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

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

By
The World staff

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

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Hussein Malla/AP

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

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

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

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

What The World is following

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Ted S. Warren/AP

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

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

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

Credit:

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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

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

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

Bright spot

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

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

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

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

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Karim Sokhn/Instagram/Ksokhn/Thebikekitchenbeirut/via Reuters

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

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

Lebanese confront devastation after massive Beirut explosion

Lebanese confront devastation after massive Beirut explosion

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

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Bilal Hussein/AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam/AP

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

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

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

By
Rebecca Kanthor

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

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

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

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

Bohan Phoenix, Chinese American rapper

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

    View this post on Instagram         

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

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

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

Related: Family of detained Chinese activist calls for his release

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

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

Bohan Phoenix, Chinese American rapper

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

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

    View this post on Instagram         

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Related: Farmers become social media stars on Chinese TikTok

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

Rita Fan, hip-hop writer

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

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

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

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

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

Bohan Phoenix, Chinese American rapper

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

Related: Racism against African Americans in China escalates amid coronavirus

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

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

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

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

    View this post on Instagram         

no worries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rita Fan, hip-hop writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can artificial crowd noise match the thrill of packed stadiums?

Can artificial crowd noise match the thrill of packed stadiums?

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

By
Bianca Hillier

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

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Ted S. Warren/AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Tom Caron (@TomCaron) July 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvin Naiker, head of content production, SuperSport International 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— FoxNashville (@FOXNashville) July 31, 2020

Screenshot from the app MyApplause

Credit:

Screenshot from the app MyApplause

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

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

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

(Read: Brits like to trash talk.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By
Jorge Valencia

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

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Rebecca Blackwell/AP

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

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

Updated:

August 04, 2020 · 2:30 PM EDT

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

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

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

By
The World staff

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

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

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

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

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Rupa Shenoy

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

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

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

Caroline Ding, daughter of Ding Jiaxi 

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

Related: China orders US to close its Chengdu consulate

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

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

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

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

Related: US orders China to close its consulate in Houston

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

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

Caroline Ding remembers it, too.

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

Caroline Ding, daughter of Ding Jiaxi 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie Luo, wife of Ding Jiaxi 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halima Gikandi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the coronavirus completely upended that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Mass arrests in Zimbabwe over coronavirus regulation violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But drivers like Mugasa have their reservations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A coronavirus outbreak threatens Catalonia’s vital tourism industry

A coronavirus outbreak threatens Catalonia’s vital tourism industry

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

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Lucía Benavides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: This Spanish trio makes socially conscious music under lockdown

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

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Emilio Morenatti/file/AP 

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

“I feel bad because I realize this is probably what generates the most amount of money,” she said. “But, in this situation, the government should have waited longer to reopen [nightclubs]. That’s likely what has caused an increase in cases.” 

Arévalo’s job wasn’t affected by the pandemic — she works in the cleaning department at a small air traffic control center in a city just outside Barcelona. But she is aware of the government’s financial support for laid-off workers and says it isn’t enough. She wants lawmakers to create more jobs — especially ones that are not tourism-dependent. 

“It’s all connected,” Arévalo said. “Those who aren’t working can’t go on vacation, because they’re holding back, so they aren’t spending. I don’t know how we’ll make it to October or November, much less to Christmas. Right now, there’s economic movement because people are living off of their savings, but later on, I think we’ll be worse off than now.”

Notre Dame Cathedral’s organ getting 4-year-long cleaning

Notre Dame Cathedral's organ getting 4-year-long cleaning

Philippe Lefebvre plays the organ at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, May 2, 2013. Pipe by precious pipe, the organ that once thundered through fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral is being taken apart. The mammoth task of dismantling, cleaning and re-assembling France’s largest musical instrument started Monday Aug. 3, 2020 and is expected to last nearly four years.

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Christophe Ena/AP/File photo

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New ICARUS tracking system helps scientists unlock mysteries of migration

New ICARUS tracking system helps scientists unlock mysteries of migration

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

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Adam Wernick

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

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NASA

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

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

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

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

A long-tailed jaeger after release.

