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The US should not ‘overestimate the divisions inside of Russia,’ former ambassador says

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>The US should not ‘overestimate the divisions inside of Russia,’ former ambassador says

Even some of the Russian leader's closest advisers don't know what Vladimir Putin is thinking, according to former US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft. He has spent plenty of time in the room with Putin himself.

The WorldOctober 3, 2022 · 4:00 PM EDT

In this handout photo released by The State Duma, The Federal Assembly of The Russian Federation Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, foreground center, addresses deputies during a session at the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Oct. 3, 2022. Russia's lower house of parliament endorses treaties for four regions of Ukraine to join Russia. 

The State Duma/Federal Assembly of The Russian Federation Press Service/AP

The war in Ukraine seems to be edging closer to a dangerous tipping point. Ukrainian troops have pushed Russian soldiers out of the city of Lyman, a key logistics hub in the northeast of the country. Meanwhile, thousands of mobilized Russian troops are reportedly being sent home, deemed unfit for military duty.

Anxieties are especially high after a Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnyan leader and key ally of President Vladimir Putin, called for the use of a "low-yield nuclear weapon" in Ukraine.

Even some of the Russian leader's closest advisers don't know what Putin is thinking. That's according to former US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, someone who has spent plenty of time in the room with Putin himself.

"On a given day, I'm not sure who knows exactly what Vladimir Putin is thinking," Tefft told The World.  

"And I think those of us in the West need to be careful and humble in our estimates of the man, because we just don't have the kind of access or the understanding of his current mindset at this point."

Tefft said that Putin has backed himself into a corner in Ukraine: "This is a man who learned life in the streets of Leningrad when he was growing up — a very tough upbringing." 

"And he's a guy who, I think, consistently has doubled down in dealing with things. He doesn't back down. He pushes forward and tries to get his way. And I think what we've had in Ukraine is a strategic mistake that he made launching the invasion in the beginning, a strategic mistake of the first order. But he seems to be making additional mistakes now, hoping that he can rectify the situation and still achieve his dream of taking control of all of Ukraine."

Tefft, who also served as US ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania, is now a senior fellow with the RAND corporation. He joined The World's host Carolyn Beeler to discuss his views on Putin's approach to war based on years as a diplomat in the region. 

Carolyn Beeler: So, let's talk about the thing overshadowing all of this. Nukes. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a close Putin ally, generated a lot of headlines this week when he called for the use of a "low-yield nuclear weapon." Russian leaders try to counter that sort of talk. Do you see this nuclear threat as rising right now?John Tefft: Putin looks at this and sees the impact that it has, certainly in Western media. But I've talked to some other experts and most of them right now, the ones that I listen to, don't think that use of nuclear weapons is anytime imminent, that he's in fact bringing in more troops, conscripting more people in this partial mobilization, as he calls it, that this signifies an attempt to keep going and press ahead inside the war. Now, the other thing is, I think Putin still hasn't given up on the idea of somehow increasing opposition to Western support for the war, primarily in Europe, but I think also perhaps even in the United States, he hasn't been very successful in that. And maybe he calculates that brandishing this idea of possible tactical nuclear weapons use on the battlefield will scare people and try to do that.This weekend, former CIA director and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus told ABC News that the US would destroy Russia's troops if Putin uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Is this what US officials, those currently in office, are trying to convey to the Kremlin?Part of the whole reason for this war, you'll remember, was Putin's miscalculation, not just of what was happening inside of Ukraine and not just his dream of controlling it, but his misreading of the West from the very beginning. And I think it's important that we continue to send very clear signals about what the costs of this would be. I listened to my friend Bill Burns the other day, and he was saying how carefully they're monitoring the situation, including movements of critical weapons systems that might give some indication of what was happening. So, it seems to me they're doing about all that you can do at this point, at least from my perspective, outside of government.Do you see any off-ramps or opportunities for conversations with Russian officials?No, I think that the administration has tried very hard to signal that it's willing to countenance negotiations. But I have to say, right now, I don't see that Putin is in any mood to actually engage in any kind of negotiations. And if there were to be some, I suspect he would try to find a way to just cut a deal that would continue to hold a lot of Ukrainian territory. And the Ukrainians have made it clear they're not going to stand for that. So, I think we need to keep open the possibility of talks, but I don't see right now that there's any real prospect in the immediate future for these. I would just say I think Putin is calculating of trying to get through the winter because that will probably minimize some of the fighting, but it will also allow him to put greater pressure on Europe, particularly in terms of energy supply, and to see whether that changes the political equation, the political support for Ukraine inside of Europe.You mentioned the winter. I know you're a diplomat and not a military general. But how do you see colder temperatures, energy security playing into the fighting this winter?Obviously, the Europeans have been doing everything they can to stockpile energy. We would all hope that this winter is not going to be a very cold one in Europe. I'm not sure that Putin really has gotten it right on this point, because what I hear, not just from governments, but I've had some friends who have just come back from Europe, from Britain, from Germany, and they keep telling me that the support for Ukraine at the grassroots level is still very, very strong, just as it is here in our country. People identify with Ukraine fighting against this repressive power that's trying to just take over their country. And people understand that, not just an intellectual level, but I think an emotional level. But I think we shouldn't overestimate the divisions inside of Russia. And we should always remember that Putin has spent 20 years making sure that he is at the top and that he is unchallenged at this point. There's never guarantees, of course, but I think he's still very much in charge and calling the shots literally and figuratively.Finally, what are you keeping an eye on going forward to understand where this is headed?Well, I was listening this morning to a colleague who said that he'd recently been in Ukraine and had been out to the front lines. And he said in his week or so of going around, he didn't hear a single person in military or private say, "We need to stop this war." People seem to be united behind this effort to try to push the Russians out. And so I think that's a key one. The other part is I try to watch, as carefully as I can at this point, the public attitudes inside of Russia. Clearly, the mobilization has caused divisions at the top, and it's obviously hit home for a lot of people, just judging from the number of Russian young people, young men and who are who have left the country. But, you know, what about the average person who has been a supporter of Putin for many years? He sees all of the people who have been killed, all of the soldiers who have been brought home and buried. When are they going to start asking, "Has this been worth it? What are we achieving with all of this horrible loss of life? Are we really the great Russian power, which is what our president said he wanted to achieve?" I try to watch that as carefully as I can, but it's very hard, especially since many of the media who follow this very carefully, in the past, many of the people responsible have left the country now, and we don't get the kinds of information that we used to.

This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Maine’s lobster industry is still feeling the effects of the trade war with China

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Maine’s lobster industry is still feeling the effects of the trade war with China

As US-China relations continue to deteriorate over China’s messaging on Taiwan, the Biden administration recently announced it won’t remove tariffs on Chinese goods put in place by former President Donald Trump. The news is a blow to businesses that do substantial business with China.

The WorldOctober 3, 2022 · 3:15 PM EDT

Lobstermen work off the coast of Kennebunkport, Maine, Sept. 8, 2022. Maine Gov. Janet Mills said Sept. 13, the federal government is moving ahead too quickly with potential new restrictions on the lobster fishing industry.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

At Union Wharf in Portland, Maine, seagulls flutter over big, white lobster boats unloading their catch into plastic crates.

It’s a typical day on the wharf — and relatively quiet.

But in the summer of 2018, during former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, the mood along Portland’s waterfront was different.

Businesses that export Maine’s lobsters abroad received the distressing news that China had slapped the United States with a 25% tariff on US lobster exports. China is one of the most important international markets for Maine lobsters.

“I was just shocked,” said Annie Tselikis, executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association, an organization that supports live lobster wholesalers and lobster processors in Maine. “Lobster was [going to] take a pretty big hit, and it was very scary for a lot of people.”

The next year, Maine’s lobster exports to China plunged by more than 40%. Although many of Maine’s lobster exporters were able to pivot and find new markets elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East, the complications of the trade war with China are still felt by many US businesses all across the country to this day.

For Maine’s lobster exporters, one of the biggest consequences of the trade war has been losing part of the Chinese market to Canada. North America’s lobster fishery is separated by an international border between Canada and the United States. Once tariffs made importing US lobster to China more expensive, many Chinese importers started working with Canadian lobster exporters.

“With the trade war and the tariffs that were placed on US lobster exports, that then gave Canada preferential treatment in the Chinese market because they did not go to market with the same tariffs that we did,” Tselikis said.

Just days before President Joe Biden took office in January 2020, the United States signed a deal with China to mitigate the effects of the trade war called The Phase One Trade Agreement. The deal was supposed to increase US exports to China in a wide range of imports, including Maine lobster, by requiring China to buy an additional $200 billion in US goods and services than they did before the trade war. The agreement also provided some minimal tariff relief, but did not completely remove any of them.

But two years later, large parts of the agreement are still unfulfilled. Maine’s lobster exports to China still haven’t bounced back. Tariffs on Maine lobster have come down a bit, but they remain in place. Today, the current duty rate for lobster exports to China is 37%, according to the Maine International Trade Center.

In recent years, Canada’s lobster exporters have been doing much larger business with China than their counterparts in Maine.

Stewart Lamont, managing director of Tangier Lobster Company, a live lobster exporter in Nova Scotia, estimates that after China announced its first round of tariffs on US lobster, he received as much as a 50% uptick in business inquiries from prospective clients in China.

The interest from China grew exponentially,” Lamont said. “All of [a] sudden, American lobster wasn't more competitive, and so, it was an unintentional benefit that came to Canadian exporters.”

The Phase One Agreement was supposed to stop this trend and bring the China market back for Maine’s lobster exporters and other US businesses affected by the trade war. But even after Phase One came into effect, Lamont said, many of his new Chinese clients stuck with him.

Maine’s lobster exporters were not the only industry let down by the Phase One Agreement. When the agreement expired this year, it surfaced that China had bought none of the additional $200 billion in US goods they had pledged to buy.

Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who has written about the Phase One Agreement, said that the deal looked too aspirational from the start, because US exports to China had already fallen so low during the trade war that it would have been hard for China to suddenly start buying so many US goods.

“The cost of the trade war — so, US tariffs on China and China’s retaliatory tariffs — were tremendous for the US economy and a lot of those costs continue to this day, because most of those tariffs remain in place.”

The Chinese government maintains that they did their best to comply with Phase One.

He Weiwen, a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, said that Phase One benefited both countries, because it opened some trade back up and got things moving in the right direction. But now, he recommends that the US drop its remaining tariffs to bring China back to the bargaining table to negotiate a new, better deal.

“As soon as the US removes the tariffs, [then] China will remove the counter tariffs, I'm quite confident,” Weiwen said.

For the estimated 20,000 people who are directly employed by Maine’s lobster industry, any hurdle to bringing lobsters to market is a blow to an industry that is having an exceptionally tough year.

Tselikis of the Maine Lobster Dealers Association said that tariffs have put Maine at an unfair disadvantage with Canada.

“It's hard to compete in an international market when you're not on the same playing field,” Tselikis said.

Until the US and China sign a new trade agreement, many US industries will struggle to do business with the world’s second-largest economy. 

Colombia and Venezuela reopen shared border after years of closure

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Colombia and Venezuela reopen shared border after years of closure

Residents from Colombia and Venezuela turned out in large numbers last week to welcome the reopening of their shared border to vehicles. Two commercial trucks, covered with the respective flags of each country, crossed the border point, marking the end of seven years of closure.

Associated PressOctober 3, 2022 · 3:15 PM EDT

A Venezuelan cargo truck adorned with Venezuelan flags and balloons crosses the Simon Bolivar International Bridge during a ceremony to mark the bridge's reopening to cargo trucks between Cucuta, Colombia, and San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela, Sept. 26, 2022.

Fernando Vergara/AP/File photo

The border between Colombia and Venezuela had been one of the busiest in South America. Commercial trade between the two nations was worth nearly $8 billion a year.

But back in 2015, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro closed the border amid a wave of violence and crime. Then, in 2019, the two countries cut diplomatic relations under Colombia's conservative president, Ivan Duque. Since then, no vehicles were allowed to move across the shared border.

That is, until last week, when the two countries reopened the border to commercial trade.

Before the reopening, the border closure had paralized official trade. And since cross-border flights were also canceled, the only way to travel between Colombia and Venezuela was by foot.

While the border between Colombia and Venezuela was closed for seven years, people found other, illegal ways to cross between the two countries.

Credit:

Courtesy of Miguel Angel Morffe

And with no walls or natural obstacles, the border was still relatively easy to cross, according to Miguel Angel Morffe, a longtime resident of Cucuta, Colombia, and the director of Gobernar, an organization that studies border dynamics in the country.

Morffe said that people built more than 200 illegal pathways along the 1,400 miles of border, and those became the main exit routes for millions of Venezuelans fleeing the country. They also allowed people to keep up informal trade on the black market.

Morffe said these cross-border paths are controlled by criminal groups that have plagued both countries for years. They charged fees for anyone who uses them, which also turned out to be a big business.

No one really knows how much money these criminal organizations were getting for operating along the border, but thousands of people were said to have been crossing every day.

The decision to reopen the border has been popular among residents in both countries because it might help to reduce crime, corruption and illegal business.

It might also help Venezuela’s troubled economy, according to Luis Vicente Leon. He’s an economist and political analyst at Datanálisis, a think tank in Venezuela. 

“Formal companies and serious bilateral businesses now have an opportunity to return to activity in the area,” Leon said. In addition, imports of Colombian raw materials and supplies to Venezuela can be very useful to stimulate production in Venezuela.”

People have built hundreds of illegal pathways along the 1,400 hundred miles of border between Colombia and Venezuela.

Credit:

Courtesy of Miguel Angel Morffe

Colombia’s first-ever left-wing president, Gustavo Petro, came to power in August. And he made improving relations with Venezuela a priority.  

In a ceremony at the border last week, he said, “May this bridge be more than cement, but the way to build progress for both countries.”

Leon said he agrees that reopening the border to vehicles represents a turning point for the two countries that have been at odds for years. 

“The opening of the Colombian Venezuelan border is an opportunity for the entire region today, turning towards leftist governments of differing intensities to seek solutions and negotiations on a regional framework,” he said.

Related: Amid immigration crackdown, Colombia revokes national IDs for thousands of Venezuelans without warning

‘It will be a challenge’: Lula, Bolsonaro head to runoffs in tight Brazil elections

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″> ‘It will be a challenge’: Lula, Bolsonaro head to runoffs in tight Brazil elections

Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was expected to cruise to a huge victory on Sunday. But the final result showed President Jair Bolsonaro just a handful of points behind. This means weeks of intense campaigning ahead of runoffs at the end of the month.

The WorldOctober 3, 2022 · 3:00 PM EDT

Voters line up to cast their ballot in Sunday's elections in Brazil. Former President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva was expected to cruise to a huge victory on Sunday, but the final result showed President Jair Bolsonaro just a handful of points behind, leading to runoff. 

Michael Fox/The World

On Sunday evening, crowds cheered and chanted as presidential candidate Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva passed incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in the vote count and took the lead. 

Cars honked their horns as they drove by. 

But it went from ecstatic to subdued within an hour as it became increasingly clear that this election was going to be much tighter than expected. 

“We’ve been following the polls,” said Wilson Gomes, a Lula supporter who was outside as the news came in. “And we weren’t expecting that Bolsonaro would receive such expressive support as Lula.”

Lula, with 48% of the vote, and 43% for Bolsonaro. 

Presidential candidate "Lula" among supporters on Sunday during Brazil's election. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

For Lula supporters, the victory felt like a defeat. In a speech after the ballots were counted, Lula responded to peoples’ fears. 

“Folks, we are gonna win these elections,” he said. “This is just a little extension.”

Lula told the crowd that he would hit the ground running today. 

Bolsonaro also spoke to supporters in Brasilia on Sunday night and said he’d be doubling down on several key states in southeastern Brazil where he hadn’t met expectations. 

There are many theories about why pollsters got the election so wrong amid Bolsonaro’s apparent surge. But one thing is clear.  Lula clocked in right about where he had been trending for weeks. Bolsonaro’s added support seemed to come from voters who decided to defect from the more centrist third-party candidates. 

Regardless, if the political climate was intense before, now it’s going into overdrive, experts predict. 

