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Society

Ideas

How Italy’s New Draconian Bill On Surrogacy Twists The Meaning Of "Women's Dignity"

Italy’s right-wing politicians are trying to ban surrogacy, as the Pope pushes parents to have children and feminists are divided on the issue. On such a complicated issue, hard thinking and nuance have been in short supply.

-Essay-

After almost two decades away from Italy, I ended up moving back just after I found out I was pregnant in 2018.

We lived in a stone house among olive trees in the Umbrian countryside, just off a beautiful Medieval borgo called Montecastello di Vibio.

Even if I had tried, I could not have picked a better place for my pregnancy to be celebrated — and monitored publicly. With its aging dwellers slowly fading and younger families moving to the big cities, Montecastello was a perfect illustration of Italy’s falling fertility rates.

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How Rihanna Ripped Apart The Bland Victorian Rules Of Maternity Clothing

Barbadian singer and businesswoman Rihanna has proudly celebrated her pregnant belly in fun and revealing clothes. By doing so, she is breaking away from the unspoken rule that pregnant women should hide their baby bumps.

There is a stage in pregnancy where many women have to start thinking about switching out their clothes for maternity wear. Let’s be honest, the choices out there aren’t all too inspiring and women are often expected to give up on their sense of style in favour of comfort. Not singer Rihanna, though, whose refreshing approach to maternity fashion has rocked the world.

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Shein IRL? China's Online Fashion Giant Has A Major Worker Exploitation Problem

In the fast fashion race, Shein, a Chinese retailer, has rapidly risen to compete with the likes of H&M and Zara — and even Amazon. But a deep look inside the company reveals questionable working and sourcing practices.

GUANGZHOU — The wall clock says 1:30 p.m. when the neon lights switch on again above the sewing machines and ironing boards. Between the boxes and the mountain-high piles of clothes, workers emerge from their nap. Small camp beds are hastily put away, phones slide back to the bottom of pockets. It's time to get back to work for the approximately 250 employees of this workshop in Nancun, a village that's been absorbed into the megacity of Guangzhou, in the very south of China.

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Beyond Post-Soviet: Ukraine's Architectural Opportunity From The Rubble Of War

The war rages on, but some in Ukraine are already looking to how society can be rebuilt. Two Ukrainian architects share their vision for what a future Ukrainian urbanism — and society — might look like.

KHARKIV — Russian bombings have already destroyed thousands of Ukrainian houses, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The war is still far from over, so we know the losses will only increase. And yet, we must use the time before victory arrives to plan for the rebuilding of our cities.

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This viewpoint is shared by Iryna Matsevko and Oleg Drozdov, heads of the Kharkiv School of Architecture, one of the few Ukrainian universities recognized internationally as meeting the highest standards in the field. The architects share their opinion that not just Ukrainian houses should be restored — so too should Ukrainian society.

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Society
Manuel Ligero

Orhan Pamuk On Pandemics, Press Freedom And An Eye On Erdogan's Defeat

Nights of Plague is the latest book by the Turkish Nobel Prize winner, a fictional rendering based on historical reality that draws parallels (political and health-wise) between the past and the present.

MADRID — Orhan Pamuk is a kind of Bosphorus Bridge of literature: He unites two continents, two cultures, two philosophical and religious visions that have, over the centuries, tenaciously turned their backs on each other.

In his country, as the authoritarian drift of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deepened, the author and public intellectual has progressively become a thorn in the side of the government. However, his run-ins with the Islamo-nationalist regime have not made a dent in his cheerful and optimistic personality.

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Society
Qadri Inzamam and Haziq Qadri

The Digital Tracking Of India's Sanitation Workers Is An Extra Dirty Deal

Lower-caste cleaners must wear GPS-enabled smartwatches, raising questions about their privacy and data protection.

Munesh sits by the roadside near a crowded market in Chandigarh, a city in India’s north, on a January day. She is flanked by several other women, all of them sweepers hired by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. She shows the smartwatch she is wearing and says, “See, I didn't even touch it, but the camera has turned on."

Munesh, who estimates she is in her 40s and, like many Indians, goes by just one name, is one of around 4,000 such sanitation workers. The corporation makes it mandatory for them to wear smartwatches — called Human Efficiency Tracking Systems — fitted with GPS trackers. Each one has a microphone, a SIM embedded for calling workers, and a camera, so that the workers can send photos to their supervisors as proof of attendance.

In Chandigarh, this project is run by Imtac India, an IT services company, at a cost of an estimated $278,000 per year. Meanwhile, sanitation workers say that the government has not invested in personal protective gear throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they have long worked without medical care and other vital social services.

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Society
Anne Myriam Bolivar and Megan Spada

The Haitian Entrepreneurs Happy To Stay Home

Given the opportunity to flee an economic and political crisis in Haiti, some business owners opt to stay.

