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SPOTLIGHT: QUARANTINES CAN BE TOXIC FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE
One-third of the world's population is now said to be on lockdown. The purpose of the confinement appears clear enough to most: to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, there are consequences, and not just for the economy.
Across the globe, advocates against domestic abuse are warning that this period of imposed self-isolation will almost certainly provoke an increase in intra-family violence. In China, where the COVID-19 outbreak began, there's already evidence of that being the case.
An extended quarantine places a huge psychological strain, even on families without a history of abuse. And so in situations where violence is already present, the dangers are now that much greater, says Elisabeth Liotard, director of a women's protection association in Lyon, France.
"We're clearly expecting things to get worse," she told the French daily Le Monde. "In this period of uninterrupted cohabitation, violent men will have even more pretexts to lose control and the cycles of violence are probably going to accentuate."
For victims — women and children mostly — quarantine means there's no place to escape, and no time in the day when they can extricate themselves from an abusive environment. There's also the question of how a woman, in such a situation, might make a plea for help while on lockdown. Calling a hotline, for example, may not be an option when the victim is constantly in the presence of the abuser.
Marie-Pierre Badré, a leading anti-abuse advocate in France, says that since the lockdown began in her country, there has already been a significant decrease in calls to the 13 13 hotline. But there are other ways victims can reach out — by texting emergency services, for example, she said in an interview with French public radio.
According to Buenos Aires-based Pagina12 daily, Argentina took a very practical step toward ensuring special protection last week, by automatically extending restraining orders and other temporary legal protections for abuse victims. Simiar moves will be needed elsewhere, as this toxic side-effect of coronavirus spreads around the world.
— Benjamin Witte
THE SITUATION - 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
Toll: Deaths in Italy slow for the fourth day in a row, but in the second hardest-hit European country, Spain, deaths rose by 738 in 24 hours and the Parliament has voted to extend the State of Emergency until April 11. U.S. death toll passes the 1,000 mark.
U.S. jobless record: More Americans filed unemployment claims, 3.28 million, last week than anytime since records began being tracked in 1967.
Vaccine hope: Experts conclude that a vaccine could be long-lasting as COVID-19 mutates at a slower rate than other respiratory viruses like the flu.
Africa spread: The virus is spreading rapidly through Africa, with 2,400 confirmed cases across 46 of the continent's 54 countries. Some 700 of those are in South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nation-wide, 21-day lockdown starting Thursday night.
Iran restrictions: Iran's government bans internal travel and warns of a "second wave" of COVID-19 as the official death toll passes 2,000.
Returning home: In Afghanistan, the western province of Herat has emerged as the epicenter of the country's outbreak, representing 54 of the 75 reported deaths, and the government fears the situation will worsen as Afghans keep returning from neighbouring Iran. Between March 8 and 21, 115,000 Afghans crossed the border from Iran.
All 94 residents of a New Jersey nursing home are believed to be infected.
DRASTIC DRAGHI: "Wars," writes Mario Draghi, former Europe Central Bank President, in an OpEd in the Financial Times, "(are) the most relevant precedent" for the economic response to the COVID-19 crisis." The only effective way to reach immediately into every crack of the economy is to fully mobilise entire financial systems. And it has to be done immediately."
CHINESE STUDENTS, CAUGHT BETWEEN: As the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world, stories pile up of people living abroad struggling to get home, or stuck isolated in a foreign land. The stories of the 370,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. have a unique angle of their own, reports The Initium, a Chinese-language global news site.
Some 45 % of these students major in STEM subjects, i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often many subject to single-entry visas, in particular the ones studying biotechnology, computer science, robot manufacturing applications and aerospace. Each time they leave the United States, they have to re-apply for an entry visa.
Mao, a computer science major at the University of Southern California, had secured a Google internship this summer, which she now fears may be canceled. Tensions over the virus between the two countries have continued to grow. In mid-March, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted that it was probably the US army that had brought the coronavirus to China. President Trump refuted this claim calling it a "Chinese virus."