“This result will give Bolsonaro more enthusiasm to bring forth his discourse that his supporters cannot trust the polls and increase the risk of political violence in the campaign,” said Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at Rio de Janeiro State University.

Speaking with voters on Sunday at the polls in São Paulo, it is apparent that the country is polarized. 

On Sunday, Berenice Vieira arrived at the voting center with her husband and teenage son wearing matching Brazilian soccer jerseys, the colors of the Brazilian flag — yellow and green. Bolsonaro’s colors. 

“This election is really important,” she said. “We are defending our country, because there is one candidate that defends Brazil, that defends our homeland and family, and the other candidate that doesn’t.” 

Almost every Bolsonaro supporter who spoke with The World said they were afraid that if elected, Lula would sink the country into a quagmire of corruption and so-called “socialism,” rolling back their freedoms. 

On the flip side, Lula supporters said they were fighting for nothing less than the country’s democracy, trying to stop rising authoritarianism, violence, racism and continuous attacks on state institutions and social rights, including Indigenous communities in the Amazon.

Voters take part in presidential elections as well as local and regional contests. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

And while the battle for the presidency has captured headlines, the fight for Congress has been just as acute and will have a profound impact on these issues moving forward. 

More than 1,500 state and federal congressional seats were up for grabs — including over two dozen senators and governors.

An unprecedented number of Indigenous, Black and local candidates ran for office. And some of them won. Sonia Guajajara, the leader of the country’s largest Indigenous organization, was elected to Congress. As was the first Black transgender woman Erika Hilton. Six of the Landless Workers Movement candidates won state and federal congressional seats.

“This was a hard election,” Landless Workers Movement leader João Paulo Rodrigues said in a voice message shared with The World. “But we were politically victorious, even if we didn’t have all of the electoral wins that we needed.”

Bolsonaro and his allies also won big. The president’s Liberal Party now has the largest bloc in Congress with 99 congressional representatives. Several former members of Bolsonaro’s government are also on their way to Brasilia.

“Bolsonaro’s former ministers of agriculture, science, human rights, justice, environment and health and his vice president were all elected to Congress,” Mauricio Santoro said. 

“So, it will be a very conservative legislative power, especially the Senate, the upper house. And if Lula is elected, it will be a challenge.”

And that is also what the next few weeks will be — a challenge. 

Lula and Bolsonaro will be pulling out all the stops.

Supporters of presidential candidate "Lula" rally ahead of Sunday's elections. 

Credit:

Michael Fox/The World

Lula’s supporters see this as a silver lining, of sorts.  

“Had Lula won by a large margin. Had he won outright, then it would have been guaranteed that Bolsonaro would have contested the results,” UCLA Historian Bryan Pitts said. 

“Completely without evidence. But he would have contested all the same, and had the potential to gain support from some of the military and the military police.” 

 With a close election, Pitts said, it’s harder for Bolsonaro to contest the results.

 The second round vote is on Oct. 30.

Related: Lula battles Bolsonaro for chance to defend the poor again in Brazil

Indonesian police probe tear gas firing at soccer match

“MuiTypography-root-229 MuiTypography-h1-234″>Indonesian police probe tear gas firing at soccer matchAssociated PressOctober 3, 2022 · 9:30 AM EDT

Players and officials of the soccer club Arema FC pray outside the Kanjuruhan Stadium where many fans lost their lives in a stampede Saturday night in Malang, Indonesia, Oct. 3, 2022.

Achmad Ibrahim/AP

Indonesian police said they were investigating over a dozen officers responsible for firing tear gas that set off a crush that killed 125 people at a soccer match, as families and friends grieved Monday for the victims that included 17 children.

Distraught family members were struggling to comprehend the sudden loss of loved ones at the match in East Java’s Malang city that was watched only by hometown Arema FC fans. The organizer had banned visiting Persebaya Surabaya's supporters due to Indonesia's history of violent soccer rivalries.

The crush was among the world's deadliest disasters at a sporting event.

Witnesses said fans flooded the pitch and demanded that Arema management explain why, after 23 years of undefeated home matches against Persebaya, Saturday night’s ended in a 3-2 defeat. Some of the 42,000 Arema fans threw bottles and other objects at players and soccer officials. At least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze outside the stadium.

But most of the deaths occurred when riot police, trying to stop the violence, fired tear gas, including toward the spectator stands, triggering the disastrous crush of fans making a panicked, chaotic run for the exits. Most of the 125 people who died were trampled upon or suffocated.

At least 17 children were among the dead and seven were being treated in hospitals, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said. Police said 323 people overall were injured in the crush, some of them still in critical condition.

National Police spokesperson Dedy Prasetyo said in a news conference that 18 officers responsible for firing tear gas, ranging from middle- to high-ranking, were being investigated along with “internal matters related to security management.”

He said police were still questioning witnesses and analyzing footage from 32 security cameras inside and outside the stadium and nine mobile phones owned by the victims as part of the investigation to also identify suspected vandals. Two police officers were among the dead.

Arema players and officials laid wreaths Monday in front of the stadium. “We came here as a team asking forgiveness from the families impacted by this tragedy, those who lost their loves ones or the ones still being treated in the hospital,” head coach Javier Roca said.

At the home of Faiqotul Hikmah, 22, her parents and relatives wailed when an ambulance arrived with her body wrapped in white cloth and a black blanket. An Aremania — the moniker for Arema fans — she died while fleeing to exit 12 at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

A dozen friends traveled to see the match but Hikmah was one of only four who entered the stadium because tickets were sold out, her friend, Abdul Mukid, said Monday in an Associated Press interview. He later bought a ticket separately from a broker then learned of the chaos that had erupted inside the stadium.

“I have to find her, save her … that’s kept me from thinking anything else,” Mukid recalled. “The situation is really … really terrible!”

Mukid found Hikmah's body laid at a building in the stadium compound, her face full of bluish bruises and broken ribs. He learned a second friend had died from other friends who called him while he was in the ambulance carrying Hikmah’s body to a hospital. Noval Putra Aulia, 19, was an orphan who had been cared for by his brother since their parents died five years ago, Mukid said.

“I can’t put into words how much my sorrow is to lose my sister,” said Nur Laila, Hikmah’s older sibling. “She was just a big Arema fan who wanted to watch her favorite team play. She shouldn’t die just for that,” she said, wiping tears.

President Joko Widodo ordered the premier soccer league suspended until safety is reevaluated and security tightened. Indonesia’s soccer association has also banned Arema from hosting soccer matches for the rest of the season.

Arema FC President Gilang Widya Pramana expressed his sadness and deepest apologies to the victims and the Indonesian people, and said he is ready to take full responsibility for the tragedy at his team’s stadium.

He said that the management, coach and players were in shock and speechless.

“I am ready to provide assistance, even though it will not be able to return the victim’s life,” Pramana said in a news conference Monday at Arema’s headquarters in Malang.

“This incident was beyond prediction, beyond reason … in a match watched only by our fans, not a single rival’s supporter,” he said, sobbing. “How can that match kill more than 100 people? An incident that probably wouldn’t exist in the world.”

He said that Arema FC was ready to accept any sanctions from Indonesia’s Soccer Association and the government, and “hopefully, it will be a very valuable lesson.”

Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud said he will lead a separate inquiry to investigate violations of law in the disaster. The team will also determine what victims' compensation should be provided and will complete the task in three weeks.

Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas and ensure that those found responsible are tried in open court. While FIFA has no control over domestic games, it has advised against the use of tear gas at soccer stadiums.

Despite Indonesia’s lack of international accolades in the sport, hooliganism is rife in the soccer-obsessed country where fanaticism often ends in violence. Data from Indonesia’s soccer watchdog, Save Our Soccer, showed 78 people have died in game-related incidents over the past 28 years.

Saturday’s game was among the world’s worst crowd disasters in sports, including the 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City where over 80 died and over 100 more were injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people are crushed to death during a soccer match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.

By Associated Press writers Agoes Basoeki and Edna Tarigan. AP writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, also contributed to this report.

Brazil’s elections test the political power of religion

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Brazil's elections test the political power of religion

Brazil is still the largest Catholic country in the world, but Protestant evangelicals are a fast-growing segment of the population. And they’re making their presence felt politically.

The WorldOctober 1, 2022 · 6:00 AM EDT

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro waves to supporters as he is surrounded by his security detail upon arrival to a motorcycle rally as he campaigns for a second term in Pocos de Caldas, Brazil, Sept. 30, 2022. Brazil's general elections are scheduled for Oct. 2.

Andre Penner/AP

The World's Carol Hills and reporter Michael Fox explore institutional religion in Brazil, how President Jair Bolsonaro tapped into religion in his rise to the presidency, and the ripple effects of his alliance with evangelicals throughout the country. This special edition of The World is part of our reporting series called, Sacred Nation, focused on the intersection of religion and nationalism around the globe.

US senators demand full White House investigation into shooting of Palestinian American journalist

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>US senators demand full White House investigation into shooting of Palestinian American journalist

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen speaks to The World's host Marco Werman about a renewed call by himself and other Senate Democrats for a full inquiry into the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this year.

The WorldSeptember 30, 2022 · 4:00 PM EDT

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen speaks during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 3, 2022.

Mariam Zuhaib/AP/File

US Congressional Democrats are calling on the White House to conduct and release the findings of a full investigation into the shooting death of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May.

An investigator from the research group Forensic Architecture shared with The World a computer reconstruction, built by its team, of the spot in the West Bank where Abu Akleh was shot. It determined that she was shot by an Israeli marksman and that she was clearly identifiable as a journalist. 

Earlier this month, the Israeli military announced long-awaited results of its investigation into the deadly shooting of Abu Akleh, saying there was a “high probability” an Israeli soldier had mistakenly killed her during a raid in the occupied West Bank last May.

But the military provided no evidence to support its claim that a fierce gunbattle was under way at the time that Abu Akleh was shot.

Now, the US Congress is pushing for further accountability. Democrats Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Chris Van Hollen and others have reached out to the State Department with a series of questions about the case.

Sen. Van Hollen joined The World's host Marco Werman to discuss why a US-led independent invesigation into the case matters. 

Marco Werman: I'd like to begin with what's known as the Leahy Laws, named after Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. The law basically says the US government will not provide assistance to foreign security forces where there is a credible implication of gross violations of human rights. Does the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh activate the Leahy Laws? Sen. Chris Van Hollen: Well, that depends on all the facts. And we've been trying to get the facts so that we can have accountability in this case. The most recent analysis that you are reporting on is consistent with analysis done by The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post. And it's why we keep pushing the Biden administration to conduct an independent analysis of their own, reach their own conclusions, about what happened so that we can consider the next steps for accountability. But getting the facts is a prerequisite to applying any of those laws. What has been the response from the White House to your request?Well, so far, the White House and the State Department have not been responsive. As Sen. Leahy, myself and others wrote to Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken on July 12, with a series of questions trying to get the facts in this case. We have yet to get a response. And it's my view that the Biden administration has a duty to get to the bottom of the killing of an American citizen and a journalist — where the Biden administration says a high priority is to protect journalists in conflict zones — that we have to pursue the facts wherever they lead us. That's what Secretary Blinken himself said some time ago, and we're going to continue to hold the administration to that.You and Sen. Leahy have authored an amendment that would force the State Department to issue a report on Shireen Abu Akleh's killing. If the killing were found to be intentional, what would that mean for lawmakers?Well, again, I just don't want to jump to the conclusions of a report. This is why we keep pushing for the facts. And we are totally not satisfied at all with what the Biden administration has provided. As you probably know, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a report claiming that the shooting was justified because there was an ongoing exchange of fire at that time between IDF forces and Palestinian militants. But this most recent evidence, along with the earlier evidence from independent news sources — again, like The New York Times, Washington Post and others — indicates that there was no such exchange of fire. And this is the key issue we have to resolve. And the Biden administration has a duty to work with us to get the facts.So, given all the sources you have, what other facts are lawmakers looking for?Well, what we're looking for is for the Biden administration to conduct this independent analysis, because they ultimately are the ones that have to make the determination under US law. So, this is why getting the facts is so important, and we're going to continue to push to do that. I also included an amendment in the State Department authorization bill that was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the other day to require the administration to provide us with a copy of a report done by the United States security coordinator on the ground there. They have not provided that to us yet, despite the fact we asked for it back in July.If a State Department report showed her killing as intentional, would you press to cut funding to Israel?Well, again, I don't want to get ahead of the facts. Clearly, if that were the case, that would trigger the Leahy Laws. Sen. Leahy himself made that statement on the floor of the Senate. But that, obviously, is contingent on the finding of the facts. And this is why it's important that the administration not sweep this under the rug, and we're going to hold their feet to the fire so that they can't do that.Senator, with some exceptions, there has long been an overarching belief in Congress that the US bond with Israel is unbreakable. Are we at a moment where that's being questioned?I think it is unbreakable. I think we have a very strong partnership with Israel, which is why it is especially disappointing in this case that we can't get more facts and cooperation. Secretary Blinken asked the IDF to review their rules of engagement after this case. In other words, review when fire is appropriate and when it's not. He pressed that for a little while, but then he dropped that request when he got some pushback. So, we have a close partnership. So, this is a moment where we want the Israeli government to help us get to the bottom of the shooting death of an American citizen and a journalist. And we need the Biden administration to be very focused on getting the facts. Secretary Blinken, himself, originally called for an independent investigation. Those were his words. We said, "Yes, we agree." He's backed off. We haven't. We need the Biden administration to do its duty in this case of a killing of an American citizen and journalist.World leaders and human rights groups have pointed to what they see as a pattern of human rights violations over the years that Israel is responsible for. Why is the death of this Palestinian American journalist different for Senate Democrats?Well, all violations of human rights, wherever they happen in the world, are important. What we have here is a situation where you do have an American citizen — a Palestinian American. You also have a journalist. And the Biden administration has repeatedly said that protecting journalists in conflict areas is one of their top priorities. So, if that's true, if protecting journalists is a top priority and protecting American citizens is a top priority, this is a clear case where the Biden administration has to show that it means what it says.

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

Lula battles Bolsonaro for chance to defend the poor again in Brazil

“MuiTypography-root-126 MuiTypography-h1-131″>Lula battles Bolsonaro for chance to defend the poor again in Brazil

Two presidents are battling for power in Sunday’s elections. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is hoping to unseat current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. 

The WorldSeptember 30, 2022 · 3:30 PM EDT

A demonstrator dressed in the colors of the Brazilian flag performs in front of a street vendor's towels for sale featuring Brazilian presidential candidates, current President Jair Bolsonaro, center, and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sept. 27, 2022. 

Eraldo Peres/AP

This Sunday’s upcoming elections in Brazil are being closely watched. 

It’s the battle of two presidents. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is hoping to unseat current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been a close ally of Donald Trump. (In Brazil, presidents are allowed two terms and they can run again, after at least one term has elapsed.)

Lula is poised to take this first round vote on Sunday. He leads the latest polls by 14 to 17 points. If he can win half of the valid votes, he can take the election in the first round. 

Despite spending time in prison for a corruption conviction, Lula continues to have much support. Many Brazilians believe he can bring back better days. 

“At the moment, I will vote for Lula, because he’s kind of our light at the end of the tunnel. He’s our hope,” said one computer programmer in northeastern Brazil.

Lula has been campaigning up and down the country in recent weeks. Videos shared across social media show big rallies, events and marches.

Last weekend, a crowd broke out into spontaneous applause at a food court in an upscale shopping mall in the southern Brazilian city of Florianopolis, chanting “Lula.” 

Bolsonaro has gutted workers rights, social policies and state institutions. Many blame him for his dismal approach to COVID-19, which has led to nearly 685,000 deaths. Brazil is now facing rising unemployment, inflation, poverty and hunger.

According to a recent study, 33 million Brazilians don’t have enough to eat each day. 

That number has doubled in just the last two years. Lula has promised to fix it if he’s elected again.

“We have to guarantee that every person in this country can wake up and have breakfast, lunch and dinner, each day,” he told supporters at a rally in Amazonas state.

Lula is familiar with hunger pains. 

He was born poor in northeastern Brazil, in a home with dirt floors. 

