AL JAZEERA
Al Jazeera is a state-funded broadcaster in Doha, Qatar, owned by the Al Jazeera Media Network. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current-affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty television channels in multiple languages.
Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

How The World's Teachers Handled 1.5 Billion Kids On Lockdown

Learning can never stop, despite the schools being closed. Teachers around the world were forced to get innovative to overcome the lockdown.

When 63 million teachers found themselves confined at home last spring (along with at least 1.5 billion students in 191 countries), they had to start getting creative. The closure of schools around the world served to exasperate existing educational inequalities, especially for those who already had fewer opportunities, including girls, those with learning disabilities and those living in poverty. As around half of the out-of-school students did not have access to a computer and over 40% did not have internet at home, online learning only provided a solution for some. Nevertheless, around the globe, educators found innovative solutions to reach even the most vulnerable students to make sure a pandemic didn't halt their education.

India: In one of the countries worst hit by coronavirus, the majority of students have been left out of online learning. Only 8% of households have both a computer and internet connection. But regional governments and nonprofits have found effective solutions using cheap, available resources that don't rely on technology.

• The nonprofit Diganta Swaraj Foundation took on a low-tech mass education approach, using a loudspeaker to deliver lessons to 1,000 students in six villages in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. In southwestern India, the state of Kerala set up temporary classrooms for students who couldn't tune into online or televised lessons.

• Education apps have also skyrocketed in popularity, given that a growing percentage of the Indian population do have cell phones. In early March, Bengaluru-based education startup Byju decided to offer free access to its interactive education app, which has since seen a 60% rise in student usage.

• Ironically, many American families have turned to tutors in India to help their children through the challenges of online learning. This raises the question of how these well-trained educators could potentially reap equitable economic benefit teaching students in their own country.

Denmark: The Nordic country was one of the first to close its schools and then reopen them this past spring. Two key principles — holding outdoor lessons and maintaining smaller class sizes — have had unexpected benefits.

• Forest schools have long been popular for young students in Denmark, with around 1 in 10 pre-schoolers learning outside in nature. In the coronavirus era, these outdoor spaces can alleviate indoor virus spreading and allow students to spread out and socially distance, as reported in the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

• The model is catching on throughout Europe, especially in Germany and Norway. Studies show that students are calmer and can concentrate better when they're not sitting at desks. This model also benefits their physical health.

• Like in many countries, some Danish schools have also switched to a part-time model to lower class sizes. While kids might have less time with their educators and peers, this isn't necessarily a downside. "We can see now very clearly that smaller groups bring a higher degree of wellbeing for the kids, and give the teachers more contact with the kids during the day," Dorte Lange, vice-president of the Danish Union of Teachers, tells The Guardian.

• Lange says this may have long-term benefits: "We are looking at whether we can continue this and maybe shorten our school day a bit, with fewer lessons but with a higher degree of contact with students."


In a Barcelona classroom in October — Photo: Jorge Franganillo

Mexico: When Mexico decided to keep its public schools closed this academic year, it was clear that online learning would be impossible for many, so the government turned to a different media platform.

• About half of Mexico's 31 million school-age children live in poverty according to UNICEF. Just 56% of households have internet access and in rural parts of the country, service is shaky at best.

• But there was a solution: As a full 93% of households have a television, an ambitious program named Aprende en Casa (Learn at Home) was set up to broadcast educational content 24/7 for students pre-kindergarten through high school, as reported in El Universal. Educational radio programs have also been delivered across 18 stations in Spanish and indigenous languages.

• "It's challenging," fifth grade teacher Omar Morales tells CNN about filming his lessons. "It's no longer 40 kids in a class where I know their names, passions, their favorite games. Here, I'm locked in a set, but I know there's millions of kids out there who still need that knowledge."

• Aprende en Casa does have serious limits, particularly in rural communities and for female students, many of whom might not return to school after the pandemic. Some students have also found the education boring and want more engaging material, according to Reforma. But hopefully, the program will provide a strong and much needed push toward using distance learning to reach underserved populations.

Green Or Gone

Green Colonialism: The New Face Of Environmental Hypocrisy

If you hated greenwashing, you'll be appalled by green colonialism.

PARIS — From renewable energy solutions to recycling innovations, everyone is busy touting their so-called "green" credentials. But as we've seen with the term "greenwashing," the vocabulary of the environmental movement can be turned around quite sharply on any would-be hypocrites. Among those accused lately of exploiting the banner of ecology (while actually causing it harm) comes another term: "green colonialism."

Around the world, echoing political and territorial colonialism of the past, there is a growing number of examples of countries and companies crossing borders to make the same mistakes that got us into this perilous situation in the first place: mismanagement of land, destruction of ecosystems in the name of "progress," and a general disrespect for the quality of life for indigenous communities.

AGRA In Africa: In Africa, the "green revolution" that was supposed to help alleviate hunger and lift small-scale farmers out of poverty turned out to be doing the exact opposite, eradicating natural crops and undermining biodiversity while lining the pockets of multinational corporations.

• According to a report in The Ecologist, drawn from findings published by Tufts University, nonprofit groups like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are falling short on their initiatives to yield higher food production and income for farmers, and reduce by half food insecurity in 20 African countries.

