in touch with colleagues in Tripoli.
That’s when Aburawi received a call from local health officials. “To help them develop a platform that will basically screen and triage patients,” he said.
Aburawi is no stranger to finding digital solutions to Libya’s health care problems. In 2016, he founded, a mobile telemedicine platform to help address some of the key challenges facing underserved Libyans, especially those who cannot find specialists in local hospitals or afford to go abroad for treatment.
“We use telemedicine to connect physicians abroad who are qualified and have the same kind of cultural background to many of the countries that need their help,” he said.
Last week, Speetar launched a pilot version of an app for the coronavirus in partnership with the Libyan National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), which is leading the country’s response to COVID-19.
Libyans with the access code can log onto the mobile app to fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms and relevant health history.
“The application will automatically classify patients into low risk or high risk,” said Dr. Enas Ali Engab, who works for NCDC’s COVID-19 task force in Tripoli.
Engab has been training local medical personnel to use the mobile app. “If they are high risk, they will be directed to doctors at the NCDC. Those are experts in dealing with COVID-19 cases,” she continued.
While still in its early stages, the mobile app could help Libyan health officials streamline their response to the virus and improve tracking and tracing of cases — and centralize data.
“We allow these patients once they test positive to go to their phone book and check all the contacts that they came across during the past 14 days, and those contacts will get automatic anonymous messages to tell them they have come in contact with someone who may have tested positive,” Aburawi explained.
Health officials rushing to contain the pandemic hope the mobile app, along with a national hotline dedicated to virus questions, will provide enough transparency to incentivize people to stay away from public spaces.
“COVID-19 is very contagious. It’s transmissible at a very high rate, so we don’t want people to go out of their homes. Because we don’t have the facilities to cover all of these patients.”
Dr. Enas Ali Engab, NCDC’s COVID-19 task force in Tripoli
“COVID-19 is very contagious. It’s transmissible at a very high rate, so we don’t want people to go out of their homes,” Engab said. “Because we don’t have the facilities to cover all of these patients.”
Still, even the most ambitious mobile app will find it hard to maneuver around Libya’s ongoing civil war, where rival parties have divided the country into east and west, and continue to compete over the oil-rich country’sand .
Nor will it provide much relief for the hundreds of thousands of Libyans who are, stranded or detained and residents whose homes are no longer safe due to indiscriminate shellings.
Yet, with no end in sight for Libya’s conflict, Engab sees even more use for telemedicine and other digital solutions.
“Sometimes when there is a conflict or something the streets get blocked, and you might need to go to that hospital or meet with that doctor, but because the streets are blocked you can’t leave your house. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Engab said.
“Telemedicine was required before, but now it is urgently needed,” she added.
In fight against coronavirus, Ghana uses drones to speed up testing
María Elena Romero
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COVID-19 tests samples are being delivered from rural areas of Ghana to testing centers in urban areas using drone technology.
This week, Ghana became the first African country to ease its nearly three-week lockdown against the coronavirus.
While large gatherings are still banned, and schools remain closed, some nonessential businesses were allowed to open in Accra and Kumasi, the two main metropolitan areas in the country. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said his decision came about after increasing the country’s capacity to fight the pandemic, including aggressive contact tracing and expansion of testing.
Ghana is using a unique approach to reduce the amount of time it takes to get COVID-19 test samples from remote rural areas to labs: drones. Instead of waiting for days for a batch of samples to be transported by truck, tests from rural areas can be delivered for analysis in less than an hour.
The Ministry of Health expanded its partnership withthat uses drones to deliver medical supplies. Zipline has set up a system to deliver samples collected in more than 1,000 health facilities across the country.
Zipline’s drones are automated, but they’re also being monitored and, when needed, controlled, by humans. On April 17, on Zipline’s first flight, 51 samples were flown from the Omenako drone distribution center to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, 45 miles away, in what could be thethat drones have been used to deliver COVID-19 test samples.
The COVID-19 test samples are packed in special red boxes using guidelines issued by the World Health Organization and then placed inside the belly of the drone. The drone is then put on a launcher, and it’s off to its destination for delivery.
