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Beijing Hones and Exports Religious Oppression | Opinion – Newsweek

Utilizing cutting-edge technology, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is perfecting the religious oppression of millions at home and exporting the same capabilities abroad. The CCP's ongoing abuse of Christians, Muslims and Buddhists lays bare the stakes for human freedom in the United States' great power competition with China.

In its annual report released last week, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) concluded that the CCP is "engaging in systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations." Thanks to Western media investigations and courageous Chinese whistleblowers, many outside China are familiar with the CCP's deplorable persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang. In the past year, Muslims have suffered "torture, rape, sterilization and other abuses," and authorities have "destroyed or damaged thousands of mosques."

Christians, who make up roughly five percent of China's population, have fared little better. Chinese officials "raided or closed down hundreds of Protestant house churches in 2019." Local officials continue to offer cash bounties for information on underground churches. Chinese authorities have burned unauthorized Bibles, ripped down crucifixes and replaced likenesses of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary with images of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Tibetan Buddhists continue to suffer "forced assimilation and suppression." Monks and nuns unwilling to subordinate their faith to the CCP's dictates have been "expelled from their monasteries, imprisoned and tortured." As an extraordinary sign of the hopelessness and desperation the CCP's oppression has caused, USCIRF noted that at least 156 Tibetans have self-immolated since February 2009.

While authoritarianism and religious persecution are sadly not new, the CCP leads the world in the abuse of advanced technologies to carry out its religious cleansing. In an update last September, USCIRF noted that authorities have often forced religious minorities to provide "blood samples, voice recordings and fingerprints." Government officials then employ "advanced computing platforms and artificial intelligence to collate and recognize patterns in the data on religious and faith communities." Surveillance cameras, sometimes installed inside places of worship, utilize advanced facial recognition software to assist these efforts.

Some may want to dismiss these concerning facts as the unfortunate but isolated plight of Chinese civilians struggling half a world away. But that would miss the true extent of the CCP's global program.

According to USCIRF, "China has exported surveillance technology and systems training to more than 100 countries," allowing them to "target political opponents or oppress religious freedom." With the technology in hand and international opprobrium still at a whisper, repressive regimes will see little downside to following suit.

Some have already made that calculation. The report notes that in August 2019, "Uzbek authorities forced approximately 100 Muslim men to shave their beards, claiming that the beards hindered Chinese facial recognition technology used by the government."

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) summed up the stakes in February. "China is exporting authoritarianism. And they are giving everyone a packageI mean a literal tech package," he said. "The surveillance cameras, the artificial intelligence, the databases, the ways to control a society, just like they do at home."

The technology is hardly safer in democratic hands. Some U.S. allies and partners already use CCP technologies, clinging to dangerously outdated notions of a Chinese private sector. The reality is that no "private" Chinese company will refuse a dictate from Beijing. As free nations become increasingly reliant on Chinese hardware, they give the CCP potential points of access into security infrastructure and sensitive information.

Additionally, the more reliant nations, companies and individuals become on Chinese technology for critical services, investments and trade, the more reluctant each becomes to criticize Beijing's foreign or domestic policiesexpanding Beijing's ability to act with impunity. Some of America's closest European allies are already beginning to suffer from this affliction.

An effective response begins with documenting and disseminating Beijing's violations of religious liberty. The U.S. has taken positive initial steps. In October, the administration imposed restrictions on Chinese companies and officials abusing minorities.

But meaningful relief for China's religious minorities will come quickest if the U.S. recruits other nations with the economic and diplomatic firepower to stand together against Beijing.

This requires buy-in from America's partners. It also means tireless engagement with international organizations and the difficult diplomatic work of coalition-building. If Washington neglects these partnerships or vacates these international fora, Beijing will simply fill the vacuum.

As the USCIRF report makes clear, the competition between the U.S. and the CCP is about more than fleeting economic or political primacy. Hanging in the global balance are the protections of minorities, of conscience, of worship and of a private life beyond the reach of government.

If Beijing displaces the United States as the leader in shaping international rules and norms, one need not wonder the direction they will take: China's minorities already know.

Bradley Bowman is senior director for the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Mikhael Smits is a research analyst.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.

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Beijing Hones and Exports Religious Oppression | Opinion - Newsweek

GOP lawsuit to block Tony Evers’ order to stay home in hands of Supreme Court – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A lawsuit brought by Republican lawmakers against Evers and Department of Health Secretary Andrea Palm seeking to strike down the order is now in the hands of the state's highest court. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON - Gov. Tony Evers and his administrationcame under fire Tuesday by conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, one of whom compared his order to close businesses and schools amid the coronavirus outbreak to government oppression.

"Isn't it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?" asked Justice Rebecca Bradley, who later questioned whether the administration could use the same power to order people into centers akin to the U.S. government's treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley listens during a 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court session.(Photo: Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

A lawsuit brought by Republican lawmakers against Evers and Department of Health Secretary Andrea Palm seeking to strike down the order is now in the hands of the state's highest court, which is controlled by conservatives.

Evers and his attorney said Tuesday the lawmakers' lawsuit could upend life-saving measures and needlessly put more residents' health and their lives at risk.

"Everyone understands such an order would be absolutely devastating and extraordinarily unwise," DOJ attorney Colin Roth said. "If safer-at-home (order) is enjoined with nothing to replace it, and people pour out into the streets, that the disease will spread like wildfire and we'll be back in a terrible situation with an out-of-control virus with no weapon to fight it no treatments, no vaccine, nothing."

In response to Bradley's questioning, Roth said the order does not give Palm unlimited power. ButBradley questionedwhether the law set limits to the actions it allowed.

Live updates: The latest on coronavirus in Wisconsin

Daily digest: What you need to know about coronavirus in Wisconsin

Evers issued a public health emergency on March 12, a week after the coronavirus began to spread in the state following outbreaks in China, Europe, and on the coasts of the United States.

The governor in late March issued an order to shut down scores of businesses, bars and restaurants, and schools leading to more than 500,000 unemployment claims since then.

That order was set to expire in late April but Evers and Palm extended it by a month as cases of the virus continued to climb a move that prompted GOP lawmakers to sue.

Arguments in the suit were held virtually on Tuesday a rule adopted by the court because of the order it now will decide should continue.

The lawsuit is the latest battle between the Democratic governor and Republicans who control the state Legislature that could again reshape how state government works for Wisconsin.

At issue is whether Evers andDepartment of Health Secretary Andrea Palm acted lawfully when Palm signed the order extending restrictions on business operations and schools until May 26.

Palm signed the order using powers in state law that allow the health secretary to take sweeping actions to shutdown public lifeduring a virus outbreak like the current pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress in the 5th District, and Speaker Robin Vos argue the Evers administration cannot act on its own in perpetuity and instead want a long-term plan to be crafted through the Legislature's rulemaking process.

"This case is not about whether a lockdown is a good idea,"Ryan Walsh, an attorney representing the lawmakers, said Tuesday. Instead, he argued, the case is about whether state law provides Palm with the ability to close down daily life.

Roth argued state law is clear and that if conservative justices or GOP lawmakers are unhappy with her powers, they should find a solution through legislation to change the law that he says provides those powers.

If the court sides with Fitzgerald and Vos, a legislative committee with three of the most critical lawmakers of the Evers administration's response to the virus outbreak will have veto power over the new rules.

The GOP leaders argue lawmakers should have a say in broad restrictions moving forward. Evers argues the process will bog down decision making that needs to be nimble to react to an unpredictable virus that has infected more than 8,000 people in Wisconsin in two months.

Walsh argued DHS had the authority to issue orders for certain areas of the state, but not the state as a whole, while Roth disputed that and said DHS' orders supersede less-stringent orders of local governments.

Roth noted while the majority of cases were once in Madison and Milwaukee, Brown County now has the second-highest number of cases a change that occurred within a couple weeks.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack dismissed the idea that the outbreak was community-wide and could be replicated elsewhere.

"(The surge) was due to the meatpacking that's where Brown County got the flare," Roggensack said. "It wasn't just the regular folks in Brown County."

Three meatpacking plants in Brown County have been tied to outbreaks, pushing the county to have the second-highest number of cases in the state.

JBS Packerland shut down its Green Bay plant last weekafter the virus had sickened nearly 300 workers, about a quarter of the company's local employees.

Even with the microscope on food processing plants, Brown County officials have emphasized that those facilities aren't solely driving the increasein cases.

Claire Paprocki of Brown County Health and Human Services said the recent uptick stemsin part from people who don't practice social distancing, show up to work sick or continue to gather with family andfriends.

Haley BeMiller of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contributed to this report.

Contact Molly Beckat molly.beck@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MollyBeck.

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GOP lawsuit to block Tony Evers' order to stay home in hands of Supreme Court - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Chinese oppression ‘worse than US reported’ – UCAN

Chinese Christians have welcomed a damning US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report but said religious oppression in China is more severe than what is reported.Christian leaders say the space for religious freedom has severely shrunk in the past two decades, with the communist regime implementing a series of policies aiming to eradicate religion from society.The US State Department has considered China "a country of special concern" since 1999, following the USCIRF recommendation. The recent 2020 report of the commission kept China among the global worst performers in terms of religious freedom.But some religious scholars told UCA News that the most serious but often overlooked form of religious suppression in China is to make Christians sign a declaration rejecting religion under the threat of denying them government benefits such as pensions. Since 2018 in areas such as Zhejiang province, Christian teachers in schools and colleges have been forced to sign such documents, without which they are denied pensions. The oppression continues subtly, blocking people from practicing their faith, said a religious leader who requested anonymity.The USCIRF report, released on April 28, said that "the state of religious freedom in China has continued to deteriorate" over the last year, with authorities using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor religious minority groups. Series of violationsIndependent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzstans and other Muslims are being held in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang, the report said.It also referred to attacks on Christians, saying that authorities had raided or seized hundreds of Christian house churches. They released members of the Autumn Rain Covenant Church in December 2018, but a court last December charged its priest, Reverend Wang Yi, with "subversion of state power" and sentenced him to nine years in prison.The report also explicitly mentioned Auxiliary Bishop Guo Xijin of Fujian Mindong Diocese and Coadjutor Bishop Cui Tai of Hebei Xuanhua Diocese. Authorities harassed and jailed them for refusing to join the official state-sanctioned church.It also alleges that various local governments, including Guangzhou, are offering cash incentives to people who report underground church groups.In addition, crosses from churches across the country have been removed, people under 18 are banned from participating in religious liturgies, and images of Jesus or Our Lady are replaced with those of President Xi Jinping.The report recommended that the US government again designate China as a country of special concern under the International Religious Freedom Act.It wanted the US to impose targeted sanctions on institutions and officials that commit serious violations of religious freedom by freezing the property of the individuals involved or barring them from entering the United States.They also suggested that if the Chinese government continues to suppress religious freedom, US government officials will not participate in the Winter Olympics hosted by Beijing in 2022.The report also asked for intensified efforts to fight back against the Chinese government's attempts to exert influence in the United States to suppress information or propaganda about religious freedom violations.'China defends freedom'Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded to the report at a regular press conference. He said the US committee was biased against China and has published reports over the years "denigrating China's religious policy."He claimed that China has nearly 200 million people of all kinds of religious communities, more than 380,000 religious staff, about 5,500 religious groups and more than 140,000 religious activity sites registered by law.Geng reiterated that China would never allow anyone to engage in illegal criminal activities under the guise of religion.He also urged the US to respect basic facts, reject arrogance and prejudice, stop the misguided practice of releasing reports year after year, and stop using religious issues to interfere in China's internal affairs.But a Chinese religious scholar who wished to remain anonymous argued that the report was "basically telling the truth."Chinese authorities have been increasingly cracking down on religion in recent years, with the worst crackdown on Christianity in Henan province in 2018.More severe than the demolition of crosses and churches is the "coercion of citizens to sign declarations rejecting religion under the threat of denying them benefits," he said."It is a serious violation of human rights and contempt for the law, causing regression of the legal system in society," he added. Religious oppression as cultural revolutionThe scholar said suppression in Henan province is like a rehash of the Cultural Revolution, which will cause major social trauma and great stimulation to people's minds, triggering mutual hatred and creating a social group psychological distortion."After all these years since the Cultural Revolution, people have just regained a little bit of sanity, but they didn't expect to go back all of a sudden, which is a disaster," he said.He pointed out that just 10 days before Geng Shuang responded to the report, the cross of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Anhui province was removed. On the following day, the cross of Yongqiao Catholic Church in Suzhou City was also removed."But the Chinese communist authorities did not produce any legal documents for their action," said the scholar.Chinese official Geng Shuang was lying, said Cebu parishioner Paul Li. "The officials accused this US report of denigrating China's religious policy. Is it China's religious policy to tear down the crosses of churches? And to spend public money to demolish crosses despite churches' objections,?" Li asked.Father Thomas Wang, who has been following the developments, said authorities have never responded positively to these accusations of religious persecution, "either dodging them or outrightly evading them, or accusing others of interfering in internal affairs."Father Wang said the Chinese side sees it as a domestic fight. "I beat my wife and children behind closed doors; it has nothing to do with you, I just beat them to death, it's our family business, it's none of your business."Maria Li in Guangdong said China is no longer worried about international pressure and condemnation."They have bribed a lot of small countries and organizations; even international agencies like the World Health Organization defended it.So what are they worried about?" she asked.However, she wanted the international community to pay attention to the religious and human rights situation in China."If more countries unite and put pressure on China, authorities will desist from blatant oppressions, which will help the Church to breathe," she said.