• Over the past 14 years, AGRA has been promoting commercial seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides in 13 African countries.

• Research also concluded that the number of hungry people actually increased by 30% over a 12-year period.

Commodity crops: As a result, other more climate-resistant and nutritious crops which follow sustainable and local agricultural cropping patterns have been displaced in favor of commodity crops with high calories.

green_colonialism_inside

Two men of an indigenous family wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID in Manaus, Brazil— Photo: Lucas Silver/DPA/ZUMA

Indigenous advantage: A recent report by the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) warns that safeguarding indigenous people is key to protecting 50% of the world's territory by 2030.

• The report estimates indigenous populations currently protect roughly 3,000 million hectares of land — an area greater than the African continent — from the loss of biodiversity and deforestation.

• Bogota-based El Tiempo notes that indigenous peoples and their lands are constantly being put under pressure and taken advantage of by international corporations.

Weight of extraction: Nearly 200 years after signing their Declaration of Independence, Uruguay is once again denouncing the neocolonial models that have promoted the extraction of natural resources under the influence of multinationals.

EL Salto reports that since the end of August, there has been a coordinated effort by the indigenous peoples of Uruguay to fight the construction of a massive paper pulp mill on the country's largest inland riverbed, the Río Negro, by Finnish company UPM-Kymmene.

• The project will also directly affect the biodiversity and natural resources of the country by prioritizing the expansion of tree monocultures needed for pulp and paper, leading to the destruction of native grasslands and wildlife.

• A new high-speed railway stretching over 200 km will connect the pulp mill to the port of Montevideo, which will be transporting dangerous materials and highly polluting toxic chemicals.

Takeaway: "The powers and foreign multinationals are deciding for our country and our lives, so this year we once again interrupt the official act to say that, in reality, we are still not independent," says Sofía Taranto, a member of the National Coordination Against UPM.

No more wind farms in Norway: Examples of green colonialism in Sweden and Norway reveal the dichotomy between how Europe's "green" energy transition is marketed and how reckless practices are affecting indigenous communities and disrupting ecosystems.

• The Indigenous Saami people and their ancestral lands, which extend through parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, are being threatened by a wind farm project that claims to be "promoting growth, green industry and green employment through long-term investment in renewable energy."

• The company is not only encroaching on the ancestral lands of the Saami tribe, they will be directly affecting the sustainable livelihoods of these nomadic people and their semi-domesticated reindeer, according to Al Jazeera. If the Saami reindeer hear or even see a wind turbine they will not be able to migrate or feed in their natural habitat.

• The convergence and mutual dependence of humans, animals, land and water is an integral part of Saami ancestral beliefs and traditions. For the Saami people, reindeer herding is a way of life and it's even protected by law in Norway, the blockage of reindeer migration routes is prohibited.

People and land: "Humans are born, and they die, but the mountains live forever," says a 53-year-old reindeer herder, Heihka Kappfjell. "What frightens me the most about the wind industry is that without the mountains there is nothing left for us Saami. Nothing that protects us, takes care of us and gives us comfort."

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Work being done at the site of the Øyfjellet wind farm in Norway — Photo: oyfjelletvind.no

Europe's toxic exports: There are multiple examples of what Le Monde calls Europe's "eco-hypocrisy," particularly when it comes to exporting more than 80,000 tons of pesticides that are not allowed to be distributed within the EU's borders.

• In 2018, 41 toxic pesticides, some of which have been banned in the Union for more than 10 years, were sold abroad. One such pesticide, widely used on crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton monocultures, has been banned in the EU for its potential to fatally poison farmers.

• The UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium are responsible for exporting more than 90% from the EU to 85 different countries.

• Top importers of these pesticides include the United States, Brazil, Ukraine, Morocco, Mexico and South Africa.

French trash In Asia: Although there is plenty being said and done about plastic's destructive effects on the environment, the reality of recycling is not always the dream that we imagine it to be in the West. A report that tracked down used plastics originating from France found that 385,000 tons of plastics used were sent abroad in 2019, according to the United Nations trade database. 60,000 tonnes of the debris went to Asia.

  • Eco-organization Citeo has been tracking France's progress when it comes to recycling plastics for several years and found that of the 70% of household packaging recycled last year in France, 27% was sent elsewhere in Europe and 2% abroad, Le Monde reports.

  • A large portion of waste leaving France is often declared as "recyclable plastic," when in reality, it isn't. Some waste will travel over 10,000 kilometers to the major ports in Malaysia, China, Hong Kong or Singapore, to be redistributed across the rest of Asia.

  • Landfills are then burned to make room for more plastic. Coupled with the runoff of chemicals and waste into groundwater and rivers, local residents face a myriad of problems from itching eyes and skin, to asthma attacks.

What to do: Countries and localities must organize against harmful outside interests, and see through their propaganda. After the 2016 release of the movie Plastic China, in which an 11-year-old girl is seen working in one of these landfills, several Asian nations pushed for reductions in the importation of foreign plastics. Ultimately, an end to green colonialism, like colonialism itself, will require concerted local will and a rising global consciousness.