As a union leader in São Paulo, in the late 1970s, he led huge strikes that would signal the beginning of the end of the country’s 21-year dictatorship.

He went on to establish the Workers Party and won the presidency in 2002, governing the country for two terms and lifting tens of millions from poverty. 

When he left office his approval rating was nearly 90%.

“My four children studied at the university, because of him,” said Dona Rosa, a former street vender turned businesswoman, who spoke at a Lula rally this week.

That sentiment is held across the country. 

Vinicius Castello is a city councilman in the northeastern city of Olinda.

“Lula was the president that made it so that poor people had a right to exist,” Castello told Kawsachun News recently. “And that’s the country we have to build now,” he said.

People have felt this excitement for Lula before. 

Four years ago, he was also leading the polls in the lead-up to the presidential elections. 

But he was jailed and blocked from running after he was convicted of allegedly accepting a beach-side apartment from a company seeking government contracts. 

His imprisonment was part of a widespread anti-corruption operation, which, over seven years, issued 1,400 search and seizure warrants and convicted almost 280 people. 

Many of them were top politicians, including members of Lula’s Workers Party. 

Lula’s conviction opened the doors for Bolsonaro’s rise to the presidency.

But the former president’s supporters rallied in his defense. They set up a vigil outside the jail and said his conviction was politically motivated.

And that’s what the Supreme Court eventually found, too.

Lula was freed after 580 days.

Over the next two years, this and more than two dozen other corruption cases against him would all be tossed out for a variety of reasons. 

“It was clear that the law here was being used as a political weapon,” said 

Fabio de Sa e Silva, a professor of Brazilian studies at the University of Oklahoma. 

“I mean, you can't file 20-something lawsuits against somebody and have all those lawsuits being deemed, you know, lacking. Grounds to proceed with by several judges in the country. There's clearly something wrong here with the way you're using your prosecutory power and your power as a judge.”

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes called the country’s anti-corruption operation the biggest scandal that has befallen the Brazilian judiciary in the country’s history.

But it’s left its mark — on Brazil, and on Lula.

“Though the convictions against Lula have been annulled by the Supreme Court and proven to be politically motivated, it has tarnished the image of the Workers Party and that has an impact into Lula’s popularity,” said Rafael Ioris, a professor of Latin American history at the University of Denver.

Roughly 40% of the population says they would not vote for Lula under any circumstance.

But Bolsonaro’s rejection rate is even higher — more than half of Brazilians say they would never support Bolsonaro. And that’s going to make it difficult for the current president to make up ground against Lula in the coming days. 

Brazilians will find out on Sunday. 

Tense atmosphere as voters head to the polls in Brazil’s most diverse elections ever

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Tense atmosphere as voters head to the polls in Brazil's most diverse elections ever

Brazilians will vote in presidential elections on Sunday. They will also vote for a host of other government officials. This year, more Indigenous people, women and Black candidates are running for office than ever before.

The WorldSeptember 30, 2022 · 2:45 PM EDT

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wave Brazilian flags during a motorcycle campaign rally in Pocos de Caldas, Brazil, Sept. 30, 2022.

Victor R. Caivano/AP

The feeling on the streets of Brazil is one of both tension and excitement. 

The country is preparing for the first round of its presidential elections on Sunday. The vote is between far-right President Jair Bolsonaro — an ally of former US President Donald Trump — and former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula is well ahead in the polls.

Marches and rallies in defense of both candidates have littered the country in recent weeks. And their videos have been shared across social media.

But the presidential candidates are not the only ones organizing.

Brazilians will also elect 500 congresspeople, more than a thousand state lawmakers, two dozen senators and 27 state governors. Plus, this year, more Indigenous people, women and Black candidates are running for office than ever before.

For the first time, the country’s largest Indigenous organization APIB is fielding Indigenous candidates in states across the country, with the hope of launching a congressional caucus of Native peoples. The first female Indigenous congressional member, Joênia Wapixana, was only elected just four years ago.

“Hey folks, I’m here to talk to you about the importance of putting our Indigenous people in important positions of power,” said Indigenous activist Samela Sateré Mawé in a video posted online.

“We have suffered violence against our people,” Sateré Mawé went on. “There have been bills pushing [for] the destruction of our territories, the environment and against our lives, and we need to change this.”

They are hoping to push back on the country’s big ag (agriculture) caucus in Congress. That group includes roughly half of the members of the lower house, who have been important allies for Bolsonaro and his aims to open up the Amazon for development.

But Indigenous peoples are not the only ones hoping for change.

Leaders of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement met with the press to discuss how they’ve helped to launch thousands of local grassroots committees. They are now organizing in neighborhoods up and down Brazil in support of Lula’s candidacy.

The landless movement is also fielding its own candidates for the first time. Fifteen members are running for state and federal office in a dozen states, with campaigns focused on promoting local family farming, labor rights and environmental sustainability.

“These candidates are a sign of the landless movement’s achievements,” said activist Luma Vitorio, who has been working closely with the movement. “We need to speak for ourselves. We can’t continue to outsource that job to others.”

These groups are hoping to gain ground against the far-right wave of candidates that rode into local and national office in 2018 on Bolsonaro’s coattails.

“The more that we have diversity of representation in legislative bodies, the better it is for our political system.”

Luciana Santana, political scientist, Federal University of Alagoas

“These legislative elections will be important,” said Luciana Santana, a political scientist at the Federal University of Alagoas. “The more that we have diversity of representation in legislative bodies, the better it is for our political system.”

But this campaign season has not been easy, with some candidates facing intimidation. 

“We were marching and we were intimidated,” said Lula ally and Workers' Party Congressman Paulo Guedes in a video shared widely over social media. “A member of the military police shot three times into our sound truck. Thank God he’s now detained. But this is absurd. And it’s the third time it’s happened.”

Black, gay and transgender candidates have also been in the crosshairs.

Matheus Gomes is a Black city councilman in Porto Alegre, who’s running for a seat on the Rio Grande do Sul state assembly. He and other members of the city’s Black caucus received a new string of death threats over email.

“They’re trying to intimidate us,” Gomes told The World. “The last message I received said that I should give up politics. They mentioned Bolsonaro. This is, by far, the most tense feeling on the streets I have ever experienced during an electoral campaign.”

That tension is palpable. According to reports, this is one of the most violent electoral seasons on record.

In a recent poll, two-thirds of Brazilians said they were afraid of being attacked because of their political preferences. Many blame the violent rhetoric of Bolsonaro and his allies for instigating the threats and attacks. But Bolsonaro insists he is not responsible for local actions and that the conflict goes both ways. 

Luciana Santana, the political scientist, said that the violence is the result of the country’s deep political polarization.

“It’s a very delicate situation,” she said. “And it’s really concerning, because some public officials are even empowering these people who are carrying out these violent actions.”

Many Brazilians are hoping that these elections may start to turn the tide.

The polls are open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday, with results expected to be released only hours later.

Related: Evangelicals in Brazil want to make contact with Indigenous groups. But why?

Safe and unsilenced: Afghan scholars find a refuge in US universities

“MuiTypography-root-229 MuiTypography-h1-234″>Safe and unsilenced: Afghan scholars find a refuge in US universitiesThe WorldSeptember 30, 2022 · 12:45 PM EDT

Masuma Mohammadi sits on a bench at San José State University, where she's been hired to research Afghanistan from a safe distance. 

Courtesy of Sara Arman

Masuma Mohammadi was a radio reporter for the United Nations News service for a popular news program in Afghanistan called “Hello Countrymen, Countrywomen,” before the Taliban took over the country in August of 2021.

Her work as a journalist and women’s rights activist made her a target for the Taliban. She was forced to flee and found refuge in the US, a country she had visited only once, years ago.

Mohammadi has been in San Jose, California, with a residency at San Jose State University, for six months now. Her research detailing the persecution of the ethnic Hazara in Afghanistan is work she could never do in her home country.

“Afghan women have been completely removed from the structure of [public] life in Afghanistan,” Mohammadi said, adding that the country is experiencing a profound human rights and humanitarian crisis.

Girls aren’t allowed to attend high school, women are barred from working in offices and nongovernmental organizations, and they’re not allowed to travel or go long distances without a male chaperone.

But through the power of the internet, she and other Afghans like her — journalists, activists and academics — are able to continue their research outside of Afghanistan in the US, thanks to the Afghan Visiting Scholars program, a collaboration between some Bay Area universities.

The program is the brainchild of Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, who was a refugee herself more than 40 years ago when Afghanistan fell to the former Soviet Union.

“My family came as Afghan political refugees in what I call the first migration of Afghans into the United States,” Kazem-Stojanovic said. “My parents knew other Afghan families who lived in San Jose including [the famous author] Khalid Husseini's parents. Our fathers were friends.”

The family settled in San Jose just before she started kindergarten.

Kazem-Stojanovic is now an oral historian on Afghanistan at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, but for 10 years, she was a journalism and human rights professor at San Jose State — and a core faculty member of its Human Rights Institute.

Because her work has often taken her to Afghanistan, she has many connections there.

“This has meant incredible opportunities to make very close friendships in Afghanistan. I trained more than 300 journalists in the last 20 years in Afghanistan,” she said. “Many became wonderful friends, and that's a very dear title we have among Afghans, when you're considered a cousin, even though you're not by blood.”

As Kabul fell to the Taliban, she received hundreds of messages on her WhatsApp and Signal accounts, like: “How do we get out of here?” “Can you send money?” “I can't go home.”

Kazem-Stojanovic said most of the people she was in contact with are in hiding. One photographer she knew dug a hole in his yard to bury his awards, including his Pulitzer Prize.

She reached out to her network in the US to help Afghan academics and journalists get out of the country — but also, to support people once they arrived here.

As the child of an economics professor who couldn’t teach in the United States, Kazem-Stojanovic was keenly aware that these refugees would need financial and professional support to establish themselves on this side of the Pacific.

“I thought, possibly, I could give some — a few — an opportunity not only to come here, but continue their public-facing work,” Kazem-Stojanovic said.

She found ready collaborators at the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and her own San José State University. And so began the Afghan Visiting Scholars program.

“Together, we quickly rolled out a crowdfunding campaign [now ended] because universities work very slowly, the wheels don't turn very fast and we were in an emergency.

“We were in a crisis,” Kazem-Stojanovic said ruefully. “I think we raised over $300,000. And that was the easy part because then it was, all right, well, how do we get people here?”

She added, “We thought that if we could reach out to members of Congress and senators with lists of people … but they couldn't do very much. The evacuation lists were so long. There were so few places.”

The list of schools that have taken on more Afghan scholars, and participated in the work involved to apply for J-1 academic visas and J-2 visas (for immediate family members), is small but growing; including the University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as Yale University, Tennessee State University and The University of Texas at El Paso. 

‘Room and space for Afghans to do the work’

One year later, Kazem-Stojanovic maintains a list of roughly 130 people waiting for academic visas, many of them in Pakistan, India and Turkey. Others are already in the US on humanitarian parole, which allows them to stay for two years.

People get on the list in a variety of ways — starting with an application process.

“Placing the applicant depends on where they are geographically, the field they are in, and a variety of immigration factors,” she said. “We have various routes for bringing scholars here. We have to be creative because each person has a unique situation.”

So far, she has found placements for 15 Afghan scholars.

In addition to helping bring Afghans to safety, she said, the program is an avenue for illuminating stories that are often untold in the West.

“There's still so much need to understand this country [Afghanistan] and this part of the world. And I would like to see native Afghans contribute to that,” Kazem-Stojanovic said. “So much of what's published in the West is by non-Afghans. You know, a lot of American and European anthropologists and historians. And there's room and space now for Afghans to do the work.”

The Afghan Visiting Scholars program isn’t the only one of its kind. Stanford University is working with New York-based Scholars at Risk and the New University in Exile Consortium boasts nearly 60 universities around the world that agreed to host displaced scholars from countries where their lives were in danger.

According to the International Refugee Assistance Project, an estimated 83,000 Afghans were evacuated to the United States, and about 76,000 of them do not have access to a pathway to permanent legal status. The Afghan Adjustment Act, now pending on Capitol Hill, would allow them to apply for permanent legal residency, as happened for Vietnamese after the Vietnam War, and Kurds after the Iraq War.

“Pass the Afghan Adjustment Act,” Kazem-Stojanovic said. “The people who are here have gone through so much. They need peace of mind. They need to know that their lives are secure in the future and they will be wonderful, incredible assets to this country.” 
 

Expanding possibilities in the US

Faisal Karimi is another Afghan who has benefited from the Afghan Visiting Scholars Program.

After 20 years as a journalist, academic and women’s rights activist, Karimi’s life was turned upside-down last year. The assistant professor of journalism and communications at Herat University in western Afghanistan had to flee along with his wife and children.

“I produced dozens of stories about Taliban policy and ideology. My life, my family was in danger … We received many calls, threats and messages from the Taliban.”

Karimi destroyed his SIM card to obscure his movements, but managed to get in touch with nongovernmental organizations that had worked with him in the past, to evacuate his colleagues, as well as himself, within 10 days of the collapse of Herat to the Taliban.

The 22-hour public bus trip to Kabul over bombed-out roads was harrowing, as was the refugee camp his family lived in for seven months in Albania, but so was the prospect of starting from scratch in a strange land he’d visited once in 2013.

“I never [thought] that I’d come back again forever, to be a San Josean.”

So many refugees evacuated to the US and other countries wind up doing poorly paid or physically demanding jobs in health care, meatpacking and restaurants.

At an American university, Karimi is able to continue to make use of his intelligence and education, not to mention his English-language skills. Today, he’s a visiting research scholar at San Jose State, studying the Taliban and publishing news stories from the US.

“From here, we’re covering women’s challenges in Afghanistan, women's protests,” he said. “The local media, they’re not allowed to.”

Karimi hopes to pursue a doctorate degree in communications here, and then a career as a journalism professor.

“California and the United States is my second home. I really appreciate America’s people: their support, their kindness, everything they’ve provided for me and my family to stay in the United States.”

For Mohammadi, too, the chance to keep working is important. Although she's still learning to navigate an entirely new system and culture, she said that she is grateful to be in a position to make a positive difference in her home country from the relative safety of San Jose. And, it’s work that would be hard for a non-Hazaras, she said.

“We don’t hear stories from people, stories from victims, what situation they are living under, what’s their problems, what’s their request from the US, from the international community. In this way, we raise their voices,” Mohammadi said. 

An earlier version of this story was published by KQED.

 

Electric vehicles are gaining popularity across China as govt creates incentives

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Electric vehicles are gaining popularity across China as govt creates incentives

China started investing in new electric vehicles years ago. This year, about 25% of new cars sold there are electric. They're gaining in popularity, especially among the younger generation.

The WorldSeptember 29, 2022 · 3:30 PM EDT

Mini EV cars seen in Zhumadian, China.

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

Jenny Liu is a schoolteacher in Zhumadian in central China. With about 7 million people, it's still considered a small city. When she’s not working, her days are spent on the go, shuttling her kids around town.

Liu drives a Seahorse, a Chinese brand mini-electric car.

China started investing in new electric vehicles (EV) years ago. This year, about 25% of new cars sold there are electric.

Liu told The World that she’s usually driving around in her electric car from morning until night.

One day, her first stop was dropping off her daughter at kindergarten.Next, she took her 12 year-old son to his tutoring session and picked up some groceries. In the afternoon, it was more pick-ups, drop-offs and errands.

“Everyone here has an electric car,” she said. Liu’s family actually owns three electric vehicles — the mini-electric car, an electric scooter and a three-wheeled golf cart. They’re all for short trips within the city.

They also own a gas-powered car, but Liu said they only use it for long-haul trips outside the city.

Car buyers check out the Avatr 11 electric vehicle in China.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

“It’s just too expensive to drive,” she explained. The mini-EV costs her family less than $4 a week to charge up. Gas and parking would cost at least five times as much.

Across Chinese cities, electric cars can be seen everywhere, and can be spotted by their green license plates. Tiny mini-EVs are especially popular in smaller cities. They’re even smaller than the SmartCars seen on roads in the US. And these mini-EVs are customized with colors and decals — for example, some cars are decorated with Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty or the black-and-white splotches of a dairy cow.

