Archives

now browsing by author

 

How the Vietnam War pushed MLK to embrace global justice, not only civil rights at home

“MuiTypography-root-135 MuiTypography-h1-140″>How the Vietnam War pushed MLK to embrace global justice, not only civil rights at home

MLK’s vision for nonviolence included abolishing what he called triple evils — racism, poverty and militarism.

The ConversationJanuary 17, 2022 · 1:45 PM EST

President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, Jan. 18, 1964. 

AP 

On July 2, 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. stood behind President Lyndon Baines Johnson as the Texan signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although not the first civil rights bill passed by Congress, it was the most comprehensive.

King called the law’s passage “a great moment … something like the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.” Johnson recognized King’s contributions to the law by gifting him a pen used to sign the historic legislation.

A year later, as Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, King again joined the president for the occasion.

But by the start of 1967, the two most famous men in America were no longer on speaking terms. In fact, they would not meet again before King fell to an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968.

King was foremost a minister who pastored to a local church throughout his career, even while he was doing national civil rights work. And he became concerned that his political ally Johnson was making a grave moral mistake in Vietnam. Johnson quickly escalated American troops' presence in Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000 in 1965. And by 1968, more than half a million troops were stationed in the Southeast Asian nation.

As I write in my 2021 book “Nonviolence Before King,” the Baptist preacher had been on a “pilgrimage to nonviolence” for years. And by 1967, he was a radical apostle of Christian nonviolence.

King called on the United States to “be born again” and undergo a “radical revolution of values.” King believed that Jim Crow segregation and the war in Vietnam were rooted in the same unjust ethic of race-based domination, and he called on the nation to change its ways.

Speaking against the Vietnam War

King preached nonviolent direct action for years, and his team organized massive protest movements in the cities of Albany, Georgia, and Selma and Birmingham in Alabama. But by 1967, King’s religious vision for nonviolence went beyond nonviolent street protest to include abolishing what he called the “triple evils” crippling American society. King defined the triple evils as racism, poverty and militarism, and he believed these forces were contrary to God’s will for all people.

He came to believe, as he said in 1967, that racism, economic exploitation and war were crippling America’s ability to create a “beloved community” defined by love and nonviolence. And on April 4, 1967, he publicly rebuked the president’s war policy in Vietnam at Riverside Presbyterian Church in New York City in a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam.”

“I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam,” he told those gathered in the majestic cathedral. “I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam.”

King was initially optimistic that Johnson’s Great Society program, which aimed to make historic investments in job growth, job training and economic development, would tackle domestic poverty. But by 1967 the Great Society appeared to be a casualty of the mounting costs of the war in Vietnam. “I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such,” King said in his speech.

King saw the grinding poverty facing Black people at home as inseparable from the war overseas. As he noted, “If our nation can spend 35 billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and 20 billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth.”

King could no longer ignore that military force ran contrary to the nonviolence he espoused. As urban revolts in Watts and Newark in the late 1960s rocked the nation, he pleaded with people to remain nonviolent.

“But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam?” King said in the same 1967 speech. “They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

Martin Luther King Jr. leads the march against the Vietnam conflict in a parade on State Street in Chicago on March 25, 1967. 

Credit:

AP Photo

King’s vision

By 1967, King’s vision of justice was one of flourishing for all people, not only civil rights for African Americans. King was criticized for expanding his vision beyond civil rights for Black Americans. Some worried that aligning with the peace movement would weaken the civil rights movement. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People even issued a statement clearly opposing what it saw as a merging of the civil rights and peace movements.

But in his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, King called “for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation … an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.” Such unconditional love is “the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality,” and he noted that this unifying principle was present in Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.

King was always first a religious leader. He never sought nor gained elected office, because he wanted to maintain a moral voice and be free to challenge policies he believed to be unjust.

But the cost for King’s speaking out was high: By the time of his assassination, King’s national approval rating was at an all-time low.

He was not a morally perfect man. Declassified files show how the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover tried to target King over his extramarital affairs. Hoover used a wiretap to tape King having sex with other women and sent those to his wife, Coretta Scott King, with a letter indicating King should kill himself because of his moral transgressions.

Honoring King

For those seeking to honor King’s legacy today, his religious nonviolence is demanding. It asks that people go beyond acts of service and charity — as important as those are — to both speak and act against violence and racism as well as to organize to end those pernicious forces.

It is a radical concept of love that demands we embrace those we know and those we don’t, to acknowledge, as King said, “that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the challenge may be to decipher the meaning of this idea in action for our own lives. The future of what King called the beloved community depends on it – a world at peace because justice is present.

Anthony Siracusa is senior director of inclusive culture and initiatives at the University of Colorado Boulder. This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good.

Flights sent to assess Tonga damage after volcanic eruption

“MuiTypography-root-230 MuiTypography-h1-235″>Flights sent to assess Tonga damage after volcanic eruptionAssociated PressJanuary 17, 2022 · 10:15 AM EST

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga, Jan. 15, 2022.

Japan Meteorology Agency via AP

New Zealand and Australia were able to send military surveillance flights to Tonga on Monday to assess the damage a huge undersea volcanic eruption left on the Pacific island nation.

A towering ash cloud since Saturday's eruption had prevented earlier flights. New Zealand hopes to send essential supplies, including much-needed drinking water, on a military transport plane Tuesday.

No casualties have been confirmed on Tonga, although a British woman was reported missing.

Communications with Tonga remained extremely limited. The company that owns the single underwater fiber-optic cable that connects the island nation to the rest of the world said it likely was severed in the eruption and repairs could take weeks.

The loss of the cable leaves most Tongans unable to use the internet or make phone calls abroad. Those that have managed to get messages out described their country as looking like a moonscape as they began cleaning up from the tsunami waves and volcanic ash fall.

Tsunami waves of about 2.7 feet crashed into Tonga's shoreline, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described damage to boats and shops on Tonga's shoreline. The waves crossed the Pacific, drowning two people in Peru and causing minor damage from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.

Scientists said they didn’t think the eruption would have a significant impact on the Earth’s climate.

Huge volcanic eruptions can sometimes cause temporary global cooling as sulfur dioxide is pumped into the stratosphere. But in the case of the Tonga eruption, initial satellite measurements indicated the amount of sulfur dioxide released would only have a tiny effect of perhaps 0.02 degrees Fahrenheit global average cooling, said Alan Robock, a professor at Rutgers University.

Satellite images showed the spectacular undersea eruption Saturday evening, with a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a giant mushroom above the South Pacific waters.

A sonic boom could be heard as far away as Alaska and sent pressure shockwaves around the planet twice, altering atmospheric pressure that may have briefly helped clear out the fog in Seattle, according to the National Weather Service. Large waves were detected as far away as the Caribbean due to pressure changes generated by the eruption.

Samiuela Fonua, who chairs the board at Tonga Cable Ltd. which owns the single cable that connects Tonga to the outside world via Fiji, said the cable appeared to have been severed about 10 to 15 minutes after the eruption. He said the cable lies atop and within coral reef, which can be sharp.

Fonua said a ship would need to pull up the cable to assess the damage and then crews would need to fix it. A single break might take a week to repair, he said, while multiple breaks could take up to three weeks. He added that it was unclear yet when it would be safe for a ship to venture near the undersea volcano to undertake the work.

A second undersea cable that connects the islands within Tonga also appeared to have been severed, Fonua said. However, a local phone network was working, allowing Tongans to call each other. But he said the lingering ash cloud was continuing to make even satellite phone calls abroad difficult.

He said Tonga, home to 105,000 people, had been in discussions with New Zealand about getting a second international fiber-optic cable to ensure a more robust network but the nation's isolated location made any long-term solution difficult.

The cable also broke three years ago, possibly due to a ship dragging an anchor. At first Tongans had no access to the internet but then some limited access was restored using satellites until the cable was repaired.

Ardern said the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in a thick film of volcanic dust, contaminating water supplies and making fresh water a vital need.

Aid agencies said thick ash and smoke had prompted authorities to ask people to wear masks and drink bottled water.

In a video posted on Facebook, Nightingale Filihia was sheltering at her family's home from a rain of volcanic ash and tiny pieces of rock that turned the sky pitch black.

“It’s really bad. They told us to stay indoors and cover our doors and windows because it’s dangerous,” she said. “I felt sorry for the people. Everyone just froze when the explosion happened. We rushed home.” Outside the house, people were seen carrying umbrellas for protection.

One complicating factor to any international aid effort is that Tonga has so far managed to avoid any outbreaks of COVID-19. Ardern said New Zealand's military staff were all fully vaccinated and willing to follow any protocols established by Tonga.

Dave Snider, the tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said it was very unusual for a volcanic eruption to affect an entire ocean basin, and the spectacle was both “humbling and scary.”

The US Geological Survey estimated the eruption caused the equivalent of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Scientists said tsunamis generated by volcanoes rather than earthquakes are relatively rare.

Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, who chairs the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, said she hoped the relatively low level of the tsunami waves would have allowed most people to get to safety, although she worried about those living on islands closest to the volcano.

“We are praying that the damage is just to infrastructure and people were able to get to higher land,” she said.

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano, about 40 miles north of Nuku’alofa, was the latest in a series of dramatic eruptions. In late 2014 and early 2015, eruptions created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Earth imaging company Planet Labs PBC had watched the island in recent days after a new volcanic vent began erupting in late December. Satellite images showed how drastically the volcano had shaped the area, creating a growing island off Tonga.

By Associated Press writer Nick Perry. Journalists Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland, and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

Massive sinkholes appear in farmers’ fields in central Turkey due to climate change and drought

“MuiTypography-root-135 MuiTypography-h1-140″>Massive sinkholes appear in farmers’ fields in central Turkey due to climate change and drought

The recent uptick in sinkholes is largely attributed to rapid groundwater loss as farmers tap deep underground wells to irrigate fields during a nearly three-yearlong drought. 

The WorldJanuary 14, 2022 · 4:45 PM EST

A massive sinkhole in central Turkey is attributed to a three-year drought and climate change. 

Durrie Bouscaren/The World 

A few weeks ago, in a cornfield just outside Cafer Ata’s house, the earth opened up. A round, sharp-edged sinkhole, about 10-feet deep, now stands in the ground as if cut by a knife. 

Ata, a sheepherder, shakes his head incredulously. Although sinkholes have randomly appeared in central Turkey’s agrarian breadbasket in the past, they’ve started to show up with alarming frequency.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said in Turkish. “It’s bad. God have mercy.” 

Sinkholes are a global geological phenomenon with many causes, but the recent uptick in Turkey’s central Konya region is largely attributed to rapid groundwater loss as farmers tap deep underground wells to irrigate fields amid a nearly three-yearlong drought. 

Related: Drought in Iraq and Syria could totally collapse food system for millions, aid groups warn

Researchers have cataloged more than 2,200 sinkholes in the area — more than 700 of which are deeper than 3 feet. The largest are hundreds of feet deep. 

Cafer Ata stands beside a new sinkhole that opened up recently in a neighbor’s field.

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

Back at Cafer Ata’s home, his wife Atiye Ata serves cups of strong, sweet tea. 

Cafer Ata said he knows of at least one neighbor who fell into a sinkhole. It took two days to get him out. Sheepherders now must keep a mental map of each sinkhole, so their animals don’t fall in while they’re grazing in open fields. 

Atiye Ata said that the past three years have been so dry that it’s hard to find green pastures at all. 

“We keep buying hay from the market,” Atiye Ata said. 

Every year, they sell some of their flock to buy animal feed, reducing their profits. It’s not a long-term fix. 

“We can go hungry, but we won’t let our animals go hungry,” Cafer Ata said. 

Cafer Ata and his wife, Atiye, at their home in a village near the town of Karapinar. The couple herds sheep for a living, and say they have to keep a mental map of where the sinkholes are to keep their flock safe while grazing in open pastures.

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

The winter landscape surrounding the the Atas' home is a mix of dry, parched browns and swaths of deep emerald green, framed by distant mountains. 

Just off the road in front of the village, a fenced-off sinkhole measures about 3-feet deep. 

The area historically grew much of Turkey’s wheat, but farmers later shifted to more water-intensive crops like sugar beets and corn. 

Those who can afford it install underground water pumps to irrigate their fields, but the area’s groundwater is limited. Every year, particularly in times of drought, they find themselves drilling further to reach the water. In doing so, they prime the ground above for a looming collapse. 

Related: ‘The sea is throwing up’: Turkey’s record sea snot outbreak signals severe underwater pollution

“In the Konya Basin, there are 35,000 registered, legal pumps that pull up groundwater for irrigation. There are three times as many illegal, unregistered ones."

Fetullah Arık, geologist and director, Sinkhole Application Research Center, Konya Technical University, Turkey

“In the Konya Basin, there are 35,000 registered, legal pumps that pull up groundwater for irrigation. There are three times as many illegal, unregistered ones,” said Fetullah Arık, a geologist and director of the Sinkhole Application Research Center at Konya Technical University. 

The annual change in the groundwater table was once between 3 feet to 7 feet a year. Last year, Arık saw that in the northern part of the basin, there was a 65-foot drop.  

“This means that the groundwater is practically running out,” Arık said. 

In an open field surrounded by industrial parks, Arık pointed out various types of sinkholes across the ground. The tiniest could easily be mistaken for an animal’s burrow. Others are modest and rounded, from the size of a watermelon to one that could fit a large bathtub. Some sinkholes appear suddenly — others start small and grow slowly. 

Related: Seed keepers in Turkey revive old farming methods to confront new climate threats

Learning to predict sinkholes

Arık and his team are developing ways to predict where sinkholes will appear, using ground-penetrating radar and soil samples. Some sinkholes grow along underground fault lines that can be measured and studied. 

“We can also tell in residential areas: If there are tiny cracks on door frames or the garden stairs, it can be an indicator of sinkhole changes. This way, we can mostly predict where they will appear,” Arık said. 

By developing risk maps and cataloging their findings, Arık is trying to make the case to business owners and government representatives that sinkholes aren’t just a threat to farmers. 

One field, for example, is a former marsh, drained to make way for factories. Each one could have structural problems if a sinkhole appeared beneath it. No confirmed fatalities related to sinkholes have yet been reported, but property damage is an issue. 

“Even if there’s a small sinkhole in a field, it’s really difficult to find anyone to work there, or to find agricultural machinery to work there. They’re afraid that something could happen,” Arık said. “It’s a significant economic loss.” 

Longer droughts, higher temps 

The problem seems to be mounting. 

Climate change predictions for central Turkey include longer droughts and higher temperatures. Last year, Turkey’s wheat production fell by 14%, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. Even red lentils had to be imported, after a 30% loss. 

Still, farmers in the Konya area insist that they must pump water from wells in the ground. 

In a village outside the town of Karapinar, an area with one of the highest concentrations of sinkholes, dairy farmer Mustafa Baldanoğlu said that in his childhood, the town would get plenty of rain. 

But today, after almost three years of drought, they rely on the wells to grow animal feed.  

“We used to draw water from 20 meters down. Now, it’s from 55 [meters] to 60 meters below,” Baldanoğlu said. 

Mustafa Baldanoğlu takes a break from operating a tractor at his family’s dairy farm. In his childhood, the town would get plenty of rain, he said. But today, after almost three years of drought, they rely on the wells to grow animal feed.  “There’s no alternative,” he says.

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World

Sinkholes appear in the village with relative frequency, but neighbors say most are small enough to be repaired. 

Baldanoğlu supposed that water could be piped in from the neighboring towns, but that would also have to come from groundwater. 

“There’s no alternative,” Baldanoğlu said.

Seemingly small shifts in global temperatures have huge consequences for the planet

“MuiTypography-root-135 MuiTypography-h1-140″>Seemingly small shifts in global temperatures have huge consequences for the planet

The year 2021 was once again one of the hottest on record. And what may seem like a slight temperature increase has actually caused devastating effects across the globe, with natural disasters becoming stronger and deadlier.

The WorldJanuary 14, 2022 · 3:15 PM EST

Dead trees stand on the beach and in the ocean at "The Boneyard," created by beach erosion and fierce storms, in Hunting Island State Park on Hunting Island, South Carolina, in the United States, Oct. 30, 2021.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP/File photo

Last year was once again recorded as one of the hottest on record.

NASA said that 2021 tied for the sixth-hottest year yet. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it owns the title outright.

And six different analyses have found that 2021 was between the fifth- and sixth-hottest on record, even though it was a La Niña year, which generally brings a cooling effect.

“The last eight years are the eight warmest years on record,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

As the climate continues to warm, not every year will set a new record, he said, but “the temperature trends continue to rise and, in fact, accelerate, and so this really is just another continuation of the long-term trajectory of the climate.”

The average global temperature is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1800s.

Though this may not have created a noticeable effect on day-to-day activities, this seemingly incremental shift comes with devastating repercussions across the planet.

Arctic sea ice is declining, sea levels are rising, wildfires and heat waves are getting worse and hurricanes are becoming more intense.

Related: Norway has one of the world's most ambitious climate change targets. But it's also a major oil producer and exporter.

Last year, a series of floods inundated cities in parts of China to Germany. Intense hurricanes and cyclones caused destruction, from Ida in the Atlantic Ocean to Tauktae in the Arabian Sea. And heat waves smothered communities from Canada’s British Columbia to parts of Russia. Argentina is currently experiencing a historic heat wave, which recently shut down the electrical grid in the capital Buenos Aires.

Part of a larger problem

A slight increase in global temperatures is just part of a larger problem.

“What we have is an energy imbalance. So, there is more energy coming into the system than is leaving.”

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

“What we have is an energy imbalance,” NASA’s Schmidt said. “So, there is more energy coming into the system than is leaving.”

Greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels end up trapping some of the sun’s energy on Earth each day, instead of letting it escape back into space.

And it’s a lotof trapped energy.