Geopolitics
Mourad Kamel

One Year After Al-Baghdadi Death, An ISIS 'Regeneration'

The U.S. killed the ruthless leader last October in Syria at a low point for ISIS. But under his successor, the group is beginning to strike back, in Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

The grisly killing 10 days ago of a French school teacher had many of the hallmarks of past attacks carried out by the bloody Islamist terror outfit ISIS. A well-defined symbolic target in the West: Samuel Paty, a respected history and geography teacher who'd been criticized by a Muslim parent and Islamist agitator for showing satirical cartoons of the prophet Muhammad as part of his annual lesson on free speech; the brazen brutality of the act: a swift stabbing and beheading with a butcher knife on a street near the school north of Paris; online exchanges discovered later between the perpetrator, a Russian-born French resident of Chechen origin, and an operative in Idlib, Syria.

And yet according to French daily Le Parisien, investigators say that the killer's contacts were with a different Islamist terror group in Syria (Haya't Tahrir El Sham, HTS) — and that the attack by the 18-year-old (later killed in a standoff with police) was neither inspired nor orchestrated by ISIS.

This comes almost exactly one year after a low moment for the group dubbed the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), when its ruthless leader, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed on Oct. 26, 2019 in a U.S. Special Forces raid. But security analysts and intelligence experts now report that there are signs that ISIS is coming back to life — led by al-Baghdadi's successor, who has his own reputation as a ruthless killer.

Flash news: Al Jazeera reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack Saturday that killed at least 24 civilians in a Kabul educational center, including schoolchildren.

Background check: Though it was founded in 1999, it was only in 2014 that ISIS grabbed the world's attention, succeeding al-Qaeda as the main force of Islamic terror after the death of its founder Osama bin Laden. ISIS's strategy was somewhat different than bin Laden's, with ambitions to establish a "caliphate" or Islamic state, by conquering vast territory in the Middle East, while simultaneously spreading terror across the world with attacks like the one in November 2015 at the Bataclan concert hall and cafés in Paris that killed 130, as well as multiple smaller attacks elsewhere in the West.

Former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — Photo: Al Furqaan Media/TNS/ZUMA

New leader: Faced against its enemies in the region, most notably Iran-backed Shia forces, as well as Western-led advances, ISIS had been at an apparent low point when al-Baghdadi was killed. But only three weeks later, his successor was chosen: Amir Muhammad Said al-Mawla.

• Also known under the name of Abu Omar al-Turkmani, or "the destroyer," al-Mawla has enabled the group to "reaffirm its presence in Syria and Iraq, planning more and more daring attacks' according to a UN report published in January.

• Al-Mawla was born in 1976 in the Iraqi town of Tal Afar, 70 kilometers west of Mosul. His hometown is a Turkmen enclave, which has created confusion about his ethnic origins, particularly because it was seen as very important for ISIS followers that their leader be of Arab descent.

• He holds a degree in Sharia law from the University of Mosul, just like his predecessor, and was also a former officer in Saddam Hussein's army, like many of his colleagues.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he joined the Sunni insurgency, which has killed scores of Iraqis and aimed at weakening the invasion. He was later detained for five years by US forces in the prison of Bucca, where he met al-Baghdadi.

Blood on his hands: There is no doubt on the ruthlessness of the new leader: Emirati daily Akhbar Al An has reported how al-Mawla issued rulings to exterminate the Yazidi minority in Iraq and has mobilized his men to kill and rape Yazidi men, women and children in a clear strategy of ethnic cleansing, as well as the Christian minority in Iraq.

New mission: With the loss of territory and global attention leading up to al-Baghdadi's death, the new leader took on the task of regenerating ISIS through a crucial period in the organization's history. Experts say the Islamic State operates like the mythical Hydra — you can cut off one of its heads, but another will grow back soon after.

Amir Muhammad Said al-Mawla, a.k.a. Abu Omar al-Turkmani — Photo: U.S. DOS

Regeneration: Iraqi researcher and specialist of the Islamic State, Hisham al-Hashimi, explained to the French daily Ouest-France in an interview last year that ISIS has the capacity to rebuild. "This regeneration strategy has three stages: Firstly the formation and gathering of resources (soldiers and weapons). Secondly, the starting up and preparation of the terrorist system and thirdly, taking control of the territory on which the group will be able to impose its policy and create a kind of economy that will be able to support it."

• It is notable that al-Hashimi himself was killed near his house in Baghdad by two unidentified gunmen on July 6, likely targeted because of his focus on the Islamic State.

New bastions: While ISIS-inspired attacks in the West have been rare, the group appears to be strengthening its presence in Africa and the Middle East. These latest developments come despite recent claims by U.S. President Donald Trump that ISIS is "100 percent" defeated.

Anadolu, the Turkish news agency, reports that the Islamic State is exploiting a security vacuum in the vast Anbar desert separating Syria and Iraq to set up sleeper cells, until the group can regain new territory, made up of fighters who slipped away after the retreat that began in 2017.

• According to the January report by the UN Security Council, after the loss of its territories, ISIS began to reassert its presence in Syria and Iraq, fomenting more and more daring attacks. The report states that Islamic State still has $100 million, which partly explains its resilience.

