BILD
Bild is a Berlin-based German tabloid. Founded in 1952 as a picture-oriented publication (Bild, in German, means image), it is one of Europe's best-selling newspapers, with more than 1.6 million copies sold daily (in 2017) across Germany.
Ideas
Alessio Perrone

Behind Biden's Message Of Unity, A Shattered America

MILAN — The first day of Joe Biden's presidency bore clear traces of some of the recent wounds inflicted on the United States. After being sworn in, Biden arrived at the White House protected by thousands of troops and barricades just two weeks since deadly violence engulfed the Capitol.

Thousands of flags stood in for the typical inauguration day crowds to prevent gatherings during the pandemic — and also the possibility of more violence. In his inaugural address, Biden appeared to compare the Trump presidency to a calamity, saying his country needs to "start afresh" and get together like it had after the Civil War, the Great Depression, World Wars, 9/11.

Headlines around the world echoed his words with optimism and relief. "Biden can heal what Trump broke," wrote a member of the New York Times"s editorial board. "Comeback for America," said Germany's biggest-selling tabloid Bild. "Democracy has prevailed," titled France's Le Monde.

But a different picture emerged on social media, where the silence of the flags standing in for cheering crowds were mirrored by other American silences. I have many friends in and around Pueblo, Colorado, where I spent much of my high school junior year. It's a part of America built on steel and coal that has struggled to flourish after the industries' decline. I was looking yesterday on my Facebook feed for the voices on this new presidency that might rise like a phoenix out of those ashes in southern Colorado.

I had grown used to checking the wide-ranging posts of a Baptist pastor to try to better understand Republican voters in rural America. But then he disappeared overnight. Furious that Twitter had temporarily suspended Trump's account, the pastor told his Facebook followers he was joining an alternative social media platform, Parler, and encouraged them to do the same. In the last few weeks, thousands of right-wing extremists have seen Parler as an opportunity to continue to organize and spread hate speech under the radar, escaping regulations and social media bans.

My old friends' feeds remained silent.

Most of my old friends' feeds remained silent for inauguration day, as they had for weeks. I'd seen years of bitter arguments play out in their comment sections — over Trump, over guns, over police killings of African-Americans. But, now, nothing. No jubilation, no talk of new beginnings, no skepticism or bitterness. Nothing.

This new silence makes for an eerie coda to end an otherwise noisy presidency — after Trump was banned from social media, he promised Wednesday to "be back in some form" as he bid farewell to Washington.

For all the talk of coming together with the dawning of a new democracy, the United States has been wrenched apart. It will take a lot more than the optimistic words of a new president to bring it back together again. I'll keep my eye out for news from my old friends in Colorado.

Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Trump To Bolsonaro To Salvini: A Populist Aversion To Face Masks

MILAN — In our pandemic times, face masks are politics. Last Thursday, the debate arrived with fury at the Culture Commission of the Italian parliament. "I won't be gagged and I won't wear it!" barked Vittorio Sgarbi, a Parliament member from the center-right Forza Italia party. The obligatory face mask policy inside the Parliament, he declared, was "blackmail." Sgarbi's invective followed another incident two days earlier, when the leader of the far-right populist Lega party Matteo Salvini was criticised live on television for posing for selfies without a mask, La Repubblica reports. "Am I allowed to lower the mask to speak to a woman?," he retorted.

Such political hay is stirring around masks in multiple countries, even as a consensus is growing among major scientific institutions that face masks can indeed curb the spread of the coronavirus. The most recent study on the topic — by the Universities of Cambridge and Greenwich — suggests that masks could be more effective than lockdowns to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.

In southwestern Germany, the far-right AfD leader Alice Widel attended a demonstration without a mask, Bild reports. Like her, the hundred or so demonstrators rallied without one, although keeping a distance.

With hugs from Bolsonaro

In Brazil, the country with the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, President Jair Bolsonaro has been attending official events and meetings without a mask, hugging and taking photos with people, according to Correio Braziliense.

trump_mask

Trump tours new face-mask factory but does not wear one. — Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House/ZUMA

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump seems to see masks as a question of pride, and vanity. In an April press conference announcing CDC guidelines that included a recommendation to wear masks, Trump… did not wear a mask: "I don't think I'm gonna be doing it." Later his team publicly mocked Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's nominee for the 2020 presidential election, for wearing one.