The amount of excess energy on Earth due to climate change was some 28 times more in 2021 than all the energy humans use each year, Schmidt said, for everything from driving our cars to flying our planes to heating and cooling every building on Earth.

“That’s a big number,” Schmidt said.

Related: Why COP26 is the ‘last, best hope’ for fighting climate change

Most of that extra energy is not going to warm up the Earth’s average surface temperature even though that’s the figure global climate change targets focus on.

“More than 90% — to be exact, 93% — of the additional heat due to global warming is going into the oceans,” saidRoxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in the city of Pune.

“And that is equivalent to five to six Hiroshima atom bombs per second — per second — that much energy [is what] the oceans are absorbing.”

A separate study released this past week found that 2021 was, in fact, the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans. And all that extra energy is being linked to the extreme weather that we’re seeing around the world.

As an example, Koll points to Cyclone Tauktea, which made landfall in Gujarat, India, last May, with wind speeds of 100 miles per hour. It killed some 174 people.

The storm formed in the Arabian Sea, which used to be the cooler, quieter cousin to the Bay of Bengal, but rising ocean temperatures have changed that.

As ocean temperatures heat up, Koll explained, more water at the surface evaporates. This warm, moist air acts as fuel for hurricanes. When it rises and cools, it condenses into clouds that can be whipped up into storm systems.

Around the world, as more water evaporates from hotter oceans, the warmed-up air can then hold more of that moisture. That, in turn, sets the stage for another symptom of climate change: heavier downpours.

“The warmer the ocean, the more intense these kinds of convective activities [become].”

Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune

“The warmer the ocean, the more intense these kinds of convective activities [become],” Koll said. “The more supply of moisture, more supply of heat into the atmosphere, and there we get more intense cyclones or more intense cloud systems, which can provide a lot of intense rainfall.”

Xuebin Zhang, senior research scientist with Canada’s national environment agency, said, “With warming, the amount of moisture contained in the air has increased quite a bit.”

“It's roughly about [a] 7% increase per 1 degree [Celsius] warming.”

Related: COP26 made incremental progress but failed to deliver on ‘transformational’ change, negotiators say

Catastrophic results

The human cost of these storms can be catastrophic.

The heavy rains in China’s central Hunan province last July triggered floods that led to 24 deaths, destroyed roughly 21,300 homes and damaged more than 1.5 million acres of farmland, according to official state media.

Zhang said it’s likely that climate change was partly to blame for that flooding. Eight inches of rain fell in a single hour.

“As a result, streets were full of water because the drainage system was not designed to drain so much water,” Zhang said.

And even though a warmer surface temperature is just one small symptom of the climate problem, it can wreak quite a lot of havoc.

Europe and the continental US saw their hottest summers ever in 2021, according to US and EU science agencies.

Canada broke its own high temperature record three days in a row, and nearly 600 people died in British Columbia due to the “heat dome” that settled over the region in June and July.

Related: Who will pay for ‘losses and damages’ caused by climate change? Developing countries make their case at COP26.

David Phillips, senior climatologist at Canada’s national environment agency, said in June that the heat in British Columbia was “unprecedented.”

“Historically we’ve never seen this before,” he told PBS. “It's like a different world for us here.”

Scientists who analyzed this summer’s North American heat wave said it would have been nearly impossible without all the extra energy that was trapped on Earth due to climate change.

“The amount of climate change that we’ve had has made this event 150 times more likely than it would have been in the past,” said Faron Anslow, a climatologist with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium in British Columbia. “In the late 1800s, an event like this would have been a one-in-150,000 year event.”

Now it’s only a one-in-1,000-year event.

And sometime in the not-to-distant future, it could even happen once every five or 10 years.

Health care workers in the Philippines reject new COVID-19 rules as ‘inhumane’

“MuiTypography-root-135 MuiTypography-h1-140″>Health care workers in the Philippines reject new COVID-19 rules as 'inhumane'

Many front-line workers and organizations immediately condemned the new rules, calling them “not safe, not fair” and not a solution to the “chronic and accurate problem of understaffing.”

The WorldJanuary 14, 2022 · 3:00 PM EST

Medical Technologist Erika Alvarado performs a COVID-19 test on a patient who just delivered a baby outside a hospital in Manila, Philippines, on Dec. 24, 2021.

Aaron Favila/AP

New guidance that shortens the isolation period for health care workers in the Philippines who catch COVID-19 has drawn the ire of many doctors and nurses across the country who say the reason for the change is not scientifically sound.

On Jan. 6, the Inter-Agency Task Force, the group in charge of the Philippines’ pandemic response, released new rules stating that fully vaccinated, front-line workers who test positive for the virus only have to isolate themselves for five days before returning to work. The previous rules gave a 10-day timeline.

“There is evidence, really, that fully vaccinated individuals, and especially those with boosters, have lower viral load than those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.” 

Maria Rosario Vergeire, Philippines Department of Health undersecretary

“There is evidence, really, that fully vaccinated individuals, and especially those with boosters, have lower viral load than those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated,” the Philippines Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told news network ANC earlier this week.

Related: Inclusion, walkability will be key to rebuilding cities after the pandemic

Still, many front-line workers and organizations immediately condemned the new rules, calling them “not safe, not fair” and not a solution to the "chronic and accurate problem of understaffing."

If this all sounds familiar, particularly for an American audience, it should.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the same guidance for US health care workers just last month, with CDC head Rochelle Walensky pushing the same rationale in interviews with the media.

“So, having that as evidence, we have adopted the CDC guidelines,” Vergeire told ANC, noting that individual hospitals can decide if they want to implement them. She said the need to bolster the Philippine health care workforce, which has seen more and more people become infected with COVID-19, prompted the policy shift.

Philippine General Hospital in Manila, the country’s leading COVID-19 hospital, soon waded further into the controversy by announcing that they would allow vaccinated workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to come into work — as long as they are asymptomatic.

Related: Uganda's schools reopen, ending world's longest lockdown

PGH Dr. Jonas del Rosario told CNN Philippines that those workers wouldn’t pose a risk to patients and colleagues.

“When we ask them to go back to work, they’re also wearing the proper PPE [personal protective equipment],” he said.

They’ll also expect workers to monitor themselves and if they start feeling symptoms, they’ll be pulled out of work and tested, Rosario said — and if that test comes back positive, they’ll be sent home.

Neither the Department of Health nor the task force coordinating pandemic response immediately responded to The World’s requests for comment. 

Overworked, understaffed

The new guidance comes at a time when coronavirus cases are surging in the Philippines, slamming short-staffed medical centers and overwhelming overworked doctors and nurses who report low morale and widespread frustration.

This past week, the country not only breached 3 million total cases, it also broke its own daily record for new cases for the entire pandemic four times.

Nurse Cristy Donguines said that she and her staff at Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center are exhausted heading into the junior year of the pandemic.

“We are overwhelmed, it’s very, very difficult and very, very tragic for us,” Donguines said.

Related: India postpones in-school learning as omicron surges 

“Even though we are not a COVID-referral hospital, we are still catering to COVID patients,” she said. “But the problem is we cannot handle it anymore because we are super, super understaffed.”

The nurse of over 22 years said it’s not unusual to work 16 hours one day and then 12 hours the next.

Still, her union of government and private health care workers, the Alliance of Health Care Workers, condemns the rule change.

“We [do not] agree on this kind of very inhumane department order. It is an anti-health care worker guideline.”

Cristy Donguines, Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, nurse

“We [do not] agree on this kind of very inhumane department order,” Donguines said. “It is an anti-health care worker guideline.”

Dr. Joshua San Pedro, a community physician in Metro Manila and with the Coalition for People’s Right to Health, also opposes the policy shift.

“It’s concerning that you might be going back to work infected,” he said, pointing out that front-line workers in the US have also pushed back on the issue that there’s been no solid evidence that people are less contagious after five days of infection.

Related: Brazil heads into latest COVID surge amid public health information blackout

San Pedro said that these new rules, along with the perpetual issues facing Philippine health care workers like PPE shortages, low pay and meager benefits, really have the country’s health care workers feeling dejected.

“And the concern that nothing is really changing wave after wave, surge after surge and that the work is just getting harder and harder,” he said. 

Inclusion, walkability will be key to rebuilding cities after the pandemic

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Inclusion, walkability will be key to rebuilding cities after the pandemic

Income, accessibility, the presence of green space and the availability of amenities are neighborhood features that affect how COVID-19 has spread through cities.

The ConversationJanuary 13, 2022 · 3:45 PM EST

Developing mixed use and mixed income neighborhoods will help cities recover after the pandemic. 

Shutterstock

Cities emerged as the epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic: roughly 90% of COVID-19 infections worldwide were reported in urban settings. And poor urban neighbourhoods were hit especially hard.

Researchers frequently attributed the vulnerability of cities to high population density, overcrowding and poor air circulation. The vulnerability of cities during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to create sustainable cities that promote health.

To address the pandemic, municipal governments around the world have changed their approaches to urban planning.Less density, more diversity

As sociologists interested in urban settings, we examined how the physical environment of neighbourhoods shaped the spread of COVID-19 in Toronto. Our findings suggest a few things cities should keep in mind as they rebuild following the pandemic.

First, we should create more walkable neighborhoods. COVID-19 spread at a much slower pace in highly walkable neighborhoods. Residents in these neighbourhoods can travel shorter distances on wider and better maintained sidewalks, which may reduce their exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Higher population density increased the spread of COVID-19 in low-income neighbourhoods, but lowered the infection rate in more affluent neighbourhoods. 

Credit:

(Shutterstock)

Second, we should reduce the number of overcrowded households. Soaring real estate prices have forced many socio-economically disadvantaged families into overcrowded housing. Space constraints in these housing units may make it more difficult for residents to practice adequate physical distancing. It may have also deprived them of the space necessary to isolate if they contracted the virus. These factors may have increased their risk of contracting COVID-19. Increasing the supply of affordable housing may hold the key to reducing the urban poor’s vulnerability to infectious diseases.

Third, we should increase the number of mixed-income housing units and better integrate our neighborhoods. COVID-19 spread much faster in lower-income neighborhoods. Housing affordability may have pushed out disadvantaged families from higher-income neighbourhoods and forced them to settle in lower-income areas with fewer amenities.

Displacement and higher density due to limited housing affordability may have increased the concentration of residents who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Residents of low-income neighborhoods are more likely than their peers in affluent neighbourhoods to live in close proximity to someone with a COVID-19 infection.

Tailored responses

Residents of low-income neighborhoods rely more on neighbourhood amenities than their peers in affluent neighborhoods because they have fewer personal resources at their disposal. And even when communities have the same amenities, those in lower-income neighborhoods are more likely to be poorly maintained. For example, lower-income neighborhoods may lack wide and well-maintained sidewalks.

They also have fewer health-promoting amenities, such as grocery stores with fresh produce or high quality health care facilities. Therefore, a neighborhood’s physical environment contributes to the spread of COVID-19 differently in lower and higher income neighborhoods.

Our study reveals that population density increased the spread of COVID-19 in low-income neighborhoods, but it lowered the infection rate in high-income neighbourhoods. In more affluent neighborhoods, even high-density apartment buildings come with amenities and protections — like better ventilation systems and additional staff to properly sanitize common areas — that similarly dense buildings in lower-income neighborhoods lack.

Similarly, green space mitigates the spread of COVID-19 in lower-income, but not higher-income, neighborhoods. Housing units in low-income neighbourhoods are likely smaller, overcrowded, less well-maintained and have poorer ventilation. Residents of low-income neighbourhoods may thus face greater difficulty adhering to stay-at-home policies. Large green spaces in such neighborhoods may provide a safe space where residents can get clean air and safely practice social distancing.

Building more urban green spaces will allow people to socialize safely. 

Credit:

(Shutterstock)

Furthermore, neighborhood walkability helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19 more in lower-income neighborhoods than in higher-income neighborhoods. This pattern likely emerges because residents of low-income neighborhoods are less likely than their counterparts in affluent neighborhoods to own cars. They are more likely to rely on public transportation for errands that cannot be completed on foot. For residents of low-income neighborhoods with poor walkability, running errands may require longer trips and making multiple transfers in the public transportation system.

After the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for us to build sustainable cities that promote health and reduce the vulnerability to infectious diseases among their residents. Future urban planning efforts should not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, they should tailor the rebuilding process to meet the diverse needs of residents of lower and higher income neighborhoods.

Specifically, rebuilding efforts should prioritize low-income neighborhoods and remedy their high population density, construct more green spaces and improve their walkability.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good. 

Mexican crooner converts heartbreak into joy — and music

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Mexican crooner converts heartbreak into joy — and music

At 24, Silvana Estrada has already established herself as one of Mexico’s most promising singer-songwriters. Her debut album, “Marchita,” or "Withered," tells the story of how she learned to take care of herself after her first big heartbreak — and find joy in everyday life.

The WorldJanuary 13, 2022 · 2:15 PM EST

Mexican singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada. 

Courtesy of Edwin Erazo

The singer Silvana Estrada likes to incorporate joy into her routines. 

She likes to take herself to the movies. She likes to go on walks through her leafy neighborhood in Mexico City. And recently, she’s enjoyed plowing through the catalogs of Latin American poets: Argentina’s Alejandra Pizarnik, Uruguay’s Idea Vilariño and the Mexican poetry anthology, “Sombra roja.” 

Related: Feminist tango collectives take center stage in Argentina

At 24, Estrada has already established herself as one of Mexico’s most promising singer-songwriters, mostly on hit singles that feature her commanding singing and delicate strumming of the four-stringed cuatro guitar. 

Related: Delgrès founder pays tribute to his family's Guadeloupean roots through music

Now, Estrada is preparing to release her debut album, “Marchita,” or "Withered," in which she tells the story of how she learned to take care of herself after her first big heartbreak — and how she learned to find joy in her everyday life.

Related: Gil Scott-Heron 'was first and foremost an activist,' fellow poet says

“I like to do a lot of things on my own,” Estrada said. “It reminds me that I can find happiness and give it to myself.”

Mexican singer-songwriter Silvana Estrada. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Sol Talamantes

In this interview with The World’s Latin America correspondent Jorge Valencia, Estrada explains how she went from first love to first heartbreak to happiness — and how she crafted the experience into her new album’s first single.   

Estrada kicks off her first headlining US tour on Jan. 14. 

‘We have no future’: Afghan women protest Taliban restrictions

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>‘We have no future’: Afghan women protest Taliban restrictions

The US has ended its war in Afghanistan, the bombs have stopped falling and the Taliban are back in power. But life hasn't improved for millions of Afghans under the new government.

The WorldJanuary 13, 2022 · 3:30 PM EST

Afghan women chant during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2021.

Ahmad Halabisaz/AP

Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan on Aug. 15, life for 33-year-old Wahida Amiri has been one shock after another.

First, she lost her job as a librarian. Then, she was told that women can’t leave home unless accompanied by a male relative. And now, Wahida Amiri is witnessing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, according to international groups. 

Related: ‘I had to burn a lot of my stuff’: Two Afghan women on what they left behind when they fled the Taliban

Afghanistan's economy is on the brink of collapse and the rights of women and girls have been curtailed.

 “We lost our identity and our dreams,” Wahida Amiri said from her home in Kabul. “The Taliban say they want an inclusive government, but so far, their actions paint a different picture.”

Wahida Amiri and a group of women across the country have been protesting Taliban restrictions for months. They have been out on the streets calling for teenage girls to be allowed back into schools and for women to have permission to work. (Women are banned from most employment).

“Work and access to education is a basic human right.”

Wahida Amiri, protester, Afghanistan

“Work and access to education is a basic human right,” she said.

Wahida Amiri and other women in Aghanistan have been out on the streets calling for teenage girls to be allowed back into schools and for women to have permission to work. (Women are banned from most employment).

Credit:

Courtesy of Wahida Amiri

The Taliban’s response to women’s protests has been fierce. Protesters have been beaten and threatened, Wahida Amiri said. In November, Frozan Safi, a 29-year-old women’s rights activist, was reportedly shot to death in northern Afghanistan. Taliban officials suggested the death might have been the result of a “personal feud.”

Thousands of activists, media professionals, artists and university professors have fled the country since the Taliban takeover, fearing for their safety under the new government.

Related: An upcoming vaccine drive in Afghanistan is an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to eradicate polio, UN official says

Wahida Amiri recorded a video last month from the back seat of a taxi. She had just left a protest, and through tears, she explained how Taliban men attacked women protesters and fired gunshots in the air.

“Are we not human?” she asks in the video. “Our lives are upended, we have no future.”

Learning to govern

The Taliban takeover happened fast. Even the group’s leaders seemed caught off guard by how quickly they were back in power

In the five months since they took control, “they have been very busy consolidating power,” explained Omar Samad, formerly Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada and France, who is now with the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington.

“They have had to relearn or learn from scratch how to govern.”

The Taliban, which was in power for a short period in the 1990s, are facing the realities of running a country of roughly 40 million people, Samad said.

“They do not seem to have enough people who can handle technical aspects of governance and on top of all this, we have seen this very troubling humanitarian crisis unfold in Afghanistan,” Samad said.

Related: 'Why don’t you have mercy?': Afghanistan’s Hazara people increasingly face eviction, violence under Taliban rule

The World Food Program estimates that 98% of Afghans don’t have enough food to eat. UNICEF says 1 million children are on the brink of famine. The International Rescue Committee ranked Afghanistan at the top of its annual emergency watchlist, adding that the country could see near-universal poverty (97%) by mid-2022.

“The numbers that we’re looking at far exceed the combined total civilian casualties from the various armed attacks that took place in Afghanistan over 20 years,” warned Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights with the United Nations.

Last month, after much pressure, the United Nations lifted some restrictions on humanitarian aid.

Ní Aoláin said it’s a good step, but it’s not enough compared to the magnitude of the problem.