New attention, new attacks: The West has gradually been reawakened to the threat. In June, the U.S. doubled its bounty of the new ISIS leader to $10 million. Two months later, six French humanitarians were killed in Niger in an ambush of ISIS fighters on motorbikes. But the pace of overall attacks has been slowly rising elsewhere.

• Cairo authorities blame ISIS for repeated attacks on Egyptian troops in the Sinai.

• In early August, militants carrying the black flag of ISIS launched an assault on the strategic port city of Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique and captured the entire town in less than a week and declared it as their new capital.

• Saturday's attack in Kabul targeted a neighborhood that is home to many from the minority Shia community in the Afghan capital, part of a longstanding ISIS strategy of targeting non-Sunni Muslims.

What's next: One year ago, some analysts believed al-Baghdadi's death was a sign that both the operations and ideology of ISIS could be living its final days. The group was also being forced to contend with rival Sunni groups, including the HTS militants who may have had a role in the killing of the French teacher. Yet the ambitions of the Islamic State are ultimately its greatest weapon, offering radicalized Sunni followers everywhere a vision of new caliphate to reign over the Muslim world. Meanwhile, its new leader al-Mawla must live up to more than his nickname "the destroyer," to also see what he can rebuild.

Geopolitics

Trump Or Biden: 15 World Leaders, Who They Are Rooting For

Every U.S. election carries consequences beyond America's borders. But Nov. 3 stands out for multiple reasons: a lethal pandemic has killed more than one million people across the world, once thriving economies are in tatters, U.S. isolationism has created an international power vacuum that is allowing right-wing autocrats to thrive across continents. And then, there's Trump.

What's at stake: Having become a de facto leader for many of the world's populists, Trump has recently signalled that after the election on Nov. 3, an eventual transition of power in the case of his defeat might not be peaceful. Yes, democracy itself is on the line. For this and many other reasons, the world's eyes have focused on the U.S. campaign — and that includes presidents and prime ministers everywhere.

Clues and confessions: Of course definitive conclusions about whether a world leader favors Joe Biden or Donald Trump are hard to come by: diplomacy and the sheer fact that they will have to be prepared to work with either man induces many to hide their cards. Still, some have left breadcrumbs (or explicit statements) behind, and others we can quite easily surmise. We followed them to bring you our best bet about whether top world leaders are leaning more to Team Trump or Team Biden.

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Geopolitics
Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

RBGs Of The World: 6 Women Who Pushed Progress Through The Law

From Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai to Golda Meir and Corazon Aquino, women activists and political leaders have led the fight for gender equality and human rights around the world over the past century.

But as the tributes keep pouring in for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87, we are reminded of the particular importance of sealing progress in the courts — and the judges and lawyers making it possible.

While a recent OECD study shows that 54% of judges are women in developed countries, it also pointed to a lack of women in top-ranking judicial positions, making profiles like RBG all the more outstanding. From Brazil to France to Malaysia, here are six exceptional women who, like RBG, have made a lasting impact in the courtroom:

Gisèle Halimi (Tunisia/France): Less than 2 months before Ginsburg's passing, women's rights in France mourned one of its fiercest advocates. Tunisian-born Gisèle Halimi, a renowned lawyer, author and Member of French Parliament, dedicated her life to gender equality, changing a male-centric judicial system to protect women and their rights over their own body, as recalls Le Monde in her obituary.

• In 1972, during what is now known as the Bobigny trials, she defended a 17-year-old student accused of having an abortion after being raped, along with her mother and three of her colleagues who helped terminate the pregnancy. Thanks to Halimi, the victim and two of the accused were dismissed. The verdict later played a part in the adoption of the Veil Law, legalizing abortion, in 1975.

• In 1978, she defended in two victims of a gang rape. The case attracted significant media attention, and her defense strategy contributed to a clear legal definition of rape, officially criminalizing it in 1980.

Gisèle Halimi dedicated her life to gender equality — Photo: Licra


Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat (Malaysia): In May 2019, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat made history when she became the country's first female Chief Justice, reports Malay Mail.

• The 61-year-old mother of four boasts a long legal and judicial career. As a Court of Appeal judge, and then a Federal Court judge, she has presided over multiple high-profile cases.

• Seen as a progressive judge, women's rights groups hope her appointment will help to tackle the issue of lower prosecutions in rape and domestic violence cases and bring "more justice to women."

• Her nomination, according to Free Malaysia Today, came as 2019 marked a milestone for women judges in Malaysia, many of whom were appointed to top positions.


Lady Brenda Hale (UK): Appointed as the first female Law Lord in 2004 (becoming Baroness Hale of Richmond), Lady Brenda Hale was named the Supreme Court's first female president five years later.

• In 1984, she was the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, where she took part in the groundbreaking Children Act of 1989. The reform obliges government and public entities to place a child's "best interests' at the center of their decision making.

• In 2011, as the leading judge in Yemshaw v. LB Hounslow, Lady Hale participated in redefining "domestic violence" to include verbal and psychological abuse, no longer limiting it to physical assault, reports Family Law Week.

Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat was appointed Malaysia's first female Chief Justice — Photo: Majlis Keselamatan Negara


Sudha Bharadwaj (India): Law was not this mathematics student's first love, but after seeing the working conditions of certain minorities in India, Sudha Bharadwaj's pursuit of justice, as described by an editor of The Wire, led her to obtain a late law degree.