Zipline’s drones are automated but they’re also being monitored and, when needed, controlled, by humans.
Courtesy of Zipline
The delivery is contactless. Once at the testing facility, the drone opens up its belly and drops the box filled with samples using a parachute to ease the landing. A health care worker sprays the box down with disinfectant and takes it inside to be processed.
For nearly a year, Zipline has been delivering vaccines and medications to hospitals around Ghana. It also operates in Rwanda, where it uses its drones to deliver blood samples.
Wilmot James, a visiting professor at Columbia University who has advised the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on biosecurity, has been following Zipline’s operations for years and says the company has a clean track safety record. But he stressed that biosafety is critical in this kind of work and the fact that there is an inherent risk to these types of operations.
“In this particular instance, we’re dealing with samples that are pathogenic,” James said. “An Ebola sample is another one; you have to make sure that you have proper protocols around that.”
Zipline says they’ve done that in consultation with experts and WHO.
Ghana conducted more than, and some18,000 testing samples remain outstanding. The country has only 67 ventilators available in its public hospitals for a population of almost 30 million.
In Greece, refugees and migrants turn to each other to get through coronavirus pandemic
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Arash Hampay and a group of volunteers pack and distribute “hope bags” for refugees and the homeless in Athens, Greece.
Fahrinisa Campana/The World
On a warm April evening in downtown Athens, Greece, Arash Hampay was handing out pink, plastic shopping bags filled with food, soap, hand sanitizer and face masks to refugees and the homeless.
It’s his way of helping the community fight against the coronavirus.
“Just imagine thousands of homeless and refugee families that live on the street. They don’t have the money to go to a hotel or rent a house, and they don’t have the money to buy masks, so how can they protect themselves. Who has to help them?”
Arash Hampay, community acvitist and volunteer, Athens, Greece
“Just imagine thousands of homeless and refugee families that live on the street,” said Hampay, an Iranian refugee who arrived in Greece in 2016. “They don’t have the money to go to a hotel or rent a house, and they don’t have the money to buy masks, so how can they protect themselves. Who has to help them?”
Greece closed schools and other places where large groups of people congregate on March 10, and imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 23. Its early and prolonged measures to combat COVID-19 has meant. As of Thursday, Greece had reported 2,463 cases of COVID-19 and 125 deaths.
Also on Thursday, Greece extended its lockdown by a week to May 4, saying any relaxation would be staggered over May and June. The government has been praised for being proactive to protect its citizens, but concern is mounting over the plight of refugees and migrants.
Dozens of refugees — including many single-parent families — accommodated at a hostel in southern Greece tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. The hostel, quarantined since April 16, is the the third refugee facility in the country to be hit by the virus.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began in Greece, some have sounded the alarm about the lack of resources allocated toward thethe country hosts And now, at least two camps have been put on total lockdown due to a sudden surge in cases. That means tens of thousands of refugees can’t leave their settlements to get basic supplies.
In the absence of adequate support, some refugees have taken it upon themselves to find their own solutions. That includes Hampay, who, before coming to Athens, lived with his younger brother in the infamous Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.
Hampay has long been an active humanitarian and activist. When his brother was held in immigration detention after they first got to Greece, and threatened with deportation back to Turkey, Hampay held a monthlong hunger strike while camping out in the main square in Mytilini.
Arash Hampay smokes in front of Cafe Patogh before the volunteers arrive to start packing and distributing the “hope bags” in Athens, Greece.
Fahrinisa Campana/The World
The Greek government has granted refugee status to the brothers, and they have relocated to Athens where they share an apartment. In 2018, Hampay opened a community center in the neighborhood to help feed poor people in the city. It’s called Cafe Patogh, which means “hangout” in Farsi.
Now, with the coronavirus outbreak, Hampay sees an even greater need to support refugees and locals struggling to protect themselves. Finding other volunteers to help with the supermarket shopping and preparing the food bags, which they call “hope bags,” has never been an issue.
On any given afternoon, at least a dozen volunteers, all refugees like himself, help Hampay dole out food and supplies. Recently, they had prepared two dozen bags, though the number varies day by day — they try to give out food every night, but don’t always have the money.