She likens the one-year reprieve to “shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, where humanitarian actors get a small amount of time to do work that simply cannot be done.”

To solve the humanitarian crisis, Ní Aoláin said, the world needs to engage with the Taliban, “however unhappy and distasteful people find it.”

But some experts say that does not seem to be a top priority for the Biden administration. (The World requested an interview with the newly appointed US special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights, Rina Amiri (no relation to protester Wahida Amiri), which was not granted).

“One of the tragedies of this moment is that the United States is behaving as if it is done with Afghanistan because it decided to leave. The leadership moment is not in walking out. The leadership moment is in what you do afterward.”

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights with the United Nations

“One of the tragedies of this moment is that the United States is behaving as if it is done with Afghanistan because it decided to leave,” Ní Aoláin said. “The leadership moment is not in walking out. The leadership moment is in what you do afterward.”

This week, the Biden administration announced $308 million in humanitarian aid for the people of Afghanistan. The White House said that it is also sending 1 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to the country through COVAX, an initiative by the World Health Organization to improve vaccine access and equity. 

The aid will flow through aid organizations, and not the Taliban, US officials said.

‘We will continue to protest for our rights’

Meanwhile, people inside Afghanistan continue to not only fight hunger, but also the Taliban’s harsh rule.

Related: ‘It’s the American spirit’: These Connecticut landlords are stepping up to help Afghan refugees arriving in the US

“They have oppressed women, they have oppressed minorities, they have continued punishment of people on the streets, they have outlawed music,” said Samiullah Mahdi, a journalist and university lecturer.

Wahida Amiri is among a group of women across the country who have been protesting Taliban restrictions for months. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Wahida Amiri

Mahdi, who left the country a day before Kabul fell, said his journalist colleagues who are still there describe a dire situation for freedom of the press.

“Working in the media now is like working for outfits [that] are mouthpieces of the Taliban,” he said, adding that Taliban officials frequently visit newsrooms to “order reporters and editors on what kind of stories they can report on.” Mahdi said editors are regularly summoned by the Taliban to the intelligence offices and given instructions on coverage.

But Taliban pressure has not stopped Afghan women from protesting.

Wahida Amiri, the activist, said sometimes protesters gather in living rooms and basements to avoid harassment. They hold up signs that read “education is a human right” and “work, bread, freedom.” They then post photos and videos online.

“We will continue to raise our voice, despite the risks,” she said.

Protest projection: Part 1

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Protest projection: Part 1

Critical State, a foreign policy newsletter by Inkstick Media, takes a deep dive into why protests led to military interventions in Bahrain, Syria, Libya, and how those interventions played out.

Inkstick MediaJanuary 13, 2022 · 11:15 AM EST

In this Friday Jan. 20, 2012, file photo, anti-Syrian regime protesters gather at a square as they hold an Arabic banner, center, reading, "Hey, the miserable, the tyrant, what else," during a demonstration at the mountain resort town of Zabadani, Syria, near the Lebanese border. 

AP/File 

This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly foreign policy newsletter from Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

Most protests are directed against a fairly immediate authority. When you march on a picket line, you’re protesting to get more leverage over your boss. When you and your neighbors fill up your downtown chanting “Black lives matter,” you’re protesting (in part) to get more leverage over your local government and police department. But protests have other audiences, many of which are farther away – physically and conceptually – than the people the protest is aimed at. This week and next on Deep Dive, we’ll look at new research about how protest movements impact third parties.

Related: Foundations of international relations: Part I

Sometimes the audience that takes an interest in your protest isn’t even in your country. That happened to Arab Spring protesters in a variety of different ways. People around the region looked at early protests in Tunisia and took inspiration. Then Twitter took an interest and decided that it was the hero of the protests. In the end, though, for many protesters, it was foreign governments that were among the most effectual audiences for their protests. For protesters in Bahrain, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, that meant military interventions by foreign powers in response to their protests, most of which have had devastating consequences. 

Related: Foundations of international relations: Part II

Though the uprisings were aimed at securing concessions from governments, the reality of the near-simultaneous uprisings throughout the region changed not just the situation of each individual country but the entire regional order.

In a new article in the journal International Politics, political scientist Shamiran Mako develops a theory about why protests led to interventions in those four countries and why those interventions played out the way they did. In Mako’s telling, though the uprisings in each country were aimed at securing concessions from that country’s government, the reality of the near-simultaneous uprisings throughout the region changed not just the situation of each individual country but the entire regional order. Each individual movement on its own did little to change the international structure, but when they all rose at the same time it upended the regional balance of power.

All of a sudden, regional powers could intervene not just at the level of the state but with the elements of the coalition of groups that, in normal times, formed the state.

With the regional balance of power up in the air due to the protests, Mako argues, regional powers saw opportunities to meddle in their neighbors’ affairs in ways that were not possible before. Because the legitimacy of so many governments had been called into question, all of a sudden regional powers could intervene not just at the level of the state but with the elements of the coalition of groups that, in normal times, formed the state. 

In Yemen, for example, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Saudi-led regional group responded to protests by trying in 2011 to broker a transition that would remove dictator Ali Abdellah Saleh and replace him with another GCC-oriented leader. In a situation where Yemen was the only country in the region undergoing transition, the GCC effort might have succeeded, since there would be little reason for other parties to upset the balance of power. As negotiations continued in the post-Arab Spring era, however, other players joined and initiated or increased their support for other Yemeni factions. Qatar and Turkey backed groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran directed some resources to the Houthis. By 2015, with the Houthis gaining ground militarily and Saudi Arabia responding with direct military intervention, the promise of democratization in Yemen had faded almost completely. Instead, the country had become a battleground for factions seeking to stake or expand their claim to a piece of the new regional order being born. 

Basically, chaos is a ladder, but ladders go both up and down. Foreign powers pay particular attention to domestic social movements because, when successful, they create moments when the rules of the international game can change.

Basically, chaos is a ladder, but ladders go both up and down. Foreign powers pay particular attention to domestic social movements because, when successful, they create moments when the rules of the international game can change. In the Arab Spring, the pace and scale of the rule changes created incentives for regional and world powers to target states that could be profitably be divvied up into factions. For people in those states, who began protesting hoping to resolve the contradictions in their societies, the effect of foreign intervention was often disastrous. 

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

Residents remember their losses as they rebuild from La Palma’s volcanic eruption

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Residents remember their losses as they rebuild from La Palma's volcanic eruption

The Cumbre Vieja volcano’s eruption was officially declared over on Christmas Day after 10 days of no lava flows or seismic activity, and more than three months since it first erupted. Now, residents are trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.

The WorldJanuary 12, 2022 · 3:45 PM EST

View of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands of La Palma, Spain, Dec. 15, 2021.

Saul Santos/AP/File photo

Twenty-five-year-old Alexandra Gómez was not prepared for an evacuation.

She was living with her mother and brother on the small island of La Palma, part of Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago. On Sept. 19, she received news that a nearby volcano, the Cumbre Vieja — which experts had been monitoring for months — had erupted. Authorities had warned residents of an imminent eruption and had evacuated several neighborhoods ahead of time.

But Gómez’s area wasn’t on the list. The crater was expected to open farther away. It wasn’t until she stepped outside that she realized the predictions had been wrong.

“When we saw the explosion and noticed the lava was headed our way, we ran out of the house with just the clothes on our back and the few documents we could grab.”

Alexandra Gómez, 25-year-old resident of La Palma, Spain

“When we saw the explosion and noticed the lava was headed our way, we ran out of the house with just the clothes on our back and the few documents we could grab,” Gómez said.

She and her mother, who was also home that day, went to Gómez’s grandmother’s house farther down. But less than an hour after arriving there, emergency service workers showed up to evacuate that area too.

Related: Spain vows to help rebuild La Palma after devastating volcano eruption

“The lava was expected to move fast, and everyone was desperately running out of their houses,” Gómez said.

But the lava flowed a lot slower than anticipated, so Gómez and her family were able to return to their house twice before it was completely destroyed.

"I grabbed several sentimental belongings. … I looked up at the exploding volcano and cried."

Alexandra Gómez, 25-year-old resident of La Palma, Spain

“I grabbed several sentimental belongings, including a blanket handsewn by my great-grandmother, and as I put them in the car, I looked up at the exploding volcano and cried,” said Gómez, who’s been living at a relative’s house since. She says she often stays up at night remembering all the other things she forgot to take.

Related: Southern Spain's green-belt project aims to stave off impending desertification

The volcano’s eruption was officially declared over on Christmas Day after 10 days of no lava flows or seismic activity, and more than three months since it first erupted.

Like Gómez, more than 2,000 people lost their homes to a blanket of lava, which is estimated to have destroyed more than 1,600 buildings and roughly 50 miles of roads. The eruption also changed the island’s coastline. When the lava reached the ocean, it created two big deltas.

Other neighborhoods are completely covered by thick layers of ash — from a distance, they look like dark-gray sand dunes that have swallowed up trees and houses. Over the past few weeks, emergency service personnel and volunteers have been working around the clock to dig them out.

But Carlos Clemente, from a newly formed association of residents affected by the volcano, says the future remains uncertain.

Related: As energy prices soar in Spain, residents seek renewable alternatives

“Residents haven’t received any of the donations yet, which began pouring in as soon as the volcano erupted,” Clemente said. “We also haven’t seen the millions of euros promised by the Spanish government.”

He blames local officials for a mismanagement of funds.

Clemente’s 75-year-old mother lost her house and allof her belongings to the volcano, including photographs and letters. She’s been living with relatives on another part of the island, but Clemente hopes she’ll soon be given housing.

“Rebuilding our lives and communities will take a long time. And it’s up to public officials to listen to the needs of those affected.”

Carlos Clemente, member of an association for residents affected by the volcanic eruption

“Rebuilding our lives and communities will take a long time,” Clemente said. “And it’s up to public officials to listen to the needs of those affected.”

Juan Vicente Rodríguez is another member of the association and the president of Cooperativa Covalle, a collective of banana farmers whose headquarters was destroyed by the lava.

“Banana farmers suffered a loss of 50 million euros [more than $57,000] in damages when the lava ate up more than 900 acres of agricultural fields,” Rodríguez said.

Bananas are La Palma’s main export, accounting for 50% of its gross domestic product and providing thousands of direct and indirect jobs. The destroyed cropland made up around 30% of all of the island’s production, Rodríguez said.

Related: Biden proclaimed Oct. 11 Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But Spain still honors Columbus as part of its National Day.

“If these plantations aren’t rebuilt, the island will lose an important economic hub,” Rodríguez said. “The problem is, the destroyed farmlands are now dried lava, and it’s unclear if we’ll be able to plant bananas there again.” 

The biggest challenge, he said, will be finding new territory to harvest — there may not be enough to go around.

“It’s a traumatic situation, it feels like a sort of death,” Rodríguez said. “But it could be a chance to start over, by investing in other industries that provide new opportunities.”

 

What does Moderna owe the world?

“MuiTypography-root-125 MuiTypography-h1-130″>What does Moderna owe the world?

Moderna’s newfound success has put the small Massachusetts company in the hot seat over its handling of vaccine manufacturing and global access.

The WorldJanuary 12, 2022 · 4:00 PM EST

A vial of the Moderna vaccine for the coronavirus.

Jenny Kane/AP

Noubar Afeyan always keeps a plaque on his desk with the quote: “Trust your crazy ideas.” 

The well-known biotech investor and co-founder of Moderna said at a STAT event in Boston that it captures his philosophy about science, investment and how Moderna came to be. 

The small Massachusetts company formed in 2010, with the hopes of leveraging messenger RNA technology. 

Related: Brazil heads into latest COVID surge amid public health information blackout

Until the pandemic, it was relatively unknown. But in January 2020, when the coronavirus took center stage, Moderna used its mRNA technology to develop a highly effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Now, Moderna is a household name. 

Moderna’s newfound success, however, has also put the company in the hot seat over its handling of vaccine manufacturing and global access. Recent patent disputes are further amplifying a difficult question: What does Moderna owe the world during a deadly pandemic?

Many places have said they can make Moderna’s vaccine, critics say, but the company won’t share the technology. The World Health Organization is supporting an effort in South Africa to crack the recipe.

“We think that Moderna, in particular, has an obligation to do much more than it's currently doing to vaccinate the world.”

Robbie Silverman, Oxfam, senior manager

“We think that Moderna, in particular, has an obligation to do much more than it's currently doing to vaccinate the world,” said Robbie Silverman, a senior manager with Oxfam, the global, anti-poverty group

Silverman argues that Moderna has an obligation beyond its bottom line because it would not exist without massive government support. 

As omicron surges around the world, pressure is also mounting, including from some US lawmakers, for Moderna to more equitably distribute its vaccine, to share its vaccine technology and allow other manufacturers to independently produce the shots.

An obligation beyond the bottom line?

Over the past year, global demand has far outpaced the mRNA vaccine supply. Moderna produced between 700 million and 800 million doses in 2021 — lower than its initial projection. The company has made billions in profits. 

Moderna has sent more of its shots to wealthy countries than any other vaccine manufacturers, according to The New York Times citing data firm Airfinity

As of late fall, about 1 million of Moderna’s vaccines had gone to low-income countries, with many middle-income countries still waiting on their orders, some of whom paid more than the US for those shots.

Related: The best is yet to come': Thousands of Bulgarians return home during pandemic

That’s in comparison to the 8.4 million Pfizer doses and 25 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson doses that have gone to low-income countries, according to Fortune.

Pfizer and BioNTech didn’t take US government aid for developing their shots but they worked with the Biden administration to expand vaccine supply around the world, and received nearly half a billion dollars from the German government.

“Unfortunately, up until this point, Moderna has really prioritized selling and providing its doses to the ‘global north’ — to rich countries like the United States and Europe, — and really has done very, very little to provide doses to low-income countries around the world.”

Robbie Silverman, Oxfam, senior manager

“Unfortunately, up until this point, Moderna has really prioritized selling and providing its doses to the ‘global north’ — to rich countries like the United States and Europe, — and really has done very, very little to provide doses to low-income countries around the world,” Oxfam’s Silverman said.

The company received at least $1 billion from the US government’s Operation Warp Speed to bring the vaccine from the lab to clinical trials to approval. That’s in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in US government purchasing contracts for the vaccine. 

Moderna collaborated with scientists from the federal National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine. 

Now, Moderna and NIH are in a patent dispute over ownership of the vaccine. Moderna recently paused its application, but Silverman alleges that the company has been vague about this conflict — even with shareholders. 

Silverman said that this cuts to the heart of the issue: “Because if government scientists helped co-create the Moderna vaccine, that would give the United States much more leverage to do more to actually share the technology with other producers in other countries that desperately need it.”

Some experts say the Biden administration could try to require the company to share their intellectual property under the 1950 Defense Production Act, which gives the president a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industry in emergencies.

Oxfam filed a shareholders complaint against Moderna with the Securities and Exchange commission last month, alleging that the company failed to disclose the dispute to the SEC and shareholders and has published misleading statements on the subject. 

A shared burden

Brendan Borrell, author of “The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine,” a book about the pandemic’s main vaccine developers, said it might be convenient to point the finger at Moderna, but the company can’t bear the full blame for the lack of global vaccine equity.

“I would be cautious to make the company out to be a hero or to be such a villain,” Borrell said. 

Related: India postpones in-school learning as omicron surges 

Central to Moderna’s research and business model, since its beginnings, was to secure patents for what its scientists were doing and discovering.

“Moderna, was a very secretive company in the early days. That was part of their strategy,” Borrell said. “They were a patent-filing machine, I was told.”

This is to be expected in the world of biotech. That way, no one else can make the same product without getting a license from the patent holder, without paying for it. And vice versa. The idea is this encourages big financial risks and innovation. 

Moderna did not respond to The World’s request for comment. In an interview last month with Rewired, the company’s CEO, Stefan Bancel, said he couldn’t speak about ongoing disputes. 

He said the company has done a lot in the global response. 

“As you can imagine, we have been working literally seven days a week since January of 2020, that isn’t a long time to get as many doses as we can out,” Bancel said. “It usually takes three to four years, as everybody knows, to be the manufacturing plant for pharmaceutical products. And there was no such mRNA plant that existed at the time.” 

The company has announced manufacturing partnerships around the world, from South Korea to Australia to a future plant somewhere in Africa.

Thomas Cueni, director of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, said that Moderna and other manufacturers are scaling up more now.

Last year, it was tough, he said, due to shortages of raw materials and countries imposing export bans on vaccines and other needed supplies.  

“Vaccine manufacturing, in particular, biological manufacturing, is extremely challenging. We have seen so many bumps and hitches, but looking overall, we see the biggest vaccination effort in the history of mankind.”

Thomas Cueni, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Association, director

“Vaccine manufacturing, in particular, biological manufacturing, is extremely challenging,” Cueni said. “We have seen so many bumps and hitches, but looking overall, we see the biggest vaccination effort in the history of mankind.”   

Manufacturers have managed to produce more than 11 billion vaccines in 2021, but the inequitable distribution is shameful and embarrassing for everyone, Cueni said at a recent forum. 

The world lacks a coordinated vaccine distribution system. The onus is also on wealthy countries, he said, to share the doses they’ve reserved. 

Despite pledges and targets, only 7% of people in low-income countries have received a single dose, according to an upcoming report from Amnesty International, which described the situation as a catastrophic failure by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations alike.

As for Moderna, what it may owe the world during a pandemic might need to get settled on the global stage.  

Editor's note: This report reflects the Jan. 3 broadcast date and is subject to change as COVID-19 scenarios evolve quickly.

Indonesia poised to ease export ban on thermal coal

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Indonesia poised to ease export ban on thermal coal

In an effort to protect Indonesia’s thermal coal supply, the country imposed an export ban in early January. But after several countries in Asia that depend on the crucial commodity lamented the move, the country has indicated an imminent ease of the ban.