• Before becoming a lawyer, she joined the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as general secretary of the Chhattisgarh branch. She was also a member of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha labor party, where she fought corruption among bureaucrats and pushed for fair wages.

• In 2005, Bharadwaj started working in the High Court of Chhattisgarh. Her cases mainly targeted big corporate groups exploiting the Adivasis, an indigenous people, and ruining the environment. She talks more about this particular commitment in an interview on the Socialist Project.

• In 2018, Bharadwaj was arrested along with four other Human Rights Defenders following a TV program claiming they had a link to Maoists. Her arrest was highly criticized as a government move to silence her, and she has been denied bail multiple times by several courts (including the Supreme Court).


Joênia Wapixana (Brazil): Joênia Wapixana became Brazil's first indigenous female lawyer in 1997 and the country's first indigenous congresswoman in 2018, reports O Globo.

• A member of the Wapixana tribe in northern Brazil, she was the first indigenous lawyer to win a case before the country's Supreme Court. The case defined the boundaries of the indigenous territory Raposa Serra do Sol and ended violence against indigenous people who refused to cede their lands to agribusinesses.

• Her role as an activist defending the rights of indigenous people led her to win the 2018 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.

• Following the dam disaster in Brumadinho, she presented her first bill proposal as a congresswoman, which aimed at legally designating environmental crimes as "heinous crimes," which would subject them to more severe penalties.

Joênia Wapixana was the first indigenous lawyer to win a case before the country's Supreme Court — Photo: Mariachiara Pisapia

Arwa Al-Hujaili (Saudia Arabia): There are, of course, some countries that have a particularly long way to go in terms of gender parity. But even women continue to hold court, wherever they may be — like Arwa Al-Hujaili, who became Saudi Arabia's first woman trainee lawyer in 2013.

• Al-Hujaili was only 22 when she graduated from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah in 2010. Yet she would have to wait another three years to be able to practice as a lawyer, which is certainly not the case for men who follow the same educational path. She spent those years working as a "legal consultant", receiving no recognition as a lawyer.

• But Al-Hujaili did not take no for an answer, tirelessly petitioning the Ministry of Justice. On April 8, 2013, The ministry licensed Al-Hujaili as a legal trainee, allowing her to finally practice law. After a three-year apprenticeship, she became a fully licensed lawyer.

Economy

COVID Recovery? End-Of-Summer Checkup On Travel Industry

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, no sector in the economy has been hit harder than the travel industry. Following rolling global lockdowns through last spring, and resulting border closures and travel bans, both tourism and business travel was at a virtual standstill, with an estimated 98% drop in the number of international tourists when compared with the previous year, according to the World Tourism Organization.


Still, the summer was seen as a crucial indicator of both short and long-term prospects for the travel industry. Throughout the world, many made sure not to miss their summer holiday, but there are signs that people are traveling differently, with many preferring to wait until the last minute to book their tickets, choosing reimbursable options, or foregoing international travel altogether to avoid any possible closures or quarantines.

While it's unclear whether these travel trends will last longer than the pandemic itself, here are some examples of sectors inside the global travel industry that are witnessing big changes:


Language Learning In France — In France, foreign language study abroad programs have been struggling to adapt to the pandemic, with an estimated loss of 70-80% in turnover since March, according to Le Monde. "At the beginning of March, almost overnight, everything stopped," recalled Gérald Soubeyran, director of Effective Linguistics.

• Many French students tend to travel abroad to English-speaking countries like Britain, Ireland or the United States, to improve their language skills. However, with border closures, quarantines, slowed air traffic and closed language schools, not to mention those struck by the coronavirus itself, business has virtually ground to a halt.

• Director of the organization Route des Langues, Laurent Pasquet notes that "Even when it was possible to leave for certain destinations, there was a strong psychological effect. Faced with so many uncertainties, families did not want to send their children abroad."

• Anglais In France, which connects French students with native English speakers currently living in France, has seen interest grow since the onset of the virus. According to program manager Jennifer Laur, this is because of the program's ability to teach students away from home in a way that is "reassuring" for their parents.

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A couple takes advantage of an oportunity to "glamp" in a nature reserve in the UK Elmley Nature Reserve


Glamping In UK — While the virus has frozen travel to many cities and metropolitan areas that were once sought-out travel destinations, the countryside made a comeback in the UK this summer.

In a country that can never seem to make its mind up on whether or not to quarantine, making travel plans abroad is a gamble for British nationals. Because domestic travel is the best way to avoid a two-week quarantine or being stranded on the wrong side of a border closure, many new and unusual rural opportunities are opening up across the UK:

• From "glamping," a play on the words "glamourous' and "camping," with a hot tub and alpaca, to a vast selection of yurts and teepees on the beach, or a small cabin in a National Nature Reserve.

• The trend has even opened up opportunities for farmers and rural landowners who were anticipating a hard year due to the removal of EU agricultural subsidies and an expected economic downturn to open up their land for camping, glamping and more.

• As Simon Foster, director of tourism, told The Guardian, "People are looking for somewhere safe, secure, secluded, where they can hunker down for a week, rather than staying in a big resort or a big caravan park or hotel."