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Mathilde Ménélas recalls the moment her parents sold a piece of their land and handed her the cash, telling her to leave the only country she’d ever known. The 26-year-old refused. Instead, she set up a beauty salon in Haiti’s busy capital of Port-au-Prince.

The trained esthetician understood her parents’ fear for her to remain in a country marred by the threat of kidnap, natural disasters, an unstable economy and rising unemployment. Ménélas says leaving her country was all she could think about.

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Society
Dankwart Guratzsch

Beyond Bauhaus, The Case For Preservation Of Postmodern Architecture

Postmodern architecture has always been divisive, so how should we approach the preservation of this roundly unloved style described by everything from “kitsch” to “neoliberal”? Some experts would prefer to simply tear it down.

-Essay-

BERLIN — How do those charged with preserving historic buildings approach postmodern architecture? It seems they avoid it if possible. In Weimar, a city in central Germany, professors from the Bauhaus University and historic buildings experts debated the idea of “postmodern heritage” for three days – and could not agree which examples of postmodern architecture were worthy of protected status.

The conference’s media partner, online magazine moderneREGIONAL, set out to establish which examples of postmodern architecture might be classed as architectural heritage. But is the modern era of architecture even over? And have we seen the end of postmodernism? Aren’t both styles still flourishing alongside each other? At least when it comes to postmodernism, the conference’s organizers concluded that it was “not over yet and not likely to be over soon”.

What counts as “postmodern” in architecture? Of course, there was the clear break away from what is simplistically referred to as the Bauhaus style of white cubes, glass walls and flat roofs. The shift away from machine aesthetics, functionalism and rationalism. Suddenly facades were daubed with color, embellished with pillars, gables, canopies and cornices, and windows and doors gained ornamental details.

The clean, geometric lines of modernist cubes were livened up, embellished with poetic and historical elements. Buildings became approachable (some experts referred to a new “architecture parlante”), jokey and ironic – often leaning towards exaggeration, towards the carnivalesque. “For me it meant a new freedom of thought,” a white-haired participant at the Weimar conference said apologetically. He had experienced the architectural revolution as a student.

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Society
Ranjani Iyer Mohanty

From India To Canada, Tracking The Killer Wave Of Global Warming

Because of climate change induced heat waves, India is increasingly — and alarmingly — resembling Kim Stanley Robinson's climate-fiction book The Ministry of the Future, but nothing seems to be done to change its dramatic ending.

-Essay-

Kim Stanley Robinson’s book The Ministry of the Future begins quite dramatically. In the year 2025, an American aid worker experiences a horrific heatwave in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The chapter ends with many of the people in his town sitting in a lake trying desperately to stay cool; the term "dead in the water" takes on a new significance. Ultimately, some 20 million die in that heatwave.

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moïsi

Is Emmanuel Macron Ready For New Role As Bonafide World Leader?

Having long articulated a strong pro-European stance, Emmanuel Macron's reelection comes on the heels of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Angela Merkel's departure. It is a clear opportunity for the French president to take a key leadership role in the world. How should he approach it?

-Analysis-

PARIS — In 2022, as in 2017, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy played as Emmanuel Macron walked toward his victory address after being re-elected. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen had promised, if elected, to remove the European Union flag from her official presidential portrait. Macron --- the pro-European par excellence --- appeared proud to reaffirm his loyalty to “the EU official anthem” as he stepped forth to address the French public. Consider it a final political jab at his vanquished rival by way of music.

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But beyond the seeming continuity, there are more than a few differences between the Macron of 2017, walking alone in victory to the Louvre Esplanade, and the one of 2022 holding his wife's hand, surrounded by a group of children and teenagers, at the Champ-de-Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower.

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CLARIN
Magali Salomon Gaido

The Argentine Diet Is A Perfect Recipe For Unhealthy Living

Like other Western countries, Argentina is struggling with an obesity epidemic. As young city dwellers adopt more diverse diets, the less well off rely on monotonous diets with low quality food.

BUENOS AIRES - Petrona Carrizo de Gandulfo, born in the 1898 and known familiarly to Argentines as Doña Petrona, was the first woman in Argentina to teach cooking recipes in the media. Her dishes were typically laden with copious amounts of sugar, butter and cream.

Dishes that may seem excessive today were common in the mid-20th century, and for a reason. They were made for Argentines doing physical work for long hours. As they expended more energy then, the average diet (which was an eating regimen, not a slimming plan), meant an intake of some 4,000 calories a day.

Today, that has halved, and as labels will tell you, percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The challenge now, living as we do with technology and the Internet, is not eating enough, but sedentary lifestyles. Clara Iturralde, a nutritionist at the private Cliníc Integral in Buenos Aires, says it was "totally necessary" to change to 2,000 calories, as people do much less physical work. "Today, people walk less, take transport to work, machines have replaced people in various industries, and people spend many hours sitting at the computer, which means you need less energy."