Zhang Bo, 32, owns a shiny silver Wuling Hongguang, which was the best-selling EV in China, a Chinese joint venture with GM. He uses his car to commute to work. 

“It’s really convenient for city driving,” he said. It’s also budget-friendly. This model goes for under $5,000.

Yang Jian, a journalist who writes about the car industry in China, said that government subsidies have been a big reason for the EV market’s success, but he senses that it is now growing even stronger because buyers are interested in the cars themselves, not just the subsidies.

“Now there is a real demand for EVs, especially among the young population.”

Yang Jian is, journalist

“Now there is a real demand for EVs, especially among the young population,” he said. “They really like the car, from the exterior to interior to [its] performance. They like to try new things.”

And there are plenty of options to try, for every budget, from tiny, cheaper models all the way up to luxury cars made by Chinese and foreign automakers.  

Bill Russo is a car industry expert in Shanghai. He said that the range of options is key to China’s EV success.

“If the Chinese EV market were an ice cream shop, it would be Baskin Robbins,” he said. “You know, 31 flavors. There’s basic EVs, midmarket EVs, and then there’s more premium [ones with] more technology. I call them smart EV offerings — even some high end brands, like the Hi5 — which is selling an EV that is more than $100,000.

In the coastal city of Shanghai — a city of 25 million people — you can see the full range of electric vehicles on the roads, from electric scooters and electric buses, all the way to Teslas and other luxury cars. Hart Yang, 24, is a physical education teacher at an elementary school, and like many people in China from his generation, he’s the first car owner in his family. He bought a black Tesla Model 3.

“I chose an electric car mostly for the free license plate,” he said. In Shanghai, the cost of a license plate alone is more than $13,000, Yang explained. But electric and hybrid car buyers in Shanghai get a green license plate at no cost.

That perk will be taken away from hybrid car buyers at the end of this year, but the Chinese government has signaled it will continue to support the EV car market into 2023.

Tesla, which has a factory in Shanghai, is a popular EV car purchase in bigger cities. But Chinese brands are competitive, with names like Future and Build Your Dream. High-end Chinese EV makers are tapping into an aspirational market.

A mini-electric vehicle parked in the street, Zhumadian, China.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

At a recent luxury car event on the outskirts of Shanghai, people were milling around an Avatr 11. It’s a high-tech collaboration between Changan, one of China’s biggest car companies, and Huawei, the mobile phone company. The car sells for nearly $50,000.

Elliot Richards, who makes YouTube videos about Chinese electric cars, said that for top-end electric car buyers here, it’s all about the technology.

“Chinese consumers think that this is like a mobile phone purchase,” he said. “They just change it every six months into the new technology, like an iPhone. Let’s drive this for six months, enjoy it, sell it. Get the new model from another company.”

The model he’s driving doesn’t require a key. You use your phone to unlock the doors. The car is full of perks: three large screens on the dashboard and the backseats even feature back massagers. Cameras and sensors are positioned throughout the car.

YouTuber Elliot Richards test drives a Chinese luxury electric vehicle.

Credit:

Rebecca Kanthor/The World

When the onboard computer senses its passengers are in a happy mood, an automated woman’s voice offers to put on some upbeat music and lighting inside the car.

These high-tech features will eventually be standard in most Chinese EVs, Richards said.

Electric cars in China benefit from a strong infrastructure that supports the industry. In Shanghai, there are 109,000 public charging stations.   

“There are so many,” Richards said. “And if I go further outside of Shanghai, I know the motorway network, every service station has chargers. It’s so easy that I didn’t even consider it a problem in China.”

But others find it more difficult to drive electric cars on long-haul trips. Hart Yang, the Tesla owner, said he ran out of power for his car on a trip into the mountains several hours away from Shanghai. The remote rural area he traveled to was not well equipped with charging stations, so he had to come up with an alternate solution.

Outside of China’s wealthier coastal cities, though, many people still rely on China’s extensive rail network or gas-powered cars for longer trips.

The Chinese government has announced that it is investing in new charging stations for rural areas across the country, in the hopes that a stronger charging infrastructure will pave the way for Chinese drivers to go all in on electric.

‘We’re done’: A new generation of Iranians are using this app to track the country’s morality police

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>'We're done': A new generation of Iranians are using this app to track the country's morality police

The mapping app Gershad, launched in 2016, allows people in Iran — primarily women — to mark the location of the country's morality police so that others can avoid them. Human rights activist and app co-founder Firuzeh Mahmoudi joined The World's host Marco Werman to talk about the app amid current protests.

The WorldSeptember 29, 2022 · 5:30 PM EDT

In this Sept. 21, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by The Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, protesters make fire and block the street during a protest over the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police, in downtown Tehran, Iran.

AP/File/Photo

In Iran, a phone app called Gershad is in huge demand right now. The mapping app, launched in 2016, allows people in Iran, primarily women, to mark the location of the country's morality police. That way, other people can avoid them.

Protests sparked by the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody are not letting up in Iran. Amini was stopped by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.

Now, the app has been updated to also include the location of riot police. The app currently has over 10,000 users, according to its website. 

Firuzeh Mahmoudi, one of the founders of the app, is also the executive director of the human rights group United for Iran. She joined The World's host Marco Werman from San Francisco to tell us more about the app and the uprising taking place in the country now. 

Marco Werman: Tell us a little bit more about how the Gershad app actually works here.Firuzeh Mahmoudi: So, it essentially allows users to report and view the location of the morality police throughout the country.Right. So, it's crowdsourced and then, wherever those forces are, there's a pin drop, that kind of thing?Exactly. And if multiple users use the same point near the same area, they get all clumped together. And users can only report if they're within a 500-meter vicinity of a location to avoid spamming by government officials. I mean, we hear a lot about the morality police. That's actually shorthand for a much longer title. Who are they exactly? The morality police were created under President Ahmadinejad. Essentially, their role is to ensure that that people are being proper, they're using their hijab properly, and they stop — 90% of who they stop are women — and it's essentially one of the government's arms to oppress people, using this ideology. And the hijab is a physical thing, but it's much more than that. It's a tool of oppression, to oppress half of the population. And that's the identity by which the Islamic Republic has built its name on.I'd like you to help us understand what it's like to live with the morality police around you all the time. I know you were once arrested by the morality police. Tell us about that experience.I left Iran when I was 12. My mother could not leave. So, I went back to Iran when I was 16 and I was arrested quite briefly, five hours. My mom and me and my sister, we all went together because they did not want me to go in alone. I had to sign that next time I would get 50 lashes and then we were released. It's horrifying, the idea of "getting 50 lashes next time." I was worried I was not going to be able to leave the country because I have a bit of an accent in Farsi. But that is nothing compared to what Iranian women face and fear every day. They don't have body autonomy, like they cannot just go out as they wish. The control and the power is not just on their physical body, but its permeates their emotions, their spirit, everything. It's their entire body — being oppressed.When you think about what is happening in Iran right now, what occurs to you? What occurs to you about right now and the future?It's heartbreaking to see millions and millions of people oppressed and being forced to lead a life that they don't want. And it's just absolutely heartbreaking, it is also so inspiring. They are incredibly brave, this young, new generation. They have no fear in their eyes. I see the fear on the other side. Although they're the ones with bullets. What are the chances — there are more of us than there are your bullets. So, we don't know exactly how this round is going to go. This protest has turned into an uprising and a movement. And I feel like the genie is out of the bottle. They have no place to go. They've created a situation where they either have to give up their entire identity, which is no longer going to be the Islamic Republic or they are forced to continue to oppress. And the people are essentially saying, "We're done."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Art and religion remix at this goddess festival in Kolkata

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Art and religion remix at this goddess festival in Kolkata

The five-day Durga Puja festival brings the city of Kolkata, India, to a standstill as throngs of people visit elaborate temples to the Goddess Durga that spring up everywhere.

The WorldSeptember 28, 2022 · 3:00 PM EDT

Kolkata's artists had to burn the midnight oil to get their Durga pujas ready early for the special art preview for visiting dignitaries. 

Sandip Roy/The World

The sounds of drums at this time of the year in Kolkata mean only one thing — it’s time for Durga Puja, the festival of the Hindu Goddess Durga as she comes home to Earth with her family. 

The five-day festival brings the city to a standstill as throngs of people visit the temporary temples to the goddess that spring up. 

This year, the main festival kicks off on Oct. 2, but the drums have been beating a few days earlier than usual to welcome UNESCO officials and international guests. Durga Puja was recently added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. This will be the first Durga Puja with that UN recognition. 

The goddess Durga riding on a truck en route to worship.

Credit:

Courtesy of Bishan Samaddar

Dol Das, with a big drum slung across his shoulder, said the government summoned him to Kolkatta from his village to play drums a few days earlier than usual, but he's not complaining. The extra festivities during Durga Puja means extra money. 

Durga Puja is a religious festival filled with prayers, chanting and elaborate ceremonies led by Hindu priests. But it’s also full of artistic expression. 

"At the end of the day, this is completely art, art and art," said Dhrubojyoti Bose Suvo, the secretary at MASS ART. He’s organized a preview festival of some selected pujas so foreign guests can get a sense of how Kolkata “transforms to a public gallery.” Up to 3,000 temporary temples called pandals spring up on the streets and in parks, community centers and apartment complexes, to house clay images of the goddess. Some are just cookie-cutter boxes made of cloth and bamboo. Others are elaborate installations.

Durga Puja was once all about the goddess herself, with her 10 arms riding a lion and killing the buffalo demon. But past Durga pujas have reproduced a Thai temple, Dubai's Burj Khalifa and the Hogwarts castle. 

Theme pujas have become all the rage. 

One ordinary street in a residential south Kolkata neighborhood has a pandal that pays tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. Sunflowers nod overhead while waves of speckled blue paper billow above, all made of paper and cloth. 

“We’ve pulled his starry night out of the frame and spread it across the whole neighborhood,” said Ram Kumar Dey, one of the organizers of this year’s Durga Puja.

Some of India’s most well-known artists have designed the Durga image in earlier years, but he said now Durga Puja has gone international and his neighborhood club, which is organizing this year's Durga Puja, felt they needed an “A-list international name” like Van Gogh. Their theme is “Starry Night.” 

The Bakul Bagan Durga puja chose Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" as their theme in 2022. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Bishan Samaddar

This year's pujas also pay tribute to India’s freedom struggle, the war on plastic pollution and a folk art museum. 

A Durga Puja installation covering 6,000 square feet was created by the Vivekananda Park Athletic Club in Kolkata. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Bishan Samaddar

One Durga Puja installation by the Vivekananda Park Athletic Club plays with the theme of perspetives, using iron pipes and sheets spread over 6,000 square feet to create the illusion of an old mansion on its side. The effort required the labor of 44,100 total hours.

Niladri Chatterjee, an academic who has documented pujas for years, said that over time, he has seen Durga pujas making social commentary on hot-button issues like literacy, wife-beating and domestic violence. 

“At first I was disturbed,” he said. “I thought, ‘What is this nonsense?’”

But he realized this was a new kind of social messaging via popular art, reaching huge crowds. 

During the pandemic lockdown, a Durga Puja reimagined the goddess and her family as a migrant mother and her children struggling to get home. It became the talk of the town. 

As Durga Pujas got more creative, Chatterjee said it was an “enormous boon” for young artists who had graduated from art colleges and were looking for “any kind of lucrative work.”

The festival is now a major driver of the state’s economy, according to Debanjan Chakrabarti, the director of British Council East and NorthEast India, which commissioned a report on it. The report found the total economic worth of Durga Puja in 2019 was a little over $4.5 billion, despite 2019 being a down economic year.

“That’s just about a shade under 3% of the state’s GDP [gross domestic product] from a 10-day festival,” Chakrabarti said.  

That money reaches deep into the unorganized sector of the economy, going to carpenters, electricians, clay workers, food vendors, painters. 

Many get over half their annual income from this one festival. 

Now, the Durga Puja festival is being rebranded as a citywide pop-up art installation to attract new audiences. But it’s not a biennale with a single curator.

Currently, most of the art work ends up as scrap after the festival, while a handful make their way to collectors. Preview organizer Suvo said he wants to create an online auction so that art lovers around the world can purchase Durga Puja artifacts.

And Suvo is already planning next year’s preview.

A stylized Durga image at an installation in Kolkata. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Bishan Samaddar

But the artistic reinvention of Durga Puja has led some to wonder how well art and religion can mix. 

The Durga Puja preview is a way for foreign dignitaries and art lovers to get a taste of the festival’s artwork before the actual religious rituals begin and mammoth crowds choke the streets.

Art historian Tapati Guha-Thakurta, who prepared the Durga Puja dossier for UNESCO, said Durga Puja was “never purely religious, it was always a communitarian space, and now it’s becoming more and more an exhibition space.” 

But she added that despite its reputation for excess and revelry, “the purely liturgical element is still retained.” Even if a theme puja comes with a cutting edge fiber-glass Durga, there is still a small clay Durga or pot that gets worshiped over five days and eventually immersed in the river.

Some politicians are raising eyebrows at one of this year’s big theme pujas — a reproduction of the Vatican, but housing a Hindu goddess. 

“The history of art is really rooted in humanity’s sense of wonder and trying to make sense of a very chaotic world,” Chakrabarti said. 

That is just as true about faith as it is about art.

No contradiction in supporting protesters while pursuing nuclear deal with Iran, US special envoy says

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>No contradiction in supporting protesters while pursuing nuclear deal with Iran, US special envoy says

Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, joined The World's host Marco Werman from Washington to discuss how the Biden administration views the current protests and what this could all mean for efforts to secure a nuclear deal with Iran.

The WorldSeptember 28, 2022 · 5:15 PM EDT

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during his press conference in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Raisi warned that any roadmap to restore Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers must see international inspectors end their probe on man-made uranium particles found at undeclared sites in the country. 

Iranian Presidency Office/AP

Protests in Iran show no signs of letting up. Yesterday, riot police clashed with demonstrators in dozens of cities across the country. Today, students at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences chanted slogans.

They were condemning police brutality and calling for more freedom for Iranian women. The demonstrations come after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was accused of violating the law on headscarves. Amini died in police custody.

Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, joined The World's host Marco Werman from Washington to discuss how the Biden administration views the protests and what this could all mean for efforts to secure a nuclear deal with Iran. 