The WorldJanuary 12, 2022 · 1:45 PM EST

A worker walks at power plant area in Cirebon, Indonesia, Oct. 17, 2014.

Achmad Ibrahim/AP/File photo

In an effort to protect Indonesia’s thermal coal supply, the country imposed an export ban in early January. 

Indonesia has now indicated that it will ease the ban after several countries across Asia that depend on the crucial commodity — such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines — came calling on Jakarta to continue exporting coal.

Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal. 

Related: What's behind unrest rocking oil-rich Kazakhstan

The Jan. 1 ban was put into place just a day after the country’s main electricity supplier, PLN, warned the government that its coal reserves were critically low. 

Fearing widespread power disruptions, however, coal exports were banned for the entire month of January.

“It would be very embarrassing for the government if we start the year 2022 with massive blackouts. … So, the government acted quickly with the export ban.”

Rocky Intan, researcher, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, Indonesia

“It would be very embarrassing for the government if we start the year 2022 with massive blackouts,” said Rocky Intan, a researcher for the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “So, the government acted quickly with the export ban.”

Coal prices shot up across the region as a result of the ban, while vessels, packed with coal, sat idle in Indonesia’s harbors. 

Earlier this week, after various meetings among government officials and coal producers, the Indonesian government said the stockpile situation for PLN had improved. 

Related: Green-conscious Norway will dig a new copper mine in the Arctic

A self-made problem

Officials recently said they would work to renegotiate the problematic policy that put the country’s domestic coal reserves in a tenuous situation in the first place. 

Coal producers in Indonesia currently make more money exporting their product than selling it at a government-capped price to domestic buyers, like PLN, Intan explained. 

The domestic market obligation (DMO) — coal that stays in Indonesia — requires producers to sell 25% of production to local buyers at the capped price of around $70 per ton. The government’s benchmark for coal exports is significantly higher — at about $200, Intan explained. 

“So once PLN loses out because of lower domestic prices, it became a problem,” he said. 

Over 400 coal producers did not sell coal to domestic buyers in 2021, according to various media reports. 

Rory Simington, a research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said the other issue is that the DMO policy is “quite a blunt instrument.”

“There’s always been this sort of conflict between the overall requirement of the DMO and what the domestic market actually requires. … It’s not a particularly accurate scheme.”

Rory Simington, research analyst, Wood Mackenzie

“There’s always been this sort of conflict between the overall requirement of the DMO and what the domestic market actually requires,” he said. “It’s not a particularly accurate scheme.”

And until these issues are resolved, Simington said, there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the global thermal coal market for everyone moving forward.

Related: Electricity rates have skyrocketed in Brazil. The govt says the water crisis is to blame.

An overdependence on coal 

If Indonesia had enforced its ban for all of January, experts say it would have had a major impact, as it makes up nearly half of the world’s coal market. 

In 2020, the country exported over 400 million tons alone. 

In turn, millions of people who depend on that coal would be affected. That includes several countries in the 10-member bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

“Everyone may have been impacted but I believe that in ASEAN, it is the Philippines that is most impacted by the export ban."

Alberto Dalusung III, energy policy expert, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, Manila, Phillippines

“Everyone may have been impacted but I believe that in ASEAN, it is the Philippines that is most impacted by the export ban,” said Alberto Dalusung III, an energy policy expert with the Manila-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities. 

Related: Glasgow summit pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies faces an uphill battle

Over 50% of the power in the Philippines is generated by coal and Dalusung said they don’t really have other reliable energy alternatives like Vietnam, which has hydropower, or Malaysia, which has oil and gas.

“If it was a longer period of export ban, it definitely would mean blackouts. Even without that, today we are on yellow alert, meaning not enough coal capacity,” he said. 

The Philippine government acknowledges its overdependence on coal, Dalusung said, but the Indonesian coal ban adds another concern: the risk of relying too much on imported fuel.

Related: World leaders agree to help South Africa phase out coal

“The lesson is that, just because we can pay for coal, we can assume that we can access it for our needs. Coal becomes a commodity of national interest during international disruptive events,” he said.

‘Magical’ animal encounters on the Galapagos Islands

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>'Magical' animal encounters on the Galapagos Islands

Writer Jennifer Junghans describes her close encounters with blue-footed boobies and blacktip sharks — and a wondrous face-to-face meeting with a curious pufferfish.

Living on EarthJanuary 11, 2022 · 4:15 PM EST

A marine iguana crawls along the beach on Rabida Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Saturday Jan. 15, 2011.

Dolores Ochoa/AP

Writer Jennifer Junghans had always dreamed of going to the Galapagos Islands to swim with the marine iguanas. In 2017, she finally had her chance.

Her beloved iguanas remained on shore, but the experience brought her up close with blue-footed boobies and blacktip sharks — and face-to-face with a curious pufferfish.

Here's an excerpt from her audio diary about her experience: 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of traveling to the Galapagos Islands to free-dive with the ancient marine iguanas and roam the archipelago, as Darwin did as he unraveled our story of evolution.

He found little value in the marine iguana, insulting their physical appearance, intelligence and behavior. But I fell in love with them when I saw a photo in National Geographic of this wave of marine iguanas swimming underwater.

I longed to be right there among them, these gentle giants that often look like statues on land, armored in scales, with faces that resemble a gentler cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex and snaggletoothed spines that jut from head to tail, eyes that stare, and large claws at the end of hands that look strangely like our own.

Then, in 2017, I disembarked a small plane from Ecuador and stepped into the remote wilderness of my dreams.

In July, the temperature is cooler, the seas are rougher and the winds are stronger, but the lifecycles of the natural world are vigorous and alive. Here, the animals are abundant and unafraid.

Related'Nature is always singing': Now you can make your own music from nature's sounds

In one startling panoramic view, blue-footed boobies dive like torpedoes into turquoise water; sea lion pups with giant, dark globes for eyes and sand all over their faces follow us as they wait for their mothers to return with food; and colossal numbers of my beloved marine iguanas bask in the sun to warm themselves, piled in tangles of arms and legs and salt-crusted faces.

At night when we anchor at sea, sea lions jump up to rest and sleep on the stern of our boat and we wait for blacktip sharks to appear just below the surface, likely looking to score an easy meal, accustomed to the bycatch fishing boats dump. I gasp when they appear. Several have come and we peer overboard, the mystery of how big the next one will be or how close it will come or from which direction, electrifies my senses.

RelatedScientists say nature therapies don’t just feel good — they save trillions in health costs

In their presence, Hollywood’s characterization of these beings as man-eating predators crumbles and I feel an undeniable resurrection of a connection once lost.

Out here in the wilderness, under the celestial skies, in these moments of reverence, I am closer to the truth than I’ve ever been.

Jennifer Junghans

Out here in the wilderness, under the celestial skies, in these moments of reverence, I am closer to the truth than I’ve ever been. I don’t wonder about the future or question my existence. Somehow, out here, where the planet pulses according to its natural rhythms, it all makes sense.

We take a long hike up rocky terrain to where blue-footed boobies have gathered to mate and raise their young. White puffs of down stretch their gaping beaks upward from beneath their mother’s wing and, by the magic of serendipity, we witness the flamboyant courtship dance and the rarely seen mating of these birds.

But it’s a tiny pufferfish that touches me most. Several swim up to me as I snorkel, but one stays. She fans her fins, hovering right in front of me, observing me as intently as I observe her. We stay like this, face-to-face, for several minutes.

I’ve never felt so acknowledged or seen.

In that moment, the boundary between species blurs. We are two beings who share this planet in a moment of uninterrupted recognition. 

Jennifer Junghans

In that moment, the boundary between species blurs. We are two beings who share this planet in a moment of uninterrupted recognition. As different as we look, transcending millions of years of evolution, we come from the same origin — in fact, we share strikingly similar genomes with pufferfish — and something inside me innately knows it. 

I never did swim with the marine iguanas, as I’ve dreamed of. They spent most of their time basking on land, even though they depend on the algae clinging to rocks in the sea. But my time here has given me something greater. Wandering among these wild animals at every turn, I attune to how life unfolds and exists when we are the visitor. It’s illuminated what the world once was and the wildness that we are still able to preserve and protect.

This audio essay aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

‘The best is yet to come’: Thousands of Bulgarians return home during pandemic

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>‘The best is yet to come': Thousands of Bulgarians return home during pandemic

Since 1989, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians have left the country, looking for better job prospects and wages. But in 2020, emigration decreased dramatically while the number of returnees soared. Leaders hope they’ll stay and help build Bulgaria’s future.

The WorldJanuary 11, 2022 · 3:00 PM EST

A man passes by a wall displaying an urban art project in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, Romania, May 8, 2019. 

Andreea Alexandru/AP/File

Paskal Zhelezov was just 15 when his family moved from Burgas, on the Black Sea Coast, to North Carolina, in the US, in 2007. His father applied for a green card every year for over a decade. 

His parents saw opportunities in the US that they couldn’t see in Bulgaria back then, he said.

“Bulgaria was not the most attractive spot and did not have much to offer after the end of communism in 1989."

Paskal Zhelezov returned to Bulgaria in 2020, after 13 years in the US

“Bulgaria was not the most attractive spot and did not have much to offer after the end of communism in 1989. They were looking for a change, not only economically, but also on the social side of things.” 

Related: Roma persecution intensifies during the coronavirus pandemic in Europe

Since 1989, hundreds of thousands of  Bulgarians have left the country and headed to Western Europe looking for better job prospects and wages. But in 2020, emigration numbers dropped dramatically, while those returning soared. Newly elected Prime Minister Kiril Petkov is hoping that with a strong anti-corruption message and promise of speedy economic growth, those returnees will stay put. 

After 13 years in the US, Zhelezov moved back home in May 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s one of several thousand Bulgarians who returned home in 2020, reversing the migration trend for the Eastern European country. 

Zhelezov’s family thrived in the US. His mother is now an academic adviser at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his father works for the American Red Cross. Zhelezov graduated from North Carolina State and, in 2017, moved to San Francisco to work with a business travel start-up.

But the pandemic hit the company hard and it soon began to let workers go.

Zhelezov was offered a job by another start-up, Omnipresent, a group that helps companies employ remote workers abroad while ensuring compliance with local tax systems. With no fixed office, Omnipresent told Zhelezov he could base himself anywhere. He chose Bulgaria.

Zhelezov said even after 13 years in the US, he never felt fully at home.

“I just never really felt like an American who wants to live the American lifestyle. Bulgaria was always home,” he said.

Related: ‘I had no life left here’: Iraqi Kurds are at the center of the migration crisis in Europe

EU’s poorest nation

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union. Transparency International has also ranked it the most corrupt on the continent. In 2019, the United Nations Population Division reported that Bulgaria was projected to be the second-fastest shrinking country in the world, behind Lithuania.

Exact data on the numbers of people who returned to Bulgaria in 2020 is not available. However, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) estimates that about 30,000 more people moved back to the country than left that year.

Related: ‘Strangers in their own land’: Iraqi Yazidis and their plight, 7 years on from genocide

Ognyan Georgiev, visiting fellow with the ECFR who researched the data, spoke with many of the new returnees. Job loss was a big reason why many returned, but a significant number also moved back because they felt safer being home with their families during the pandemic, he said.

“The two reasons [returnees] gave me was they were either left without a job or they were fearing for their security. I mean their health security, you know, they just felt more secure being back, being there with their parents, family or whatever.”

Ognyan Georgiev, visiting fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

“The two reasons they gave me was they were either left without a job or they were fearing for their security. I mean their health security, you know, they just felt more secure being back, being there with their parents, family or whatever.”

Shifting government tide

Atanas Pekanov returned to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, from Austria, in 2021.

Pekanov, an economist with the Austrian Institute for Economic Research, was offered the position of deputy prime minister with Bulgaria’s caretaker government.

For much of the last 12 years, Bulgaria has been ruled by conservative leader Boyko Borisov, until his resignation in April 2021.

Related: Protesters in Bulgaria demand prime minister's resignation amid corruption allegations

Pekanov’s interim cabinet ran the country for seven months, while Bulgarians went to the polls three times to elect a new government.

In December 2021, Kiril Petkov, co-founder of the anti-corruption party We Continue The Change (PP), was appointed prime minister.

Petkov, along with party co-founder Assen Vassilev, are known as “The Harvards" — both men were educated at Harvard Business School and went on to become successful entrepreneurs.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Pekanov said there is a new sense of optimism in Bulgaria following Petkov’s appointment.

Kiril Petkov, co-leader of the We Continue the Change party, speaks during the first session of the new Bulgarian Parliament, Sofia, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Credit:

Valentina Petrova/AP

“I think people are really now hopeful that things can change, but I always say that it's going to take a while. In the past decade, we neglected a lot of problems that we have and now we have to face them head on, but it will take time."

Atanas Pekanov, economist, Austrian Institute for Economic Research 

“I think people are really now hopeful that things can change, but I always say that it's going to take a while. In the past decade, we neglected a lot of problems that we have and now we have to face them head on, but it will take time,” Pekanov said. 

Many of Pekanov’s friends moved back to Bulgaria during the pandemic, too, but he said he’s not sure how many will stay. He figures that decision probably lies with their employers. Many work remotely for companies based in Western Europe that may soon decide to ask their staff to return onsite. 

Pekanov said he hopes some will stay and use the skills they’ve learned abroad to bolster the Bulgarian economy. But even he admitted he cannot say for certain if he will remain long-term. 

Petar Cholakov, associate professor with the Institute of Sociology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, said job prospects in Bulgaria are quite good. The national unemployment rate is at just 4.6%, but wages are also low compared to many Western European nations. 

Cholakov said he has heard a lot of talk about this renewed sense of hope in Bulgaria, but he said he is not yet convinced. He pointed out that voter turnout at the last election in November 2020 was just 40%, meaning 60% of the population lacked motivation to go to the polls.

“This means that for a lot of people, whether we have a regular or stable government or whether we have a caretaker government, that doesn't really matter for them at all."

Petar Cholakov, associate professor, Institute of Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

“This means that for a lot of people, whether we have a regular or stable government or whether we have a caretaker government, that doesn't really matter for them at all,” Cholakov said. 

The new coalition government is made up of four political parties with very different ideals. Prime Minister Petkov’s anti-corruption party has teamed up with the leftist socialists, the populist There is Such a People (ITN) party and the center-right Democratic Bulgaria party. 

Cholakov predicts plenty of disagreements ahead, but the coalition might work if only because citizens are weary to hold another election. 

Election officers dressed in protective gear to protect from COVID-19 go to the addresses of sick people to allow them to cast their votes, in Sofia, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. 

Credit:

Valentina Petrova/AP

Top priorities

Prime Minister Petkov has vowed to tackle corruption head on, but the pandemic will likely have to be his top priority, said Ognyan Georgiev with the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

The omicron variant was detected in the country just a little over a week ago, but it’s spreading fast. Bulgaria has the lowest vaccination rate in all of the EU with less than 30% fully vaccinated. On Tuesday, a senior health official announced that the Bulgarian prime minister, the president and several senior ministers have all gone into self-isolation after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive the previous day.

Back home in Bulgaria, Zhelezov said he’s planning to stay for the long haul.

“We have pretty beaches, nice weather most of the time and a developing economy,” he said. Besides, he’s keen to see if this new government will live up to its campaign promises, he said. 

A man is flies his kite during the First Varvara Kite Fest in the village of Varvara on Bulgarian Black Sea coast, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. 

Credit:

Valentina Petrova/AP

A recent Gallup poll found Bulgarians to be among the most pessimistic people in the world. But Zhelezov is not one of them. 

“I'm convinced that we're changing for the better and the best is yet to come.”

‘It’s the American spirit’: These Connecticut landlords are stepping up to help Afghan refugees arriving in the US

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>‘It’s the American spirit’: These Connecticut landlords are stepping up to help Afghan refugees arriving in the US

As military bases temporarily hosting refugees reach capacity, states are being asked to help, according to resettlement agencies. Connecticut alone is expecting more than 500 refugees — a jump since the initial 300 estimated in September. And the number could see another increase. But as Connecticut prepares for the influx, affordable housing has become a challenge.

The WorldJanuary 10, 2022 · 12:45 PM EST

Tom Kania is working with a community co-sponsorship group and IRIS to welcome an Afghan refugee family of up to six. The Middletown apartment has been fully furnished by IRIS and is ready for the family when they arrive.

Joe Amon/Connecticut Public Radio

Thomas Kania is the grandson of Polish immigrants, people who he says came to the United States for opportunity.

Now Kania, a real estate investor, says it’s their experience that has motivated him to help others looking for a bit of opportunity of their own — newly arrived Afghan refugees.

“It’s basically the American spirit,” Kania said from his rental unit in Middletown’s North End.

It will soon house a family of six from Afghanistan.

“It’s the American spirit that my grandparents felt. It’s the American spirit that subsequent generations have been able to take advantage of in my family. So, I’m really happy to have someone here who basically could take advantage of the American experience, and so, we welcome them as we would any other tenant.”

Related: Some Afghan university students find refuge — and hope — in Kyrgyzstan

Kania is just one of hundreds of landlords pitching in as Connecticut expects to welcome hundreds of refugees over the next couple of months. As military bases temporarily hosting refugees reach capacity, states are being asked to help, according to resettlement agencies. Connecticut alone is expecting more than 500 refugees — a jump since the initial 300 estimated in September. And the number could see another increase. But as Connecticut prepares for the influx, affordable housing has become a challenge.

“We know when we are resettling folks, they have been through a lot,” said Susan Schnitzer, president and CEO of the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, one of two federally approved resettlement agencies in Connecticut. “Many of them have just grabbed their bags, fled their homes, they have been in military bases for weeks or months, and this is the first time they can sit and breathe. We are asking for landlords — large landlords, individual landlords — to contact our agencies and open your doors to refugees.”