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Neil Paprocki/The World 

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

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

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

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

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

RelatedSpring’s uncertain arrival poses problems for migrating birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RelatedNew Interior ruling threatens to undo protections of migratory birds

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

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

RelatedAs the climate changes, migratory birds are losing their way

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

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

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

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

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

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

By
The World staff

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

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Rahmat Gul/AP

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

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

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

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Jorge Valencia

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

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

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

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

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

“Quitting would be a betrayal.”

Patricia Arce, mayor of Vinto

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

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

Related: Is Evo Morales leading Bolivia toward dictatorship?

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

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

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

Related: Bolivia sees backlash against conservative leader

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

“What happened is horrific,” Becker said. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

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

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

Pilgrims keep social distancing during the hajj.

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

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

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

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

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

Credit:

Courtesy of Bigitec Studios

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

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

Pilgrim attend the hajj at the Grand Mosque.

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

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

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

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Saudi Media Ministry via AP

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

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

By Aya Batrawy/AP

Major environmental groups join Facebook ad boycott to protest climate misinformation

Major environmental groups join Facebook ad boycott to protest climate misinformation

Writer
Adam Wernick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RelatedAnalysis: Facebook is undermining democracy

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

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

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

After this segment aired, Facebook provided the following statement:

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

The long-lasting scars of Japanese American internment

The long-lasting scars of Japanese American internment

By
Sam Ratner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The World staff

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

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

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

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

By
Teresa Lawlor

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

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

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

Related: WHO releases new guidelines, sends team to China

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

Michele Gelfand, professor, University of Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

These cultural differences can be viewed on a spectrum.

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

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

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

Michele Gelfand, professor, University of Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

Michele Gelfand, professor, University of Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By
The World staff

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:

The World 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nate Schenkkanm, Freedom House

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

Whisked to the border

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

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

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

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

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

Bulgarian courts denied an extradition request from Turkey for Buyuk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pushed back to Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

Journalist, unnamed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit:

The World 

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

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

Mass fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engin Sag

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

Erdoğan’s hit list

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

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

 

Credit:

Courtesy of the Guven family.

They immediately decided to leave Greece.

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

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

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

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

‘Social genocide’

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

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

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

Hüseyin Demir, Refugees Support Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle of the bums: Museums compete over best artistic behinds

Battle of the bums: Museums compete over best artistic behinds

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

By
Lucy Martirosyan

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

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

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

One of their latest challenges is #BestMuseumBum.

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

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

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

IT’S TIME FOR #CURATORBATTLE!💥

Today’s theme is #BestMuseumBum!

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

BEAT THAT!💥 pic.twitter.com/N3A6KYz339

— Yorkshire Museum (@YorkshireMuseum) June 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Small, social media curator

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

Related: Farmers become social media stars on Chinese TikTok 

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

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

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

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

We have some news! 💥

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

BUT THIS ISN’T THE END!

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

— Yorkshire Museum (@YorkshireMuseum) July 21, 2020

 

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

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

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

By
Michael Fox

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

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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters 

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Conflict researchers on the COVID-19 era

Conflict researchers on the COVID-19 era

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

By
Sam Ratner

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

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Toby Melville/Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By
The World staff

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

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Hannah McKay/Reuters

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

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

By
The World staff

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

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Francois Walschaerts/Pool via Reuters

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

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

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

What The World is following

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

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

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

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

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Justice For Christopher Kapessa Facebook page 

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

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

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

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Courtesy of Ysabel Turner

 

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

Morning memeMorning meme

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

    View this post on Instagram         

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

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

In case you missed itListen: Returning home after joining ISIS

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

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Abed Kontar/Reuters

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

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

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

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

Writer
Adam Wernick

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

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m.shattock/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RelatedFlowers give off electrical signals to bees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RelatedWhy dying bees may cause a public health problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US toughens its stance against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

US toughens its stance against Chinese aggression in South China Sea

By
The World staff

Producer
Daniel Ofman

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

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Andrew Harnik/Reuters 

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

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

Related: China announces sanctions targeting Rubio, Cruz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By
María Elena Romero

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

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Banksy / Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

    View this post on Instagram         

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuters contributed to this story.

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

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

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

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Tingshu Wang/Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Danica Kirka/AP

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

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

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the Associated Press