Securing consistent funding for the bags has been difficult. Hampay isn’t running a formal nonprofit, at least not yet — he’s hired a lawyer and begun the process of registering the community center as a nongovernmental organization, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, everything has stalled.
Instead, Hampay gets funds for what he’s doing in more informal ways — by word of mouth and social media. He has PayPal linked to his
Arash Hampay shows his Instagram account where he makes announcements about pickup times for “hope bags” in Athens, Greece. It’s his way to help in the fight against the coronavirus — bringing much-needed supplies and food to refugees and the homeless.
Fahrinisa Campana/The World
This week, he put a call out for help covering the community center’s rent and utility bills, which are still due even though the place is closed under the lockdown restrictions. Hampay needs to raise nearly 1,500 euros ($1,622) to keep the community center running. He also needs help paying for the hope bags, which cost a little over 9 euros, or $10 apiece to put together.
“They can send it to our PayPal, but I will show you our PayPal — 9 euros, 3 euros, 2 euros.”
Arash Hampay, community acvitist and volunteer, Athens, Greece
“They can send it to our PayPal, but I will show you our PayPal — 9 euros, 3 euros, 2 euros,” he said with a laugh. Two euros is worth about $2.
Still, he usually has enough money to put some cooking oil, rice, pasta and fresh vegetables in the bags. “When we have good money, we put also sometimes meat and more things.”
Though this month will be tight, Hampay remains upbeat.
He hummed as he placed the bright, pink bags in a line outside the door of the community center. Most people who receive the bags know what time to arrive for pickup, but for newcomers to Athens, he spreads the word with short videos on Instagram.
Arash Hampay, who is an Iranian refugee, is trying to bring food and supplies to other refugees and the homeless in Athens, Greece.
Fahrinisa Campana/The World
As a recognized refugee who doesn’t live in one of the many refugee camps spread across Greece, Hampay has an unusual amount of freedom. But he knows many others aren’t as fortunate.
Sohaila Shojayie is a 15-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan who lives with her family in a tent in the Moria refugee camp. Roughly 20,000 people are crammed into the camp that was built to hold under 3,000.
“Moria itself is a virus for asylum-seekers. There’s no soap, nothing,” she said over WhatsApp. Like everyone, Shojayie is worried about the coronavirus and the potential for a massive outbreak in the camp.
“So, some of us Afghan girls and women, we started working hard making masks for our people, for the asylum-seekers. We want to avoid getting coronavirus at Moria camp.”
Sohaila Shojayie, 15-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan
“So, some of us Afghan girls and women, we started working hard making masks for our people, for the asylum-seekers. We want to avoid getting coronavirus at Moria camp,” she said.
Shojayie and her peers are producing more than 6,000 masks a day, which they’re able to do with the support of an NGO called Team Humanity. The NGO has been arranging weekly deliveries of mask-making materials — including professional-grade, polypropylene nonwoven fabric.
says the mask-making team can supply each camp resident with two masks every three or four days.
“We’re distributing them in the camp with two pieces of soap to each person,” he said. “They’re reusable, and people can wash it. We [give] them also a flyer where it says in four languages how to wash their hands, how to boil the mask — you can boil it in water if you cannot wash it — and you need to do it two times in a day.”
So far, Moria camp has managed to avoid an outbreak of the coronavirus. Shojayie hopes that she and the other volunteers will be able to keep it that way.
“The refugees are happy and appreciate us,” Shojayie said. “They said that if they hadn’t gotten these masks from us, then where would they be able to get them from?”
Recently, Greek authorities have stepped up actions to protect some refugees. Over the weekend of April 18, when most Greeks were celebrating Greek Orthodox Easter in their homes, the government
They’re also promising to relocate people who are especially vulnerable to hotels on the mainland. The plan has hit a snag, however, over concerns of spreading the virus. The move will now likely take place on April 25 and with a smaller number than the 2,000 originally announced.
For at least some refugees stuck in the camps, they often have to turn to each other to try to fill whatever gaps they can.
“Here we are taking care of each other,” Shojayie said.
Reuters contributed to this report.