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Chinese oppression 'worse than US reported' - UCAN

Growing hunger and oppression face urban poor – The Tablet

San Salvador, El Salvador: A soldier guards the city as part of preventive measures. Camilo Freedman/Zuma Press/PA Images

The big issue of the coronavirus in Latin America is hunger says the head of Cafods Latin America Department. Clare Dixon toldThe Tabletthis week that of course its a health crisis but it is also a social catastrophe one of hunger, and also human rights, inequality and violence against women.

Draconian clampdowns in El Salvador and Guatemala mean that people are allowed out only once a week to buy food but, as Clare reports, they say we dont live week by week but day by day and they would rather risk catching the virus on the streets and earn an income than die of hunger. In both countries, soldiers patrol barrios during strict lockdown, and thousands have been detained.

Cafod partners working with young people in an area of San Salvador afflicted by gang violence report families having trouble accessing food. Some subsidies are provided by the governments, but many poor people cannot access them because they do not have bank accounts.

In health terms, social distancing is difficult where several generations of the same family live in one or two rooms. El Salvadors hospitals are ill-equipped and Cafod supports a clinic set up by the Jesuit Refugee Service which has been co-opted into the national system to tackle the virus, and personal protection equipment has been provided. Cafod was already supporting the Church in challenging the government plans to privatise water which would push up its price and make it less accessible for poor communities. In Guatemala, Cafod supports community-based radio projects which provide virus information, an SOS service and information about food distribution.

In Brazil, Clare highlighted Cafod's support for the urban poor in Sao Paulo by funding womens groups taking the lead in distributing food.

It is also working with rural groups, such as the Pastoral Land Commission, to link farmers to city dwellers needing their produce.

In Manaus, the largest city in Amazonas where the virus is causing mounting deaths, Archbishop Leonardo Steiner of Manaus is spearheading calls of bishops of the Amazon region to protect the poor and indigenous communities. Cafod is providing food and health resources to the most vulnerable families and measures to help indigenous tribal people protect themselves from the virus brought into their traditional lands by loggers and mining companies. The urban poor are suffering the worst impacts of the virus through hunger and, in many countries such as Colombia and Bolivia, the crisis has brought human rights abuses Clare reports.

Columban missionaries in Peru also report that food security is a huge problem in the barrios during the eighth week of lockdown. From Lima, Fr Ed OConnell reports that while the governments response to the virus has been compassion and not repression measures taken to help the poor have left many hungry.

A lot of people not included in the censuses of 2013 and 2017 fell outside of the official lists and many of the municipalities have not had the capacity to distribute food stocks to the most needy. Seventy per cent of the people get their income in the informal sector but have no work.

Around 42 per cent of Limas families are without an income and the most desperate are leaving Lima and walking back to their home towns: along the coast both north and south; up to the Andes mountains and some down the other side into the jungle. Columbans are supporting San Benito, a barrio on the northern side of Lima, helping 60 families with essentials who have had no money and no work for seven weeks. Fr Ed says, it is a drop in the ocean but to those who do receive it it means everything. Meanwhile, there are rising numbers of virus infections, with hospitals already full, in a population already coping with TB, HIV, Dengue and Malaria.

Venezuelas prolonged social, political and economic crisis has only been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, the archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said last week. While the cardinal acknowledged the lockdown has prevented the spread of the virus, he pointed out that informal workers are barely surviving, and only with the help of family members, social organisations and the Church. The cardinal felt the government has used the quarantine as an opportunity to strengthen its social and political control.

In South Africa, the government lockdown has been effectively observed, with support from religious leaders. Archbishop William Slattery, Emeritus of Pretoria, toldThe Tabletthis week that informal settlements or ghettos around townships have faced greatest health risks with the virus and lockdown. People are thrown together and it is hard to observe social distancing he said; and, yes, people are hungry and much of our work at the moment is trying to help them. He reported that, mobile phones are being utilised to identify those in need of food parcels and there is an emergency fund to draw on.

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg toldThe Tabletthat although there have been just over 100 deaths recorded in South Africa until we ramp up very substantially the number of people being tested, we will not really know the extent of the infections in a country of 56 million people. He warned that prevention strategies also highlight the reality of South Africa. How can the millions of poor people who live in one-room shacks as in this Diocese be expected to maintain social distancing, stay at home, and wash their hands frequently when there is no readily available water?

The social situation in South Africa is increasingly tense, especially for both immigrants and South Africans living in townships", according to Scalabrinian missionary Fr Pablo Velasquez. I receive messages almost every day from desperate immigrant workers, with nothing to eat, among them Mozambicans who are victims of exploitation here in South Africa" he reports. Hundreds came daily to the gates of his parish of St Patrick, south of Johannesburg, to get food parcels, despite the police trying to disperse them. Fr Pablo reports that among the people queuing in front of the parish, many say "it is better to die of coronavirus than starvation".

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Zimbabwe, the coronavirus emergency exacerbates economic crisis. The government has sent the army to enforce lockdown but, according to Jesuit Fr Brian MacGarry, forcing people working in the informal sector to stay at home means condemning them to death and I fear there will be riots to which law enforcement agencies will respond with violence". The health system is collapsing, with a lack of personal protective equipment for health staff. Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare has announced that 55 Catholic health institutions have been offered to the government for use in the fight against the pandemic. In Bulawayo, ongoing drought has depleted reservoirs and some neighbourhoods are facing months cut off from the municipal water supply. Regular washing of hands is impossible in a city of two mission people, despite cases of infection.

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Growing hunger and oppression face urban poor - The Tablet

Allow journalists to speak out truth, give incentive, Zafrullah urges government – newagebd.net

Zafrullah Chowdhury

Gonosasthya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury on Sunday urged the government to allow journalists to speak the truth and provide them with incentives so that they are further strengthened to do so.

The veteran physician made the demand while addressing a demonstration organised by Asian Journalist Society in front of the National Press Club in the capital protesting against the oppression and arrest of journalists by the government and sacking of journalists by their employers.

He demanded their regular salaries and allowances while speaking against the above injustices.

Asian Journalist Society organised the demo in the backdrop of the recent arrest of eight journalists under the Digital Security Act, job cut of a number of journalists in different media outlets while in some media houses salaries of journalists remained due.

Zafrullah said that the countrys founding president and prime minister Sheikh Hasinas father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman used to allow criticism and preferred that his mistakes were pointed out.

The physician-freedom fighter said that the prime minister was now surrounded by members of the intelligence agencies and bureaucrats who had not been feeding her facts.

In this situation, there is a class who forage for facts. They are journalists. They publish what the countrys people think, he said.

Please allow journalists to speak out, allow them to excavate the truth and publish the truth, he said.

He wondered how the prime minister committed the mistake by letting the law enforcers arrest journalists under the draconian Digital Security Act.

He said that newspapers and journalists work as a media for identifying and informing the mistakes committed by the authorities and demanded scrapping of the Digital Security Act.

Zafrullah expressed his dissatisfaction over the fact that though Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Saturday had denounced the arrests of journalists under the act, he did not mention whether they would scrap the black law if they were voted to power.

He urged the government to provide journalists with an incentive of Tk 15,000 to Tk 20,000 per head per month for next six months so that they could gather strength for speaking the truth.

Presided over by the organisation secretary general Zakir Hossain, the demo was also addressed by senior journalists Shawkat Mahmud, M Abdullah and Ilias Khan among others.

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Allow journalists to speak out truth, give incentive, Zafrullah urges government - newagebd.net

Commentary: Why we’re so uncomfortable with wearing masks – The Daily Herald

By Sharrona Pearl / The Washington Post

Its amazing how quickly social norms have (temporarily) changed. Just a few weeks ago, people wearing masks were few, far between and subject to multiple dirty looks and whispered asides (Why didnt you donate that? Dont you know it doesnt really work?).

Now, in many states, wearing masks is the law. And millions of people are listening. The home mask-making industry is one of the few vibrant corners of the economy right now, as is unexpectedly the bandanna sphere. If you step outside right now (and please only do so if you need to!) you will see a sea of masks. We are all doing it.

But we dont really like it.

The mask has been portrayed by protesters as a symbol of government oppression, rather than lifesaving gear. But there are also more common complaints: Its harder to breathe with a mask on. Our glasses fog up. Our noses get itchy. Our ears get pulled. Our voices are muffled.

But, most significantly, we cant smile at each other, use any facial expressions or even see each others faces, giving even brief, socially distanced social encounters a cold, eerie cast.

Not being able to see other peoples faces challenges a crucial part of how we communicate. Rooted in the ancient practice of physiognomy, which links external facial features to internal character, people have long built relationships and assessed others based on how they look. The long history of physiognomical practice which saw its height in the 19th century but lingers through today demonstrates the tremendous stock we place in faces as an index to character, and helps explain why we are so uncomfortable in masks today, even if they are a temporary necessity.

Dating from the 16th century, the term barefaced described someone who was beardless or maskless and thus open, unconcealed and honest. Telling a barefaced lie through the 19th century was a particularly egregious offense, being as it was so shameless and unconcealed, paving the way for todays equally impudent boldfaced lie.

In 1802, the novelist Maria Edgeworth wrote about those who call a good countenance the best letter of recommendation, speaking to the mistrust of those who covered, concealed or in other ways manipulated their faces.

Charles Darwins face was among the most famously read for physiognomical clues: He was almost prevented from joining the journey on the HMS Beagle, the trip that gave him the material to develop his theory of evolution. The captain of the ship, Robert FitzRoy, was an avid physiognomist and felt that Darwins nose was too short, reflecting a lack of determination to see the arduous journey through to completion.

Reading facial features to judge a persons character reached its height in the 19th century, with the unprecedented urbanization and industrialization that produced some of the biggest cities in the history of the world. People in the madding crowd needed a way to make judgments about others fast.

Physiognomy, in consonance with other reductionist evaluative practices like craniometry (skull measurements) and phrenology (brain bumps) provided a seemingly empirical way to classify both individuals and groups. In reality, these supposedly empirical approaches reflected underlying biases, with fundamental assumptions about race and class framing both the approach and the findings. A brief example: The physiognomical categories of Roman nose and Jewish nose were both aquiline and beaklike, yet one was indexed to nobility and the other to avarice.

By the end of the 19th century, Western classification practices shifted from individual assessments to large group categorizations with the rise of statistics, census practices, eugenics and social Darwinism. Individual physiognomical readings declined. It became less common to openly assess an individuals character simply by looking at her face. Yet remnants of the practice remained, with phrases like beady-eyed criminals and notions of noble-jawed heroes continuing to shape peoples assessments of character through physical features.

In many ways, the idea that we can measure and evaluate peoples physical features to determine something about who they are remains with us today, often in deeply problematic, reductionist, racist, sexist and homophobic ways. Attempts to assess, for example, sexuality based on finger length, or levels of aggression based on face width are recent examples of modern physiognomy. And more abstract notions of what kinds of faces and skin colors are desirable permeate our approach to appearance. These assessments are not about expression or communication, but actual static features and the assumptions we build into which ones we think are better.

We look at people to know them. When we cant look at them, we feel we know and trust them less. And when we cant show our own faces to the world, we may feel we are hiding something.

So what do we do at a time when we need to wear masks in public but we also need to connect with one another while maintaining social distancing?

A group of doctors at Israels only dedicated coronavirus hospital have an innovative solution to this problem. They have started wearing images of their faces on their protective gowns. While these faces serve no purpose in terms of communicating expression or reactions, they appear to make patients feel better. Knowing what their doctors look like provides patients a sense of comfort and familiarity, even as they are static representations.

Designer and artist Danielle Baskin has a different response to this need, offering personalized masks that have a picture of the obscured part of the wearers face on the outside. Eventually these could be used to confuse face recognition technology or experiment with nonsurgical ways to alter appearance, but for now, they help people feel like they arent hiding their faces. Which helps other people feel like they know those they are looking at.

Faced masks dont help with the nose tickles, voice clarity or foggy glasses. But they may make wearing masks less uncomfortable, especially when we actually get to see other people or part of them on a regular basis again. For now, we should absolutely trust people wearing masks more than those whose faces we can see. Masks will continue to itch, but the greatest unease is not physical; its historical.

Sharrona Pearl is associate professor of medical ethics at Drexel University. Her most recent book is Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

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Commentary: Why we're so uncomfortable with wearing masks - The Daily Herald

Beyond charity: Solidarity and role of state in time of pandemic – The Jakarta Post – Jakarta Post

At this time of the global pandemic, solidarity, many argue, will strengthen and find ways for a better transformation of society. The writer Yuval Noah Harari; also shared this view: In Indonesia, we have also seen flourishing signs of citizens solidarity for the needy, indicated by much volunteerism and charity.