New Haven-based IRIS brought in furniture and kitchen items for the family of six that will be staying in the Middletown apartment owned by Tom Kania. The apartment has been fully furnished and is ready for the family when they arrive.

Credit:

Joe Amon/Connecticut Public Radio

At a recent news conference, Schnitzer said over 200 individuals have been able to resettle so far, but as the state gears up for more, there are concerns about a housing shortage.

Kania remembers it like it was yesterday when he got the call about his new tenants. He was showing his vacant unit to about 20 applicants. He said he had about 60 interested customers in total.

“I got a phone call from a broker who asked me not to hang up and explained the situation to me,” he said. “And I said, ‘Sure, come and see the apartment, see if it will work for you.’”

Related: 'Everything I am would not be the same without being a veteran,' says soldier who served in Afghanistan

The call was on behalf of New Haven-based resettlement agency Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, or IRIS. The unit is across the street from a local elementary school and a short walk from a public bus stop. Kania knew it would be perfect for a family new to America, so he didn’t think twice about it.

The three-bedroom apartment was built in the 1900s, but what’s inside is newer. Thanks to IRIS, the main bedroom has a new bed, a thick winter blanket, towels, a dresser and more. Meanwhile, the two other rooms — ideally for children — have new twin beds, stuffed animals and covers.

A view of the kitchen of the Middletown apartment owned by Tom Kania that will house an Afghan family of six.

Credit:

Joe Amon/Connecticut Public Radio

The apartment is furnished by IRIS with donations. The organization aims to provide the family a warm and safe apartment from day one. The kitchen is also stocked with essentials.

“The basic food that you would need for a family — things that would be used for an international diet, things like rice, sugar, salt, basic seasoning, cooking oil,” Kania said.

Related: ‘I had to burn a lot of my stuff’: Two Afghan women on what they left behind when they fled the Taliban

It’s his first time working with a resettlement agency, but he said he has no worries.

“It’s about really showing them the true American experience, and the American experience starts with a home.”

Thomas Kania, real estate investor

“I don't understand the hesitancy,” he said. “We all came from somewhere at one point. And they have resettlement agencies working with them. If they were to just dump these people here to fend for themselves, they’d be setting up tents in public parks. But I think that’s not what the intention is of bringing these people here … It’s about really showing them the true American experience, and the American experience starts with a home.”

About 15 miles from Middletown, in Hartford’s Barry Square neighborhood, another landlord is also welcoming new Americans.

Murat Feratovic owns over 30 units in Greater Hartford, and in the last two years, he said he’s helped about 10 refugees resettle through IRIS. He’s drawn to the cause because he’s been in their shoes.

Here is the living room of the apartment that will be home to an Afghan family of six. The Middletown apartment, owned by Tom Kania, was furnished by resettlement agency IRIS.

Credit:

Joe Amon/Connecticut Public Radio

“I come [here the] same as them,” Feratovic said. “I [came] from Bosnia. You come here with a bag with nothing in it, and you start a life here. You leave everything behind. It’s so difficult, but you have to get used to it.”

Feratovic left Bosnia during the country’s civil war in the 1990s. Similar to refugees from Afghanistan, Feratovic was forced to leave his home country. He came here with no credit history or stable income, so he knows how important it is for someone to just give you a chance. He’s able to connect with his tenants on a deeper level and tries to be a resource as much as possible, he said.

“[I] try to point them in the right way because this is a country with a lot of opportunity, but if you use [it] in the wrong way, it’s going to hurt you. [As] much as I can, I help them,” he said. “Here in Connecticut, you need a car to be successful. You get a better job, better opportunity, so I let them know [where] to get a driver’s license and car insurance.”

Chris George is the executive director at IRIS. And while the organization has housing specialists, he often finds himself meeting landlords who are on the fence. He said there’s a lot of hesitancy in the landlord community, and that alongside about a 15% increase in rents this year could lead to a potential roadblock for resettlement. IRIS alone will need at least 100 apartments in both cities and suburbs across Connecticut, and it aims to minimize as much risk as possible for landlords.

Related: The spotlight has faded on Afghanistan, but not the urgency for Afghans seeking safety

“There may be some things that are a little different,” George said. “For example, they don’t have a credit history. But we co-sign the lease. They might not speak English really well. But IRIS is always available to translate. They don’t have jobs when they arrive. But they will get jobs very quickly. And IRIS makes sure that they will pay the rent on time. And in full.”

IRIS, which furnished the Middletown apartment that will house an Afghan family of six, also supplied children's items for the family.

Credit:

Joe Amon/Connecticut Public Radio

George says the ideal living space for a refugee family is near public transportation. Rates for an apartment should range between $1,100 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and $1,500 for a four-bedroom, but they can vary depending on the location. The idea is that the family should be able to afford rent if they have to work minimum-wage jobs.

The state has committed to helping refugees with a security deposit and two months of rent — about $4,500 per family of five — and they’ll also be able to apply to the state’s emergency rental assistance program, Unite CT, which offers up to $15,000 in rent assistance. Resettlement agencies have also pledged to help families financially in their first year until they can become independent.

Steven Kaplan understands some of the hesitancy. He’s a new landlord in New Haven and heard about IRIS on the radio. He said at first he had a lot of questions.

“Are they familiar with electricity?” he asked. “Do they know how to work a thermostat and oven? So just like the everyday things we take for granted, I was just worried about their familiarity with it.”

Murat Feratovic has worked with New Haven-based resettlement agency IRIS for the last two years. He welcomed refugees from Afghanistan a few days ago. He's a landlord in Hartford with over 30 units and is happy to work with agencies in this larger effort to welcome new Americans.

Credit:

Joe Amon/Connecticut Public Radio

But in working with IRIS, he’s been able to address all of his concerns. He’s now renting to four men from Afghanistan and said it’s opened his eyes to different cultures.

“I took them to Home Depot, which was fun and you know, put on the radio for them, let them hear what our music is like,” Kaplan said. “And they played me some of their music while we were in the car. And so it’s getting to know individuals who otherwise I would never meet.”

Kaplan says he’s excited to grow their tenant-landlord relationship and hopes to sit down soon to share a meal.

“To help out people who have lost everything, and just to give them the comfort of knowing that there’s a safe house for them to live in, warm food, a nice bed,” Kaplan said. “It’s the least we can do as America.”

This story was originally published by Connecticut Public Radio.

Uganda’s schools reopen, ending world’s longest lockdown

“MuiTypography-root-228 MuiTypography-h1-233″>Uganda's schools reopen, ending world's longest lockdownAssociated PressJanuary 10, 2022 · 2:15 PM EST

Pupils wear face masks as they attend class at Kitante Primary School in Kampala, Uganda, Jan. 10, 2022.

Hajarah Nalwadda/AP

Uganda's schools reopened to students on Monday, ending the world's longest school disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening caused traffic congestion in some areas of the capital, Kampala, and students can be seen carrying their mattresses in the streets, a back-to-boarding school phenomenon not witnessed here for nearly two years.

Uganda’s schools have been fully or partially shut for more than 83 weeks, the world's longest disruption, according to figures from the UN cultural agency. The shutdown affected more than 10 million learners.

The East African country of 44 million people first shut down its schools in March 2020, shortly after the first coronavirus case was confirmed on the African continent. Some classes were reopened to students in February 2021, but a total lockdown was imposed again in June as the country faced its first major surge.

For many parents, the reopening was long overdue.

“Inevitably, we have to open up schools,” said Felix Okot, the father of a 6-year-old kindergartner. “The future of our kids, the future of our nation, is at stake.”

The country's schools cannot “wait forever” for the pandemic's end, he warned.

The protracted school lockdown proved controversial in a country where measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus were ignored by many. Vaccine skepticism, even among health workers, remains a problem, with growing reports of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards sold in downtown Kampala.

Many students returning to school are believed to have had no help during the lockdown. Most public schools, which serve the vast majority of children in Uganda, were unable to offer virtual schooling. The Associated Press reported in November on students in a remote Ugandan town where weeds grew in classrooms and some students worked in a swamp as gold miners.

Some critics pointed out that the government of President Yoweri Museveni — an authoritarian who has held power for 36 years and whose wife is the education minister — did little to support home-based learning. Museveni justified the lockdown by insisting that infected students were a danger to their parents and others.

“There are many things which can't be predicted right now. The turnout of students is unpredictable, the turnout of teachers is unpredictable," said Fagil Mandy, a former government inspector of schools now working as an independent consultant. “I am more worried that many children will not return to school for various reasons, including school fees.”

Mandy also noted concern that a virus outbreak “will spread very fast” in crowded schools, urging close monitoring by school administrators.

Welcoming the reopening of Uganda's schools, Save the Children warned that “lost learning may lead to high dropout rates in the coming weeks without urgent action," including what it described as catch-up clubs.

The aid group warned in a statement Monday of a wave of dropouts “as returning students who have fallen behind in their learning fear they have no chance of catching up.”

It remains to be seen how long Uganda's schools will remain open, with an alarming rise in virus cases in recent days. In the past week health authorities have been reporting a daily positivity rate in excess of 10%, up from virtually zero in December. Museveni has warned of a possible new lockdown if intensive care units reach 50% occupancy.

Hoping for a smooth return to school, authorities waived any COVID test requirements for students. An abridged curriculum also has been approved under an arrangement to automatically promote all students to the next class.

Uganda has received foreign support toward the reopening of schools.

The UN children's agency and the governments of the UK and Ireland announced financial support focusing on virus surveillance and the mental health of students and teachers in 40,000 schools. They said their support was key for Uganda's school system to remain open.

By Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza

Feminist tango collectives take center stage in Argentina

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Feminist tango collectives take center stage in Argentina

All-female and all-queer tango groups playing contemporary tango songs with a feminist lens are on the rise in Argentina.

The WorldJanuary 10, 2022 · 1:15 PM EST

Gaston Gatti and Hebe Hernandez dance while competing in the final round of the stage category during the Tango World Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sept. 25, 2021. 

Natacha Pisarenko/AP/File photo

Patricia Malanca always dreamed of writing a tango album full of feminist songs — a rarity in the tango world.

“My intention is to have my songs heard in places where the traditional sexist tango persists,” she said of her newest album, “Traerán Ríos de Tango las Páginas de un Libro,” or “The Book’s Pages Will Bring Rivers of Tango,” released in November 2021.

Each song in Malanca’s album is an ode to a novel written by a contemporary female Argentine author, touching on topics such as abortion rights and transgender identity.

Related: From Argentina to US to Spain: A personal history told through childhood audio diaries

“Female lyricists and singer-songwriters are writing tango’s new poetry and songbooks. … We’re paving the way for the 21st century, full of songs about equality.”

Patricia Malanca, singer-songwriter, Argentina

“Female lyricists and singer-songwriters are writing tango’s new poetry and songbooks,” Malanca said. “We’re paving the way for the 21st century, full of songs about equality.”

Malanca said classical tango songs often normalized gender violence or devalued women. Even Carlos Gardel, considered the most prominent figure in tango history, has songs like “Tortazo,” roughly translated as “The Slap,” where he threatens a woman with physical violence in order to “keep her in her place.”

To this day, it’s common to hear songs from the early tango days played in recitals or milongas, special venues where tango is danced to live music.

In this June 6, 2021, file photo, a couple dances tango at a park amid the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Credit:

Natacha Pisarenko/AP/File

Related: How the Beatles inspired a rock revolution in Argentina

The roots of tango date back to the late 19th century, when Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires was a cultural mix of Indigenous people, formerly enslaved Afro-Argentines and recently arrived migrants predominantly from Italy and Spain.

“It was a very patriarchal world. … Buenos Aires’ population was around 70% male, mainly because of all the migrants, and that was reflective in tango songs. … Nowadays, women are creating new spaces for themselves in the tango world.”

Francisco Palumbo, tango historian, Argentina

“It was a very patriarchal world,” tango historian Francisco Palumbo said. “Buenos Aires’ population was around 70% male, mainly because of all the migrants, and that was reflective in tango songs.”

But by the early 20th century, Palumbo said, some women had worked their way into the spotlight. Paquita Bernardo played the bandoneon — a small type of accordion typical in tango. She died young in 1925, leaving behind no recordings. Rosita Quiroga was a guitarist who sang in the first tango ever recorded in Argentina in 1926: “La musa mistonga,” a song using slang particular to Buenos Aires in the early 20th century, and which roughly means “The worthless muse.”

“Nowadays, women are creating new spaces for themselves in the tango world,” Palumbo said.

All-female and all-queer tango groups playing contemporary tango songs with a feminist lens are on the rise in Argentina.

Related: Royal Spanish Academy dismisses movement to make Spanish more gender-inclusive

One is La Empoderosa Orquesta Atípica, or the Empowered Atypical Orchestra. They cover songs like “Pendeja,” about a young girl who was forced to carry out a pregnancy after being raped. That songtitle term, when used toward women, is often an insult. Composer Cintia Trigo said she wrote the song to highlight the importance of abortion access, which was illegal in Argentina until December 2020.

“I started noticing how, once the [latest] feminist movement gained traction following [anti-gender violence] marches and abortion rights campaigns, the feminist tango movement really took off."

Cintia Trigo, singer-songwriter, Empowered Atypical Orchestra, Argentina

“I started noticing how, once the [latest] feminist movement gained traction following [anti-gender violence] marches and abortion rights campaigns, the feminist tango movement really took off,” Trigo said.

For Trigo, who’s been in the tango industry for nearly 20 years, the emergence of feminist tango collectives helped her feel less alone. Now, she often collaborates with other female and trans musicians. And there are many venues that prioritize feminist and queer tango.

“What tourists are looking for when they come to Argentina, that’s not an authentic representation of tango,” Trigo said. 

“Real tango is about the underground movement, about independent musicians who sing about contemporary issues. This feminist tango is growing, and we need the public to grow, as well.”

India postpones in-school learning as omicron surges 

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>India postpones in-school learning as omicron surges 

This month, parents, teachers and kids in India were poised to reenter their classrooms full time. Omicron has pumped the brakes on that.

The WorldJanuary 7, 2022 · 5:15 PM EST

An Indian teen reacts as she receives Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine at a government school in Hyderabad, India, Jan. 6, 2022. 

Mahesh Kumar /AP

This month, parents, teachers and kids in India were poised to reenter their classrooms full time. Omicron has pumped the brakes on that. 

For parents like Teresa Khanna, it's a nuisance. 

“It's been so long now that I really can't remember how it was when he went to physical school.”

Teresa Khanna, parent of a 10-year-old in India

“It's been so long now that I really can't remember how it was when he went to physical school.”

Related: Heavy smog shuts down schools in India’s capital

Khanna's 10-year-old son Shreyas is in the fifth grade. His last full day in school was in March 2020. Khanna said he went to school again in November 2021 for a couple of half days, fully masked with all COVID-19 protocols in place. But soon, schools shut down again. 

In Mumbai, only middle schools and high schools reopened last year, but with a remote learning option for those who didn't want to risk the classroom. 

As omicron spreads, most states in India have postponed physical school yet again. 

Khanna said at first, Shreyas was excited about online learning. He could sleep in and walk up to school in the next room; he didn't even have to wear his full school uniform because only his shirt was visible online. 

But the novelty soon wore off. 

Related: India will soon roll out a DNA vaccine for the coronavirus. It’s the latest example of how COVID-19 is transforming vaccines.

Shreyas said online school is boring, and he feels “very lonely.” He misses chatting with friends in the breaks between classes. 

“The 15 minutes breaks here are me just sitting in the bed and doing nothing, so I really don't enjoy what the school has done.”

Shreyas Khanna, 10-year-old student, learning at home during COVID-19 in India

“The 15 minutes breaks here are me just sitting in the bed and doing nothing, so I really don't enjoy what the school has done.”

 He misses being in person and playing or “having funny chats with nice friends, eating food and discussing every single thing.” 

“So, I definitely would like to go back to school … if possible,” he said. 

It's not just the kids who expressed disappointment. Teachers say the pace is exhausting. Many think that teaching online is much harder than in-person lessons, and they can't tell if the kids are actually paying attention. 

It's even harder in rural India where 70% of Indians live. 

Teachers have struggled as much as students to adapt to teaching and learning online, according to Rushda Mujeeb, who works with the Bernard van Leer Foundation, an international organization focused on early childhood development in India. 

“I think this has put a lot of stress on young children and their caregivers,” she said. 

Technology poses a major challenge. Having someone at home to sort out computer issues is one thing. But for so many lower-income families, access itself is a problem. 

“It's not always affordable, a lot of parents may not have access nor understanding of the digital technologies that are in use,” she said.  

A lot of kids don't have access to smartphones or reliable internet access. 

The long-term impact on kids remains unknown. In September, a group of researchers documented a four-year learning deficit among underprivileged kids. What that means is that a child who was in third grade in 2020, and is heading to fifth grade this year would exhibit the reading skills of a first grader. 

Mujeeb mentioned a UNICEF report that said 42% of children between the ages of 6 to 13 years have not been able to access any form of remote learning in India. 

“We will see this play out in learning loss and so on for the next four years, unless we find ways or the government finds ways to to catch up on some of these things."

Rushda Mujeeb, Bernard van Leer Foundation

“We will see this play out in learning loss and so on for the next four years unless we find ways or the government finds ways to catch up on some of these things,” she cautioned. 

Nutrition is another concern for kids who cannot go to school now. 

India has a long-running school lunch program in government schools. Mujeeb said for a lot of children, lunch is the main reason their parents send them to school and that has been severely affected by the school closures. 

In turn, malnutrition could become more of a problem, which also impacts children’s ability to learn, she said. 

School closures could also have a disproportionate impact on girls. 

The National Right to Education says that 10 million girls could drop out of secondary school, which puts them at increased risk of early marriage, early pregnancy, poverty, trafficking and violence.

