BBC

Britney Spears To Princess Latifa: Hashtags And The Patriarchy

Supporters of Britney Spears take part in #FreeBritney protest in Los Angeles
Supporters of Britney Spears take part in #FreeBritney protest in Los Angeles
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

The new documentary "Framing Britney Spears' explores how both tabloid and mainstream media outlets first framed the American megastar as a hypersexualized Lolita, then a bad role model and finally an unstable mother. The film, produced by The New York Times, explores how the news coverage may have led to Spears being placed under a legal conservatorship in 2008 — giving her father Jamie Spears control over her fortune.

The filmmakers follow the #FreeBritney movement, an online protest of fans and supporters pushing to give back control to Spears of her approximately $60 million in net worth. Many in the movement have called out supposed encrypted cries for help in posts on the now 39-year-old pop star's Instagram feed, one of her few seemingly uncensored outlets for expression. Since the documentary's release, the movement had a significant victory when a judge allowed the establishment of Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator, taking some power away from her dad.

The Princess has accused her father of holding her hostage — Photo: FreeLatifa Instagram page

As much as this reads like a very American show biz tale, across the world in the United Arab Emirates, a rather more extreme version of the same father-daughter dynamic is also playing out across social media. The BBC has published videos that Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai's ruler, secretly recorded from a locked bathroom in which she says she fears for her life.

The Princess, 35, has accused her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of holding her hostage in Dubai since she tried to flee the UAE city in 2018. Amidst global outrage (including by the campaign #FreeLatifa), the United Nations said it will question the UAE about her situation.

While Dubai has become a rich, global capital under Sheikh Mohammed's rule, many women still face harsh restrictions on their personal liberties. And the Sheikh himself is said to have "at least" six wives, including one, Princess Haya, who also fled in 2019, going to London after hearing about Latifa's abduction.

A decade ago, social media was hailed as a new tool to lead pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and give voice to those traditionally shut off from the public sphere. But lately Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have been seen more and more as a toxic public square of fake news, violence and a threat to democracy.

The coinciding hashtag campaigns on behalf of #Britney and #Latifa show that the internet still has the power to move events in a positive direction. But the stories of these two very different princesses are also a reminder that the patriarchy is still firmly in control just about everywhere in the real world.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat


CAUCHARI
— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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