Marco Werman: Rob Malley, what's going through your mind as you watched day after day these protests in Iran? Are they a game-changer for the country?Robert Malley: We've all watched, sort of transfixed at the sight of brave Iranian women and men protesting. And what we do know is what we're going to do. We're going to speak forcefully about the fundamental rights of the Iranian people as we want to do across the world. We're going to condemn and sanction those Iranian institutions that were responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini. We've already sanctioned Iran's morality police and finally, and importantly, we're going to continue to help the Iranian people find ways to exercise their right to access information in the face of Iranian government attempts to block their access to the internet. We've taken steps already by loosening our sanctions in a way that would allow Iranians to talk to each other, communicate with each other and with the outside world.Well, as you say, as Iran has gone to shutting down the Internet quite forcefully, the US in response, has been trying to get communications equipment into the hands of demonstrators. Has that been successful?So what we really have done is try to open the door to US companies to allow them to provide tools to ordinary Iranians and allow them to overcome and circumvent the surveillance tools on censorship. We've seen that it's had some effect already, but of course, it's in the face of a widespread attempt by the Iranian government to block that communication.So in 2009, when there were widespread protests in Iran, culminating in that killing of a 26-year old Neda Agha-Soltan, the Obama White House did not want to support the protests, fearing charges of foreign interference. Now the US is engaged and supporting the protesters. What changed? I wasn't part of the Obama administration at the time. I think the Obama administration in due course, did condemn the repression. But listen, all I could speak about is what the Biden administration is about. And it's not about regime change. This is not a policy that is trying to fuel instability in Iran and try to topple the regime and the government. It's a policy that is trying to be true to US beliefs that people have the right to exercise fundamental freedoms.At the same time as these demonstrations are happening, there is the languishing Iran nuclear deal with discouraging levels of progress recently to revive the 2015 agreement. With that effort stalled. How has that changed the calculus with supporting these protests? In other words, how do you see the relationship between the protests and the nuclear talks?Some people have asked us why would we continue to pursue a nuclear deal in the face of the repression of this Iranian government. It didn't take what just happened, the tragedy that occurred to Mahsa Amini, for us to know what this Iranian government is about. The reason we're pursuing a nuclear deal is [that] we don't want this government to have its hands on a nuclear weapon. It's really as simple as that. And so that remains a fundamental national security interest of the United States. And, yes, we can do both things at the same time. We can be true to our values and speak out forcefully on behalf of ordinary Iranians who want to exercise their fundamental rights, even as we pursue another fundamental national security interest, which is to make sure that Iran doesn't acquire a nuclear weapon. And so those who say we shouldn't engage with them, we would ask the question, "What are we going to do to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?" Isn't diplomacy the best way, if we can do it? And by the way, we also have to engage with the Iranian government to secure the release of four of our citizens who have been unjustly detained, one of them for seven years. And to those who think that there's a contradiction, I would ask, what would they do to try to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?A US diplomat told journalists this week that the negotiations on that nuclear deal with Iran have hit a wall. What is the wall? How do you see it? We were close to a deal, we thought about a month ago, and then Iran, for its own reasons and reasons that one should ask them, decided to reintroduce an issue that has nothing to do with the deal, which has to do with the International Atomic Energy Agency's investigation into past Iranian activities, and in particular, the presence of uranium particles on the site. So without getting into the details, what Iran has asked for is for us, the United States and European countries to put pressure on the international agency to conclude those investigations. That has nothing to do with the deal, number one, and number two, it's something that we won't do. It's a decision Iran has to make. So that's the wall we're facing right now. But it's a wall that only Iran could overcome. What we can do is continue to maintain our pressure to make sure that Iran doesn't acquire a nuclear weapon.As you pointed out, Rob, President Trump famously exited the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. One thing Iranian negotiators have said is that they want guarantees that the election of a new Republican president in 2024, if that happens, would not mean the US will back out of another nuclear deal. Do they have a point? I can understand why they would want that guarantee. We've told them from the minute these negotiations began over a year and a half ago, that's not the way our system works. If a future president decides again recklessly to unilaterally withdraw from the deal at a time that the deal was working, if that's what they decide to do, there's nothing we, as in Biden, can do to stop that.Rob, finally, is Iran intent on having nuclear weapons? I mean, is that what US policy assumes? Is that the underlying belief?Without getting into sort of what our intelligence community would say, I think at this point, it doesn't appear that Iran has made a decision to acquire a nuclear weapon. It doesn't mean that they're not expanding their program so that they could be on the threshold of doing so. But they do not appear today to have made that decision. Again, we can't build our policy on what we assess to be Iran's intent. We base our policy on what we see Iran is doing. And our policy is guided by the president's very firm commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through diplomacy, if that's at all possible.Rob, as you've served in this role as US special envoy for Iran, is there an anecdote you can share with us that kind of really sheds light on where things stand at this moment in time with Iran?You know, I don't think there's an anecdote that I would be prepared to recount at this point. I do think, though, that it is quite telling that we have been relatively close to a deal on more than one occasion, last spring and in August. And both times, Iran, for some reason and again, you should ask them and have their officials on your program, once, because they wanted us to commit to lifting the foreign terrorist organization designation of the IRGC, or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has nothing to do with the deal. And we we spent a lot of time in which we told them, you want that lifted, you gotta do something in exchange in terms of the behavior of the IRGC. In the end, they dropped that. Now it's this question of the investigation by the IAEA. Again, nothing to do with the deal, delaying the deal. What does that say? You'd have to ask them. Are they at the moment of truth? Do they take a step back? Are they not prepared to to get back into the deal? Are they hoping for concessions that won't come? Our door is still open, if they want to go through, if they want to, to get this deal. But those two episodes show that at some point, the real discussion that needs to take place is not so much between the US and Iran, it's between Iran and itself. Is it prepared to take the steps necessary to get back into the deal? And if the answer is no, then we're going to have to see what other paths are available. But that's the urgent conversation that we think needs to take place.It sounds like you're take is that it's hard to negotiate with a country that moves the goalposts.Yes. It's also hard to negotiate with a country that refuses to talk to us, which has made everything more difficult, more time consuming, more prone to misunderstanding. We're prepared to have direct talks. They're not. So we've had to make do with with a very unsatisfactory, indirect conversation. 

This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

‘We are forced to be bank robbers,’ desperate Lebanese citizens say amid financial crisis

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>'We are forced to be bank robbers,' desperate Lebanese citizens say amid financial crisis

Banks in Lebanon have partially reopened this week after the government had ordered them to be shut down. The closures were prompted by a spat of bank heists conducted by people whose savings have been stuck in banking system.

The WorldSeptember 28, 2022 · 2:00 PM EDT

A Lebanese policeman stands guard next to a bank window that was broken by depositors to exit the bank after attacking it trying to get their money, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 14, 2022.

Hussein Malla/AP/File photo

Twenty-eight-year-old Sali Hafiz never imagined she’d rob a bank.

But on Sept.14, that’s exactly what she did.

Hafiz walked into her bank in the Lebanese capital Beirut, waved a gun in the air and demanded $20,000.

The whole incident was live-streamed online. And it’s not a one-off. There were at least eight similar incidents by other bank customers the same week, according to media reports.

Bank heists have become common in Lebanon amid the country’s economic crisis, and people have started using them to demand their own savings frozen by the financial system.

People waiting outside a Fransabank branch to withdraw money, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 26, 2022.

Credit:

Bilal Hussein/AP

The government finally ordered all the nation’s banks to be shut down, and only partially reopened them this week. The Association of Banks in Lebanon said that they would reopen in a limited capacity to businesses, educational institutions and hospitals. Many banks have also now hired security guards, according to Naharnet news website.

Reached over WhatsApp at an undisclosed location in Lebanon, Sali Hafiz said she doesn’t consider herself a criminal for what she did. And she even had to adopt a persona to be able to go through with the plan.

“In my mind, I pretended I was a character in a movie,” she said.

After a few tense minutes, bank employees scrambled to give her handfuls of cash, and Hafiz walked out with $13,000.

In the end, no one was hurt and the gun Hafiz used turned out to be a toy that belonged to her nephew.

But the anger continues across the country.

“What we’re witnessing in Lebanon is just a symptom of the economic violence that has been enforced on the people for decades.”

Hussein Cheaito, economist, Tahrir Institute

“What we’re witnessing in Lebanon is just a symptom of the economic violence that has been enforced on the people for decades,” said Hussein Cheaito, an economist with the Tahrir Institute.

Since 2019, he said, Lebanon’s currency has lost 90% of its value. Foreign investment mostly dried up and many depositors withdrew their money from the banks. This led to a shortage of foreign currency, including US dollars. In response, the banks set a limit on how much customers could withdraw — between $200 and $400 dollars a month, depending on the bank, Cheaito said.

Customers can also exchange their dollars for Lebanese pounds at a much lower rate.

A worker at a money exchange bureau counts Lebanese pounds in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 22, 2022.

Credit:

Bilal Hussein/AP/File photo

“So, these heists are just, in a way, an expression of hopelessness really, because there are no other channels for people to regain access to their savings,” Cheaito explained.

Hafiz, who held up the bank earlier this month, said she needed the money for her sister’s cancer treatment. 

She was in hiding when she spoke with The World.

Samia Sibaii, who works with an advocacy group called “The Depositors Outcry Association,” said there are many people like Hafiz in Lebanon who can’t withdraw their savings for emergency needs.

“Depositors in Lebanon are around 2 million,” she said.

Sibaii, a math teacher, said all her own inheritance money is frozen in a bank.

“I’m facing many problems. Like, I couldn’t pay for my son’s university fees. Then he stopped studying for about six months,” she said.

She went on to add that for the last three years, her advocacy group has tried everything from filing multiple lawsuits to protesting in the streets to pleading face-to-face with the president and the prime minister.

“Nobody, nobody in this whole country is willing to give solutions,” Sibaii said.

People stand inside the money transfer offices of Western Union and OMT in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 22, 2022.

Credit:

Bilal Hussein/AP/File photo

These multiple bank heists in Lebanon might be surprising to those living outside the country, said 45-year-old Ibrahim Abdallah.

“People will not understand that because it’s like against [the] law or something. It’s not against [the] law. The banks are against [the] law,” he said.

Abdallah has been protesting in front of banks for months, he said. He has about $3 million that he can’t take out. It’s his savings from 16 years of working in Dubai as a sales manager for a real estate developer.

“I don’t want to die, I don’t want to be a criminal. The bank is enjoying profits [from my money] and I can’t afford medicines for my parents, I can’t afford food, I can’t afford electricity bills,” Abdallah said.

Abdallah returned to Lebanon to be closer to his parents who are in their 70s and 80s. He also wanted to study for an MBA. Instead, he said, his life is consumed with figuring out how to get back his own money.

“They are forcing us now to become part of attacking banks,” he said. “It’s not our nature. It’s not us.”

Related: ‘We live paycheck to paycheck’: Workers at a paper factory in Beirut worry about making ends meet in a dire economy

The Italian job: Part I

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>The Italian job: Part I

Critical State, a foreign policy newsletter by Inkstick Media, takes a deep dive this week into the prosecutor’s office in Rome, Italy. From 1975 to 1991, this office was able to use gatekeeping to shield politicians from corruption charges. When those protections ended, the stable coalition system was overturned.

Inkstick MediaSeptember 28, 2022 · 12:15 PM EDT

A view of a courtroom inside Rome's tribunal Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, during the first hearing of a trial of involving politicians and businessmen. An Italian court began the trial of 46 politicians, businessmen and others in a still-expanding corruption probe investigating Rome's City Hall that has revealed a well-oiled system of alleged kickbacks, payoffs, and Mafia-style intimidation to gain control of millions of dollars of city contracts. 

Alessandro Di Meo/AP/Pool

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

The Italian Constitution was adopted in 1947, years after the overthrow of Benito Mussolini’s fascist state at the hands of liberating allies and Italian anti-fascist partisans. Enshrined in that constitution, and enforced in the decades since, is a principle of judicial prosecution. Because all cases were pursued, the venue where the cases are tried and charged matters a great deal, as the discretion of the prosecutor manifests not in case selection but instead in sentencing and rigor of pursuit.

In “Prosecutorial Gatekeeping and Its Effects on Criminal Accountability: The Roman Prosecutor’s Office and Corruption Investigations in Italy, 1975–1994,” Lucia Manzi looks at the particular structural role of the Rome prosecutor’s office.

This office, as the jurisdiction overseeing the seat of government, was able to use gatekeeping to shield politicians from corruption charges up through 1991. Then, following a change in the judicial philosophy of the prosecutor in charge of Rome, an end to those protections cleared the path for the Mani Pulite ("Clean Hands") corruption investigation, which overturned the stable coalition system of the Cold War and led to the political reality of the present.

“Due to its geographical location at the heart of the country's capital, where all government institutions and political parties' headquarters reside, the Roman prosecutor's office could potentially claim jurisdiction over most, if not all, criminal violations committed by elected officials and political personalities,” Manzi writes. 

The Italian judiciary is structurally independent and responsible for the appointment and advancement of its members. After the 1970s, this was by seniority, but prior to that, it hinged on evaluation by superiors, encouraging ideological homogeneity among the profession.

Confounding the hopes of those who would want to prosecute corruption was a long-standing belief among the conservative elite of the Italian legal establishment that shielded government officials from the investigation, starting with a refusal to hold fascist officials accountable under laws punishing “particularly cruel barbarity” passed after the overthrow of fascism. 

This meant, Manzi writes, “the use of gatekeeping powers to shield state agents from accountability followed a much broader logic, rooted in Italian legal positivism's traditional hostility toward the use of investigative powers against the state.”

Manzi details two prosecutions of corruption scandals by the Milan office. A 1981 look into corruption by the Italian Socialist Party, a regular feature of Italy’s governing coalitions, unearthed deeper webs of connections and Swiss bank accounts for payouts. But, looking to shield the state from accountability, the Rome prosecutor's office claimed jurisdiction, blocked the Milan team from requesting Swiss records, and steered the investigation from above.

In 1992, the Milan team pursued a similar set of leads under a different Roman prosecutor. Without interference from Rome, their corruption investigation was allowed to proceed, kicking off the start of a sweeping investigation that found all parties of Italy’s stagnant governing coalition entwined with bribery for contracts and other kinds of corruption.

Manzi concludes that the “preferences of the prosecutorial actors in charge of gatekeeping institutions may have massive implications for the quality of democracy and the rule of law.”

Related: Political theater: Part II

Critical State is your weekly fix of foreign policy analysis from the staff at Inkstick Media. Subscribe here

‘Wherever the work is, we’re all going’: Graphic novelist on working in Alberta’s tar sands

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>'Wherever the work is, we're all going': Graphic novelist on working in Alberta's tar sands

"Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands," a graphic novel by Kate Beaton, from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, tells the story of leaving home and joining thousands of others to work in the oil sands of Alberta, Canada. Beaton joined The World's host Marco Werman to talk about her experience.

The WorldSeptember 27, 2022 · 4:00 PM EDT

An image from "Ducks," a graphic novel by Kate Beaton, depicting the "Highway of Death." 

Courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly

"Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands," by Kate Beaton, tells the story of working in Alberta's tar sands, along with thousands of others from her native Cape Breton. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly

It is an age-old story — leaving home for work to build a better future for yourself and your family.

It's a story that graphic novelist Kate Beaton knows well. Beaton is from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and her story took her almost clear across Canada, more than 3,000 miles west to northern Alberta, to join thousands of others who also left their homes for a better economic future.

Her latest book, a graphic novel, is "Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands."

Beaton joined The World's host Marco Werman to talk about her compelling personal story of working in the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta, where these boom economies have led to tremendous environmental and human cost. 

Growing up in Cape Breton, Beaton said that she wasn't aware of the tar sands when she was very small. 

"It was a place that people started going to in the '80s and '90s, but not in the numbers that made a real difference until maybe the late '90s, when it really started booming," she said.

"And then everybody started going. And they were running news stories around here about how, you know, the streets were emptying and the classrooms had empty desks because they were gone to the oil sands." 

Marco Werman: Symbolically, you kind of illustrate that with the empty chairs around the dining tables in Cape Breton. Kate Beaton: But that's not new here. We have had many generations of labor migration to wherever the engines of capitalism have been running to, to the Boston States' auto factories booming in the 70s, and in Ontario and Detroit, a mining boom in Sudbury.So the "Boston States," is that what Cape Bretoners call the US? Or New England, specifically?It's kind of New England. They would land around Boston and they'd call it the Boston States. Yeah, I had a grand aunt who worked as a maid, for instance, in a mansion in Boston. But that was the place to go for work. And they would work there and they'd send money home. And that pattern would repeat wherever the big job booms were. And I sort of fell in step with a pattern that had been going on and on for all this time. I thought nothing of going to the oil sands because people have been doing this where I'm from for so long."Ducks" takes place mostly in Alberta, but you often take readers back to Cape Breton in the book. Almost like a dream. Like one minute you're in the industrial work camp, the next you have your feet in the sand of a pristine beach, almost like your body and mind are in two places at once. What do you think is the long-term effect on workers being split like that? How did it affect you?Oh, it had a big effect on me, for sure. You were split. And so most of your life is in this work camp, where you are not living as your full self. You're cut off from things and you're counting down the days to when you're home. And when you're in the camp, you're isolated. And the sense of being totally outside of society is a very real feeling, that you're the shadow population.The book is called "Ducks," and the meaning is revealed later on in the book when the international news media picks up the story that hundreds of migratory ducks were killed after they landed in one of these tailing ponds at one of these mining sites. Why was that moment so meaningful to you that you decided to give this book the title "Ducks"?Well, the metaphor is apt. These were migratory animals who landed in a pond that they thought was a safe space, that they thought was natural. And it ended up being toxic. It was a dangerous place for them to land. And you could make the same argument for some of the people who landed there. This incident with the ducks was the first time that I saw the oil sands on national and international news. You know, you could sort of see the eyes of the world taking a look at the oil sands or going, "Oh, God, that's bad," you know, "We don't like that." These ducks all died. And I had seen people die — 2008 was a particularly bad year for accidents on Highway 63, which was nicknamed the Highway of Death.