Is it true that solidarity will strengthen and that societies will be transformed for the better? Is that also the case in Indonesia? I will reflect on several contexts in Asia and especially Indonesia, following a webinar on the roles of government and society in handling the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia held on April 22 by the Veteran National Development University Jakarta (UPNVJ).

First and foremost, we need to be clear on what we mean by solidarity. It is a concept that has long been discussed academically, mainly as theory, and became particularly relevant amid the mushrooming of studies on social movements.

Solidarity is essentially the feeling of reciprocal sympathy and responsibility among members of a group which promotes mutual support. Such feeling emerges as a reaction to oppression or marginalization against the group or its certain members and works best if they share common goals against common enemies.

Solidarity is different from benevolence or charity. Benevolence does not require shared political goals, struggles for the oppressed or the marginalized, or forms of social awareness that aim to change for a better society. Benevolence involves hierarchy, from top to bottom, or from the rich to the poor. It is interpersonal rather than social. Those who join and those who help do not intend to join the struggle or fight together for a common cause but only to help the weak.

In Indonesia, the boundaries between solidarity and benevolence is practically blurred. Several civil society organizations and grassroots communities are raising social assistance to help the groups most affected by the pandemic, such as informal workers, laborers, urban poor and so on. Several individuals, especially public figures, have also flocked to provide food, money, masks, and so on for the poor. One thing in common from all these efforts is that each runs independently without any monitoring or process of evaluation.

In other countries in Asia, solidarity is closely related to the level of public confidence in the government and/or the governments ability to manage the pandemic. In countries where the government has successfully handled the pandemic, solidarity arises for the global motivation of helping people in other countries. In Taiwan, the rapid response to the pandemic makes people feel safe and protected, including with the governments strategies and use of technology and information, says Deasy Simandjuntak of Academia Sinica.

In South Korea, effective bureaucracy and well-managed public services has led to an increase in public trust in its leaders for the past few months, as Alvin Qabulsyah observes.

In Singapore, transparent, consistent and data based communication coupled with a multiracial approach have appeared to stabilize peoples confidence and support in their leader, according to Aninda Dewayanti of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies-Yusof Ishak Singapore.

Japans government was initially slow in responding to the pandemic because of its insistence for the Olympics to be held this year. However, with mounting confirmed cases, local governments and civil society urged the government to fight the pandemic more effectively, as noted by Iqra Anugrah of Kyoto Universitys Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

In these countries, the needs of citizens are relatively already addressed by the government, so that while domestic solidarity is not very visible, calls for global solidarity strengthened.

Calls and initiatives for solidarity at the domestic level are effectively regulated and managed by their respective governments, such as in Malaysia where local governments provide guidance and regulations for aid distribution, according to M. Riza Nurdin of Universiti Malaya.

In Singapore, the dominance of the governments role in dealing with a crisis has led to the dependency of citizens on government policy, and only limited advocacy initiatives have been carried out in the community-based informal social sector. Similarly, Musa Maliki in Brunei Darussalam notes how the sultanate dominates all sectors in dealing with the pandemic.

In Indonesia, the level of confidence in the governments response to the pandemic tends to be low, as a recent survey shows. The formulation of appropriate policies has seen a stuttering beginning; incompetence as well as inconsistency, coupled with communication patterns that are not transparent and tend to be defensive, which have confused people, add to the sense of insecurity.

The government seems more concerned with preserving power, for example by initially dismissing the severity of the pandemic on the grounds of avoiding panicking and tightening control of public expression with narratives of anarchism and arbitrary arrests.

Solidarity is not included in the vocabulary, let alone the governments strategic policies, because for the administration of President Joko Jokowi Widodo, the enemy seems to be the citizens themselves who potentially can destabilize the government power. Indications of solidarity within government measures would include, for instance, much more protection of the most vulnerable groups from COVID-19 transmission or promoting national solidarity behind efforts to fight the virus, like what Taiwan's government did.

What we hear every day on television by the spokesperson for the COVID-19 government team is that the number of cases continues to increase because people do not wear masks and still leave the house. The impression is that the government is ignoring widespread expressions among the poor that they have little choice to survive amid limited provision of safety nets.

Global solidarity? It is still far from where we are now. Citizens must deal with the pandemic by relying on themselves. Benevolence or charity can be the initial stage because solidarity has not yet become a shared awareness.

However, as long as solidarity has not been established, relying solely on benevolence can lead to dependency and reaffirm the social class hierarchy between the rich and poor. Benevolence will gradually become a new competition to do good for others.

Solidarity challenges this because solidarity has the capacity to strengthen the resilience of citizens. Solidarity also challenges the practice of bad governance and drives public pressure for accountability.

______

Lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, Veteran National Development University Jakarta (UPNVJ), specially appointed associate professor at Osaka University, Japan.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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Beyond charity: Solidarity and role of state in time of pandemic - The Jakarta Post - Jakarta Post

Robert Baird: Seeking the right pandemic balance of individual liberty, common good – Waco Tribune-Herald

The Greek philosopher Aristotle emphasized that human beings are by nature social animals. So, of course, are bees and ants and elephants. But humans, argued Aristotle, are particularly complex social animals because of speech, an evolutionary gift at the heart of the diverse ways humans have politically organized themselves into groups or societies.

Since groups are comprised of individuals, from the beginning the relationship between the individual and the group has been a contentious issue. What are the rights of the individual? What are the rights of the group? Whose rights take priority? This conflict can especially become contentious when the group is the political society, that is, the state or the national government. This issue dramatically presents itself in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have taken to the streets demonstrating on behalf of the individuals right to work and play when and wherever in opposition to the political groups decision and direction for individuals to shelter in place.

Some philosophers, professional and otherwise (and anyone who thinks hard about matters that matter is philosophizing), celebrate and defend individual freedom, sovereignty and autonomy. They value highly the importance of thinking for oneself and choosing freely how to live. This position focuses on the human capacity, right and obligation to choose ones own values, ones own ends or goals, to live ones life unimpeded. Even the most adamant proponent of such individual rights, however, would acknowledge that such freedom is always subject to the same rights for others; the goals one pursues, the life one leads, the choices one makes must not inhibit or interfere with the right of others to choose freely their values and goals. This defense of and celebration of individual rights is sometimes referred to as the liberal conception of freedom. The classical expression of this position is the 1859 essay On Liberty by the 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill.

Other philosophers are made uneasy by this valuing of autonomous choice. They emphasize that individuals always live in a particular place, at a particular time, and that persons inevitably and legitimately have obligations that grow out of the community or communities of which they are a part. This position stresses that the well-being of the community depends upon cultivating in citizens the moral virtues necessary for the group to survive well, including, preeminently, the virtue of valuing the common good, which always involves constraining individual choices. This view, because it emphasizes the value of community, is sometimes called the communitarian conception of freedom.

As is the case in all controversies, there are strong arguments for both positions. That is precisely why there is controversy. One has to decide where the weight of the evidence lies, and equally intelligent people weight the evidence differently. Why intelligent people can differ so is itself a complicated philosophical question. But for now, the reality is that thoughtful people disagree over which should take precedence, the rights of the individual or the rights of the group.

And it gets even more complicated because in some situations a person might argue for the individuals right to pursue unimpeded his or her interest, while in another situation the same person might argue that the rights of the group take precedence.

In general, my own philosophical tendency is to defend the liberal conception of freedom. Emphasizing the value of individual rights is and always has been the major bulwark against oppression of various sorts political, religious and economic. How we admire those Germans who bravely chose their own individual way in opposition to the Nazi government. How we praise those individual abolitionists who fought against Americas legalization of slavery. How we wish those who flew the planes into the twin towers had rejected the values of the group to which they belonged. To be a responsible moral agent sometimes requires that one reject the values of ones own group. If this were not true, there would be no individual moral accountability. Moral maturity is the willingness to think for oneself, sometimes in opposition to the community of which one is a part.

On the other hand (and this is why moral decision-making is so often hard), surely the well-being of the whole at times takes precedence over the desires of the individual. The COVID-19 pandemic should help us understand that the communitarians are often right. We should not think of ourselves as individual atoms simply pursuing our own self-interest. An undue emphasis on individuality and autonomy can undermine any sense of communal commitment to public order, any sense of commitment to the physical and emotional health of society; in a word, any commitment to the common good.

Even John Mill, the most prominent spokesman for the liberal conception of freedom, recognized that no person is an isolated being. Ironically, in this time of social distancing we have become aware of our dependence on one another and the importance of sometimes sacrificing individual interests for the common good. At times we do need to share in the affirmation that we are all in this together.

Postscript: We do, however, need to bear in mind that sheltering in place for the common good is easier for some than for others, makes less demands on some than it does on others, affects the financial and emotional well-being of some less than it does of others. The cry that we are all in this together should also make us aware of this. Being sensitive to the variety of meanings COVID-19 has for individuals can also be a valuable way of serving the common good.

Robert Baird is emeritus professor of philosophy at Baylor University.

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Robert Baird: Seeking the right pandemic balance of individual liberty, common good - Waco Tribune-Herald

Press freedom in the time of Covid – Spiked

Sunday 3 May was World Press Freedom Day. It is usually an occasion for the German public to take note of press censorship and oppression in African or Middle Eastern nations. But this year, it was different. There was a sense, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, and the effective states of emergency under which were now living, that the media in the so-called free world was also in a bind that it was torn between being a mere government mouthpiece and being more critical.

Although, as a freelance journalist, I myself am part of the media, I have also felt uneasy about the medias role during the pandemic. It is becoming clear that we in the German press have a free-expression problem. But this is not because of external state censorship. It is because of profound doubts as to what the medias own role and task should be right now. To report word-for-word the government press conferences? Or to try to catch it out, in scandal or error? Or something else?

It is certainly an odd position in which journalism now finds itself. Journalists had traditionally been defined by their differing relationships to, and distance from, power. Some were closer, others more critical. But now, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, many citizens are starting to see journalists as if they were a self-contained group; indeed, an elite group with a single special interest.

When, as a youngster, I timidly started reading newspapers over 30 years ago, it was a challenging experience. I confronted troubling facts and different, opposing perspectives. I learned things I didnt want to know and saw things I didnt want to see. But through this confrontation, my horizon was broadened. I learned to distinguish different points of view. And I learned to position myself, and develop my own point of view, through engagement with those I agreed and disagreed with.

It is this freedom of the reader or the listener, or the viewer that lies at the heart of freedom of expression. A newspaper editor or a TV show may have a clear editorial line. And those who work for them may have to toe that line. No matter. Whats important is that the reader or the viewer has the freedom to choose from among different, diverse media, each offering different perspectives on the world.

Historically, the viewpoints of newspapers were delineated along left-right political lines. But in recent years those lines have become blurred. Not just because of the broader blurring of left and right politics over the past few decades, but also because of the modern medias aspiration to address everyone. While news outlets no doubt tried to do this as part of an attempt to expand their markets, they succeeded only in losing their distinct left-right profiles, and, with that, their journalistic depth.

They stopped trying to provide profound and challenging explanations, according to their different points of view, of events or trends. They were too worried that such an approach might estrange readers. Likewise, articles and news items became shorter and shallower, because they were worried about the attention span of consumers, who were deemed all too ready to read the competition just a click away.

Something else shifted, too. Modern journalism ceased to try to report the facts, and then allow the reader to make up his or her own mind. Instead it started to act almost as a teacher, standing by the readers side, and guiding him or her towards the right viewpoint.

This is particularly visible at the moment in the reporting of the science around coronavirus. Here, journalists both patronise the reader, explaining the science as if he or she was a child. And they also turn the scientist into an oracle, someone who stands above politicians as a pure truth-speaker. Hence, argument and contestation among scientists are hidden from view. No doubt is permitted.

When news outlets take it upon themselves to prevent doubt arising among the public, they are effectively exercising censorship. Likewise, their conformism and avoidance of dissenting opinions and reports are also forms of censorship. Yes, a false report or a conspiracy theory adds little to the public conversation, and can be dangerous in a time of crisis. But it is not up to the media or the state to decide what should and what shouldnt be reported or aired. This assumes readers and viewers are incapable of deciding and judging for themselves.

Moreover, controversy and dissent are signs of vital democratic life. If an opinion or report is false or wrong, thats positive, because it forces the politicians or scientists to explain their positions better. It would be good for Germany, then, if the media understood their role. They are not the arbiters of truth. And freedom of opinion is not their possession. It is the possession of the people.

Matthias Heitmann is a free journalist and columnist for the German magazine Cicero where this article first appeared on 3 May 2020. Visit Heitmanns website here.

To enquire about republishing spikeds content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Press freedom in the time of Covid - Spiked

A Spotlight on Health Care Disparity During COVID-19 – Drug Topics

Drug Topics: Hi, my name is Gabrielle Ientile with Drug Topics and today we're talking to Dr Devin English, [PhD], assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health. Dr Englishs research is focused on how forms of oppression lead to health inequalities in the United States, and today we're talking about how COVID-19 pandemic is affecting minorities. Dr English, thanks so much for joining us today.