“For young girls, this is especially in an issue where they have dropped out of school, whether they will be allowed by families to actually go back to school, again, depending on a range of socio-economic and societal factors.”

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Mujeeb said schools have adapted to tech demands at an astonishing pace. Remote learning tools are getting better. And for many parents and children, school-from-home and work-from-home have resulted in stronger bonds and a lot of quality time together. 

Khanna said her son Shreyas is trying new things this school year.  He did a lot of coding classes last year, and this year, he is enjoying online chess. 

“To balance out everything online, we've also started badminton coaching for him because it's a low physical contact sport and you don't need to be face-to-face with anybody. That also helps because a whole day of classes online and then maybe gaming is followed by a couple of other physical exercises and going out of the house.”

Shreyas summed it up like this: "Not going to school doesn't feel right. Even though it's a little bit more convenient, it's not good for me mentally."

For kids like Shreyas — at least until the next announcement from the government — school life will mostly stay online. 

What’s behind unrest rocking oil-rich Kazakhstan

“MuiTypography-root-228 MuiTypography-h1-233″>What's behind unrest rocking oil-rich KazakhstanAssociated PressJanuary 6, 2022 · 3:15 PM EST

Smoke rises from the city hall building during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Jan. 5, 2022. 

Yan Blagov/AP

Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests the country has seen since gaining independence three decades ago.

The outburst of instability is causing significant concern in Kazakhstan's two powerful neighbors: Russia and China. The country sells most of its oil exports to China and is a key strategic ally of Moscow.

A sudden spike in the price of car fuel at the start of the year triggered the first protests in a remote oil town in the west. But the tens of thousands who have since surged onto the streets across more than a dozen cities and towns now have the entire authoritarian government in their sights.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has cut an increasingly desperate figure. He first sought to mollify the crowds by dismissing the entire government early Wednesday. But by the end of the day he had changed course. First, he described demonstrators as terrorists. Then he appealed to a Russian-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, for help in crushing the uprising and the CSTO agreed to send an unspecified number of peacekeepers.

Why are people angry?

Of the five Central Asian republics that gained independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is by far the largest and the wealthiest. It spans a territory the size of Western Europe and sits atop colossal reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and precious metals.

But while Kazakhstan’s natural riches have helped it cultivate a solid middle class, as well as a substantial cohort of ultrarich tycoons, financial hardship is widespread. The average national monthly salary is just under $600. The banking system has fallen prey to deep crises precipitated by non-performing loans. As in much of the rest of the region, petty corruption is rampant.

The rally that set off the latest crisis took place in the dusty western oil town of Zhanaozen. Resentments have long festered in the area over a sense that the region's energy riches haven't been fairly spread among the local population. In 2011, police shot dead at least 15 people in the city who were protesting in support of oil workers dismissed after a strike.

When prices for the liquified petroleum gas most people in the area use to power their cars doubled overnight Saturday, patience snapped. Residents in nearby cities quickly joined in and within days large protests had spread to the rest of the country.

Who is leading the protests?

The suppression of critical voices in Kazakhstan has long been the norm. Any figures aspiring to oppose the government have either been repressed, sidelined or co-opted. So, although these demonstrations have been unusually large — some drawing more than 10,000 people, a large number for Kazakhstan — no protest movement leaders have emerged.

For most of Kazakhstan's recent history, power was held in the hands of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. That changed in 2019 when Nazarbayev, now 81, stepped aside and anointed his long-time ally Tokayev as his successor. In his capacity as head of the security council that oversees the military and security services, Nazarbayev continued to retain considerable sway over the country. Tokayev announced Wednesday that he was taking over from Nazarbayev as security council head.

Much of the anger displayed on the streets in recent days was directed not at Tokayev, but at Nazarbayev, who is still widely deemed the country’s ultimate ruler. The slogan “Shal ket!” (“Old man, go”) has become a main slogan.

How are the authorities responding?

A police official in Almaty said Thursday that dozens of protesters were killed in attacks on government buildings. At least a dozen police officers were also killed, including one who got beheaded.

There were attempts to storm buildings in Almaty during the night and “dozens of attackers were liquidated,” police spokeswoman Saltanat Azirbek said. She spoke on state news channel Khabar-24. The reported attempts to storm the buildings came after widespread unrest in the city on Wednesday, including seizure of the mayor’s building, which was set on fire.

The initial reaction was in keeping with usual policy in the face of public discontent. Police and the National Guard were deployed in large numbers. The crowd that made its way to City Hall in the commercial capital, Almaty, early Wednesday was met by large phalanxes of riot police and armored personnel carriers. While gatherings are normally dispersed with ease, the number of people on the street this time was too large.

With government buildings coming under assault in several large cities, Tokayev appealed for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-led military alliance. He justified the appeal for external intervention by claiming the protesters were operating at the behest of international terrorist groups. He offered no details on what he meant by that.

Is the government likely to be toppled?

This is uncharted territory for Kazakhstan. The country has seen major demonstrations before: In 2016, after the passage of a contentious land law. And again in 2019, after the contentious election that secured Tokayev’s hold on power. But never anything on this scale.

In one of his appeals to the public Wednesday, Tokayev pledged to pursue reforms and hinted that political liberalization might be possible. His darker remarks toward the end of the day, however, suggested he would instead go down a more repressive road.

Still, because the street protests are so lacking in focus, at least for now, it's difficult to see how they might end. But even if they fail to topple the government, it looks possible they might lead to deep transformation. What is not clear is what that might mean.

Associated Press

Brazil heads into latest COVID surge amid public health information blackout

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Brazil heads into latest COVID surge amid public health information blackout

COVID-19 is back with a vengeance in Brazil, along with simultaneous flu and other viral infections. But a “total blackout” on data has left public health officials feeling blindsided.

The WorldJanuary 6, 2022 · 1:30 PM EST

Commuters wear protective face masks as they walk through a subway station, in São Paulo, Brazil, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Dec. 1, 2021. Brazil joined the widening circle of countries to report cases of the omicron variant. 

Andre Penner/AP/File photo

Daniela Castelan lives in a 3-bedroom house in Sao Paulo with her husband and two young girls. Just after Christmas, they started feeling sick. 

“We had light symptoms,” she said. “One of my daughters had a fever. My 7-year-old had a bad cough. We were all congested and we all had a cough. That’s why I believe it was omicron.” 

She said they’ve had a hard time getting tested, because COVID-19 tests are either hard to come by or really expensive. So, they’ve been isolating at home.

This is the story for many in Brazil today. COVID-19 is back with a vengeance, after months of respite, while the flu and other viruses are also hitting communities hard. But a "total blackout" on public health information since December has left health officials feeling blindsided.

Many Brazilians rang in the new year by partying like COVID-19 was a thing of the past. People packed beaches for celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. No one wore a mask.

Related: Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity over negligent COVID response 

"We are going to have an absurd number of cases. … We are going to pack the emergency rooms. This is a fact. This will happen."

Marcos Caseiro, infectious disease specialist, Brazil

“We are going to have an absurd number of cases,” infectologist Marcos Caseiro said during an interview shared online last week. “We are going to pack the emergency rooms. This is a fact. This will happen,” he said.

Public hospitals in the state capital of Belo Horizonte are at capacity. Hospitals elsewhere are also filling up.

The omicron variant now accounts for a majority of COVID-19 cases in the country. But Brazil is also battling a flu outbreak. Dozens in São Paulo alone are infected right now with both viruses at the same time.

"We are hearing stories from colleagues that there are patients with COVID, with the flu, with rotavirus and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus]. There are people with four different viruses like this at the same time. … It’s insane. …"

Larissa Brussa, microbiologist, Brazil

“We are hearing stories from colleagues that there are patients with COVID, with the flu, with rotavirus and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus]. There are people with four different viruses like this at the same time,” said Larissa Brussa, a microbiologist who works with the country’s largest private-sector laboratory. “It’s insane. We weren’t expecting this and it’s very concerning.”

According to the numbers, omicron cases are still relatively low in Brazil. But that’s because there are no official figures. Since a hacker knocked out the country’s COVID-19 reporting system in mid-December, government numbers have been largely offline.

Related: Electricity rates have skyrocketed in Brazil. The govt says the water crisis is to blame.

"I am very concerned about this blackout of information. This leaves us blind for what’s happening around us. And it’s hard for us to develop effective measures to stop cases, hospitalizations and deaths from rising."

Mellanie Fontes-Dutra, biochemist and a researcher, COVID-19 Analysis Network, Brazil

“I am very concerned about this blackout of information. This leaves us blind for what’s happening around us. And it’s hard for us to develop effective measures to stop cases, hospitalizations and deaths from rising,” said Mellanie Fontes-Dutra, a biochemist and a researcher with the COVID-19 Analysis Network.

If there is a silver lining, Brazil’s COVID-19 vaccination program has been a success, after an initially slow start. The government says 80% of the eligible adult population is fully vaccinated. 

Related: Brazil’s COVID vaccination campaign picks up thanks to a 1980s public health mascot

Yesterday, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga announced that vaccines were finally approved for children over the age of 5. He said they would start to be distributed in the coming days. 

Cities have reinstated mask mandates. São Paulo is now requiring all state employees to get vaccinated. Many cities, including Rio de Janeiro, have canceled Carnival for the second year in a row.

These measures to stem the spread of the virus are increasing as the country heads into another COVID-19 wave. This time, with more vaccines — but less government data to guide the way forward.

“It’s like we’ve been in a tunnel, we’ve had some glimmers of hope. … but at this moment, with the erasing of information, there is a total blackout. We are in a tunnel. And the light of hope has been blown out.”

Renata Rivera, doctor, São Paulo, Brazil

“It’s like we’ve been in a tunnel, we’ve had some glimmers of hope,” São Paulo doctor Renata Rivera said. “But at this moment, with the erasing of information, there is a total blackout. We are in a tunnel. And the light of hope has been blown out.”

‘She’s in our hearts’: Devotees from China and Taiwan come together celebrate goddess Mazu

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>‘She’s in our hearts’: Devotees from China and Taiwan come together celebrate goddess Mazu

The Daoist goddess Mazu is revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. China supports Mazu worship as a way to strengthen cross-strait, political and economic relations. 

The WorldJanuary 6, 2022 · 12:15 PM EST

Devotees carry a statue of the goddess Mazu in a procession on Meizhou Island, China.

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

Inside the Xinggong Temple on Meizhou Island near Putian, Fujian Province, pilgrims bow in front of a statue of the Daoist goddess, Mazu.

They light incense and present fruit and small plates with handcrafted offerings shaped like marine animals.

Li Ahxia, who grew up on Meizhou Island, brings her 8-year-old daughter with her to the temple, where they offer incense and prayers to the goddess Mazu.

“She’s in our hearts. We usually come twice a month to make offerings to Mazu. And she protects us.”

Li Ahxia, Meizhou Island, Mazu devotee

“She’s in our hearts,” Li said. “We usually come twice a month to make offerings to Mazu. And she protects us.”

The scene of quiet reverence stands in stark contrast to the rising political — and military — tensions between China and Taiwan.

Related: A new memoir by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei honors his father's poetry and politics

Mazu is revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese government, which has been putting military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, supports Mazu worship as a way to strengthen cross-strait political and economic relations.

Procession honoring Mazu at Meizhou Island, China.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

Mazu followers come from all over the world on pilgrimage to visit her temple on Meizhou Island — believed to be her birthplace — just off of China’s eastern coast. Taiwan is less than 80 miles away, across the Taiwan Strait.

A complicated history 

Mazu is believed to have been a real person named Lin Mo, who lived in the 10th century and became revered for her divine powers, such as predicting the weather and saving drowning sailors.

According to folklore, she died at 28 while trying to rescue the victims of a shipwreck, and she was elevated to a sea goddess who was known for being compassionate and motherly.

Related: Move over, meat! Plant-based alternatives in China are booming. 

As China’s maritime economy and overseas trade expanded in the 13th century, devotion to Mazu was encouraged, some scholars say. In the 1800s, the emperor gave her the title, Queen of Heaven.

But during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, Mazu worship was violently repressed, along with other religions.

Mei Yinggu, 65, has lived at Xinggong Temple on Meizhou Island since she was a toddler and is now the managing director.

During the Cultural Revolution, she said, the temple was almost completely destroyed. She said that for several years, she slept in a cowshed nearby to protect the holy site from further destruction.

Mei Yinggu makes offering at Xinggong Temple, Meizhou Island, China.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

In the 1980s and 1990s, folk religion was accepted again, and Mei said she collected donations to rebuild the temple bit by bit. Pilgrimages resumed, and the island began welcoming visitors from other Mazu temples across China and the world, including Taiwan.

An annual fall pilgrimage commemorates the anniversary of Mazu’s ascension to heaven, while another in the spring celebrates her birthday.

And, the Mazu statue from Meizhou Island has been carried throughout Asia to connect with her devotees.

Local officials used interest in Mazu to build up their tourist economy. The small island features a cultural relics park, a theme park, a musical theater performance and souvenir shops, all devoted to promoting the goddess Mazu.

Related: This teen climate activist is blazing a new path to raise environmental awareness in China

Despite the pandemic, throngs of people still showed up in October to march in the annual processions around the small island.

‘We always want to [reunite] with Taiwan’

Researcher Zhang Yanchao studies the Mazu faith in China and around the world.

“The government tries to use Mazu worship to connect mainland China people with Taiwanese people, more like a common cultural identity to unite mainland China with Taiwan,” she said. “Because we always want to [reunite] with Taiwan.”

Puppet costumes at Xinggong Temple on Meizhou Island, China.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

The Chinese government sees the island as a renegade province and says “complete reunification” is a top priority.

In the past few months, China has been sending warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone on a regular basis.

For its part, Taiwan has asserted itself on the international stage as a self-governed democracy. The island has been separately ruled since 1949 as the result of civil war in China. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen has asked China’s government to “stop the spread of military adventurism.”

Zhang, the researcher, said that officials in China also see the goddess Mazu as a way to build economic ties.

“They try to attract financial support from Taiwanese and also from other overseas Chinese. So, they kind of promoted this goddess worship.”

Zhang Yanchao, Mazu researcher

“They try to attract financial support from Taiwanese and also from other overseas Chinese. So, they kind of promoted this goddess worship,” she said.

The Chinese government sees another opportunity here, too.

A performer at a procession commemorating the anniversary of the goddess Mazu’s ascension to heaven.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

At a Mazu Cultural Forum and Tourist Festival held in China just a few weeks ago, officials announced preferential policies for young Taiwanese entrepreneurs to set up shop in Fujian province.

Local news coverage mentioned new academic and youth exchanges between China and Taiwan.

It also reported that as attendees from both sides held meetings, a statue of the goddess Mazu was there watching over them. 

At least 9 African countries set to produce COVID vaccines, Africa’s CDC chief says

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>At least 9 African countries set to produce COVID vaccines, Africa’s CDC chief says

Despite Africa's low vaccination rates, the continent's early, robust response has helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the continent so far, says Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And he predicts many more vaccines will be available in 2022, with a strong emphasis on distribution.

January 5, 2022 · 4:45 PM EST

A man gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at a site near Johannesburg, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. 

Denis Farrell/AP

As omicron continues to make its impact across the globe, scientists in Africa are rapidly learning more about the new coronavirus variant. Omicron was first identified in southern Africa in November.

Dr. John Nkengasong, the director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The World's host Carol Hills that so far in South Africa, omicron cases have quickly peaked and declined, with fewer hospitalizations than variants like delta.  

"We see omicron as a virus that transmits very, very quickly. But then the severity in South Africa has not been comparable to what we saw with the delta variant," he said. 

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

Africa remains the world’s least vaccinated continent against COVID-19, with about 10% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated. Only seven African countries have met the global target of vaccinating 40% of their populations against COVID-19 by the end of 2021. 

However, Nkengasong says Africa's political leadership mounted a "very robust response" early on in the pandemic that showed "extraordinary coordination and collaboration." Over the last two years, leaders have met to discuss and review pandemic preparedness and response at least 16 times, he said. 

Nkengasong joined the The World to discuss how African leaders have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and several lessons learned so far from studying omicron, as well as managing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

Carol Hills: Dr. Nkengasong, scientists predicted that the African continent will be much harder hit by COVID-19, with tens of millions of infections and several million deaths. That hasn't happened — which is good. But why has the impact been so different than it was predicted?Dr. John Nkengasong: It is very obvious that through the extraordinary coordination and collaboration that the political leadership of the continent exercised very early on, they were able to mount a very robust response. And just to substantiate that — the political leadership of the continent has met at least 16 times to review the actions and coordinate their efforts and discuss the pandemic — that is highly unusual. In my over three decades experience in public health, we have not seen that. 

Related: From Congo to Chile, small labs are playing a growing role in global understanding of COVID 

What other factors do you think need to be studied about why Africa didn't see the infections and death levels that were expected, despite the low vaccination rate?From a scientific perspective, there are several parameters that we need to study in Africa. One is, what are existing immune responses contributing to a less severe outcome? Second, are we counting everybody that has been infected? And have we counted all the deaths? We just concluded a study and we saw that in some countries, the number of people that have been exposed to the virus is significantly higher than what has been reported, but it has not necessarily translated to the number of deaths on the continent, for sure. So then, the research question that we have to resolve is, why has the increased number of exposures on the continent not led to deaths like we saw in India, how devastating the virus was in India — you couldn't hide the deaths, right? But we have not seen that scenario in Africa. We also have to begin to look at the interreaction between existing infections like malaria and even other coronaviruses that cause the common cold in Africa, and if they have led to the production of certain antibodies that can prevent or slow the severity of these diseases. So, a lot that needs to be studied. There are several working groups and research centers across the continent that are looking into this. I know you've written about the lack of biotech and manufacturing in Africa, and the continent's dependance globally for supplies of vaccines. What steps are being done to change that?A lot has happened and continues to happen in the course of this pandemic. The heads of states came together and launched a program called Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing. And through that partnership, at least nine countries on the continent have engaged in the pathway for producing vaccines, including South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Egypt. Egypt, for example, is already producing about 3.5 million doses of vaccines. We know that South Africa is now producing vaccines. So I think you'll continue to see that the landscape will change significantly in 2022. 