Monumental Reopenings In India — How can you shut down one of the seven wonders of the world? Well that's what happened when the Taj Mahal was closed indefinitely to the public in mid-March amid the nationwide lockdowns in India to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. The Taj Mahal and neighboring monuments are now set to re-open mid-September, but that doesn't mean tourism in the region will return as normal.

• All visitors will be screened and sanitized before entering monuments, tickets will be online purchase only, visitors will be required to wear masks and the visitor limit will be set at 2,000 people per day, The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stated.

• According to the Indian daily Hindustan Times, the hospitality industry is also anticipating the return of tourism. Beyond exchanging handshakes for namastes, guests will also have to sign a declaration that they are not infected with the COVID.

• New innovations to the industry include thermal temperature guns, UV sanitizer boxes available for each guest to sanitize their belongings, special floor mats to clean and disinfect shoes, full protective gear for housekeepers and even security gates with ionizers to kill the virus on the hair of guests.

Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

COVID-19 Stirs Prison Policy Around The World

Social distancing, disinfecting common areas and accessing health care: All three key tactics for curbing the spread of coronavirus are particularly complicated inside jails and prisons. While it might seem like an already self-isolating bubble, life inside prisons has changed dramatically since COVID-19 arrived. In an effort to keep healthy, many have lost their rights to socialize, make extra money through jobs and receive visitors. At the same time, many are looking at the option of releasing some prisoners as a way to alleviate overcrowding and limit the spread of the virus. Here are examples of how some countries are taking on the issue:

Releasing & Escaping: Countries like Iran and Turkey have responded by releasing tens of thousands of minor offenders to increase space in prisons, but also raising the question of why so many need to be jailed in the first place. While in Brazil, prison riots led to mass escapes from dirty, inhuman facilities. The last few months have shown how a highly infectious disease can exasperate exploitive systems where human rights abuses are engrained. Along with momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement, there are now global calls for criminal justice reform, from interactions with police to incarceration to reintegrating into society.

Nordic model: There have been success stories of prisons avoiding outbreaks, in places both expected and not. Known for its innovative prison environments, where the focus is more on rehabilitation than punishment, Norway has allowed around 300 inmates to complete their sentences isolated at home, with ankle monitor bracelets. The program focuses on those who are serving sentences shorter than six months or who only have six months left. Other inmates have asked for leniency because of the isolation required to stem COVID-19. The disease has impacted some Norwegian prisons, including on the island of Bastøy (with six cases), where there are no fences and many inmates farm, watch television and ski in the winter.

Wearing face masks at a prison in Mexico City — Photo: Ricardo Castelan Cruz

Mali model: Perhaps more surprising, the West African country of Mali has also been successful in keeping its incarcerated population and correctional staff safe. One of the pandemic hotspots is the capital of Bamako. And it could be potentially catastrophic in the Bamako Central Prison, a colonial-era building which was supposed to house only 400, but currently has 2,100 inmates (with many held in pre-trial). As reported by RFI, the facility has had no registered cases through relying on basic hygiene practices, moving prisoners to other facilities and checking visitors' temperatures. Red Cross donations have increased sanitation supplies and prisoners are even manufacturing masks to wear and be sold. As prison warden Colonel Adama Guindo told RFI, "If the monitoring continues to be done proactively, we have every chance of being spared. We're in the middle of the river, but we can't declare victory until we've reached the other side."

Indian overflow: Despite efforts to let more people out on parole, India is also facing overcrowded prisons, with facilities in Delhi receiving on average 80 new inmates a day. Despite the country's Supreme Court urging prisons to decrease their populations, many are caught up in the justice system, where the limited supply of judges is overwhelmed by the high number of cases. As Jai A. Dehadrai, who practices in the Supreme Court, writes in The Wire, "It would be most unfair for our decisionmakers, who enjoy the privilege of sanitized safety in their homes and offices, to not spare a thought for prisoners — especially those presumed innocent in the eyes of our legal system." Dehadrai writes that underfunding in the system enforces inequalities.

Political tool: In Nicaragua, the government is using the pandemic as a tool for silencing dissenters. Since anti-government demonstrations began in 2018, more than 90 activists have been sent to prison on trumped up charges, Al Jazeera reports. President Daniel Ortega, who has been in office since 2007, was implicated in the violence at demonstrations that led to the deaths of more than 300 people.

More recently, Ortega has been accused of downplaying the severity of the pandemic in the Latin American country, even as coronavirus began to spread in March at "La Modelo," the country's largest penitentiary and where many government dissenters are kept. The prison has done little to help inmates. Instead, visiting family and friends bring medication and food and ask their loved ones medical questions so they can consult with an outside doctor.

The government has released more than 6,000 inmates since April, but only four activists were among those set free in mid-July. As Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, tells the human rights organization, "Nicaragua is facing a question of life or death. We are not only talking about freedom, but the lives of dozens of people who were put behind bars in order to silence them. The question is: How far is Daniel Ortega willing to go to keep them in silence?"

Geopolitics

The Latest: Taliban Advance, Iran’s New President Speaks, Biles Bounces Back

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Taliban have launched an attack on a strategic city in southern Afghanistan, Iran's new leader vows to fight U.S. sanctions and a world record is shattered in Tokyo. In Switzerland, there's also an odd story of a man fond of his fondue fork for criminal purposes.