English: Thank you so much for having me. And thank you for focusing on this this important topic.

Drug Topics: So before we get started, I'd love for you to provide a little bit of your professional background and your day-to-day during quarantine.

English: Absolutely. So as you mentioned, I'm assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health. My training is in clinical community psychology. And as you mentioned, my research focuses on how forms of prayer can lead to some of the health inequities that we see across race and sexual orientation such as those in major depression and HIV. During the pandemic, I've been teaching remotely, mentoring remotely, and trying to continue to shine the light on the ways in which structural oppression is playing out in the [United States]. But me being able to stay at home and do these things, I think is something tied into this as it's a privilege. Its something that I'm able to do that many of our neighbors are not able to do in New York and New Jersey.

Drug Topics: Thanks for shedding light on that. And this is kind of a complex topic, can you break down a little bit the issues that inform minority health and why we might be seeing disproportionately higher coronavirus cases in minority populations?

English: So bear with me a little bit because I'm going to get into a little bit of history. Because I believe to understand the inequities in COVID-19 that we're seeing, we must understand the history of the United States. In the example of racial inequities that we're seeing in COVID-19, we must see how the [United States] has become extremely racially and economically segregated. Because what we're seeing with COVID-19 is completely predictable, policies like redlining and systematic disinvestment have led to racial segregation that we see in black and Latinx communities today. Now, this matters because we know that your zip code often determines whether you have high levels of pollution and overcrowding and whether you have access to quality health care and economic opportunity. Right now, black and Latinx communities, where there are additional disproportionately high levels of pollution and overcrowding and low levels of access to health care and economic opportunity; there are also high levels of COVID-19 related risk factors: these include conditions like asthma, the inability to socially isolate or socially distance because there are lots of low paying yet essential jobs. And there's lower quality health care in overcrowded and under resourced local hospitals. Because of this, we are seeing that black and Latinx communities make up huge percentages of COVID-19 related deaths.

Drug Topics: And the New York Times reported that most cities and states aren't reporting race where they're confirmed cases and fatalities. Why do you think this might be?

English: That's a good question, and I understand that not all places and not all states and cities are race and ethnicity recorded at time of death. However, that is the failure at multiple levels of government, because this information should be required of hospitals and health care facilities. And this is a decision that governors and mayors can make today, so that we are collecting this information. And this information is essential because we know that one of the most profound forms of oppression is the erasure. It is saying that the experience is not happening that is actually there. If we're not collecting this data, then the federal government, state governments and city governments can say that it's not happening. So it is an absolute imperative that we are collecting race ethnicity data - that we're collecting data on sexual and gender identity, in addition to what many places already collecting around age, and other demographic factors.

Drug Topics: Dr English, thank you so much for shedding light on this super important topic today. And stay safe out there.

English: Thank you so much for having me.

Editors note: This interview transcription has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Check back to drugtopics.com for part 2 of this interview and more expert interviews on COVID-19.

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A Spotlight on Health Care Disparity During COVID-19 - Drug Topics

Covidspiracy Uncovered: The truth about 5G – Shout Out UK

Do you believe coronavirus is caused by 5G? Are you afraid that Bill Gates wants to control your mind remotely using a 5G nano chip? Do you find yourself wanting to say wake up sheeple, to those claiming the coronavirus is dangerous?

If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of covidspiracy, a highly infectious outbreak of misinformation which has spread to thousands of internet users in recent weeks. Fear and uncertainty caused by coronavirus and compounded by social isolation has proved the ideal breeding ground for outlandish conspiracy theories implicating Covid-19 and 5G in a nefarious plot.

Even in an era defined by fake news, 5G conspiracy theories stand out for their ability to capture peoples imagination despite a lack of credible evidence. In June, opposition MPs held a debate on the adverse health effects of 5G in Parliament. Celebrities including Amanda Holden, Eamonn Holmes and Amir Khan have endorsed the idea that 5G is dangerous; and just last week more than 50 network masts were damaged in a spate of arson attacks across the UK.

Neither the fact that 5G radio waves are unable to penetrate cells, nor affect the spread of coronavirus to countries lacking 5G infrastructure, has been able to deter conspiracists. From the claim that 5G radio waves suppress the immune system, aiding the transmission of coronavirus, to the belief that Covid-19 is a media hoax designed to distract the public while the government rolls out dangerous 5G technology, its clear that public mistrust runs deep.

But who does the twitterati hold responsible? Well, by far the most popular theory online exposes a plan by Bill Gates to develop a coronavirus vaccine which will implant microchips into unsuspecting sheeple allowing him to turn humanity into a remote-controlled toy colony with the help of 5G command signals. To give a sense of the scale and tone of this particular theory, a recent YouTube video labelling Bill Gates the anti-Christ quickly racked up 1.8 million views before being taken down.

Pinpointing the origin and development of a conspiracy theory is a murky business. Nonetheless, it is likely that the present hysteria over 5G has its roots in older and more credible geopolitical concerns. Just to be clear: this is not to say that there is any basis to the belief that 5G technology is inherently dangerous. Rather, the current explosion of conspiracy theories is linked to longstanding government concerns that 5G infrastructure provided by Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company, threatens UK security.

In 2019 British Telecoms removed infrastructure provided by Huawei from its 4G network over concerns that the company could pose a threat to UK cybersecurity. In January 2020, the government debated the role Huawei should play in the UKs 5G network deciding that Huaweis market share will be capped at 35 per cent and its equipment should not be used in sensitive parts of the UKs communications networks, including on nuclear and military sites.

While MI5 has determined that the threat to UK security remains low, ministers in the UK have been heavily lobbied by Washington to prohibit Huaweis involvement altogether, with one US official comparing Huawei to the mafia. President Trump, already a hero in alt-right internet circles where 5G conspiracies are now flourishing, has been the most forthright opponent of Chinese involvement in 5G and it doesnt take a genius to guess why. Trump has repeatedly stated that the US need to win the race to become the worlds leading provider of 5G infrastructure, even going so far as to blacklist Huawei in America late last year.

There are strong parallels between the high-level government concerns over 5G and the more speculative concerns to be found in shady internet forums. They both have a deep mistrust of a powerful institution at their core. Both recognise the potential of technology to facilitate intrusion and assert authoritarian control. Both channel their anxieties into aggressive mistrust, and seek to re-assert control over inalienable rights. The language of suspicion used by politicians regarding 5G lends credibility to the more fanciful theories circulating online.

The recent surge in covidspiracy theories is likely a reaction against the seizure of unprecedented powers by governments worldwide in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Civil liberties, so often taken for granted, have been called into question by the lockdown of some 3.9 billion people. Meanwhile, the growth in surveillance technologies used to trace the virus are a demonstration in government power casting doubt on whether former freedoms will be returned.

Anxiety over the rollout of 5G has the potential to separate itself from a troubling association with alt-right ideologies and become a signifier for concerns about government surveillance, monitoring and oppression. Setting network masts alight is misguided to say the least, but healthier forms of suspicion about the technology that will be introduced as we combat this crisis, alongside greater public scrutiny of government decision-making and increased vigilance in safeguarding civil liberties, may prove to be a vital check on power in the months ahead.

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Covidspiracy Uncovered: The truth about 5G - Shout Out UK

Crisis Within Crisis: racial inequities in COVID-19 are devastating black people in Wisconsin – The Badger Herald

The following is an audio story featuring voices from the Madison and Milwaukee community discussing the racial inequities in recent COVID-19 data.

Transcript of the story

A rapidly growing body of coronavirus data is highlighting racial inequities across the nation. In Wisconsin, as of April 27, Department of Health Services data show that 27% of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 44% of people who have died from it are black. These numbers are troubling, given that black people here make up only 6.7% of the population.

The most significant disparities are occurring in Milwaukee County, home to Wisconsins largest black population. While only one of every four people is black, they make up one out of every two people that die of the coronavirus.

In the words of Sabrina Madison, the founder of the Progress Center for Black Womens Wellness in Madison, which serves as a hub of community and opportunities for black women to transform their lives and families, were at the bottom of the mountain youre trying to climb the worlds craziest and most dangerous mountain. We are so ill-equipped to get to the peak. If all it took to get to the peak was healthier food, healthcare access, not a hoard of damn liquor stores up the street from you, better education, better housing and an overall healthier environment, we would hit the peak, just like everybody else is. But were at the bottom of the mountain. Period. If youre a black person and youre trying to climb out of poverty or low education or low whatever, racism begins to choke you on the way up.

Madison is only one of the members of Wisconsins black population who is feeling the disproportionately negative impacts of the coronavirus on minorities.

Community leaders, social justice advocates, and health experts alike are not shocked by the new data. According to Norman Davis, the City of Madisons Civil Rights Director, the effects that COVID-19 is having on black people is just one more chapter in this book of the legacy of oppression.

Throughout history, the government has either actively or passively participated in discrimination and helped to create the disparities that we see, whether that is related to transportation, related to access to health care or even personal networks and income. Those historic systemic disparities are driving the disparities that were seeing in COVID-19, said Davis.

Milwaukee has consistently topped lists of the most segregated cities in America. This did not occur naturally and for no reason and it is the root of many of the inequities that the marginalized populations in this area face today, said Maddie Johnson. Johnson is a UW Population Health Service Fellow. She is located in Milwaukee, and her work focuses on health equity and policymaking.

The idea of structural racism, that purposeful government policies prevented African American communities from accessing opportunity, we can see that specifically in Milwaukee, said Johnson.

In the 1930s, redlining or calculated maps that were put out by the government highlighted that some neighborhoods in the city were more valuable than others, often based on race. In the 1960s and 70s, banks turned down loans to black families, often forcing them into neighborhoods with more substandard housing, said Johnson.

If someone lives in substandard housing, and likely theyre a renter because theyre denied a loan to buy a house, theyre going to face more environmental health risks, such as higher rates of asthma and higher rates of lead poisoning, then you have less upward mobility in society, said Johnson. Not only do you probably live in a neighborhood where you have less access to educational opportunities and health care, you also might be dealing with more health issues.

Amongthose at highest riskof getting severely ill with COVID-19 are patients with other serious health problems, such as hypertension, diabetes andheart disease. Over 40% of black people have high blood pressure, among the highest rates in the world,according to the American Heart Association. To compare,about a third of white Americanshave high blood pressure. Similarly,African-Americans tend to have higher rates of diabetes.

The higher risks black people are facing have nothing to do with biology, and cant be blamed on cultural differences, said Amelia Harju, who also works as a UW Population Health Service Fellow.

COVID-19 disparities are examples of racial inequities because theyre unjust, unfair and preventable. The underlying reasons for why they exist are rooted in racist histories, structural racism, differential access to opportunity, discrimination and things like that, Harju said. Theyre not due to biology or cultural differences.

Another factor putting black people more at risk of the coronavirus is the disproportionate rates of incarceration. Similar to the coronavirus outbreaks seen in nursing homes and cruise ships, individuals who are incarcerated are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it. Prisons in Wisconsin are extremely overcrowded, and black people are more likely to be incarcerated than white people.

Of the 41,000 people incarcerated in Wisconsin, 38% are black, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Inside Milwaukee is one of the most incarcerated zip codes in the nation a heavily African American neighborhood north of downtown.

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As of April 30, 18 inmates across the state have tested positive for COVID-19. Nationwide, there have been 1,313 incarcerated people who have tested positive and 30 who have died from coronavirus, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Health officers can make sure that justice-involved populations are protected. Basically, they have the ability if they want to take over the COVID-19 response within jails and prisons to ensure safety, said Harju. Health departments can take over that response instead of the sheriffs office. They have that option, but a lot of people arent aware of that. Coronavirus has left really high death tolls in other types of congregate living facilities, and its extremely likely that were going to see the same thing happening in Wisconsin state prisons if we dont act now.

Harju, a public health professional in rural Wood County, emphasized that racial inequities are not just an urban issue.

I really cant count how many times Ive heard people say race isnt a problem here. But when you do look at the data in cases where it is actually available, the racial inequities are pretty much everywhere, just like they are in urban areas Harju said.

In places like Dane County, where the COVID-19 data isnt currently showing the same significant disparities as Milwaukee, vulnerable populations are still experiencing inequities in other ways.

Even if were not seeing obvious racial inequities in COVID-19 cases in Madison or other places right now, it is still exacerbating a lot of other serious health and social issues like food insecurity, housing instability and unemployment, said Harju. And all of these factors tend to impact people of color more than white people.

Reverend Marcus Allen, who leads Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Fisher Street in Madison, serves not only as a listener and resource for his congregation, but is also a social justice advocate and community organizer.Mt. Zion has the largest black congregation in Madison with 500 members. In his leadership position, members of the community have come to him expressing their challenges making ends meet during this time.

As they say, when the white man gets the cold, black people get the flu, said Allen.

Allens mother was diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered, but not without hassle. She went to the doctor on three separate occasions beginning March 19, and was never tested for COVID-19 until April 10, according to Allen.