The graphic novel, "Ducks: Two Years in the Oils Sands," by Kate Beaton, tells the compelling personal story of leaving home in Cape Breton to work in Alberta's tar sands. 

Credit:

Courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly

And that's a highway that connects some of the living areas with these mines?Yes, that's right. It's the highway that goes from Edmonton to to Fort McMurray. And also, at the same time, there is a part of the book where a Cree elder, Celina Harpe, is talking about how there is increased incidences of cancer, rare cancers in the Indigenous communities around Fort McMurray. And the response to that is sort of  — silence. But the ducks got all this attention because of maybe how cinematic it was. And so that always stuck with me. That the human cost went under the radar.Homesickness is a major theme of your book, and one way it manifests is through music, I noticed. Cape Breton has so much great music, trad-modern fiddlers like Natalie MacMaster and Ashley MacIsaac. We asked you for a song that brought back feelings of home when you were away in Alberta. Who are we hearing and why does this music resonate with you? You're hearing John Allan Cameron sing "Headed for Halifax." He's singing about leaving Cape Breton for work. "I'm heading for Halifax to see what's to spare in the way of some work. And if there's nothing there, then it's Toronto out West or God only knows where." That was true before I was born. It's true now. You know, I listened to this growing up and I knew, that's going to be me. And it was. This is the life in Cape Breton. But he's he's also singing, you know, "Wherever I go, there's bound to be someone from home," because that is also true. Wherever the work is, we're all going. We're going together. 

 This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Lost luggage finds a new home at this Spanish nonprofit

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Lost luggage finds a new home at this Spanish nonprofit

In Spain, some 20,000 unclaimed suitcases now sit in airport warehouses. Envera, a nonprofit group, has found a way to give the contents of this lost luggage a new home. 

The WorldSeptember 27, 2022 · 2:45 PM EDT

Envera is a nonprofit that sells lost luggage and its contents. Proceeds create jobs for people with mental and physical challenges. 

Gerry Hadden/The World

On a recent morning, a luggage handler wheeled a dolly teetering with suitcases down a crowded hall. But he was not headed for the airport baggage carousels — in fact, he was two miles from Barcelona’s airport, at a shopping mall.

The handler stopped at a small store called Envera, where manager Jonatan Romero signed for the long-unclaimed bags. 

“This is a space where we take in all the lost objects found in airports and on airplanes,” Romero said. “Anything that gets lost and is not claimed, we take and open.”

Airports around the world are still struggling to find workers to keep up with the post-pandemic travel rebound. As a result, this summer has seen a record number of lost bags. In Spain, some 20,000 suitcases now sit in airport warehouses. Many never get claimed. So Envera, a nonprofit group, has found a way to give the bags — and their contents — new homes.

Staff members sort the contents, sterilize everything, assign prices and sell them.

“We donate second-hand clothes,” he said. “We’ve got scuba suits and gear, ski boots, curling irons and hair dryers.”

Perusing these shelves feels a bit like rummaging through someone else’s private stuff — sunglasses, cheap souvenirs and fridge magnets, flip-flops, hats, books, bikinis.  

Enerva is a nonprofit that sells the contents of lost luggage in Spain. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

At Envera, proceeds create jobs for people with mental and physical challenges. Staff member Manoli Martín has a badly herniated disk and had to give up mainstream work. 

“We’re going to open one of the newly arrived suitcases,” she said with a smile. “Let’s see what surprises we find inside.” 

Martín unzipped the little carry-on, imprinted with a Big Ben photo on the outside. On the inside, it was packed with stuff, such as a fake plastic license plate from Granada, a souvenir bowl from Thailand and stretchy rubber exercise bands. She said it’s the kind of item that will sell quickly and for cheap. The mint-condition suitcase itself will go for about $15. 

Lots of keychains and other travel souvenirs lost in transit find a second life at Envera. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

But this week’s oddest item, Martín said, was a self-massaging mat, basically a yoga mat covered in tiny, blunted nails. 

The tiny shop, located right across from a giant Carrefour supermarket, attracts customers as they pay for their items on their way out. 

Customer Ana Treciera popped over to rummage through Envera’s kids section while her husband waited by the grocery cart.

“Today, I’m buying this wooden choo-choo train for our 2-year-old,” she said.

The price: 2 euros, about $1.92. Most everything here is marked down at least 70%.

“We’ve bought lots of stuff here,” Treciera said. "Shoes, toys. I think we pick up something every time we come grocery shopping.”

Though somewhere, there might just be another toddler who had a good cry when he lost his train. But one kid’s loss is another’s gain. 

Envera is located within a supermarket, making it very easy for customers to stop in on a regular basis to find something special. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

“It’s a circular system,” manager Romero said.  “We give second life to these items so that we don’t need to keep manufacturing more.”

But make no mistake, Romero said. This is not a second-hand store.

 “In a second-hand store you buy stuff people didn’t want,” he said. “Here, we sell things people did want — but lost. There’s a huge difference.”

There may be an element of tragedy to it all. But Romero said the lost belongings are of the highest quality. And the proceeds are for a good cause.

Envera sells clothing that's been lost in transit but it's not a second-hand shop, the manager says. 

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

Once in a while, Envera workers open a suitcase and find some kind of identification. In those cases, they contact the owner. 

Once, Romero said, it was a pretty famous guy. The first clue was a trophy inside the suitcase: The Golden Cleat, professional indoor soccer’s highest award.

“I think the owner’s name was Ricardinho,” he said. “It was his trophy, which he’d clearly lost, but we found.”

Ricardo Filipe da Silva Braga, popularly known as Ricardinho, is considered the best professional indoor soccer player in history. 

And he went down to Envera to get his golden cleat back.

Related: As summer travel kicks off in Europe, airline strikes could thwart holiday plans

What comes after Hydra, the darknet marketplace that changed everything?

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>What comes after Hydra, the darknet marketplace that changed everything?

Dina Temple-Raston of the Click Here podcast spoke with Niko Vorobyov, the Russian author of Dopeworld and Kim Grauer, director of research at Chainalysis and an expert in cryptocurrency economics and crime, about Hydra, its closure in April and who or what is likely to replace it.

The WorldSeptember 27, 2022 · 2:15 PM EDT

A woman typing on a laptop on a train in New Jersey, May 18, 2021.

Jenny Kane/AP/File photo

For seven years, the Amazon.com of darknet marketplaces was a one-stop shop called Hydra. It started out as an online bazaar for illegal drugs, but

OMG!OMG! is one of the darknet markets fighting for primacy after the takedown fo Hydra.

Credit:

Image from The Record.Media

ended up revolutionizing the way drug deals were done, and eventually grew into a billion-dollar business complete with codes of conduct, customer support and legal and medical services. It had just started branching out into financial services when German authorities shut its servers down in April.

The Click Here podcast spoke with Niko Vorobyov, the Russian author of Dopeworld and Kim Grauer, director of research at Chainalysis and an expert in cryptocurrency economics and crime, about Hydra, its closure in April and who or what is likely to replace it.
 Click Here: To the uninitiated, what set Hydra apart from other darknet marketplaces like Silk Road or AlphaBay?Niko Vorobyov: Hydra was such a huge monopoly. Even the dealers who are basically independent of Hydra, who are selling on their own channels, chances are they got their supply, or their supplier got their supply from someone who was on Hydra. Kim Grauer: It was by far the fastest growing darknet marketplace out there, and it was doing so much more than just selling drugs. It’s doing money laundering. It’s involved in ransomware attacks.Niko, you’ve used Hydra to buy drugs… you said Hydra helped revolutionize the way illegal drugs were sold in Russia. Can you explain?NV: So, I’m a narcotics connoisseur, of sorts. And one time there was me, this girl and these two other guys who were quite experienced with buying from Hydra. And what they do is they send coordinates that you can paste into your phone and you also get sent these pictures with like these terribly drawn arrows in Microsoft paint. And that shows you where exactly like which tree or which bench or which bin or which pipe they’ve hidden the stuff in. And then off you go.So, it is like a treasure hunt?NV: The packet is actually buried, like on a little bit under the tree. We didn’t bring any shovels or anything like that, that’d be too obvious. So instead we’re standing by this tree… picking up bits of dead wood around this and just digging frantically around this tree. It took us a while to dig — like five or ten minutes — and then we open it up to make sure it was the real deal, because sometimes there’s a risk that you find something and it’s actually like another package for someone else.Because there are so many Hydra packages hidden, you can accidentally find the wrong thing?NV: Totally. If you’re walking along a path or something in the park and you see some snow tracks going in an odd direction and you follow them, eventually you’re gonna find some drugs because like, this is the standard way of hiding drugs in Russia.Some researchers say Hydra “professionalized” the darknet market by setting standards and becoming more of a one-stop shop… can you talk about that? What did they do differently?KG: They do a lot of vetting, not anyone can join. You have to be a certain level of vendor in order to participate in Hydra. NV: The whole point is to isolate every bit of every stage of the supply chain. The customer doesn’t know the kladman [drug distributor] who doesn’t know their boss, their boss doesn’t know their supplier.KG: I think one of the biggest things that it offered was a Ruble-to-US dollar conversion point. That’s a huge benefit in the crypto space. Ransomware groups used Hydra a lot, not only to purchase software to carry out their attacks further, but to launder money.Sort of like the Swiss bank of crypto?KG: They also don’t ask a lot of questions at times about who the people are that they’re receiving funds from. They will take 5% or 10% as a fee, and that’s the price of not asking questions.I think these networks are really good at moving large quantities of money for high net worth individuals in a way that doesn’t attract international attention. I think people want to think about crypto crime and regular crime as very distinct and very different, but there are a lot of similarities, and darknet marketplaces really are just marketplaces for goods and services that also happen to be illegal.One of the things that happens with darknet marketplaces is as you get bigger, you become targeted by law enforcement for takedowns. Hydra knew that was happening. They’re so large that law enforcement was definitely licking their lips at the thought of taking them down. And they eventually did last Spring.Hydra lasted a lot longer than most other darknet markets. But in April, German Federal Police seized Hydra servers, effectively shutting the organization down. Where does that demand go?KG: Definitely there’s going to be something that takes its place. Whether it’s Hydra, I don’t know. But the demand is there and people will find a way to carry out these types of transactions. NV: There’s like three or four websites competing between each other for a monopoly. One of them was called OMG!OMG! There’s also been a resurgence of old school dealers doing hand-to-hand sales for those people who still have those contacts. This is mostly in small towns, not so much Moscow. KG: I think what you’re getting at is the whack-a-mole problem, which is present in darknet marketplaces, but also present in literally all crime. You put a cop on the corner of a hot street and then everyone moves to another street. So was it effective? To some degree, but it does cause this substitution effect in behavior.Often ransomware gangs are shuttered one day and then reconstitute themselves a short time later. Will that happen here?KG: One of the cool things about blockchain analysis is we can track that. So say you’re a vendor or a customer who buys and sells from Hydra. Because of the transparency of blockchains, we can see all of those transactions happening on the blockchain. So we can see, ‘Hey, this customer, they used to be purchasing from AlphaBay. Then they went to Dream Market. Now they’re on Hydra.’ We can see where they’re going next.The question of ‘is Hydra getting reconstituted’ is something that we’re also paying attention to, but I haven’t seen many signs of it as of yet. NV: This is gonna take a while to do. Hydra had doctors and lawyers on staff and whoever they had on their payroll, nobody really knows each other in real life. So I think it’ll eventually come back, but it’s going to take a while for all the relevant people to find each other in the wilds of the internet.

An earlier version of this story originally appeared in The Record.Media. There was additional reporting by Will Jarvis.

The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Related: Son of Conti: Ransomware tries its hand at politics

NASA spacecraft successfully crashes into asteroid during space defense test

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>NASA spacecraft successfully crashes into asteroid during space defense test

A NASA spacecraft has successfully made impact with an asteroid in an unprecedented practice run to thwart potential incoming threats to Earth.

The WorldSeptember 27, 2022 · 12:45 PM EDT

In this image made from a NASA livestream, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft crashes into an asteroid, Sept. 26, 2022.

ASI/NASA via AP

A NASA spacecraft named Dart has rammed into an asteroid in an unprecedented practice run, should such a space rock threaten Earth one day.

It struck a 525-foot asteroid called Dimorphos. The impact occurred 7 million miles away, with the spacecraft plowing ahead at 14,000 mph. Scientists expected the move to create a crater and alter the asteroid’s orbit.

Watch the moment of the impact here:

Telescopes around the world were aimed at the same point in the sky to view the spectacle.

Dart’s radio signal abruptly ceased upon impact. And it will take as long as a couple of months to determine how much the asteroid’s path has been changed.

The $325 million project was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space.

Dimorphos is a moonlet of Didymos, a fast-spinning asteroid five times larger that flung off the material forming its junior partner. And the pair have been orbiting the sun for eons without threatening Earth.

Tanzania submits first Oscar entry in more than 20 years

“MuiTypography-root-221 MuiTypography-h1-226″>Tanzania submits first Oscar entry in more than 20 yearsThe WorldSeptember 26, 2022 · 4:15 PM EDT

For the first time in 21 years, Tanzania has submitted a film to the 2023 Oscars.

“Vuta n’Kuvute,” or “Tug of War” in English, was directed by Tanzanian filmmaker Amil Shivji.

The film, based on Adam Shafi’s famous novel of the same name, revisits the colonial and revolutionary past of the island of Zanzibar.

Set in the 1950s, the movie follows the budding romance between a spirited revolutionary and runaway bride during a time of tumultuous change.

To hear more about “Vuta n’Kuvute,” click on the audio player below to hear a story from The World, which originally aired on Jan. 17, 2022.

This Kenyan sprinter is inspiring more youth from his country to take up the sport

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>This Kenyan sprinter is inspiring more youth from his country to take up the sport

Kenyan sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala won the gold medal for the 100-meter sprint at the Commonwealth Games in August — the first time for his country in 60 years. Now, he's hoping to inspire more youth to pursue the sport.

The WorldSeptember 26, 2022 · 1:00 PM EDT

Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala celebrates after winning gold in the men's 100-meter final during the athletics in the Alexander Stadium at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Aug. 3, 2022.

Manish Swarup/AP

When it comes to sports, Kenya is mostly known for its long-distance runners.

Marathoners, like Eliud Kipchoge, have been dominating the field for decades.

Now, a young Kenyan sprinter, Ferdinand Omanyala, is looking to expand on that legacy.

"When I joined, I had this dream of changing the notion that Kenyans can't sprint. Kenyans are known for long- and middle-distance. That's something I wanted to change," Omanyala said in an interview from the capital, Nairobi.

"When I put my mind into something, I have to achieve it. So, I said, ‘One day, I'll become a pro,’" he said.

The 26-year-old is already making a name for himself at home and abroad.

In August, Omanyala won a gold medal in the 100-meter sprint at the Commonwealth Games — the first time Kenya won in the event in more than 60 years, according to Athletics Kenya.

Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya runs in his men's 100m heat during the athletics in the Alexander Stadium at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Aug. 2, 2022.

Credit:

Alastair Grant/AP/File photo

But the sprinter really started to gain national attention last year, when he ran 9.77 seconds at an event — breaking the continental record for Africa and making him the eighth-fastest man in the world. 

It's been a quick rise for someone who never set out to run track.

"I never knew there was sprinting in Kenya," said Omanyala, who initially aspired to become a professional rugby player in college.

But he recalls how someone pointed out his speed while on the rugby field and encouraged him to pursue running.

"I was surprised," Omanyala said. " I said, ‘Let me just try.’"

Now, Omanyala is inspiring a new generation of Kenyans to try sprinting, too.

He has already noticed more athletes racing in the short-distance competitions in Kenya.

"It's motivating to see how I'm encouraging young athletes, and I'm coming with this revolution of sprinters to come and just compete."