Related: COVID-19 vaccines produced in Africa move forward 

I want to get back to vaccine access because it's such a front-and-center issue. With 10% of the African continent fully vaccinated, what needs to happen to improve access to vaccines?In 2022, you'll see many more vaccines arrive in the continent, so we have to shift our emphasis on making sure that vaccines that arrive at the airports are actually getting into the arms of people who need it. And that will require that we focus on such capacity for workforce, such capacity for logistics, such capacity for distribution to the last mile, and such capacity to engage the communities. So, those are the key areas that we need to focus on now to increase our uptake of vaccines from the 10% to about over 70% — or more. President Joe Biden has announced that he intends to nominate you to lead the US president's emergency plan for AIDS relief, known as PEPFAR. Can you speak to how the response to HIV in Africa and worldwide has helped inform the response to COVID? I think it is important to know that we are dealing with two pandemics across the world. The HIV/AIDS pandemic and COVID[-19] is a pandemic that has just emerged over the last two years. And very unfortunately, and very concerning, is the interreaction of the two pandemics. We now know that people infected with HIV tend to not clear the virus, that is, the COVID-19 virus, appropriately, especially if they have not been fully treated — and that has the risk of creating variants. We don't know what the trajectory for COVID[-19] will look like in the coming years, but we know that HIV has been with us for 40 years [and] has killed almost 37 million people. Tremendous gains have been made in the fight against HIV, especially in Africa. But we should be mindful of what COVID[-19] can do to erode the significant progress that we have made in achieving remarkable progress in controlling HIV/AIDS over the years.Do you have any predictions or sense of how omicron is going to make its way through the world and its behavior and longevity, based on what happened in Africa? Or is simply more research needed? I think it's interesting to take a close look at how the trajectory of omicron has been in South Africa. Omicron came in very quickly. We saw it in South Africa rise very sharply to the peak and then decline very quickly. If you compare that to the delta variant, when it first hit South Africa, for example, it took several weeks to peak and then it took several weeks to to begin to decline — which is not the case of omicron. We see omicron as a virus that transmits very, very quickly. But then the severity in South Africa has not been comparable to what we saw with the delta variant. We are truly grateful for that because if the virus had transmitted that quickly and it led to a severity of cases, then it would have been overwhelming completely across southern Africa, and across the world, just because it has now spread across the entire world. So, we continue to learn more about omicron, what we call the pathogenesis and the clinical spectrum of omicron. For example, is it infecting children more? For example, would it lead to long COVID? And what does that mean in terms of the dynamics between omicron and delta variants in South Africa and the world? So there's a lot to be learned from the omicron virus, but at least the early lessons that have emerged is the less severity in terms of clinical outcomes and hospitalization of the omicron variant. 

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

‘Haitians deserve a chance to determine their own future,’ former US envoy says

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>'Haitians deserve a chance to determine their own future,' former US envoy says

Ambassador Daniel Foote — former US special envoy for Haiti — told The World's host Carol Hills that the US, though moving in the right direction now, hasn't been doing right by Haiti.

The WorldJanuary 5, 2022 · 3:00 PM EST

Residents stand amid their homes damaged by a gasoline truck that overturned and exploded in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, Dec. 14, 2021.

Odelyn Joseph/AP/File photo

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse has been shrouded in mystery ever since assailants broke into his home in July and shot him in his bedroom.

On Tuesday, former Colombian military officer Mario Antonio Palacios appeared at a US District Court in Miami. A Justice Department statement revealed that he gave “voluntary statements” to US law enforcement officials during an October interview in Jamaica. Palacios has been charged by the Department of Justice with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death.

Related: A group of Haitian migrants says they were abused at the US-Mexico border. They’re suing the US govt.

But Ambassador Daniel Foote, the former US special envoy for Haiti, told The World's host Carol Hills that the US, though moving in the right direction now, hasn't been doing right by Haiti. And he's calling on Washington to tone down its support for Ariel Henry, the acting prime minister of the country.

Foote had resigned in September, describing US policy in the country as deeply flawed.

Related: ‘It is up to us Haitians to find a solution’ Haiti crisis adviser says

Carol Hills: What does the appearance in a US courtroom of the former Colombian soldier, Mario Antonio Palacios, tell us?Ambassador Daniel Foote: I find it to be quite encouraging. It is proof that the United States has a federal investigation going into the assassination of Jovenel Moïse. It's unclear the magnitude this could be. Before, it was unclear whether US law enforcement was fully engaged in an investigation. Now, they are. And this makes me feel as if we will eventually get to the bottom of this crime. The Haitians have been running an investigation. They don't have the resources or, frankly, the political will to get to the end. So, I'm encouraged to see the FBI indictment of Palacios and his appearance in Miami.US authorities say Palacios spoke to them voluntarily. What has he said?I can't tell you. You know, the FBI won't comment on an ongoing investigation. The background that I can give you on Palacios is, I believe he was an officer as opposed to a noncommissioned officer in the Colombian army. I think what he said is he had no idea what was going on. And while he was present at the site of the assassination, he did not see who killed Moïse, and he does not know who did it.You said that you don't think there's the political will in Haiti to really carry out an investigation. Do you think there is political will in the US?Well, the indictment is evidence that there's some political will, right? And that they have indictable evidence that they think is prosecutable on one individual. I hope that's the case. Obviously, it's in the United States' interest to help solve a crime of a close neighbor that 600 miles from Miami with an enormous diaspora in the United States.

 

Do you have any sense, yourself, of what went down in July?My experience with Haiti tells me that if we ever find out the truth, and as I said, I'm encouraged much more today than I was two days ago, I believe it is going to be far more bizarre than anything that we've seen come out now. And I'll leave it at that.

 

Your resignation last July made big waves. Remind us why you stepped down.I stepped down, one, because I was brought into the job under certain circumstances. "Go figure out what's going on and a way forward." And after I had been doing that for a while, I found that no one was really listening to me and they were backing the current acting de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry, which I think is a mistake. The second reason was the deportations out of Del Rio, Texas. And I learned about it, saw it on the evening news. And I had not talked to anybody before. I talked to people in the State Department. It was clear to me that they were planning to deport all of those people, and I just couldn't be part of that.

 

Well, let's go with one of the first reasons you cited just now, which is the US support for the current Haitian president, Ariel Henry. Why do you think it's wrong for the US to support him?He has no mandate. He's completely illegitimate. There's no parliament to swear in a prime minister. The acting prime minister, at the time of Moïse's death, Claude Joseph, stepped forward and said, "OK, I got things under control. I'll be in charge until we find a transition plan." And then, out of the blue, the US and the UN and other international embassies issue a statement anointing Ariel Henry as the acting prime minister. And I'll tell you what, Haitians don't take kindly to other countries telling them who should lead their country. Whether Ariel Henry is the greatest leader in the world or not, they see him as completely illegitimate.

 

Are you saying that Prime Minister Ariel Henry is really basically handpicked by the US?I believe he's hand-picked by the US and a handful of other internationals, and generally, they do follow what the US says. But I was not in any of the core group meetings in Port-au-Prince that led to that decision.The other thing you cited in your reason for stepping down was the US deporting Haitian migrants. Those deportations are continuing, aren't they?They sure are, every day, like clockwork. And most of the deportees, when asked what they're going to do, they say, "We're going to try to go back." So, they're put in a place where Americans have been told to leave and not to visit, our Embassy is locked down and our personnel are unable to leave our compounds without massive security. And we're deporting desperate people with no resources back into these circumstances. There are 30,000 refugees, at least, in Port-au-Prince from gang violence.

 

The State Department said it would provide support to people who were deported back to Haiti. Is that happening?My understanding is the International Organization for Migration gives him a hundred bucks and a pat on the back when they arrive to Haiti, and that's probably an oversimplification, but I don't think they're getting a lot of support.

 

Your resignation came after a lot of soul-searching. What impact were you hoping to have with the way you stepped down?I believe Haitians deserve a chance to determine their own future and their own leaders for once. And they rarely, if ever, have been given that opportunity by the international community. So, that's what I'm looking for, is for my Haitian brothers and sisters to have the opportunity and the dignity to set their own course. And, unfortunately, it became clear to me that I had a better chance doing that from the outside than I did from the inside, just because I couldn't get their attention that way.

 

What do you want to see happen? What do you want to see the Biden administration do next?I would like them to hold Ariel Henry accountable before supporting him. He is implicated in the assassination of President Moïse by having spoken 12 times, by phone records, with one of the major suspects who is still at large. And he has not answered what he was doing. These were not butt dials. He talked to this suspect twice after the assassination, including one for several minutes. He needs to answer these questions, or the US might be backing a guy who is part of this crime.

 

 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Foundations of international relations: Part II

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Foundations of international relations: Part II

How do philanthropic foundations get involved in international climate policy — and what kinds of reforms do they favor? Critical State, a foreign policy newsletter by Inkstick Media, takes a deep dive into this question this week.  

Inkstick MediaJanuary 5, 2022 · 3:15 PM EST

Philanthropist Bill Gates attends the World Leaders' Summit "Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment," at the COP26 Summit, in Glasgow, Scotland, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. 

Jeff J. Mitchell/AP/Pool

This analysis was featured in Critical State, a weekly foreign policy newsletter from Inkstick Media. Subscribe here.

Last week in Deep Dive, we looked at research on the role foundations do (or, perhaps more accurately, do not) play in democratization around the world. This week, we’ll look at an issue area where the philanthropic arms of the worlds’ super rich claim to have a greater impact: climate change. 

Related: Foundations of international relations: Part I

Capitalism has not yet produced its first green billionaire, and maybe it never will.

In some ways, climate is a natural area for foundations to work in. For one thing, the uber rich are outrageously more responsible for climate change than the average human. Even aside from the carbon footprint of private jets, vanity space programs, and other trappings of supervillainy, the fact remains that even the most low-key billionaire burned a lot of carbon to get where they are. Capitalism has not yet produced its first green billionaire, and maybe it never will. If foundations are meant to turn the assets of the super rich into good for the world, climate work offers an opportunity to mitigate some of the harms that generated those assets.

Related: Glasgow summit pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies faces an uphill battle

For another, it is largely the interests of the super rich that will be affected by climate mitigation efforts. With their funders’ skin in the game, foundations have an extra incentive to insert themselves into international climate action. It’s that impulse that political scientist Edouard Morena wrote about in a recent article in the journal International Politics. Morena dug into the archives to track how foundations involved themselves in international climate policy and what kinds of reforms they favored. 

He found that foundations in the US (where they play an outsized role in policymaking compared to the role of foundations in other democracies) played two key roles in bringing international climate action to the point it is at today. The first, arguably positive, is that foundations worked diligently to bring the US into dialogue with the rest of the world about climate and to keep it at the table. The US — the largest historical carbon emitter in the world and still a massive contributor to fossil fuel output — has long been reluctant to consider the kinds of reforms that are necessary to avert ecological catastrophe. Dating back to the 1980s, longstanding US foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation funded efforts that created key climate organizations like the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC). The Rockefeller Brothers Fund acted as behind-the-scenes dealmakers to protect the IPCC and UNFCCC from fatal interference from US government figures that had an interest in climate denial. 

Related: World leaders pledged to end forest loss. What will it take?

In the late 1990s, the structure of US philanthropy in the climate space began to change.

In the late 1990s, however, the structure of US philanthropy in the climate space began to change. The rise of Silicon Valley and the gobs of cash that came with it brought new players to the table. The Gates’ and Moores were no more eager to pay taxes than the Rockefellers or Fords had been, so a new generation of foundations was born. These new foundations, however, had a different political bent than their predecessors. Still interested in climate issues, they wanted to pursue action on climate through programming that emphasized, rather than limited, capitalist approaches. The “greed is good” method of climate mitigation sought to find technological and market solutions to emissions issues, hoping that the prospect of getting rich on green energy would drive transformational innovation. These approaches were hugely influential — by 2012, the five foundations that most backed these approaches accounted for $350 million of the $450 million being spent annually on climate mitigation philanthropy.

Market-based approaches to climate mitigation demand much less change to the US economic structure than the top-down approaches advocated by progressives, and there is little to suggest that they will yield the same emissions reductions that more drastic reforms could produce.

The advocates of this new approach worked diligently to freeze out activists who argued for more drastic, government imposed curbs on carbon emissions. A 2015 publication by a coalition of “greed is good” advocates lumped together climate deniers and “climate idealists… frustrated with the progress made to date… in light of the necessary emissions reductions required” as equally dangerous to the movement to limit climate change. Their spending power and their targeting of more progressive voices has, Moreno found, served to keep the interest of the US (and, by extension, its billionaires) front and center in the climate debate. Market-based approaches to climate mitigation demand much less change to the US economic structure than the top-down approaches advocated by progressives, and there is little to suggest that they will yield the same emissions reductions that more drastic reforms could produce. As people in the US and around the world become more concerned about climate change, and appetite for drastic change increases among the average person, the role of foundations involved in climate advocacy in protecting the interests of billionaire funders should not be overlooked.

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

The ‘sore loser effect’: Rejecting election results can destabilize democracy and drive terrorism

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>The ‘sore loser effect’: Rejecting election results can destabilize democracy and drive terrorism

False election fraud claims helped fuel the US Capitol attack — and still continue to create risks of violence and domestic terrorism.

The ConversationJanuary 4, 2022 · 11:15 PM EST

The Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol offers an example of how refusing to accept election results can lead to violence. 

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

An attendee at an October 2021 political rally hosted by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk asked: “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?

The attendee was referring to the baseless allegation that Joe Biden stole the 2020 US presidential election and that he unfairly denied Donald Trump reelection.

Kirk, CEO of Turning Point USA, condemned the question. But one year after the Capitol insurrection that was fueled by Trump’s claims of a rigged election, Kirk, other commentators and politicians — and, of course, Trump himself — continue to fuel false beliefs of widespread election fraud. Embrace of the “Big Lie” that Trump really won the election has become an article of faith for many Republican politicians. It is also widely believed by conservative Americans; in an October, 2021 poll, 60% of Republicans said the 2020 presidential election results should definitely or probably be overturned.

This creates a potentially dangerous situation for the United States. Acceptance of electoral defeat, something political scientists call “loser’s consent,” is essential for stability and order in democracies.

New research shows that when losing politicians refuse to accept election results, domestic terrorism increases. 

Credit:

Roberto Sshmidt/AFP via Getty Images

‘Sore losers’ can drive terrorism

Democracy is based on a compact: Election losers agree to accept the results and encourage their supporters to do the same.

In exchange, losing politicians get a chance to run, and win, in a future election.

However, loser’s consent is fragile. And when it is broken the risk of political violence increases. In a recent study I published, I conclude that when election losers in democracies reject election results, becoming “sore losers,” trust in political institutions is eroded, political polarization and tribalism grows and mistrust thrives.

This produces a situation where political violence is no longer seen as taboo, particularly among supporters of the losing political party. My research shows that when losing politicians in democracies refuse to accept election results, citizens begin to see terrorism as more acceptable and domestic terrorism increases.

Here in the US, outrage over the Big Lie helped fuel the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. It has also driven domestic terrorism plots.

For example, federal authorities announced charges in July against two men who planned to bomb the California Democratic Party headquarters. The two men were radicalized by the Big Lie and expressed hope on social media that the attack would “start a movement that could keep former President Donald J. Trump in office.”

The day after the US Capitol was stormed, workers begin to clean up the debris and damage estimated at $2.5 million.

Credit:

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Understanding the data

In my study I examined domestic terrorist attack data in over 100 democracies from 1970 to 2018. I also looked at public opinion on whether people view the use of terrorism as justifiable in 30 democratic countries from 2017 to 2020. I based my definition of domestic terrorism on the one used by the Global Terrorism Database. Finally, I used data to measure whether politicians who lost recent national elections in democracies refused to accept the results. I limited my analysis to democracies that were free from electoral irregularities.

I also accounted for other factors that might make domestic terrorism more common or acceptable in my analyses. These include the country’s economic state, ethnic diversity and political violence history, as well as the government’s strength and stability.

For public opinion on terrorism, I weighed the effects of factors such as the age, gender, income, education level, political ideology and religious and ethnic identity of the survey respondent and the amount of terrorism in the country over the previous three years.

When contested results lead to violence

Here is what I found.

First, when losing political parties in democracies reject election results, domestic terrorism increases and gets more intense. By how much depends on how many, and what types of, political parties were sore losers.

Countries where all political parties, including the losers, accepted the election results experienced only one domestic attack about every two years. However, countries where one of the main political parties lost the election but refused to accept the official results — the situation most like what the US currently faces — subsequently experienced around five domestic terrorist attacks per year. Finally, countries where all losing political parties rejected the election results subsequently experienced more than 10 domestic terrorist attacks per year.

Second, the sore-loser effect also boosts acceptance of terrorism. Only around 9% of citizens of democracies where all losing parties accepted election results regard terrorism as justifiable behavior. This percentage increased to around 27% in democracies where the main, losing opposition party or parties rejected the election — the category most approximating the United States after the 2020 election. Finally, around a third of citizens in democracies where all losing parties rejected election results also tolerated terrorism as a tactic.

These results show that when politicians refuse to accept a free and fair democratic election’s outcome, and instead choose to promote a popular narrative of a stolen or dirty election, they place their people in physical danger. Popular tolerance for terrorism grows, and so does terrorist activity itself.

James Piazza is a liberal arts professor of political science at Penn State. This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good.