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Whereas, I was on a zoom call with a white lady who said she called her doctor, and within thirty minutes to an hour, he had her in the doctors office being tested to see if she had COVID-19, thank God it came back negative, but within an hour or two she was being tested, said Allen. Those are disparities that I see, that people are getting different treatment. I dont know if its based off the doctor and based on zip code, whatever it may be, but thats what Ive seen happening and experienced myself.

Sabrina Madison, founder of the Progress Center for Black Women, has also felt she wasnt treated fairly by the healthcare system.

Madison said she often feels disregarded and not believed by medical professionals. Whenever she visits the doctor, she prepares to advocate for herself by researching what she thinks may be wrong and knowing what tests to ask for beforehand.

I remember having one of my white friends I used to work with in Milwaukee go with me and literally speak what I was going to say, and I feel like the experience was so different, said Madison. Now Im having [friends] who are losing their parents or an uncle or grandmother because they either couldnt get tested, or by the time they got tested, it was so bad that they couldnt recover, said Madison.

One common theme among the black community in Madison is the unity and support they are showing one another during this crisis.

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For example, Madison came across a mother with a high-risk pregnancy asking where she could get her clothes washed on Facebook. When Madison began to talk with her, she learned that the woman didnt have access to WiFi or phone service, and had to stand outside her leasing office to use a texting app on her phone. Madison organized her a ride to a doctor appointment.

The Progress Center for Black Women has also been working with families and Charter to set up internet payment plans so that families can get their internet restored to do work and online schooling.

In collaboration with Pastor Marcio from Lighthouse Church, Pastor Allen developed the Psalm 46 Relief Fund, which has raised $110,000 to date to help people in need pay their bills, and in addition, Mt. Zion is planning to implement mental health resources and money management classes. They also continue to provide food to the community with their food pantry. Their church services have increased their reach from 500 people to 6,000 or more each week since transitioning to Facebook.

Civil Rights Commission Director Davis said that they are actively developing solutions with the marginalized populations in mind.

Madisons Equal Opportunities Commission, which has some of the oldest civil rights legislation in the nation, provides a complaint process for the community. Individuals that feel that they have witnessed discrimination or are being discriminated against because of their identity for example, if an individual felt that they were not getting adequate treatments for their health condition because of their race or income level they can bring that concern to the city of Madison and we will follow up with them, said Davis.

In the past, the commission has dug into discrimination in housing, employment, policing, traffic stops, alcohol licensing, loitering and arrest and conviction records.

The effects of institutional and structural racism that African Americans experience today is still being felt, said Davis. He said that even though harassing and discriminatory behavior is legislatively banned, those attitudes and behavior still exist.

Its really holding individuals accountable, working together and keeping our eye on this issue. We cant get distracted by the next popular issue or concern that comes along. You have to be focused on moving the needle on these issues, said Davis. Its really focusing on the underlying factors.

Davis grew up in Flint, Michigan and moved to Madison in 1989 to study engineering at UW-Madison. In a Q&A with the Wisconsin State Journal, Davis said that living in several neighborhoods in Madison, he felt disconnected but holds on to that feeling to drive his work.

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In a 2019 interview with the Nation, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said that while Madisons reputation for being left-leaning and progressive might be true, it is only to an extent, stating that, Whitepeople feel that we live in a very progressive city that is really good for people, and that is really not true for people of color and particularly for African Americans.

Echoing Mayor Conways sentiment, Davis said that there are two sides to Madison there is what is said and what is done.

A community that is in all facets a great place for everyone to live is a vision that Davis hopes to see come to life.

The effects that COVID-19 is having on people of color is unfortunate doesnt really get at it as an adjective, said Davis. Theres a saying that if people knew better, they would do better and thats false. In the last 50 years, we have known that the data is there. We know that the oppression problems are there. But that doesnt prompt a wave of change. Its only those that truly care that are willing to make the sacrifices for change that are actually going to make change.

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Crisis Within Crisis: racial inequities in COVID-19 are devastating black people in Wisconsin - The Badger Herald

Economic effects of Covid-19 on Women – Daily Pioneer

The economic effects of the global pandemic has been profound and forced people to work from home triggering hue and cry about how individuals and entities both will suffer in this epidemic. However, even in an epidemic of this scale, gender inequalities of the past have come to the fore and women are bearing the brunt of the problems

Amid the threat to our white-collar jobs, we completely forget about the domestic help whose labor most of us choose to ignore. As per the Ministry of Labor and Employment records, there are more than 30 lakh women working as domestic workers which makes it an industry carried on the shoulders of women. The Corona crisis has impacted this particular section of people most.

Most of the domestic workers including maids, cleaners, cooks, and nannies, are out of work and not getting paid. National Committee for Domestic Workers, SEWA Union reported that most domestic workers have been refused payment by their employers. Reema Nanawaty, director of the Self-Employed Womens Association (SEWA) in India said, Some industries, such as construction and waste recycling, have completely come to a halt. Thousands of women workers engaged in these trades have lost employment.

Not only is the pandemic hitting womens current economic avenues, but also hurting their chances of having a meaningful future. Longstanding patriarchal values and the social hierarchy in India dictate that a boys education is more important than a girls. As it is, the average time that a girl spends in school is around 4 years, which is half of what boys spend in school, i.e., around 8 years. In India, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women perform nearly 6 hours of unpaid work each day, while men spend a paltry 52 minutes.

With the epidemic unfolding, girl students will be the first ones to withdraw from formal education because they will be required to help at home, while the boys will continue get education.

Not only sociological but there seems to be an institutionalized economic oppression of women at play. The ASHA initiative, or the Accredited Social Health Activists is a women-based medical force which gets paid on the basis of incentives. Since their jobs are not salary based, their contribution to healthcare is often minimized. A magazine reported, ASHA workers often work long hours, sometimes seven days a week, at par with (or exceeding) workers in other sectors who not only receive salaries in line with minimum wage requirements but are also eligible for various other statutory benefits.

The Guidelines on Accredited Social Health Activists in clause 9 talks about the compensation that ASHA workers should be given. It says that these workers are honorary volunteers and hence, will not be paid any salaries. It has been held that ASHA worker scheme, a key component of the NRHM, perpetuates, legitimises and normalises gender-based occupational segregation and systemic pay inequity. This suggests of an institutional economic oppression these women go through at the hands of the government.

This is just another instance of treating womens labor as sub-par by the government. Not only this, it has been reported that these ASHA workers do not even have access to proper protective equipment. They are forced to buy masks and sanitizers for themselves, in a situation where the country can depend only on the services of healthcare officials. This despite government itself acknowledging how important protective equipment is to prevent Corona and the Supreme Court issued interim orders to the government for protection of healthcare workers.The entire country came out on 22nd March to clap and rejoice to celebrate the contributions of healthcare workers but sadly, paeans dont buy food, money does.

The gender work load is an issue that irks women even when the situation is normal. Now, with Covid-19 threatening the world into isolation, most workers are required to work from home. When this happens, even in the most modern households, the burden of housework remains on the woman. Anita Bhatia, assistant Secretary General and deputy executive director of the United Nations' women's agency expressed her fear and said, The gap could increase this year as women are likely to be disproportionately affected by home responsibilities in quarantine. A U.S. based think tank has also pointed out that there is a huge possibility of Coronavirus reversing most of the progress made towards achieving gender pay parity.

It is also a well-known trend that when companies downsize, women and minorities are the worst hit. There is a general perspective of seeing the work done by women as expendable.The looming threat of recession due to Covid-19 will almost certainly result in downsizing and this will hurt the economic prospects of all women in the Corporate Sector.

Its not a surprise that the lockdown has resulted in disproportionate gender impact with women bearing the brunt of it. The present gender-blind policies have further aggravated the already existing inequalities making women more endangered than ever.

The amalgamation of economic shock, unemployment, lack of access to education and the possibility of recession has widened gender disparities more than ever. Its high time the government firstly recognises these problems and then takes required measures to improve them. This lockdown provides an excellent opportunity to propose gender-sensitive, systemic and structural changes that could protect vulnerable women and to build gender-equal systems.

(The writers are 1st year students of LL.B at NLU, Jodhpur)

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Economic effects of Covid-19 on Women - Daily Pioneer

Africa Is Not Waiting to Be Saved From the Coronavirus – The Nation

A man wearing a face mask walks through Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. (Donwilson Odhiambo / SOPA Images via AP Images)

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As Covid-19 races its way across Africa, there are two stories happening at once. The first is of governments using their armies and militarized police to beat, threaten, and shoot their way to public health. This is the story of the Kenyan police killing more people than the disease in the week after its first recorded case and of a pregnant woman dying on the street because the Ugandan police would not let her motorcycle taxi take her to a hospital after curfew. It is the story of governments closing their borders too late, diverting money to security instead of hospitals, and waiting for someone from somewhere else to save them.Ad Policy

The second is of communities knitting together their meager resources to fill the gap of failed services and absent states. It is the story of tailors across informal settlements in Nairobi and Mombasa sewing face masks out of scrap fabric and handing them out for free after price gouging by commercial suppliers. It is a young man renting speakers, tying them to his motorcycle, and riding through his neighborhood to let people know about a new disease. It is translators offering their services without charge to put together public awareness campaigns in Somali, Maa, Zulu, Lingala, Fan Oromo, or any of the thousands of languages spoken on the continent. It is markets and small businesses making water jerricans available for mandatory hand-washing long before governments required it.

Both of these stories are true, but only the first one is on track to enter the archives of how Africa navigated the pandemic. Journalism, in general, is attuned to picking up failures and lapses: Even the best-intentioned media, premised on demanding accountability, can produce a bias for failures rather than successes. When confronted by a new situation, the punditry and analysis is inclined to pay attention to what is likely to go wrong rather than what might go right. Phil Graham, former publisher and president of The Washington Post once said, Journalism is the first draft of history. Whatever journalists commit to print and broadcast during this period will be among the primary pieces of information that future scholars will analyze to try to understand what we were all doing as the world fell apart. But so far, when it comes to Africa, the first draft is an incomplete and inaccurate story of a continent waiting to be saved. If only the first story enters the archive, the creativity and agency of swaths of humanity will be lost, which will have consequences beyond the pandemic.

An archival record doesnt pick up everything, usually just what garners the most attention or is considered the most important. An archive, much like museums and other institutions that lay claim to being custodians of history, reflects the interests and predilections of those in power. Museums outside Africa are filled with masks and pots from Africa, not necessarily because Africans themselves thought these masks and pots were interesting, but because colonizing armies and governments thought they were. A colonial archive would likely contain exhaustive records about a white district commissioner, down to the color of his socks, but not the black woman who worked in his home. Its not because the latter is uninteresting or even unavailable for documentation: It is because those in power set the tone and the context for what goes into the archive, and subsequently, the stories that history will tell.

This makes the work that journalists are doing to tell the story of Covid-19 even more important. When it comes to Africa, we who do journalism about the continent and especially from the continent know how hard it is to achieve an accurate representation of the state of society on platforms that have in-built tropes on deck and ready to launch. Africa is spoken for and spoken about, but so rarely allowed to speak, and this allows only a handful of narratives to survive. We get PR-like tales of singular figures triumphant against all odds, the white savior who braves malaria to deliver unprecedented interventions, or the flailing state teetering on the edge of collapse. The relative weakness of African media outlets means that the complexities and nuances of what is happening away from power is rarely described, let alone analyzed. The digital has gone some way toward opening up room for other narratives. Al Jazeera English has carved a global niche for deepening reporting from places outside centers of power, and Africa Is a Country publishes critical takes on key issues. But digital archives are notoriously transient and even the most visible websites can disappear with the flick of a switch.

The archival record of the impact of the 1918 flu in Africa is an excellent example of how partial change how people understand agency and creativity within communities with constrained political power. Its not just about telling an accurate story. Its about how silences affect what people imagine is possible. When the official record of a communitys history tells them that their ancestors did nothing when faced with near certain death, they tend to believe it and act like its true.

In 1918, a strain of influenza that would come to be known as the Spanish flu ravaged the world. Infected people lost significant lung function as the virus paved the way for bacterial pneumonia. Fluid and detritus accumulated in their lungs, and within days their skin turned blue and they died. By some estimates, the outbreak infected 500 million peopleabout one-third of the worlds population at the timeand killed between 20 and 50 million people, making it the second deadliest pandemic in recorded history after the Black Death in the 14th century. Extreme estimates suggest that around 3 percent of the worlds population died, and the knock-on effects included significant political changes around the world. Coming at the end of World War I, the 1918 flu outbreak made that second decade of the 20th century one of the deadliest in history.Current Issue

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The East Africa Protectorate, the British colony that would become the independent nation of Kenya, was not spared. After fighting for various European forces in World War I, African soldiers came home, bringing the disease into the territory. Many traveled inward along the Lunatic Expressthe railway line that provided a route to the sea for Uganda, one of Britains most profitable colonies of the time. A 2019 article estimated that at the Kenyan Coastthe most urbanized and settled region of the fledgling countrythe Spanish flu killed 25.3 of every 1,000 people, less than the international average but one of the most deadly recorded outbreaks in the territory.