• Taliban attack key Afghan city: Heavy fighting is underway in the strategic city of Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, as the Taliban move to take control of a number of key strongholds. This comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan have ramped up airstrikes in an effort to push back on the militant group's rapid advances. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the UK are accusing the Taliban of massacring at least 40 civilians in Spin Boldak, south Afghanistan.

• Missing Belarus activist found dead in Ukraine: The body of Vitaly Shishov, who led the Belarusian House in Ukraine to help Belarusians fleeing persecution, was found hanged in a park in Kyiv. A murder inquiry has been opened to determine whether the activist was killed and his death made to look like suicide.

• COVID-19 update: Authorities in Wuhan will test the central Chinese city's 11 million residents for coronavirus after the first local infections in more than a year were reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. reached the milestone of 70% of adults who received at least one shot of COVID vaccine, about a month behind President Joe Biden's Fourth of July goal.

• Iran's new president sworn in: Ebrahim Raisi, who won Iran's presidential election with 62% of the votes in June, officially took office, vowing to save the Islamic Republic from the severe economic crisis as well as take steps to lift the harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S.

• Capitol riots officers suicides: The District of Columbia's police department reports that two more police officers who were guarding the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots have died by suicide in recent weeks. This brings to four the number of suicides by police officers who were on duty that day.

• Qantas to furlough 2,500 workers: Australia's Qantas and its budget carrier Jetstar will stand down around 2,500 workers for at least two months, in response to the extended COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney. The company has lost about 60% of its domestic business from May to July.

• Olympics: Simone Biles bounces back, world record for Norway: American gymnast Simone Biles won bronze during the balance beam final in the Tokyo Olympics, after withdrawing from several other events to focus on her mental health. Norwegian athlete Karsten Warholm smashed the 400 meter hurdles world record, becoming the first man to complete the race in less than 46 seconds.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Worst Outbreak Since Wuhan, Out-Of-Control ISS, Rickroll Record

Welcome to Friday, where China sees its largest COVID-19 outbreak since Wuhan, the International Space Station is (briefly) thrown out of control, and a meme-related 80s hit passes the 1-billion-views mark. Meanwhile, pan-African weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique looks at the hurdles in the way of vaccination across the continent.

• Hong Kong conviction, crowd boos China: Tong Ying-kit becomes the first person to be convicted under Hong Kong's national security law. The former waiter has been sentenced to nine years in prison for "terrorist activities and inciting secession." Meanwhile, Hong Kong police are also investigating complaints that a crowd of Olympics-viewers publicly booed China as its national anthem played, a punishable offense under Hong Kong law.

• COVID update: China has recorded its largest coronavirus outbreak since Wuhan, with almost 200 people becoming infected in the city of Nanjing. Meanwhile, India is reporting the largest increase in new COVID cases in the last three weeks. Australia is sending in the military to enforce its lockdown, and Japan is extending its state of emergency. As the Delta variant spreads, U.S. President Joe Biden also announced that federal workers will be required to either be vaccinated or follow stringent sanitary measures.

• Philippines restores key military agreement with U.S.: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has reversed his promise to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which facilitates U.S. military operations in the country. Instead, the country has announced it will restore the agreement, signaling closer U.S.-Philippine relations.

• Air France/KLM suffer big loss: Airline group Air France-KLM is reporting a second-quarter net loss of almost 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion), although the group remains hopeful that "signs of recovery" are on the horizon.

• U.S. evacuates 221 Afghan interpreters: The United States has begun evacuating Afghani interpreters who assisted American armed forces out of concern that reprisal attacks will begin once U.S. and allied forces have fully exited the country at the end of August. This group of 221 people is the first of about 2,500 Afghans who are set to be relocated to the United States.

• International Space Station thrown out of control: After Russia's Nauka laboratory module accidentally fired its thrusters, the International Space Station's (ISS) position was briefly destabilized, causing an 11-minute break in communications between NASA and the ISS astronauts.

• ScarJo vs. Disney: Black Widow lead actress Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney, alleging a breach in contract. Johansson claims that Disney's decision to simultaneously release Black Widow in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service has gone against previous agreements, particularly as her salary is largely based on box office success.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Tunisia PM Sacked, U.S.-China Tense Talks, Skateboard Gold

Welcome to Monday, where Tunisia's prime minister is sacked over handling of pandemic, U.S.-China talks are off to a rocky start and a 13-year-old skateboarder wins the first Olympic gold medal. German daily Die Welt also looks at the geopolitics behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal between Russia and Germany.

• Tunisia PM gets sacked: After violent protests broke out over the government's handling of the pandemic and the economy, Tunisian President Kais Saied has suspended parliament and sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. The move has been condemned as an attack on democracy by his rivals but was greeted by celebrations on the street.

• Beijing accuses U.S. of treating China like imaginary enemy: The U.S.-China talks between top diplomats got off to a tense start when Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng was quoted as saying that the breakdown in U.S.-China relations is due to certain people in Washington treating China as an "imaginary enemy." The U.S. side, represented by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, has yet to release a statement on the meeting.