Andrew, a Chinese student who has been living in Boston for six years, says he wore a mask when he took public transport at peak hours. But since the wide propagation in March, he has stopped doing so. "I'm worried that wearing a mask puts me at an even higher risk than that of the virus." —Read the full article, translated from Chinese by Worldcrunch.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: How to enforce your local lockdown? Forget about fines and fees, or even being sent to jail, Paris public prosecutor Rémy Heitz warns that he may start sending citizens not respecting the strict rules of confinement to a place that may be more dangerous than jail: to the local hospital for community service work. According to Le Parisien, there have been a total so far just under 10,000 noted infractions in Paris since the lockdown began a week ago. Heitz's choice of this particular community service might not just provoke fear, but also remind people that when they break the quarantine the pressure, and risk, increases for the medical staffs working at local hospitals.
CHOMSKY SCHADENFREUDE: For many long-time critics of global capitalism, COVID-19 is a glaring new example of how our prevailing economic system no longer serves the common good. Among those is the 91-year-old public intellectual and self-described anarcho-syndicalist Noam Chomsky, who shared his thoughts on the crisis in an interview with the Chilean news site El Mostrador. Here are three takeaways:
Big Pharma: Like climate change, the pandemic is another case of massive market failure. For private pharmaceutical companies, the market signals were clear: Don't waste resources preparing for a pandemic ahead of time.
Neoliberalism gone wrong: The U.S. government could have intervened, as in South Korea, but that conflicts with neoliberal ideology that centers on the sacred rights of concentrated private power. The government's role is to subsidize and provide exorbitant patent rights — ensuring colossal profits — but not to interfere with privilege and wealth.
Worse to come: The crisis reveals deep flaws in the dominant economic models, flaws that will soon lead to much worse crises, unless important preventive steps are taken. As terrible as the coronavirus crisis is, there will be recovery. There will be no recovery from global warming if it is not controlled.
WHY SUCH DIFFERENT FATALITY RATES?: Over the past three weeks, Europe has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, killing thousands of people. But why are 9.2% of infected people in Italy and 7.5% in Spain dying, while Germany has a fatality rate of just 0.37%? Since such discrepancies cannot be justified only by the difference in age population or the quality of health systems, French daily Les Echos provides a clearer explanation:
Choosing who to test: Some countries like Germany and Italy are testing a lot of people, even those who do not show symptoms and therefore register a higher number of cases. Others like France choose to primarily test severe cases while some US states are facing shortage of testing kits.
Cause of death: Not all countries record the death tolls using the same method. Some include in the total count, every death of infected patients, even if an infection or pre-existing disease or condition ultimately caused the death, while others only included deaths caused by interstitial pneumonia, which is specifically linked to Covid-19.
Delayed impact: It is also impossible to measure the exact fatality rate (dividing the number of deaths by the total of confirmed cases) because the latter number is probably higher than we know. The testing program in Iceland revealed that half of those who tested positive showed no coronavirus symptoms. In the United Kingdom and the United States, the real count could be "10 times higher" than official numbers, according to epidemiologists Neil Ferguson and Marc Lipsitch. Other experts think the number of confirmed cases should be increased fivefold to obtain the real count. This does not mean that the actual fatality rate is proportionally lower, as we have to take into account the delay between the infection and the death of a patient, i.e. 5.5 days for the incubation period followed by 8 days for the disease to develop, according to a recent study by the Italian National Health Service.
SNORKEL MASKS TO RESCUE: The shortage of breathing equipment is a crisis in itself, with respiratory failure responsible for many of COVID-19's fatalities. One innovative response, reports Milan-based Corriere della Sera, comes from an Italian doctor to convert ordinary full-face snorkeling masks into an apparatus that allows for artificial ventilation. Doctor Renato Favero has teamed up with 28-year-old engineer Alessandro Romaioli, to connect "Easybreath" masks sold at Decathlon to plastic air valves that Ramaioli has developed for immediate production thanks to 3D printers.
Here's one woman's (tongue-in-cheek) quarantine daily schedule.
And another, in video form, thanks to Gloria Gaynor.
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Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.