Accurate information about the 1918 flu is difficult enough to come by in most countries, but in colonies like Kenya, the archival record is especially complicated. Much of what exists is the perspective of colonial officers constructing a racist political state. So the archives talk about how black people resisted many of the efforts at quarantine, portraying them as irrational when in fact barring movement was one way the British created pools of forced labor.

In 1897, Queen Victoria declared the protectorate part of the British Empire, but until 1920, many ethnic groups fought back against the violence of colonization with highly organized military campaigns. Between 1893 and 1911, the colonial administration was forced to launch 28 major military operations in the territory, often aimed at suppressing communities that refused to collaborate with the colonizers. The official narrative on colonization in Kenya tends to gloss over the depth and breadth of African resistance to the colonial project, but the fact is that much of the African population did not accept or even tolerate British imperialism. MORE FROM Nanjala Nyabola

Yet by 1915, the frequency of these operations had reduced, and the colonial government had began putting in place the racist legislative structure for domination. Ethnic cantonment was the cornerstone of colonial oppression in Kenya, and severe punishments for leaving designated ethnic areas were a crucial part of turning free black men and women into prison labor. The Native Passes regulation of 1900 and the Native Passes Ordinance of 1903 required Africans to have a pass to leave the district where they lived. The 1906 Master and Servant ordinance contained criminal penalties for black Africans in urban areas who left their work posts without authorization.

In fact, six vagrancy ordinances were passed between 1898 and 1930, each designed to punish black people for their freedom of movementand none applied to the white or Asian populations. In 1915 the Native Registration Ordinance set in motion the kipande system, involving cruel and inhumane punishment for black men over the age of 16 who did not carry a cumbersome document with their biometric details.

Why did the frequency and intensity of political resistance suddenly wane? On one hand, Africans were dealing with unprecedented violence from the colonial administration. But they were also dealing with outbreaks of diseases that had never been seen in the region before. European colonizers brought with them rinderpest, commonly known as cattle plague, which destroyed much of the indigenous cattle population, and jiggers, a small flea-like pest that burrows into feet, crippling the infected person and sometimes leading to gangrene. Bruce Berman and John Lonsdale, two historians specializing in Kenyas colonial era, estimate that the Maasai community, one of the most militant groups resisting the British in East Africa, may have lost up to 40 percent of its population. The pandemics and outbreaks in that first decade of the 20th century decimated populations and made it impossible to mount any coordinated military resistance.

This is the context in which the quarantines and public health interventions to deal with the 1918 flu were deployed, but the archival record doesnt reflect this. Instead, the record describes ignorant Africans disregarding the interventions of noble Europeans. Resistance to quarantine and enforced cantonment is framed as a rejection of public health initiatives, not part of a broader resistance to the restrictions on freedom of movement placed on the African population. It certainly doesnt portray a process in which scared and confused urban populations naturally sought the comfort of their extended families back in their ethnic cantons rather than face the full violence of the racist colonial state in urban centers. The official story of how Africans behaved during the pandemic lacks empathy and nuance, because those in power did not see Africans with empathy and nuance.

The archival record of Africas experience with the 1918 flu is incomplete, because it is written from the perspective of colonizers who sought to present themselves as a benign force in an otherwise chaotic territory. Colonization was a racist and violent enterprise couched in the language of a civilizing mission, and colonial archives of public health interventionsparticularly those affecting freedom of movementmust be read against that reality.

The consequences of these incomplete archives still reverberate anywhere governments are drawing lessons from colonial public health practices. The violence in countries like India, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and other settler colonies echoes the violence of the colonial state in part because the successor independence governments read the violent colonial interventions as logical and necessary. The archive presents violent policing response as a natural and necessary part of a public health crisis response, and the successor governments dont question that.

The archive does not record the violence of the kipande system that humiliated and assaulted Kenyas black population as a factor in why Africans may have resisted quarantine measures. As a result, the modern state may not realize that using police to enforce quarantine in informal settlements with a long history of police brutality may be opposed. The archive registers the problem not as a violent state clamping down on a society that they had been brutalizing, but as the irrational resistance of natives against the well-meaning efforts of a righteous colonial state. The illusion that some violence is necessary to achieve public health goals because the native is inherently resistant to logic is inherited from colonizers and sustained because the archive is rarely critically interrogated.

Archives are not neutral; theyre sites for contestation and projections of power. This is why historians from the global south, like Brenda Sanya, a Kenyan feminist scholar, argue that questioning a nations history as represented by the archive is absolutely necessary. An archive is a living thing in which what is explicit and what is silent are equally important. And critically for today, these records are silent on what Kenyas African population did to save themselves during the 1918 flu. Certainly the traditional medical interventions that had been refined over centuries of community health practice must have struggled to respond to a novel virus.

But faced with widespread death and devastation, I dont believe that African communities did nothing other than wait for their oppressor to tap into their benevolent side. African traditional medicine had well-established practices for dealing with outbreaks of familiar diseases. For example, variolation, a precursor to modern-day vaccination in which healthy people were exposed to the blood of infected people to develop resistance to it, was recorded in Kenya, South Sudan, Nigeria, and other parts of the continent. Community health systems existed and were often strong, but the colonizing forces had no interest in them, as they were keen to promote the idea of superior European health systems.

The risk of diminishing the agency of African communities in this way persists. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has killed an estimated 35 million people globally, and Africa is one of the worst-affected regions. Much like rinderpest and jiggers, this was a virus that was imported to the continent, where it insinuated itself into existing social practices. In Western Kenya, for example, the practice of wife inheritance, which leaders in some communities argue provided a social safety net for widows and orphans, created specific vulnerabilities where women whose partners died of HIV/AIDS transmitted the disease to their new partners, and their families, or contracted it from their new partners. In Kenya, HIV/AIDS hit communities that practiced wife inheritance through the 1990s hard. As long as African communities didnt understand the risk of HIV/AIDS, behavior didnt change and the virus trounced societies. But communities learned, conduct changed, and Western Kenyans now have robust nonmedical responses to HIV/AIDS.

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The same can be said of the Ebola outbreak of 2015. Projections that the outbreak would devastate the populations of the Mano River basinLiberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Guinea Bissauwere confounded, not because a vaccine was developed or because the historically underfunded and ignored health systems magically transformed overnight. Community behavior shifted the trajectory of the outbreak. People developed vocabularies for communicating the threat and the response to it, and funding and other forms of support went to frontline health workers who guided communities through the threat. Faced with novel and complex diseases, African communities did not sit back and wait for the disaster to destroy them. They rallied the best they could with whatever was available.

This pandemic is calling for tools that the media is not accustomed to using, one of which is thinking beyond the news cycle to what the story of this moment will look like 50 or 100 years from now.

Which brings us back to the original challenge: What will the archives say that Africans did during the Covid-19 pandemic? Will the archives tell the story of foreigners coming into help people who were already helping themselves? Or will they tell of a wave of saviors from abroad, framing Africans as passive recipients of foreign aid? How can we capture the complexity and agency of African communities in the face of this pandemic, without pandering to simplistic developmental narratives or diminishing the threat of the coronavirus?

This is the task for journalists covering Africa and Covid-19: Hold space for communities that those in power would rather not hear. It is a tremendous challenge. Very few African countries have media markets that can pay for quality, independent investigative and documentary journalism. Many are dependent on Western donor governments to sustain their public health coverage, and this tips the scale in favor of stories that make those organizations look good. Other outlets operate as PR vehicles for their home governments and by extension for the countries that are their strong allies. Few foreign outlets are interested in true partnership with African journalists, and for the few critical journalists the erosion of press freedom across the continent is devouring whatever space they have to work.

But the archives of the 20th century pandemics, including HIV/AIDS, underscore how important it is for the first draft of history to rise to the challenge. Flawed and partial accounts of pandemics that understate the agency of affected communities and overstate the contribution of foreign interventions can have consequences long after the emergency period. People who dont see their agency and creativity valued in the official history of how they survived may give that agency awaymaking room for new eras of colonization.

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Africa Is Not Waiting to Be Saved From the Coronavirus - The Nation

Covid Is About to Become the Newest Excuse for Police Brutality – The Nation

Two police officers from the mounted unit of NYPD are seen near the Emergency Service at NYU Langone Health-Tisch Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic, on April 23, 2020. (Photo by Selcuk Acar / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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A fringe benefit of the coronavirus lockdown is that this is the longest Ive gone as an adult without being harassed by, or fearing harassment from, the police. My home might as well be Wakanda during this crisis: a safe haven, with lots of toilet paper and no colonizers, from which I can watch, but am not directly subjected to, the oppression of white society.Ad Policy

The good times cannot last forever. I suppose Im lucky to have had any good times at all. Essential workers already have to leave their private sanctuaries and contend with oppression. So has everybody without the financial means to pay grossly inflated prices for groceries and other essentials via delivery services. Black people who just want to catch a bit of fresh air have already caught hell from the police. Im safe from the cops right now only because I can afford to be.

Eventually, the country will force all of us to reopen and, as it does, police will be more empowered than ever to stop and brutalize black and brown people. Thats because the cops will useare already usingsocial distancing enforcement as an excuse for more racially biased harassment. Reopening will force African Americans back into the crosshairs of two predators. On the one side, Covid-19 will be waiting to kill us in even greater disproportion to white folks than it is now. On the other? Our alpha predator, the American police officer.

Just this past weekend, as spring finally hit the East Coast, New York City was not a tale of two cities so much as a tale of two races. In the West Village, predominately white crowds gathered in blatant violation of social distancing rules. Friendly neighborhood police officers could be spotted handing out masks. Meanwhile, in the East Village, a black man was brutally beaten and arrested for allegedly not keeping social distance from a woman companion as they left a deli. After the beating, one of the plainclothes officers was photographed casually sitting on the mans head as he lay prone on the pavement.

This is the kind of unequal and brutal treatment African Americans can expect from police as were all forced to resume normal routines. Normal for black people is being in potentially mortal danger every time we are within six feet of a police officer, whether or not the cop has Covid-19.

The new normal for black people will include all of the old reasons cops use to harass us, plus new excuses that will be used to justify brutality in the name of public health, of all things.Current Issue

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Every time we give cops power to interdict citizens, they use that power in a racially biased way. Black people are 20 percent more likely to be pulled over while driving. Black people are more likely to be prosecuted for drug possession or use. Black people are more likely to be stopped for walking down the damn street.

A society committed to racial and social equality would be looking for ways to strip power from police forces that have so completely shown they are unable or unwilling to wield it fairly. Instead, the coronavirus has made this society eager to give even more power to law enforcement.

Consider New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is one of the leaders in the response to the pandemic, but he has also been one of the leaders in talking tough about the need for penalties for people who violate social distancing guidelines. He wants large gatherings broken up. He wants people to wear masks. He said, at his daily press conference on Monday, that he wants to empower local governments to impose fines and penalties to help enforce social distancing rules in their community.

Well, who enforces those rules and guidelines? Who imposes the penalty for violating orders? In most situations, it will be a cop on the street who is empowered to determine who is violating social distancing, and what to do about them. Maybe Cuomo trusts the cops to use their newfound power reasonably and responsibly. Maybe Cuomo thinks were living in a post-racial utopia where the cops can be trusted to serve and protect all people equallybut Ive got 41 years of lived black experience to tell him hes wrong.

What is particularly maddening is that black and brown communities havent been the biggest violators of social distancing rules. Its been the Covid-loving Trump people. White MAGA confederates are the ones menacing state governments with guns. White MAGA confederates are the ones who have decided that wearing a mask is just like slavery and that being told to shelter-in-place is like being put in a concentration camp. White MAGA confederates have turned public health rules into grounds for a culture war. But when it comes time for cops to crack some skulls, you best believe that the police brutality well see will be visited upon black and brown communities.

We know whats going to happen, yet no government officials, be they in red states or blue, seem willing to do anything to stop the impending over-policing of places that black people occupy. We know white people will congregate at beaches without keeping appropriate distance from each other, while black people will be chased off courts and playgrounds by police zealously enforcing new rules. We know that white bars will exceed occupancy guidelines with impunity, while black clubs will be fined for packing too many people inside. We know white people who violently threaten police officers trying to enforce social distancing will get off with a warning, while black people who so much as talk back to a cop will get the snot beat out of them, or worse.

We know whats going to happen, because its already happening. Yet many white politicians will end up defending the police for the brutal measures they take to enforce new public health guidelines. And even the best white leaders will only manage to be performatively shocked and appalled when the thing they allowed to happen inevitably continues to happen.

Whenever the discussion of racially biased police brutality comes up, theres always a chorus of people who claim that cops wouldnt harass black people if black people followed the rules. Thats always a ridiculous argument, but the coronavirus is going to expose the weakness of that logic even more than usual. Thats because black people will be harassed for not following social distancing rules, but well also be harassed if we do. Earlier in the crisis, a video went viral of a black man being kicked out of a Walmart for, apparently, wearing a mask in the store.