A COVID variant of concern or just another ‘scare-iant?’

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>A COVID variant of concern or just another 'scare-iant?'

There have been hundreds and thousands variants of COVID-19. Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, explained to The World's host Carol Hills when a variant actually becomes a variant of concern.

The WorldJanuary 4, 2022 · 1:45 PM EST

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk in downtown Lisbon, Nov. 29, 2021.

Ana Brigida/AP/File photo

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a number of variants have emerged, including the latest ones known as delta and omicron.

And on Tuesday, scientists in France identified another potentially worrying new variant with 46 mutations, temporarily naming it "IHU." So far, at least 12 people have been infected in the south of the country. 

So, how common are variants and when do they become a serious cause for concern?

Related: Countries must 'improve vaccine coverage and equity everywhere' to combat COVID delta variant, doctor says

"The WHO actually has rules about when they decide that a new variant is a 'variant of interest' or a 'variant of concern.'"

Emma Hodcroft, epidemiologist at the University of Bern in Switzerland

"The WHO [World Health Organization] actually has rules about when they decide that a new variant is a 'variant of interest' or a 'variant of concern,'" said Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern in Switzerland. 

"A variant of interest is the one that's slightly less worrying. This is something that scientists will monitor closely, and is usually based around the fact that it has some mutations that we think — from previous work or from previous variants — are worrying and that we're seeing that variant start to spread in other countries…," she said. 

Related: Israeli researchers try to find COVID 'threshold' with fourth vaccine dose

But Hodcroft also said that there are hundreds and thousands of SARS-CoV-2 variants. Simply seeing a new combination of mutations is not necessarily a red flag.

Scientists pay close attention to variants that have "an interesting combination of mutations, some of which we've seen before and have seemed to be bad news," she said. But it may or may not actually become a problem.

In the case of IHU, scientists have actually been monitoring it since November. But it hasn't grown very much, hovering at 20 to 30 known sequences worldwide, compared to the millions of cases seen with other variants.

Hodcroft told The World that many scientists have come together during this pandemic to identify variants. 

"Scientists are looking at what those sequences look like, what mutations they have and whether we're seeing a pattern in how they cluster," she explained. They will then flag any combination of mutations that seem to be increasing somewhere in the world and will decide together whether or not to monitor it.

Related: Vaccine mandates aren’t new. But do they work?

Some of the flagging is even done through informal channels, such as Twitter, Slack and GitHub.

But official groups like the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control will then implement their own rules when a flagged variant becomes more worrisome.

Hodcroft also suggested that until there is an official statement from one of these groups, it's better to follow the work of a few accredited scientists rather than falling prey to hype sometimes spread in the media.

"We really do need strong bridges between the media and science so that we can make sure that we're getting accurate information to people about what they need to worry about and what's more of a 'scare-iant' than a variant," Holdcroft said. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.Click above to listen to the entire discussion.

Editor's note: This report reflects the understanding of COVID-19 variants as of the interview date and is subject to change as scenarios evolve quickly.

Progressive evangelicals in Brazil wage a battle ‘against Bolsonaroism’ ahead of elections

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>Progressive evangelicals in Brazil wage a battle ‘against Bolsonaroism’ ahead of elections

Evangelical Christians will play a powerful role in keeping President Jair Bolsonaro in power. But support may be slipping as evangelical progressives begin to organize against Bolsonaro ahead of next year's elections.

The WorldJanuary 4, 2022 · 1:15 PM EST

Christians raise their hands in praise during an International Grace of God Church event led by televangelist R.R. Soares, with President Jair Bolsonaro in attendance, at Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 15, 2020.

Leo Correa/AP/File photo

In early December 2021, evangelical pastor Kenner Terra hopped on a flight from his home in the state of Espírito Santo and flew to São Paulo, where he met with dozens of progressive evangelical leaders to discuss the 2022 elections.

“We asked ourselves what are the principal problems in Brazil right now that a progressive evangelical alliance could help resolve."

Kenner Terra, evangelical pastor, Espírito Santo, Brazil 

“We asked ourselves what are the principal problems in Brazil right now that a progressive evangelical alliance could help resolve,” he said.

The group gathered because they noticed that President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies are creating problematic issues, he said, including rollbacks in social and workers’ rights, a failed response to the pandemic and a weakening of democratic institutions.

The term “progressive evangelical” may seem contradictory by nature. In Brazil, like in the United States, evangelical Christians are usually considered to be more politically conservative — taking stands against abortion and gay marriage.

Related: Evangelicals in Brazil 'have taken power’ with latest Supreme Court justice appointee

But in Brazil, the word evangelical describes all non-Catholic Christians, who make up about a third of the country. So-called progressive evangelicals are a small segment of this population.

They are up against a conservative evangelical majority that controls the powerful media and electoral machines that helped elect Bolsonaro and evangelical political leaders.

However, a recent poll suggests support may be slipping as evangelical progressives begin to organize against Bolsonaro, and as their voices get louder.

In September, activists from the Black Evangelical Movement participated in nationwide protests against the Bolsonaro government and its handling of the pandemic.

Related: 'Born in Blackness': A new book centers Africa in the expansive history of slavery

“We are here today on the streets to show that being evangelical does not mean that we are Bolsonaro supporters,” said one member in a video shared over social media

“We will be in the streets next year,” said Vanessa Barboza, one of the young leaders of the movement, which has local chapters in cities around the country. “We have political connections and we’ll be organizing people directly against Bolsonaro.”

Her story is similar to many others.

She said she joined a Pentacostal church in her youth. But over time, she found there was little space for deeper discussions there about feminism or racial discrimination in the church.

She helped to found the first feminist evangelical group in the country and the Network of Black Women Evangelicals in 2018. They hold frequent online forums, like this one live-streamed over YouTube in October. 

Next year, Barboza said they are going to work to fight political violence against Black female leaders and political candidates, which has been rising since the lead-up to Bolsonaro’s election in 2018.

There are dozens of progressive evangelical groups like hers around the country.

On a Sunday morning in late November, members of the Evangelical Front for the Rule of Law inaugurated a new space in Brasília, by holding mass. In a video shared online, a pastor in jeans and a black T-shirt preaches to a small audience, seated in white plastic chairs, about helping one another. Behind him is a large mural of lush green leaves and ivy. A five-person band plays softly in the background.

Related: ‘Without our territory, we are nothing’: Violence against Indigenous peoples spikes in Brazil

The group, with nearly 30,000 followers on Facebook and local chapters around the country, is one of the more prominent progressive evangelical organizations in Brazil.

"It’s not a battle against Bolsonaro. It’s a battle against Bolsonarism. The figure of Bolsonaro is weakening. But the future of his movement is strong.”

Valeria do Nascimento Oliveira, founding member, Evangelical Front for the Rule of Law

“Next year will be a very difficult year,” founding member Valeria do Nascimento Oliveira said. “It’s not a battle against Bolsonaro. It’s a battle against Bolsonarism. The figure of Bolsonaro is weakening. But the future of his movement is strong.”

She said they, too, will be in the streets: Pamphleting, door knocking and holding religious gatherings.

It may not be enough to counter the power of the more conservative evangelical churches. But these groups are flexing their muscles and showing that evangelicals are more politically diverse than they might appear.

And that diversity is set to play an important role as the candidates battle in the lead-up to next year’s election.

“It is possible for progressive evangelicals to organize … to develop a new project for society that’s more just in its relationships, and with a gospel that’s more about freedom and mercy.”

Ronilso Pacheco, Baptist pastor, Union Theological Seminary

“It is possible for progressive evangelicals to organize,” said Brazilian Baptist pastor Ronilso Pacheco, who is currently studying at Union Theological Seminary. “It’s possible to organize, to develop a new project for society that’s more just in its relationships, and with a gospel that’s more about freedom and mercy.”

What is aquamation, the burial practice Desmond Tutu chose instead of cremation? 

“MuiTypography-root-133 MuiTypography-h1-138″>What is aquamation, the burial practice Desmond Tutu chose instead of cremation? 

Aquamation is a corpse decomposition process that uses water instead of fire to produce similar results — an urn of ashes. It’s seen as a “greener alternative” to carbon-emitting cremation. 

The WorldJanuary 3, 2022 · 3:30 PM EST

Clerics carry the coffin after the funeral for Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, Jan 1, 2022.

Jaco Marais/AP/Pool 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was laid to rest on Sunday in Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu was a Nobel laureate, anti-apartheid activist and staunch advocate for protecting the environment. 

At his request, his body underwent a process known as aquamation that uses water instead of fire to produce the same results — an urn of ashes. The process is considered a greener alternative to cremation. 

Related: Cape Town bells toll to honor Archbishop Desmond Tutu's life

Samantha Sieber is the vice president of research at Bio-Response Solutions, an Indiana-based company that manufactures the necessary equipment for aquamation. Sieber said the process uses a solution of 95% water and 5% alkaline to “essentially accomplish what burial on the ground may take years to do in a matter of hours.” 

Tutu’s decision to use aquamation has garnered newfound interest in the eco-friendly process, Sieber said. 

Related: Remembering the life and legacy of the late FW de Klerk, South Africa's last apartheid president

“I think what's happened with Archbishop Tutu is there's a certain respect to the way that it's being described, the fact that he researched it and decided that was part of the set of decisions he wanted to make — including his very simple casket, the simple flowers, having an overall eco-conscious mindset — when making those decisions."

Samantha Sieber, vice president of research, Bio-Response Solutions, Indiana

“I think what's happened with Archbishop Tutu is there's a certain respect to the way that it's being described, the fact that he researched it and decided that was part of the set of decisions he wanted to make — including his very simple casket, the simple flowers, having an overall eco-conscious mindset — when making those decisions,” Sieber said. 

As societies become more eco-conscious in decision-making in all aspects of life, aquamation has grown in popularity as a viable alternative. The process, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, yields over 90% energy savings when compared to flame-based cremation, while providing 20% more ash remains to the family, according to Bio-Response.

The process doesn't require the burning of fossil fuels and doesn't emit harmful greenhouse gases or mercury. The water returns to the ecosystem using regular wastewater treatment facilities, similar to what funeral homes do during an embalming process, the company website explains.

Related: Glasgow summit pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies faces an uphill battle

Aquamation is legal in South Africa, Costa Rica, many Canadian provinces and at least 23 states in the United States — but not yet in Indiana, where Sieber’s company is based. 

It’s not quite illegal, Sieber said, but funeral laws there don’t exist yet for this type of process. 

“We have found that it's really best to have regulatory authorities involved early on and formally address it and approve it prior to ever moving the technology into an area."

Samantha Sieber, Bio-Response Solutions, Indiana

“It's just simply not addressed at all,” she said. “We have found that it's really best to have regulatory authorities involved early on and formally address it and approve it prior to ever moving the technology into an area.” 

Related: Greece's first and only crematorium opens despite pushback from the church

For now, Bio-Response primarily helps funeral homes, crematories and small businesses bring it to their local markets. 

"Fire is sacred to many cultures — viewed as part of a death ritual and a lot of cultures — so, it could go either way. And burial, the same way. S,o it's always a very personal decision." 

Go ahead, enjoy your memes – they really do help ease pandemic stress

“MuiTypography-root-220 MuiTypography-h1-225″>Go ahead, enjoy your memes – they really do help ease pandemic stressThe WorldJanuary 3, 2022 · 4:45 PM EST

A mini break with a humorous meme can take the momentary edge off during a stressful time. 

JGI/Tom Grill

Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, while trying to feed, entertain and beg-to-sleep an infant whose day care had closed, I needed a break but couldn’t really take one in April of 2020.

Enter memes. Between work, moving the laundry and taking care of my own dogs, I could sneak a peak at Instagram and chuckle at images of very excited pups, psyched that their humans were now home all day, every day.

I study media processes and effects, which is the psychology of how media messages can affect you. As the pandemic dragged on, I got more and more interested in how people were using social media — and memes featuring cute and funny pics, in particular — as a way to think and communicate with others about life during a global pandemic.

The popular "Success Kid" meme repurposed with a pandemic message.

Credit:

 imgflip

I partnered with colleagues Robin Nabi and Nicholas Eng to investigate the potential effect of mini meme breaks on people’s pandemic stress and emotions.

A meme experiment

The first step in our research was combing through hundreds of real memes we found in the wild on social media. We asked participants to rate them for how funny and cute they were, as well as how authentic they seemed as popular internet memes.

Using that data, we developed two pools of memes using the same images: One set had captions about COVID-19 and another set had captions unrelated to COVID-19.

In our main study, we recruited nearly 800 participants to view a series of images using online survey software. One group saw the COVID-19 memes, while a second group saw the memes not about COVID-19. A third group saw image-free plain text that summarized the general idea of the memes, but was not in the least bit funny.

Then, no matter which set of content our participants saw, everyone next answered questions about how they felt in that moment. We asked particularly about how they felt about COVID-19 and their ability to cope with pandemic stress.

Memes as mood boosters

People who viewed just three memes rated themselves on a 1-7 scale as calmer, more content and more amused compared with people who didn’t see the memes. For instance, people who saw memes scored, on average, a 4.71 on our positive emotions scale, compared with an average of 3.85 for those who did not see a meme. In short, viewing a few cute or funny memes — regardless of their topic — provided a quick boost of positive emotion for many people.

Me when I order a pizza during the pandemic from memes

Moreover, we found that participants who rated themselves higher on the positive emotion scale were also more likely to feel confident in their ability to handle the stress associated with living through a global pandemic. There seems to be value in reframing something that is constantly stressful and scary into a more approachable topic by using humor.

The topic of the memes mattered. People who viewed memes about COVID-19 rated themselves as less stressed about life during a global pandemic. Those who saw COVID-19-related memes also reported thinking more deeply about the memes and their meaning — what media psychologists call “information processing.” More information processing was related to more confidence in their abilities to handle pandemic-related stress. It’s possible that exerting more effort thinking about the topic could lead to mentally rehearsing ways to cope with the related stress, instead of avoiding it entirely.

This work adds to a growing body of research demonstrating that people use media to help them deal with stress. For example, my collaborator Robin Nabi has found in previous work that using media — whether television, books or social media — is one of the top strategies for managing stress. In her surveys of college students and breast cancer patients, people who choose media for stress management reported it as an effective way to cope.

Together, these studies suggest that media use is not always the stress-inducing experience or waste of time that it is sometimes portrayed to be. Instead, it likely depends on the specific type of media message you are consuming, the type of person you are and the situation in which you are consuming it.

The pandemic, with its accompanying restrictions on travel, work and socializing, has been an uncommonly stressful time. Taking a break to view and share bits of cute or funny pop culture commentary in the form of COVID-19-related memes can be a quick and easy way to connect with others and address pandemic stress head-on through laughter.

Jessica Myrick is a professor of media studies at Penn State. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Fire reignites at South Africa’s Parliament in Cape Town

“MuiTypography-root-228 MuiTypography-h1-233″>Fire reignites at South Africa's Parliament in Cape TownAssociated PressJanuary 3, 2022 · 12:15 PM EST

Smoke rises after fires re-ignited late afternoon from the Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Jan 3, 2022.

Nardus Engelbrecht/AP

The fire that has already destroyed South Africa's main Parliament chamber flared up again Monday about 36 hours after it started in the 130-year-old complex of historic buildings, authorities said.

Firefighters have been sent back to the Parliament precinct in the center of Cape Town after flames re-appeared on the roof of the main Parliament building in the late afternoon. More than 30 firefighters were battling the fire again, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse told the News 24 website.

Before the blaze reignited, authorities had said it had been contained and had begun to assess the damage. The fire had started around 6 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Still a mystery is the role of a man who has been arrested and is being questioned by police in connection with the fire. The man is due to appear in court on Tuesday and authorities weren't commenting further on his involvement or any possible motives, other than to say he would likely be charged with breaking and entering, theft and arson.

The man is also facing charges under South Africa's National Key Points Act, a security law that restricts access to government buildings and other places of national importance.

The man, who has not been named, was arrested Sunday at the scene, authorities said. South African media reported he had to be rescued from the fire, while questions have been raised over if there was a deliberate attack on the seat of South Africa's democracy.

Parliament was closed for the holidays and no injuries have been reported in the fire.

Extensive damage has been done to the stately white and red brick buildings in the Parliament precinct. The fire had already burned down the chamber in the National Assembly building where South African legislators meet to pass laws, Parliament said in a statement.

“We are indeed devastated,” Parliament said.

“We stand in front of a broken Parliament, a burnt down Parliament,” lawmaker Natasha Mazzone said at the gates of the complex before the fire reignited. “Look at our roof, our beautiful roof, burnt, collapsed.”

“The National Assembly chamber is completely destroyed. I’ve seen it for myself. Everything is destroyed. This will take an operation second to none to rebuild," she said.

Two other buildings had also been badly damaged in the inferno, Parliament said, including the original Parliament building that had been built in the 1880s and had weathered much of South Africa's tumultuous history, including British colonialism and the apartheid regime.

The South African Parliament moved to the New Assembly building, built in the style of the old building, in the 1980s and it had been the seat of the national legislature for the momentous end of apartheid and the country's transition to democracy under the presidency of Nelson Mandela.

Firefighters had been working on “hot spots” in the National Assembly building on Monday morning, Carelse said, but it was largely contained at that stage and the fire crews had been scaled back.

As the fire was originally brought under control, what was left was blackened, unrecognizable ruins inside some of the rooms.

“This is an incredibly sad day if you are a normal human being, to stand in front of this building and realize what we’ve lost,” lawmaker Mazzone said.

Patricia de Lille, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, said that someone had turned off a valve which prevented a fire sprinkler system from functioning.

She said the investigation into the cause of the fire has been taken over by the Hawks, a South African police unit that deals with serious and high-profile crimes. An initial report on the fire from a special fire investigating team would be completed by Friday, she said.

By Associated Press writer Gerald Imray.