Ferdinand Omanyala, Kenyan sprinter

"People are coming out of their comfort zones," he said. "It's motivating to see how I'm encouraging young athletes, and I'm coming with this revolution of sprinters to come and just compete, and everybody wants to make a living out of this, which is a good thing."

But Omanyala said the Kenyan government needs to build more facilities and stadiums to encourage aspiring sprinters.

Especially those who live outside of Nairobi, who might struggle to access professional tracks or coaches to time them accurately.

"Most of the people are going to the events in high schools or colleges. Somebody is timing them and giving them the wrong times, and then, they come to the events and they run slower times, like 12 seconds, and then, they get discouraged or they give up," Omanyala said.

"I want to encourage them that it is not something that will come in a day, or a month or even a year. It takes time." he said.

It entails time and grueling hours of training every day — just to shave off a few milliseconds.

Omanyala is currently enjoying a well-deserved — albeit short — break from track season in order to spend time with his family.

But, he said his long-term goal is to beat the world record held by Jamaican Athlete Usain Bolt and to compete in the next Olympic Games.

"I've already started working on that," he said. “And I believe I'm the Olympic champion for 2024.”

RelatedKenyan tennis star Angella Okutoyi inspires a new generation

Italy shifts to the right as voters reward Meloni’s party

“MuiTypography-root-229 MuiTypography-h1-234″>Italy shifts to the right as voters reward Meloni's partyAssociated PressSeptember 26, 2022 · 8:30 AM EDT

Far-Right party Brothers of Italy's leader Giorgia Meloni shows a placard reading in Italian "Thank you Italy" at her party's electoral headquarters in Rome, Sept. 25, 2022.

Gregorio Borgia/AP

A party with neo-fascist roots, the Brothers of Italy, won the most votes in Italy’s national elections, looking set to deliver the country’s first far-right-led government since World War II and make its leader, Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first woman premier, near-final results showed Monday.

Italy’s lurch to the far right immediately shifted Europe’s geopolitics, placing a euroskeptic party in position to lead a founding member of the European Union and its third-largest economy. Right-wing leaders across Europe immediately hailed Meloni’s victory and her party’s meteoric rise as sending a historic message to Brussels, while Italy’s left warned of “dark days” ahead and vowed to keep Italy in the heart of Europe.

Near-final results showed the center-right coalition netting some 44% of the parliamentary vote, with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy snatching some 26%. Her coalition partners divided up the remainder, with the anti-immigrant League of Matteo Salvini winning 9% and the more moderate Forza Italia of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi taking around 8%.

The center-left Democratic Party and its allies had around 26%, while the 5-Star Movement — which had been the biggest vote-getter in 2018 Parliamentary elections — saw its share of the vote halved to some 15% this time around.

Turnout was a historic low 64%. Pollsters suggested voters stayed home in protest, disenchanted by the backroom deals that had created the last three governments.

Meloni, whose party traces its origins to the postwar, neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, tried to sound a unifying tone in a victory speech early Monday, noting that Italians had finally been able to determine their leaders.

“If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people,” Meloni said. “Italy chose us. We will not betray it as we never have.”

While the center-right was the clear winner, the formation of a government is still weeks away and will involve consultations among party leaders and with President Sergio Mattarella. In the meantime, outgoing Premier Mario Draghi remains in a caretaker role.

The elections, which took place some six months early after Draghi’s government collapsed, came at a crucial time for Europe as it faces Russia’s war in Ukraine and the related soaring energy costs that have hit ordinary Italian pocketbooks as well as industry.

A Meloni-led government is largely expected to follow Italy’s current foreign policy, including her pro-NATO stance and strong support for supplying Ukraine with weapons to defend against Russia’s invasion, even as her coalition allies stake a slightly different tone.

Both Berlusconi and Salvini have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. While both have distanced themselves from his invasion, Salvini has warned that sanctions against Moscow are hurting Italian industry, and even Berlusconi has excused Putin’s invasion as foisted on him by pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas.

A bigger shift and one likely to cause friction with European powers is likely to come over migration. Meloni has called for a naval blockade to prevent migrant boats from leaving North African shores, and has proposed screening potential asylum-seekers in Africa, before they set out on smugglers’ boats to Europe.

Salvini made clear he wants the League to return to the interior ministry, where as minister he imposed a tough anti-migrant policy. But he may face an internal leadership challenge after the League suffered an abysmal result of under 10%, with Meloni’s party outperforming it in its northeastern stronghold.

Salvini acknowledged the League was punished for its governing alliances with the 5-Stars and then Draghi, but said: “It’s a good day for Italy because it has five years of stability ahead of it.”

On relations with the European Union, analysts note that for all her euroskeptic rhetoric, Meloni moderated her message during the campaign and has little room to maneuver given the economic windfall Italy is receiving from Brussels in coronavirus recovery funds. Italy secured some 191.5 billion euros, the biggest chunk of the EU’s 750 billion-euro recovery package, and is bound by certain reform and investment milestones it must hit to receive it all.

That said, Meloni has criticized the EU’s recent recommendation to suspend 7.5 billion euros in funding to Hungary over concerns about democratic backsliding, defending Viktor Orban as the elected leader in a democratic system.

Orban’s political director, Balazs Orban, was among the first to congratulate Meloni. “In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges,” he tweeted.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen praised Meloni for having “resisted the threats of an anti-democratic and arrogant European Union.”

Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain’s far-right Vox opposition party, tweeted that Meloni “has shown the way for a proud and free Europe of sovereign nations that can cooperate on behalf of everybody’s security and prosperity.”

Meloni is chair of the right-wing European Conservative and Reformist group in the European Parliament, which gathers her Brothers of Italy, Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Spain’s Vox and the Sweden Democrats, which just won big in elections there on a platform of cracking down on crime and limiting immigration.

“The trend that emerged two weeks ago in Sweden was confirmed in Italy,” acknowledged Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta, calling Monday a “sad day for Italy, for Europe.”

"We expect dark days. We fought in every way to avoid this outcome,″ Letta said at a somber news conference. While acknowledging the future of the party and his own future required reflection, he vowed: “The PD will not allow Italy to leave the heart of Europe.”

Thomas Christiansen, professor of political science at Rome’s Luiss University and the executive editor of the Journal of European Integration, noted that Italy has a tradition of pursuing a consistent foreign and European policy that is in some ways bigger than individual party interests.

“Whatever Meloni might be up to will have to be moderated by her coalition partners and indeed with the established consensus of Italian foreign policy,” Christiansen said in an interview.

Meloni proudly touts her roots as a militant in the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, or MSI, which was formed in the aftermath of WWII with the remnants of Mussolini’s fascist supporters. Meloni joined in 1992 as a 15-year-old.

During the campaign, Meloni was forced to respond after the Democrats used her party’s origins to paint Meloni as a danger to democracy.

“The Italian Right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws,” she said in a multilingual campaign video.

By Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield, Frances D'Emilio and Giada Zampano.

Discussion: Long COVID, the search for answers

“MuiTypography-root-229 MuiTypography-h1-234″>Discussion: Long COVID, the search for answersThe WorldSeptember 23, 2022 · 4:45 PM EDT

US Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Adm. Rachel Levine, who leads a newly created, federal long-COVID-19 office, was joined by Jason Maley, a physician who leads the Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for a panel hosted jointly by The Studio at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and The World from PRX and GBH.

Levine’s office is in charge of implementing a national research strategy and supporting families affected by the condition. 

The panel, moderated by Carol Hills, senior producer and host of The World, explored the state of research, potential treatments and proposals to address the broad societal impacts of this novel, and sometimes debilitating, condition, which may affect as many as 1 in 5 adults after COVID-19 infection.

The event was also streamed via Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and can be found on The World’s Facebook page.

Spain passes law to remember and exhume victims of civil war and dictatorship

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Spain passes law to remember and exhume victims of civil war and dictatorship

​​​​​​​Spain’s socialist government recently passed a new law greatly expanding the rights and recognition of victims during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco and the years that followed.

The WorldSeptember 23, 2022 · 11:30 AM EDT

A visitor approaches some of the 65 mass graves discovered recently near a provisional field hospital in northeast Spain. The 177 victims buried here were all Republican soldiers killed during the Battle of the Ebro. They were buried without identification, the graves left unmarked.

Gerry Hadden/The World

Jessica Flores stood by a series of unmarked graves on a hill near the Ebro River in Spain’s Iberian Peninsula, grieving for the grandfather she never knew, Andreu Flores, who was killed in the country’s civil war in 1938.

Until recently, the Flores family had no idea where Andreu Flores had been buried.

The family isn’t alone; some are missing, and many are buried in unmarked tombs, a legacy of Spain’s civil war in the 1930s and the ensuing brutal dictatorship under Gen. Francisco Franco that went on for decades.

In July, Spain approved a new Democratic Memory law that declares Franco’s regime illegal and makes the central government responsible for the recovery of the bodies of tens of thousands of people missing from the Spanish civil war and the dictatorship.

It also bans the Francisco Franco Foundation, a private institution dedicated to preserving the autocrat’s legacy, and all glorification of the former dictator.

The government is to draw up maps of where the bodies of an estimated 100,000 people still missing may be located. It is also setting up a DNA bank to help with the identification processes.The missing are those who opposed or were considered to oppose Franco and were subsequently killed and buried in unmarked graves.

The 65 graves, which contained 177 unidentified victims of Spain's civil war have been marked with cement and gravel and will become a permanent memorial site under Spain's new Democratic Memory law.

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

The law aims to improve on a 2007 Law for Historical Memory that experts and activists agreed fell far short of emptying the hundreds of still-untouched mass graves and addressing many other issues.

Spain’s political right is furious about the new Democratic Memory law, claiming it takes the country backward and opens old wounds.

“Today, the government is passing a false history law,” Ivan Espinosa of the far-right party, Vox, the third-largest party in Spain’s Parliament, told reporters.

Espinosa said the new law is another attempt to divide Spaniards: “It is going to dynamite the pact that allowed for Spain’s democratic transition [1975-1978].”

Still, what’s drawn the most attention with the new Democratic Memory law are the tens of thousands of unmarked graves waiting to be exhumed.

In 2018, Jessica Flores’ aging father submitted his DNA to a regional database of war victims.

Jèssica Flores visits the mass grave in northeast Spain where her paternal grandfather, Andreu Flores, was found and identified after 83 years. Andreu Flores died from wounds suffered during the Battle of the Ebro, the bloodiest clash of the Spanish civil war. For decades thereafter, under the dictator Francisco Franco, victims' families were forbidden from searching for their missing kin.

Credit:

Gerry Hadden/The World

Her father died before a match came through but the results showed that Andreu Flores’ remains were among 177 victims buried behind an old stone house that had been used as a field hospital. Andreu Flores died of a head wound in one of the war’s bloodiest clashes, the Battle of the Ebro.

The exhumations and DNA matching is still fairly new. So, when Jessica Flores got the call this year saying her grandfather had been identified, she was incredulous.

“But more than anything, I felt joy,” she said. “Joy that we’ll have his remains. That we’ll be able to lay flowers, knowing where he is.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Rental housing stock in the US faces huge challenges adapting to climate change

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Rental housing stock in the US faces huge challenges adapting to climate change

What can renters and landlords can do to fortify homes against a changing climate while transitioning to cleaner energy?

Living on EarthSeptember 18, 2022 · 12:45 PM EDT

City view at McCulloh apartments at Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, June 2019. 

Elvert Barnes Photography/Flickr

As climate change brings higher temperatures and extreme weather to American cities, rental and affordable housing stock in the US remains largely under-equipped to deal with these new challenges.

The Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden in August provides funds and programs for homeowners to take climate action by, for example, installing solar panels and energy efficient heat pumps. But what about renters?

Renters typically use one third more energy per square foot than homeowners because landlords often don’t get a financial return on installing expensive upgrades to improve insulation and HVAC efficiency. And many renters are low-income people who can not afford higher energy costs.

But, according to Todd Nedwick, senior director of sustainability policy at the National Housing Trust, there are ways for people living in rental housing to go greener, save energy costs and guard against heat waves and other climate related risks.

“The Inflation Reduction Act included a $1 billion program specifically targeted to HUD housing stock that will allow building owners to invest both in the energy efficiency of the building as well as improve resilience,” Nedwick says.

Programs in the Inflation Reduction Act also provide rebates to both single-family and multi-family building owners to encourage them to invest in energy efficiency and convert existing fossil fuel-burning equipment to all electric, Nedwick adds.

“[I]n Washington, DC, where I'm from, buildings account for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions,” he points out. “So we're not going to address climate change if we're not addressing the existing housing stock. Climate policy is housing policy.”

Resilience upgrades include measures such as flood-proofing, elevating essential equipment above ground level to prevent disruption to power, and adding battery storage to buildings so residents still have a source of power if the electrical grid goes down.

Protecting residents from extreme heat is another important resilience strategy, Nedwisk adds. This includes adding cool roofs to buildings, for example, in order to reflect sunlight and prevent buildings from getting too hot.

“[I]n many cases, older buildings might not have air conditioning,” Nedwick points out. “And so, in addition to providing incentives for reducing energy consumption, we also need to be providing resources to help building owners upgrade their buildings and install air conditioning to protect residents from extreme heat. We're seeing extreme heat disproportionately impact people of color because they don't live in areas that have invested in and have the infrastructure to protect from rising temperatures.”

Building owners can also access energy efficiency programs offered by local utility companies, which help offset the cost of making building upgrades, Nedwick says. These are important resources for building owners, especially owners of affordable housing, who typically have limited cash flow to pay the upfront cost of major upgrades.

Some cities are also implementing policies such as energy performance standards for buildings, which require owners of poor performing buildings to make upgrades that reduce energy use.

“So, we are seeing both carrots and sticks,” Nedwick says. “I think what works most effectively is when you combine the two. [I]f you're going to have a building energy performance standard and require building owners to make upgrades, especially in affordable housing, providing resources to the owner to actually pay for some of those costs is pretty important.”

Energy efficiency and better weatherization aren’t the whole story, however. Climate change is increasing the danger to buildings from hurricanes, flooding and wildfires. According to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, 40% of rental housing stock in the US is at risk of damage from climate disasters.

Most of the country’s older rental housing stock is not built to withstand these impacts, Nedwick says.

“And we see that where there are the greatest risks in terms of potential climate events, those areas of the country are typically disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and low income individuals,” he points out. “So we have to fortify the existing rental housing stock to withstand climate events and protect existing residents.”

“In this country, we spend so much more funding on disaster recovery than we do disaster preparedness,” Nedwick continues. “And we've found that…the disaster recovery funding often doesn't reach renters and owners of rental housing. Typically, disaster recovery programs allocate funding based on the extent of the economic disruption from a climate event, and that often correlates with higher property values. As a result, a lot of the disaster recovery funding, especially through some of the FEMA programs, really [doesn’t] reach affordable housing residents and owners in an equitable way.”

RelatedBuilding high-rises, hotels and stadiums out of wood — for climate's sake

This article is based on an interview by Jenni Doering that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

A new Roma radio station gets people talking about taboo issues in Hungary

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>A new Roma radio station gets people talking about taboo issues in Hungary

The Roma are Hungary’s largest ethnic minority, making up close to 10% of the population. Radio Dikh, a new radio station, aims to change perceptions of the Roma community in Hungary, where they have faced decades of stigma and discrimination.

The WorldSeptember 22, 2022 · 2:45 PM EDT

Roma radio presenter Szandi Minzari and co-host Melanie Nagy are both divorced, single mothers who speak about taboo issues in Hungary's Roma community. 

Orla Barry/The World

Szandi Minzari knows she’s different from most Roma women in Hungary. The divorced, single mother is one of the leading broadcasters on Radio Dikh, a radio station in Budapest, whose presenters are all Roma. 

The station began broadcasting in February 2022 with the aim of raising the profile of Hungary’s large Roma community, as well as upending some of the negative stereotypes that still exist about the group.

Last week, the European Parliament issued a statement saying that Hungary is no longer a fully functioning democracy. EU lawmakers laid out a long list of fundamental rights they believe are under threat, including the electoral system, judiciary independence and the protection of minorities.

The Roma are Hungary’s largest ethnic minority.