• COVID-19 update: China has reported the highest number of confirmed COVID cases since January, a total of 76. Indonesia has loosened some of its restrictions despite record deaths. The government now allows small businesses and shopping malls to reopen even though they have been warned it could spark another wave. Meanwhile, the French parliament has voted to make vaccine passports required, starting in August, for entering restaurants, bars, trains and planes.

• Protests in Iran over water shortages: At least three people were killed during violent protests over water shortages in Iran. People have been demonstrating for more than a week over the supply problems during Iran's worst drought in half a century.

• New Zealand accepts return of Islamic State-linked citizen: A woman suspected of being an Islamic State (IS) member will be allowed to return to New Zealand from Turkey. The 26-year-old mother and her children are citizens of the island nation, whose prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the decision to allow their return was not "taken lightly."

• Flooding in London after heavy rain: Parts of London were left waterlogged after heavy downpours on Sunday. Services were severely disrupted after vehicles became stranded and underground lines were flooded. Officials issued an amber weather alert and are advising people not to travel.

• First skateboard Olympic gold won by 13-year-old girl: Momiji Nisiya, a young school girl from Japan, has won gold in the first ever Olympic street skateboarding competition. At 13 years and 330 days, she is the second youngest champion in summer Olympics history.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Olympics Kick Off, Xi’s Tibet Trip, Spanish Beef

Welcome to Friday, where the 2020 Olympic Games finally kick off, Xi Jinping makes a historic trip to Tibet, and there's some beef (or rather, chuletón) between Spain and the EU. We also take an exclusive look at how the so-called "salvage grocery stores' popping up around the world are finding commercially viable ways to combat food waste.

• COVID-delayed Olympics start today: The Tokyo Summer Olympics begin today, kicking off with an opening ceremony — but no spectators in attendance.

• U.S. sanctions Cuba: In the wake of large-scale anti-government protests in Cuba, the Biden Administration has announced it would sanction individuals "responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people." The sanctions targeted key government official Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Cuban special forces unit, the Boinas Negras, over claims of human rights abuses.

• COVID update: Indonesia has surpassed India and Brazil as the country with the highest count of new daily infections, with 49,500 new cases reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suspended travel from Australia as the country grapples with the Delta variant despite lockdowns.

• 22 dead, several injured in Ecuador prison riots: Ecuador is declaring a state of emergency in its penitentiary system in light of the deadly riots that have left 22 dead and 57 wounded in two prisons. The riots, reportedly sparked by clashes between rival gangs, were also fuelled by severe prison overcrowding.

• Xi Jinping visits Tibet: For the first time in his presidency, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous region, once home to the now-exiled Dalai Lama. Though Xi has been to the region twice before, it is his first time as Chinese leader. Some have called the trip an effort from Xi to reinforce Chinese sovereignty over the area, as well as the disputed border with India.

• Macron switches phones: Emmanuel Macron has reportedly changed his phone and number after investigations showed the French president was among the many heads of state targeted by the Pegasus spyware.

• Google Doodle Olympic game: Today's Google "Doodle" celebrates the start of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with a full 8-bit game. Sayōnara, productivity.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: WHO And Wuhan, Nord Stream 2 Deal, Argentine Non-Binary Option

Welcome to Thursday, where China rejects WHO's plans to look into its "Wuhan lab leak" theory, U.S. & Germany reach a deal on Nord Stream 2 and two Swedish hostage takers have the weirdest ransom demand. Hong-Kong based media The Initium also explains why young people in China are still drawn to the prospect of joining the Communist Party.

• Vaccines v. Delta variant: A study has shown that full vaccination (two doses) from the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is nearly as effective against the Delta variant as against the original Alpha variant. Meanwhile, China has rejected a WHO proposal to investigate the origins of the coronavirus because it also included plans to look into Wuhan lab leak theory, which the country views as "not scientific."

• U.S. & Germany reach Nord Stream 2 deal: The United States and Germany have come to an agreement in order to ensure that the controversial gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, will not be used by Russia to exert political pressure on Europe. The pipeline, which is close to becoming operational, will likely double Russian gas exports to Germany.

• Death toll in China floods rises to 33: The death count after torrential rains and flooding in China's Henan province has risen to 33 people, with an additional eight people missing. The public has questioned authorities' preparedness for disaster, as experts have linked the downpour to the worsening climate crisis.

• Madagascar arrests six in assassination plot: After months of investigation, Madagascan authorities have arrested six people, including a foreign national, suspected of planning to kill President Andry Rajoelina.

• Olympics opening ceremony director fired: Kentaro Kobayashi, director of the Olympics' opening ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, has been fired after a Holocaust joke surfaced from a 1998 comedy set. The organizing committee president issued a public apology.

• Argentina adds non-binary option to ID cards: Argentina has become the first Latin American country to add a non-binary option to identification cards. Citizens who do not identify as male or female will now have the option to mark the gender neutral ‘X" instead.

• Swedish hostage takers demand kebab pizzas: Two inmates in Sweden's Hallby high security prison took two guards hostage for nine hours on Wednesday, demanding a helicopter and 20 kebab pizzas as ransom. The pizzas were indeed delivered, and the guards were released unharmed.

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