I cannot emphasize this point enough: Every piece of advice Ive had scolded into me by my parents tells me to never, ever wear a mask or a scarf or any kind of face covering around white folks, even when its freezing. Ive owned maybe three hooded sweatshirts in my entire life, all of them emblazoned with my university insignia, which in my mind reads, Dont Shoot: I went to Harvard. And I still only wear one on the very coldest days. My 4-year-old son loves his little dinosaur hoodie, and I dread the day when I have to explain to him why he cant wear it anymore; I know that day is coming when he gets, not older, but merely taller.

I ordered N95 masks for my family back in February, long before the general public was properly concerned about the virus. I think the reason I was so quick off the mark with those was because I knew that wed need something with the prominent little air filter thingies to keep us safe, not from Covid-19 but from white store owners. Maybe this coronavirus changes white peoples reactions to black people wearing masks, but Im not willing to bet my life on it.

This is the reality I have waiting for me when the government forces me out of my cop-free quarantine. I will become vulnerable again. One cop could see me as a menace if I walk around with a mask. Another cop could see me as a lawbreaker if I stand too close to my wife. One neighbor might call the cops on me if I invite friends over for a barbeque. Another might call the cops on me if they see a masked black man taking a solitary walk near their home. No matter what I do, it will be my fault for inviting whatever harassment I get.

Its been wonderful to spend a few weeks worrying about how to survive a virus, instead of how to survive an encounter with police. Quarantine is probably as close as Ill ever come to living like a white person. I could get used to all this freedom and liberty the coronavirus has provided.

But it wont last. Our society wont open up without giving law enforcement additional excuses to put black people back in a choke hold.

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Covid Is About to Become the Newest Excuse for Police Brutality - The Nation

Six months after the coup, journalist Ollie Vargas says the Bolivian people have been abandoned – The Canary

On 10 November 2019, sections of the Bolivian military and police launched a successful coup against socialist president Evo Morales. The coup was followed by a proliferation of violence steeped in Christian fundamentalism and Morales, Bolivias first Indigenous president, was forced to flee. New elections did not follow and the new administration, with the backing of the US government, looks unlikely to relinquish power any time soon.

The Canary spoke with journalist Ollie Vargas, who has been reporting from Bolivia since shortly after the coup. He recently launched Kawsachun News, an English-language news outlet which promises to be the authority on Bolivia.

There were different stages to the coup. The Bolivian right realised that they were on course for their fourth electoral defeat and they became desperate.

The first phase was creating destabilisation through waves and waves of fake news. A large number of people were getting their news and information through WhatsApp groups and Facebook meme pages, which were pumping out vast amounts of fake news inciting people to take to the streets against a supposedly socialist dictator. Thats how the idea of electoral fraud was built up before any election even took place.

The next step was the OAS [Organisation of American States] report which alleged that there was electoral fraud in the October election. That has now been debunked, but at the time those who were on the streets were more than happy to use it as evidence to step the campaign up from a street protest to a much more violent, terrorist movement.

Thats when you saw people burning down the houses of senior figures of the MAS [Movement for Socialism party] to pressure them to resign. We then finally saw the police mutiny and the military ordering Evo Morales to step down.

It was quite a coordinated affair starting with destabilisation, stepping up to a more terrorist form of violence which, in turn, provided the fertile ground for a coup.

The Bolivian government was woefully unprepared in that it failed to truly capture the institutions of the state such as the military and the police. This opened the door for the US to be able to funnel money through various political groups and various family interests, which is how the police were bought off with wage rises and bonuses negotiated by the now-Minister of Defence and the family of Fernando Camacho.

Absolutely. I think the Bolivian government more than any other government in the world has taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to extend its own power and to further persecute leftists and critics.

What weve seen is, on one hand, a very poor response in terms of public health. Bolivia is in last place for Covid-19 testing in South America, and health workers are woefully unprepared.

And in Bolivia, people have been abandoned in that rents have not been suspended and theres been no income support for the vast majority of people. I think that the Bolivian people who have lost their income due to quarantine have been abandoned to a much greater extent than other countries in Latin America.

At the same time, weve seen a huge ramping of oppression and persecution. The quarantine has been used to justify a large number of arrests anyone accused of breaking quarantine can be jailed for up to 10 years. And the quarantine itself has been extremely politicised. Time and again the regime has accused the MAS of inciting people to break the quarantine despite there being no evidence of this.

And now the most important issue is that the regime is using the lock-down and the quarantine to suspend democratic elections indefinitely, and therefore clinging onto power indefinitely. So Bolivia is going to be in the ridiculous position in which many elements of the lock-down will be lifted. However, the regime will maintain the excuse that, due to coronavirus, people cant go to the polls.

The quarantine and lock-down obviously present difficulties for the MAS, in that its strength was in being able to mobilise huge amounts of people to the streets.

The MAS is demanding that the crisis not be taken advantage of by the regime by clinging onto power indefinitely. And the MAS is using its majority in the legislature (the only elected body of government) to force through elections within 3 months but whether this will be respected by the regime is yet to be seen.

The message of the MAS is that elections and public health are not separate they have to be done together. Only through having a democratic government can the state respond to peoples needs. The main demand of the MAS at the moment is on the need for democratic elections.

Its an incredibly difficult situation for journalists in Bolivia. First of all, it should be said that during the 14 years that Morales was in power, the majority of print and TV media opposed his government.

However, throughout that time, there was never a single journalist jailed or persecuted in the way that it is happening now. Since the coup, weve seen alternative media outlets either shut down or heavily threatened. Immediately after the coup, 52 community radio stations (operating mostly in rural, indigenous areas) were shut down by the Ministry of Communications. One of the only ones that remained was Radio Kawsachun Coca, the one Im currently working for.

But attempts have been made to close down this media outlet. Just before the coup, far-right groups burned down the offices of Kawsachun Coca in the city of Cochabamba, but they couldnt get to the offices here in the Chapare region.

Journalist Ren Huarachi was filming police repression in El Alto, and he was arrested and beaten. So thats the fate that awaits a lot of journalists who report critically on the coup they face threats, repression and harassment. Its an incredibly difficult situation.

However, the majority of journalists do not face any kind of threats, because the entirety of the print media and the vast majority of TV media now has an editorial line that is supportive of the coup government.

Environmentalists in the global north have always rejected the environmental politics of Evo Morales. But it must be said that he has led the way for many years in developing environmental ideas for the Global South, and his key proposal was the idea of climate debt.

The idea is that industrialised countries of the global north owe debt to the countries they colonised, because those countries in the global north were able to industrialise off the looted resources of the global south and, as a result, they contaminated the world.

I think this is an incredibly important demand, and one thats been ignored by many environmentalists in the global north. And of course, this tension came to a head just before the coup, when groups like Extinction Rebellion began portraying Evo Morales government as anti-environmental.

So a discourse was built up that Morales is anti-environmental and now as a result of the coup the new government has announced post-coronavirus economic plans, and a central plank of that is to introduce the use of GMOs into Bolivian agriculture. That was something banned within the constitution of Morales, and now they say that will become a central component of Bolivian food production.

This is an absolutely anti-environmental government. And I think environmental activists in the global north should reflect on what they contributed to creating.

Following whats going on in Bolivia is to understand how the US dominates Latin America and the Global South. As coup attempts rumble on in Venezuela, its important to look at the kind of racism, persecution and neoliberalism that has flourished with the victory of the coup in Bolivia. Bolivia under this government should stand as an example of what the US-backed forces in Latin America represent.

But Bolivia also stands as an example of how people can organise. Bolivia still has some of the best organised social movements, so activists around the world can learn from how Bolivias social movements are organised, the democratic grass-roots participation that characterises the MAS. For those reasons, people shouldnt forget about Bolivia.

Featured image via Sebastian Baryli

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Six months after the coup, journalist Ollie Vargas says the Bolivian people have been abandoned - The Canary

We should never forget Bobby Sands, nor the brutality of the Thatcher government in Ireland – The Canary

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands inside the H-blocks of Long Kesh internment camp. On 5 May 1981, Sands laid down his life for his and his comrades right for recognition as political prisoners. On this day, we should remember the sacrifice he made for the cause of Irish freedom. But his struggle does not just provide an example that all anti-imperialists should follow. It also serves as an important reminder of the ruthless brutality of the British government in Ireland under the leadership of then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher. And that is equally something that we should never forget.

On 1 March, 1976, the British government announced an end to Special Category status for members of paramilitary organisations imprisoned for offences related to the conflict in Ireland. This formed part of a multi-pronged propaganda strategy to falsely portray the republican insurrection against British rule as some kind of aggravated crime wave.

In response, republican prisoners began a series of protests to regain the lost privileges, as well as the symbolic importance of prisoner of war status. This included the right to wear ones own clothes, free association and exemption from prison work. IRA volunteer Kieran Nugent began the blanket protest when he refused to wear a prison uniform. Thrown into his cell naked, he draped himself in the only thing available a grey, prison-issue blanket.

After suffering beatings from prison officers on their way to the shower areas, republican prisoners began the no wash protest, in which they refused to bathe, cut their hair or shave. When prison officers refused to empty their chamber pots, republican prisoners were forced to smear their own excrement on the walls, which marked the beginning of the dirty protest.

In 1979, their prospects became even bleaker with the election of the right-wing government of Margaret Thatcher in Britain. When it became clear that Thatcher wouldnt grant even the most modest of concessions, republican prisoners began a hunger strike in 1980. It ended without any deaths when her government appeared to concede some of the strikers demands. But the document containing the terms of the agreement turned out to be vague and open to interpretation, and the prison regime was quickly returned to a situation little better than how it was before.

Determined not to be double-crossed again, the new Officer Commanding (OC) of the republican prisoners, 27-year-old Bobby Sands, launched a second hunger strike with a crucial difference from the last. The strikers would stagger their joining of the fast one-by-one and two weeks apart so that each would near death one at a time. As OC, Sands volunteered to go first, making him the most likely to die. On 1 March, 1981, Sands refused his prison food, beginning the second hunger strike in Long Kesh just over two months after the end of the first.

On 5 March, less than a week into Sands fast, Frank Maguire, the independent nationalist member of parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving his seat in Westminster vacant. The republican leadership on the outside hatched a plan. They were forever getting dismissed by political opponents for not having a mandate, but if they stood Sands as a candidate in the resultant by-election and won, they could demonstrate to the British government and the wider world that the hunger strikers demands had popular support in the community.

On 9 April 1981, Bobby Sands won the election with over 30,000 votes almost 10,000 more than Thatcher had won in her home constituency of Finchley in the 1979 UK general election. The victory provided the republican movement with a powerful morale boost and demolished the British governments argument that they had no support.

But in spite of Sands victory, along with international pressure from the Irish diaspora abroad and others around the world, Thatcher refused to budge. On May 5, 1981, Bobby Sands died of starvation 66 days into his fast at 27 years of age. Over 100,000 mourners lined his cortege in one of the largest political funerals in Irish history.

Sands death led to international outcry at the treatment of the prisoners and Thatchers intransigence in meeting their demands. Critics pointed out that as members of a guerrilla army operating in contested territory, republican prisoners were entitled under the Geneva Convention to be recognised as prisoners of war. One letter, sent from one Bernard Sanders (then-mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the US), stated:

We are deeply disturbed by your governments unwillingness to stop the abuse, humiliation and degrading treatment of the Irish prisoners now on strike in Northern Ireland

We ask you to end your intransigent policy towards the prisoners before the reputation of the English people for fair play and simple decency is further damaged in the eyes of the people of Vermont and the United States.

In October 1981, the British government eventually conceded most of the prisoners demands; but not before nine more republican hunger strikers had followed Sands to the grave.

This episode perhaps shows more than any other the utter depravity, brutality, ruthlessness and lack of humanity that lurked within the twisted soul of Margaret Thatcher. All but one of the men were under 30 years old and left behind grieving mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and, in some cases, children all for the crime of fighting back against foreign oppression and discrimination in their own country.

Sands brave sacrifice stands as an example that all anti-imperialists and advocates of justice can aspire to. But it also serves as a reminder of Thatchers sordid legacy of death and destruction in Ireland.

Featured image via Wikimedia /Flickr Levi Ramishvili

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We should never forget Bobby Sands, nor the brutality of the Thatcher government in Ireland - The Canary

‘2084’: Paramount Making ‘1984’-Inspired Sci-Fi Film From ‘The Batman’ Writer – /FILM

Paramount is set to go to the future with2084, a sci-fi film fromThe Batman writerMattson Tomlin. The project is being described as a spiritual sister to George Orwells classic1984, whichreally just sounds like theyre adapting1984 but changing the year so its no longer dated. The script is also described as having a tone similar to bothThe Matrix andInception.

THR has the scoop on2084, which was just snapped up by Paramount.Lorenzo di Bonaventura will produce. And just what is this movie about? Dont ask, because no one is saying. Instead, the quality of Mattson Tomlins script is being played up, with THR reporting that 2084 generated interest from filmmakers and talent who were eager to get involved before its pick-up, a testament to Tomlins writing prowess.