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RELIGION UNPLUGGED
Joseph Hammond*

How A Hardware Store Helped Build The Muslim Community Of Belize

In Belize, San Pedro's Muslim community revolves around the Harmouches, a Lebanese family who immigrated in the 1980s and whose hardware business is at the heart of the town.

SAN PEDRO, Belize — On tropical Ambergris Caye in Belize, Islam is a family affair. The island's largest town, San Pedro, has a population of just over 13,000, of whom some 200 are Muslims. This small yet vibrant Muslim community was launched by a single adventurous Lebanese family — the Harmouches.

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Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Sophia Constantino

End Of Roe v. Wade, The World Is Watching

As news leaks of the Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights, many fear an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S. But in other countries, the global fight for sexual and reproductive rights is going in different directions.

PARIS — Nearly 50 years after it ensured the right to abortion to Americans, the United States Supreme Court is reportedly ready to overturn the Roe v. Wade case.

The groundbreaking decision, revealed Monday night in an unusual leak of a draft of the new ruling by the news website Politico, is likely to set off a range of restrictions on abortion access in multiple states in the U.S..

The early vote is not set in stone, but in a country divided on such a polarizing topic, the decision will cause major shifts in American law and undoubtedly spark outrage among the country’s pro-choice groups.

Yet the impact of such a momentous shift, like others in the United States, is also likely to reverberate around the world — and perhaps, eventually, back again in the 50 States.

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Society
Tarushi Aswani

How A Newspaper Is Helping Save India's Endangered Languages

After a bill by Indian parliament sidelined local languages in India, one digital newspaper took up the task of helping preserve them.

NEW DELHI — Tucked in a corner of a house in the Chenab valley in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the north of the country is the office of The Chenab Times, a multimedia news website that aims to produce news in two main local languages of Jammu’s Doda region – Bhaderwahi and Sarazi.

The team uploads videos on YouTube that wrap up daily news, first in Urdu and then in Bhaderwahi and Sarazi. The news portal also gives space to writers from across the country to write for their op-ed section.

In Jan. 2017, 23-year-old Anzer Ayoob, the editor-in-chief of the news website, started this portal that would run news in Urdu and English. However, after the parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill – that made Hindi, Kashmiri and Dogri the official languages of the Union Territory – in September 2020, locals in the valley felt side-lined and ignored.

Many expressed dismay over the exclusion of Gojri, Pahadi and Punjabi and how the Bill coerced speakers to align with Hindi in a region where it is barely spoken. This also led to apprehensions over the marginalization of Urdu, which is the lingua franca in Pakistan. Language and politics are delicate subjects in the area. Both China and Pakistan lay claim to parts of Kashmir.

The civil society groups have expressed severe concerns over the Union government’s decision to digitize materials of Kashmiri language in Devnagri script, more associated with Hindi, instead of the Nastaliq script, pointing to serious apprehensions about the devaluation of the Persian script.

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Society
Magdalena Środa

A War Against Putin, A Fight Against The Patriarchy

In Poland, the support for the war effort against Russia is linked not only to history but to an aggressive male-dominated narrative, tinged with tales of martyrdom and acceptance of sexual violence.

-OpEd-

WARSAW — In addition to all the terrible things we already know about it, the war in Ukraine also appears to be a time machine that takes us back to a very masculine world of heroes and beasts — where the former are worthy of glory, the latter inhuman and deserving of death.

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This way of seeing reality and all that it encompasses is as tragic and retrograde as war itself. We Poles have finally begun to learn such values as equality, rule of law, democracy, dialogue, tolerance, and diversity; and yet once again we are returning to the paradigm of the heroic martyr that is unfortunately firmly established in our history and morality.

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Society
Shilu Manandhar

"Let It Be A Son": How Nepal Culture Pushes Women To Abort Girls

In a culture that can see girls as a burden, many women opt to abort their female fetuses — even though it's illegal.

SARLAHI, NEPAL — In the fourth month of her pregnancy, Indu found out she was carrying a girl. That night, she couldn’t sleep and kept crying. She chose to have an abortion, even though it’s illegal in Nepal to terminate a pregnancy after 12 weeks. If she were to have a seventh child, it needed to be a boy.

The desire to have a son is so strong in some parts of Nepal that it leads women like Indu to secretly terminate their pregnancies after finding out the sex of the fetus – either in a close-by town, or across the border in neighboring India. The decision is often one of economic necessity. Sons, especially in more rural regions, are considered financial assets who can contribute to a struggling family. But the illicit abortions, sometimes done in dangerous circumstances, often jeopardize the life of the woman. They’re also skewing the ratio of newborns, threatening to affect future population growth.

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