Minzari’s weekly radio show “Zsa Shej,” which means “Let’s go, girls,” in the Romani language, tries to cover subjects that are usually taboo in the Roma community, including those pertaining to relationships, menstruation and family issues.

“We like to cover topics that usually don’t get talked about around the kitchen table,” Minzari said. 

Szandi Minzari knows she’s different from most Roma women in Hungary. She uses the Roma Dikh platform to discuss issues that the Roma community usually shies away from, she said.

Credit:

Orla Barry/The World

Her co-host, Melanie Nagy, is also a divorcee and a single mother. Divorce is really uncommon among Roma, Minzari said, adding that many Roma women often stay in abusive relationships out of fear of poverty or shame. 

One of Minzari’s friends, who was recently divorced, has now been ostracized by her family, she said.

“They [her family] said that you brought a big shame on us, on our family, on our names. So, you are on your own.”

Listeners of Radio Dikh, which is the Romani word “to see,” are both Roma and non-Roma. The station’s motto is “about Roma, not just for Roma.” The shows feature music and literature by Roma artists.

Minzari’s father comes from a long line of traditional musicians, although he doesn’t play an instrument. He runs his own construction company, employing mainly Roma workers.

Minzari describes herself as half-Roma, half-Hungarian because her mother is not Roma. When her parents first got together more than 35 years ago, there was a lot of hand wringing in her father’s family, Minzari said.

“My grandmother was putting wet towels on her head, like doing this big show because she wanted my father to stay inside the Roma community, to marry a ‘gypsy’ girl who can cook, who can bear children,” Minzari laughed.

Minzari is proud of her Roma roots, but she still remembers being singled out in school by her teacher and labeled cigány, meaning “gypsy.”

That was 23 years ago. Segregation of Roma children continues in Hungarian schools to this day. 

In 2020, the country’s Supreme Court ordered an elementary school in Gyongyospata to pay compensation to Roma families for “unlawful segregation and substandard education.” Before the ruling, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán suggested the school should refuse to pay out any money if ordered. Instead, he suggested it was the Roma children who had created a threatening environment in the school, which led non-Roma parents to take their children to a school in a neighboring town.

Bernard Rorke, the advocacy and research manager with the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest, has been campaigning against school segregation in Hungary since 2000. 

Conditions for Roma have deteriorated since Viktor Orbán returned to power in 2010, Rorke said. 

“The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Hungary for school segregation more than five years ago and more recent EU reports have noted that segregation in Hungarian schools has actually worsened,” he said. 

“But the Orbán government has done nothing to address it.”

Bernard Rorke is the advocacy and research manager with the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest. 

Credit:

Orla Barry/The World

But not everyone agrees.

István Forgács, who is Roma and a regular commentator on Hungarian TV, believes that segregation in schools comes down to demographics. 

“The Roma have more children than non-Roma” he said, “and the high number of Roma kids in certain schools is mostly because of this difference.”

Forgács said he believes Orbán has been doing a good job as prime minister over the last 12 years and has “helped the Roma socially integrate.”

“This government has helped people to have more income, both Roma and non-Roma. It has helped Roma to have more jobs and also to get closer to the non-Roma community,” Forgács said.

But Rorke, with the European Roma Rights Center, said unemployment remains a big issue among Roma in Hungary, and those who have a job are often paid far less than the minimum wage.  

If the government’s Roma strategy is so effective, he said, why are there worsening levels of poverty? He said that many Roma are still living without access to clean water and sanitation. 

During the migrant crisis in 2015, when over 1 million people fled to Europe, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, Hungary refused most asylum requests. Hungary’s Justice Minister László Trócsányi said the country was unable to take in migrants because it already had its hands full dealing with its own Roma population. A razor wire was erected along borders with Croatia and Serbia to keep migrants out. 

Roma commentator Forgács said he wasn’t offended by the remarks and that the Orbán government just wanted to point out that it has its own challenges providing for its own people. 

Orbán’s name is rarely heard on Radio Dikh — Minzari said she shies away from politics. In Hungary, the majority of the country’s news media is government-controlled or owned by Orbán allies. 

Péter Erdélyi is the director of the independent news outlet 444.hu in Budapest. 

Credit:

Orla Barry/The World

Péter Erdélyi, director of the independent news outlet 444.hu in Budapest said he is not surprised to hear Radio Dikh does not discuss Orbán's right-wing Fidesz party-led government. 

“There are lots of very difficult issues that people need to talk about in Hungarian media, but they won't because they know that, as soon as there is even a remote whiff of criticism of government policies, there could be all sorts of problems around funding and licenses and whatnot. There's an understanding that you are allowed to keep doing what you do, if you do not engage in politics,” Erdélyi said.

Minzari said the only criticism she has received about her show, so far, has come from members of the Roma community who disagree with her views. Non-Roma listeners have been hugely supportive, she said. 

And even if people do complain, at least we’ve got them talking, Minzari said. 

“That’s all a radio show can ask for.”

Related: What does Hungary's crackdown on free media mean for the rest of the world?

Thousands of foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities await permission to return

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Thousands of foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities await permission to return

In late 2019, nearly half a million foreign students in China — mostly from Africa and other parts of Asia — were studying at Chinese universities. Then the pandemic struck, disrupting in-person studies. Nearly 2 1/2 years later, many are still prevented from returning to China.  

The WorldSeptember 21, 2022 · 4:30 PM EDT

A resident walks by shuttered Communication University of China in Beijing, Sept. 12, 2022. Hundreds students at China's premier college for broadcast journalists have been sent to a quarantine center after a handful of COVID-19 cases were detected in their dormitory.

Andy Wong/AP

Harinitesh Selvakumar, 21, chose to study at Hebei Medical University in China because he said it was more affordable than a private university in India, his home country. 

Just a few months after arriving in 2019, when news started spreading about a virus from Wuhan, Selvakumar said he decided to fly home for winter break and wait it out.

“We had expected that we would stay out of the university for two to three months, but we hadn’t expected it would be this long,” he said. 

More than 2 1/2 years later, he is still taking classes online. 

Selvakumar is one of hundreds of thousands of international students whose futures are on the line as they wait to get permission to return to their universities in China. 

He wants to return to China to finish his degree, but his university has yet to receive the green light from the government to allow foreign students to return. 

Selvakumar said he’s worried that his career goal of becoming a doctor is getting derailed. 

“Just getting the theory knowledge is not going to help you treat a patient in real life,” he said. “You need to have that clinical and physical experience, too. That’s what we’re lacking and that’s what we’re striving to get back to.”

Curtis Chin is a former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank and chair of the Milken Institute Asia Center. Chin heard about the students’ predicament on Twitter where many have been using the hashtag #takeusbacktoChina to call attention to their situation.

“These are not rich kids necessarily,” he said. “Sometimes, the family has sacrificed to put a young person into university. And clearly, they might have liked them to have gone to the US but China provided a closer, cost-effective and still competitive education. So, they put their hopes in China.”

Students from some countries have had an easier time getting permission to return, he said — for reasons that remain unclear. 

“China has wanted to position itself as a rival, as an equal to other places like the United States and Europe and Australia that have been seen as sources of education, as a way to move up. In many ways, China’s closing its borders to international students has been a big soft-power failure.”

Many students said they’re struggling to attend classes from different time zones or on shaky internet connections. Students in Pakistan have reported that the flooding there has made it difficult for them to continue their classes. 

Last month, there were signs of change. The Chinese government announced that they were lifting the entry ban for international students

Lyn Lim, a second-year design student from Malaysia, was able to finally arrive in China.

“It’s a very long journey,” she said. “I’m quite lucky — that’s what I’ve been telling myself all this way. It takes so much work to get into China and then, after you get into China, you have to do so much more to be to get into school and attend classes.”

She flew back on a charter flight of 300 students. The Malaysian government helped pay for it. Most students aren’t so lucky, though.

Purushottam Subedi, from Nepal, is a second-year civil engineering student who said the price of flights back to China is now 10 times what it was before the pandemic.

“There’s one problem,” he said. “That’s too expensive.”

Many students agree. Students in Pakistan have been active on Twitter, calling for the national airline to reduce ticket prices. When students are allowed to return to China, they are expected to cover flight costs and up to 21 days of mandatory quarantine in a hotel. That can amount to thousands of dollars.

And despite the government’s announcement, many students on Twitter say nothing has changed. Their universities still won’t give them the permission letters they need to reapply for student visas.

Philip Altbach, a professor at Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education, said that unlike American universities, Chinese universities do not depend on tuition from international students — many of whom are on full scholarship. Bringing them back is simply not a priority, he said. 

“All of this, like everything in China, is top down,” he said. “So, if the authorities say, 'Hey, guys, do it,' it'll take them some time, but they'll do it. The policies could change.”

Until then, he said, international students enrolled in Chinese universities will be forced to make a difficult choice. They can hope for the best and keep waiting for a chance to return to China. Or, they just give up and start their college education all over again somewhere else. 

Related: Shanghai sees exodus as people flee China's lockdown woes

‘We can all learn to care’: Colombia’s capital city wants men to do more chores at home

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>‘We can all learn to care’: Colombia’s capital city wants men to do more chores at home

Bogotá's Care School for Men aims to battle centuries of living in a culture that teaches men to focus on breadwinning instead of caregiving.

The WorldSeptember 21, 2022 · 3:15 PM EDT

At a job fair in Bogotá, Colombia, psychologist Nicolas Londoño showed groups of young men how to change a baby's diapers.  Londoño works with Care School for Men, an educational program funded by the city government. 

Manuel Rueda/The World

At a job fair in Bogotá, Colombia, Nicolas Londoño stood under a white tent and showed a group of young men how to change a baby’s diapers.

As some of the audience members giggled and made jokes, Londoño used a doll to explain how to remove a dirty diaper, use talcum powder and hold a baby properly. 

According to a recent survey, women in Colombia spend three hours more each day on average than men, doing domestic tasks. 

Credit:

Manuel Rueda/The World

Londoño works for the Bogotá city government, and he’s part of an educational program called Escuela Hombres al Cuidado or Care School for Men. The program aims to battle centuries of living in a culture that teaches men to focus on being breadwinners and tries to convince men to get more involved at home.

“When we do things like this, we help to ease the burden on women,” said Londoño, who is also a psychologist. “But we also gain a better understanding of what is going on around us and are able to better connect with the people we love.”  

At a job fair in Bogotá, Colombia, Nicolas Londoño showed groups of young men how to change a baby's diapers.  Londoño works for the Care School for Men, an educational program funded by the city government. 

Credit:

Manuel Rueda/The World

According to a recent survey, women in Colombia are spending an average of three hours more than men, daily, doing unpaid domestic tasks. 

That means they have less time for other pursuits, such as furthering their education, applying for jobs or exercising. 

The city government believes that these gender disparities can be reduced if men are more involved in domestic tasks and in the upbringing of their children.  Last year, it launched Care School to teach men how to handle simple domestic tasks, among other things. 

“We can all learn to care,” said Diana Rodriguez, the director of the city Department for Women. 

“Women were not born with a care manual under their arm, knowing how to care. So, the Care School for Men offers the possibility of learning how to cook, how to give a bottle, how to sweep, how to wash floors.”

The program is part of a broader city-led effort to give women more downtime and encourage families to redistribute responsibilities at home. 

In low-income neighborhoods across the city, Rodriguez’s department has also set up community centers known as careblocks that assist women who are staying at home and feel overburdened with domestic work. The buildings are usually two to three stories high and include free laundromats for women who were previously spending several hours each week washing clothes by hand. 

Marlovia Gutierrez takes her laundry every week to a free laundromat at a careblock in the Bogotá, Colombia, suburb of Usme. Previously she was washing by hand. 

Credit:

Manuel Rueda/The World

At the careblocks, women with small children can leave their kids in day care centers called “nests,” while they take swimming lessons or learn skills like sewing that can help them get jobs. 

“These places save you time, but they also help you to become a more well-rounded person,” said Marlovia Gutierrez, a 62-year-old homemaker who is raising her grandchildren, and regularly goes to a careblock in the suburb of Usme.

Women learn how to make clothes and use sewing machines at the careblock in the Bogotá, Colombia, suburb of Usme. 

Credit:

Manuel Rueda/The World

Gutierrez has her clothes washed every week at the careblock. She’s also learned how to ride a bike there. And on Saturdays, she takes lessons at the careblock to finish up her high school degree. 

“I’m very grateful for this chance to continue to study and become a better person, even though I am an older person,” she said.

While their laundry is being washed and the kids are taken care of women can participate in different activities at Bogotá, Colombia's careblocks, including swimming lessons.

Credit:

Manuel Rueda/The World

There are currently 11 careblocks in Bogotá and the city plans to have 45 of these community centers up and running by 2035. 

Rodriguez, from the Department for Women, said that 30% of women in the city still spend 10 hours or more each day doing unpaid domestic work. She’s hoping the careblocks will reduce that and that the school for men can help redistribute labor at home. 

“Because of the sexual division of labor, men have been deprived of the beautiful moments of caring for their children for their grandsons,” she said. 

“So, engaging in care, redistributing care is also something that is wonderful for them.”

Political theater: Part II

“MuiTypography-root-134 MuiTypography-h1-139″>Political theater: Part II

Critical State, a foreign policy newsletter by Inkstick Media, takes a deep dive this week into all the ways in which diplomacy is a kind of performance.

Inkstick MediaSeptember 21, 2022 · 12:45 PM EDT

In this June 12, 2018, file photo, US President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. 

Evan Vucci/AP/File

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

All of world politics is a stage, and all the world leaders are merely players, with their exits and entrance music. This theatricality of international diplomacy is ever-present, though it was perhaps rarely as visible as under the Trump administration. The former entertainer brought an intuitive understanding of the dynamics of professional wrestling to meetings more typically defined by intricate details of nuclear arsenals. Yet, even that official and prescribed seriousness hinges on diplomacy as a kind of performance, even if it is usually one so polite as to not acknowledge the stagecraft involved.

In “Wrestlemania! Summit Diplomacy and Foreign Policy Performance after Trump,” authors Benjamin S. Day and Alister Wedderburn focus on the particular stage of international summits. In particular, they examine how the actions, mannerisms, and choices made by former US President Donald Trump obliterated the false line between “performance” and “substance.” This is a lesson valuable for understanding the recent past, the actions of other right-wing populists, and the theatricality of international diplomacy in general.

“[W]restling is a pertinent lens through which to read international summits."

“[W]e argue that wrestling is a pertinent lens through which to read international summits,” the authors write, “which also cordon off a masculinized arena in which expansive, complex issues can be distilled into a comestible narrative, arranged into a series of symbolic set pieces, and presented to a global audience.”

Diplomats are performers in multiple senses. As agents of a distant state they stand in for the state, and in turn, represent it through their own personal actions. At summits, world leaders take this on, even if they are just heads of government and not heads of state, but especially when they are both.

At the center of Day and Wedderburn’s analysis are the events leading up to, and then following from, the 2018 Singapore Summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. The authors map the preceding diplomacy like a season of wrestling. This approach allowed Trump to initiate diplomacy while simultaneously threatening North Korea with nuclear oblivion, an arc that ultimately culminated in a face-to-face meeting but no lasting achievement beyond the routine de-escalation of time.

“Our argument is predicated on the belief that even the naturalized norms of decorum that conventionally govern foreign policy actors depend for their acceptance and reproduction on theatrical modes of presentation and staging. It is important to ask how these norms might help to constitute certain actors as ‘sensible,’ ‘serious,’ and ‘statesmanlike,’ even as these actors tolerate and often authorize violence, death, and environmental degradation,” the authors write.

It is unlikely that another world leader will come to power as in sync with the rules and arcs of professional wrestling as Trump, but the theatricality of diplomacy, especially summit diplomacy, will persist. Only now, instead of real adults acting on roles they’ve unconsciously rehearsed since they were children in Model United Nations, the theatrical nature is clear to see.

“The question of whether and how to regenerate or renaturalize these norms must, therefore, be accompanied by a reckoning with performance's role in their construction, maintenance, and reproduction,” conclude the authors.

Related: Politcal theater: Part I

Critical State is your weekly fix of foreign policy analysis from the staff at Inkstick Media. Subscribe here