Beyond that, all we know is that the movie will be similar in tone toThe Matrix andInception, and that its a spiritual sister to1984.1984 is, of course, George Orwells classic about government oppression, totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and a bunch of other stuff that all feels uncomfortably familiar to us saps here in the 21st century.1984 was previously adapted into a 1984 film starringJohn Hurt and Richard Burton. Its also served as partial inspiration for plenty of other films, includingEquilibriumand Equals. More often than not, the themes of1984 tend to get blended into movies along with books likeBrave New World andFahrenheit 451, which also deal withtotalitarian future societies. Its almost as if the writers of the past were all warning us that the future our present was going to be a constant waking nightmare.

Giving the film the title2084 and connecting it to1984 really makes me think this is going to end up being an updated, more futuristic take on Orwells tale, but well have to wait and see how that shakes out. Comparing the tone toThe Matrix andInception suggests there will be plenty of mind-bending elements at play, though.Tomlin has directed several short films and penned multiple scripts, but hes likely to become a big up-and-comer based on having worked onThe Batman with Matt Reeves. Tomlin is also responsible for a currently unproduced script based on the video gameMega Man.

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'2084': Paramount Making '1984'-Inspired Sci-Fi Film From 'The Batman' Writer - /FILM

Dystopia is here: The world of Samit Basu’s new speculative fiction book, Chosen Spirits, feels all too… – Firstpost

Samit Basus new novel, Chosen Spirits, is a work of speculative fiction set in the near future which is to say, even the things that feel radically different at first glance are, upon reflection, not so distant from us after all. The world of the novel, New New Delhi, runs on nearly untrammeled surveillance (enforced via next-generation tattoos called Smartatts), absolute compliance with government values (read Hindutva) and an unhealthy obsession with social media influencers, called Flowstars here. Dissent and your rights will evaporate, ask too many questions and even your own family might unperson you, a la Orwell.

Chosen Spirits follows the lives of Joey and Rudra, whove known each other since they were children but whose paths diverged a long time ago. Joey is a Reality Controller for Flowstar Indi, curating his life for a legion of fans, worrying about her stubborn parents who are in denial of this new world and all that it entails. Rudra, the estranged younger son of a super-rich, unscrupulous businessman, is drifting through life until a tragedy forces him to come back to the fold. Meanwhile, a group of rogue Flowstars and rebels is pushing back against the draconian State inquilaabs in the air (this is still Delhi, after all) and its only a matter of time before Joey and Rudras lives change forever.

Excerpts from an interview with Samit Basu.

The world of Samit Basu's novel 'Chosen Spirits' runs on nearly untrammeled surveillance.

Most of the future technology in the novel, like the Smartatt, is couched in the vocabulary of wellnessbut in practice, they are advanced surveillance tools (like filtering potential romantic partners on the basis of sexualhistory, class, caste and so on). At a time when we have widespread privacy concerns around the Aarogya Setu app, this feels particularly appropriate. When did you first think about this connection between these two worlds and do you feel that people (especially the demographic most likely to consume wellness products) are waking up to this phenomenon, generally speaking?

Surveillance and data grabs have both been escalating crises for most of the last decade all over the world, whether its authoritarian states grabbing your data or neoliberal ones tricking you into giving it up. In India we have both, with a rapid slide towards very blatant data grabs and when you add centuries worth of local oppression and surveillance, from families and local authorities, enabled with new tech; its going to be quite terrible. But on the other hand, there will also be climate change, vast unemployment and inequality, water shortage, pollution, pandemics and political turmoil to distract people from how bad they feel about surveillance.

I started writing this book four years ago, so it was not about the latest version of this surveillance escalation, but there will be many more down the years.

We are on a very clear journey towards extreme privacy loss, data-tracker bands, and then on-body tracking.

Even in the world of this book, this doesnt play out equally; the privileged get to have the next generation of smart trackers with AI assistants, but the poor have their crude data grabbers/trackers embedded into their bodies. Ithink the degree of concern about any of this is very directly related to the degree of your personal access to the surveillance authority: above a level of privilege, the rules dont apply, and people will be able to do whatever they like. Which is why the lead characters in Chosen Spirits are privileged and young, both people who have the opportunity to live safely, and succeed tremendously, if they choose to conform to ever-shifting rules.

Joeys job as a Reality Controller is, in many ways, the heart of the novel. She exerts totalitarian control over her client Indi's Flow. Ironically, all those clips of his that she chops and changes seem to have taken their toll on her life the novel begins with a passage that describes her ennui and general sense of withdrawal from the world. Did you see this as a side-effect of her hyper-specific job or did you think of it more as a generalised result of our dependence on onscreen images, our transformation into an overwhelmingly visual culture?

I dont think Joey exerts totalitarian control over her clients streaming Flow. I see her more as a very good magazine editor/YouTube channel producer of the future, who cannot help obsessively improve the product and care about it, even despite the people who benefit most from its success. Or like a showrunner, where she neither owns the show nor is the star of it, but is responsible for its excellence and growth and the overall welfare of the people working in it, a heavy burden for a 25-year-old.

I also dont think shes withdrawn from the world that would apply much more to Rudra, the other main character, and his attempts to escape his shady-rich family and find a whole other life in some very compromised form of escape. But yes, Joeys initial sense of ennui does exist, though, but I saw it as a natural consequence of both living your life under constant surveillance and the wariness that results from being a gatekeeper and a potential conduit to the things a lot of other people want. Because this is also a world where everyone wants to be a star, and wants her to discover them and manage their careers, which naturally affects all her personal relationships and makes it difficult for her to trust anyone. She also knows what happens behind the scenes, so has been disillusioned long ago. Its also generational: I think people who are in their mid-teens now are going to grow up to be a lot cleverer, a lot less naive, and much more simultaneously calm and anxious than anyone in my generation.

'We are on a very clear journey towards extreme privacy loss, data-tracker bands, and then on-body tracking,' says Samit Basu. Image via Facebook/@bysamitbasu

At one point in the book, you mention that everybody but the oligarchs were bankrupt, referring to businesses that did not declare their complete subservience to the government, to the normalised Hindutva politics that now marked both sides of the aisle, so to speak.

A different section of the book talks about the Russia model, wherein the State funds and monitors mini-uprisings against itself (similar to Chomsky's concept of the limits of dissent/debate) do you feel that India has reached that critical point in its trajectory where the Government and the Opposition are now increasingly difficult to distinguish (like America, where theres a large-scale #DemExit on the cards, because of disillusioned voters who resent what they see as the corporate wing of the Democratic Party)?

I dont know, and I dont think people at my level of access to inside information (which is to say I have zero access) will ever know.This is, after all, speculative fiction about a wholly imaginary future (though the attempt of course is, through research, to have the imaginary world be as close to the real one as possible) that is far more optimistic and positive than anything we will encounter in reality. My theory on this front is that a decade from now, in the world of Chosen Spirits, it will be impossible to tell who is actually running the country: collusion will be common practice, and well see politics as largely empty theatre for those still entertained by it. I think the means of both propaganda and distraction will be more sophisticated, and access to any sort of truth will be very clearly determined by privilege, in a far more organised way than it is today. How much of this is already true now? No way for a person like me to even guess, and frankly I dont even want to know; like Joey and Rudra, I just want to lead a normal, peaceful real life, and have no desire to save a world whose deeper machinations I have no knowledge of.

Editor's pick Reading dystopian fiction during the coronavirus pandemic: Genre's prescience helps imagine a better future

I loved all of the little Kalkaji jokes throughout the novel, and Kalkaji/CR Park's reincarnation as Little Bengal. My favourite was the scene describing a march of young, would-be fascists with Netaji on their lips but advertisements for Pure Veg restaurants (and their Paneer Specials) on the backs of their t-shirts. Could you talk me through this scene, why you chose to include this and so on?

Im glad you like the way Ive imagined Little Bengals future, it was great fun imagining this part of Delhi redone because it is an awkward clash of cultural stereotypes even today. The sponsored Netaji marchers are just supposed to be entertaining background detail: the intersection of different kinds of propaganda resulting in combinations one would not expect, like vegetarian Bengali authoritarians claiming Netaji for a set of values he opposed. But these strange creatures already exist, and there will only be more a decade from now. Theyre also supposed to be a teaser/signal for some of Rudras familys values.

At one point, Joey seemed to be slightly jealous of the fact that her parents led analog childhoods, so to speak their lives from the pre-digital times could not be processed and used against them (as their current lives/opinions have been, and ruthlessly so). This fact is described with a slightly wonder-struck, mystical undertone, as though it were a superpower of sorts did I read that vibe wrong, or do you, the author, feel wistful about this phenomenon?

Its a combination of nostalgia as I personally grow ancient, and something that actually works for the book, which is that each generation has a false nostalgia about the past, and cannot imagine how people lived in such supposedly pure and simple times. Whereas people who lived through those times, like Joeys parents, know that most of the injustices and inequalities that exist today have always existed, though possibly further away and less visually spectacularly for each era of the world.

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Dystopia is here: The world of Samit Basu's new speculative fiction book, Chosen Spirits, feels all too... - Firstpost

India will have to contest charges of religious bias – Hindustan Times

There is disquiet in some sections in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among other Islamic countries, that parts of Indian society and polity are exhibiting signs of Islamophobia, especially manifest after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to counter this sentiment. In a tweet on April 19, Modi emphasised the need for unity and brotherhood in combating the virus for it targets all. He was conveying that it was wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of the Tablighi Jamaat. The same view was expressed more directly by a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office-bearer in these pages.

As in the past, this year too, Modi extended Ramzan greetings. He tweeted, May this Holy Month bring with it abundance of kindness, harmony and compassion. Two years ago, Modi recalled Prophet Mohammads message of equality, brotherhood and the value of charity. And in an address to the World Sufi Forum in 2016, Modi spoke of the rich diversity of the Islamic civilisation that stands on the solid bedrock of a great religion. In the same speech, he said, It is this spirit of Sufism, the love for their country and the pride in their nation that define the Muslims in India. They reflect the timeless culture of peace, diversity and equality of faith of our land These stirring words reflect neither Islamophobia nor a bias against Muslims.

Why is it then that sections of the Islamic ummah are troubled by Indias emerging orientations? This was not witnessed during Modis first term when, building on past policies, he strengthened relations with mutually-antagonistic West Asian nations. Hence, the Modi 2.0 governments policies and actions that impact or are perceived to impact on Indias Muslims have to be examined. It must also be examined how Pakistan has sought to exploit these issues.

Four developments stand out: The constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA and fear of Muslims that it would be the precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Delhi riots, and the reaction to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation.

The constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir were looked upon in the peninsular Arab countries as political and within Indias domestic jurisdiction. Pakistans accusations of India violating international law, United Nations resolutions, seeking to change the demographic structure of the Valley and disregarding human rights found no traction. Its diatribe against the Modi government and its ideological Hindutva roots was also ignored.

The exclusion of Muslims from CAA was premised on the consideration that the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan polities being theocratic are inherently discriminatory and sometimes persecutorial. The Modi government correctly asserted that the CAA did not impact Indian Muslims. However, large numbers of Muslims were alarmed because they felt that it was the precursor of NRC, which could make many of them stateless.

The long agitations which followed were noticed in the Muslim world, including the Gulf countries. While international liberal opinion was further alienated because of religion becoming a factor in granting nationality, despite Pakistans best efforts, the Gulf countries did not become hostile. However, Malaysia and Turkey did.

The Delhi riots and, in some cases, the inflammatory reactions to the Tablighi Jamaats actions which contributed to the spread of Covid-19 soured sections of Gulf opinion. This was on account of reports in the international media that Muslims were particularly and violently targeted.

Some reprehensible comments made against Muslims in general in the wake of the Tablighi Jamaats conduct, and some irresponsible demands that Muslims be boycotted, caused dismay and anger among some in the Gulf. This was heightened by the objectionable social media comments of a few Indian expatriates living in Gulf countries. This somewhat fertile setting has given Pakistan the opportunity to fan anti-Indian flames through bogus social media accounts and also by dredging up its entire litany of charges against the Modi government. Its current specific endeavour is to make the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pass strictures, at a high level, against India for officially encouraging Islamophobia.

A few days ago, in a four-page note to OIC countries, it stressed that the BJP rose to power on the central plank of hatred for Muslims and has fostered it thereafter.

Clearly, these charges of Islamophobia have to be challenged and combatted. It is true that Islamic countries as theological polities are basically discriminatory. They are also not condemning Chinas oppression of its Uighur Muslims. Making these points may work in a school debate but not in the world of diplomacy, which, in any event, is not about scoring points but securing national interest.

What is necessary, without being on the defensive, is to assure Islamic nations that India is not moving away from its constitutional moorings by ensuring harmony and effective action against those who disturb it irrespective of their party affiliations. It is also necessary not to show disdain for global liberal opinion, but to engage with it.

Vivek Katju is a former diplomat

The views expressed are personal

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India will have to contest charges of religious bias - Hindustan Times


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