Back in Rome, after the scene in the Commission hearing room, Sgarbi was mask-less again before the entire Parliament. The president of Italy's lower house Mara Carfagna ordered him to wear a mask multiple times. When he refused, she sent the parliamentary officers to force him. "Wear it," she said. "We don't have 629 fools here and one intelligent man."

Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: A Modern Plague Tests Modern Religions

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.​

SPOTLIGHT: A MODERN PLAGUE TESTS MODERN RELIGIONS

"As we gather here today …"

Taken from the Christian liturgy, the line rings true for believers around the world of nearly every religion. Some form of gathering, communing, sharing are a central part of the worshippers' relation to the divine, a materialization and anchoring of their faith within a congregation, in good and bad times alike.

What to do then, when COVID-19 and its quarantine restrictions make finding solace together impossible? How will the faith of solitary congregants hold up in the face of an almost biblical plague?

We've seen how coronavirus-led bans on large gatherings have derailed religious rites across creeds: from an eerily deserted Kaaba in Mecca to the Pope conducting his Easter mass in a near empty St. Peter's Basilica, closed synagogues and Hindu temples refusing entry to devotees. And though some stubborn Catholic priests in France and American evangelical pastors defied restrictions this past weekend for Easter, for the time being religion is something that must take place at home, away from fellow devotees.

Some might see the current confinement measures as an opportunity to focus on their personal relationship to the divine. Some may even, as French Protestant weekly Réforme suggests, try their hand at their own, homemade version of rites. Others will simply lose faith.

But the twist to this current historical moment is that many men and women of faith will in fact let reason and scientific facts lead the way. It reverses a time-honored dichotomy between science and religion, where contrary to previous comparable catastrophes — like say, the Plague in 14th-century Europe —we don't see the outbreak as some sort of divine retribution for our sins. Thus obeying government restrictions, be they an obstacle to the due practice of our rites and rituals, is not blasphemy. Scientific proof is no longer irreconcilable with the tenets of one's faith and the population's health is a bonafide case of force majeure.

Better, still — there may be something in it for both science and religion, notes a recent Foreign Policy article entitled "Thou Shalt Practice Social Distancing." Religious leaders opting for an enlightened approach to the pandemic can extol the virtues of "following all the rational requirements of science, while offering faith as a source of hope and inspiration — not as a substitute, but a supplement to reason." And let us say: Amen — and go wash our hands.

— Bertrand Hauger


THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW​

• Toll: Global cases of coronavirus nears the milestone of 2 million.​​​

• Lockdowns extended: French president Emmanuel Macron announces lockdown extension until 11 May. India extends its strict lockdown measures until May 3.​​​

• Race for vaccine: World Health Organisation says there are 70 vaccines in development, with three set to launch trials on humans.​​​

• Trump power play: U.S. president Donald Trump claimed "total" authority on reopening the economy. Governors from both parties were quick to note they have primary responsibility for ensuring public safety in their states.​​​

• Markets rise: Asian shares hit one-month high on better-than-expected Chinese trade numbers and the first signs of European countries opening up after lockdowns.​​​

• Time to vote: South Korea votes in first national election of coronavirus era, with President Moon Jae-in's party expected to get a boost for his handling of crisis.​​​

• Scare tactic: Indonesian village hires a team of spooky "shroud ghosts' to scare people into staying at home.

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Geopolitics

Next On COVID-19 Calendar: Our Summer Vacations At Risk

Quarantines, closed borders, grounded airlines, crowded beaches ... It may be a summer to forget, that we'll always remember.

PARIS — After Spring break and Easter holidays were largely canceled amid lockdown measures and travel bans around the world, should we also start to worry about our summer vacations?

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advised against making plans for the summer, telling Germany daily Bild "no one can make reliable forecasts for July and August at the moment". Across the Atlantic, top U.S. health official, Dr Anthony Fauci said on CBS summer travel "can be in the cards' but only if the country manages to prevent a second wave of infections.

For those looking to travel abroad (maybe you bought tickets months ago?), some countries might not allow tourists to enter at all. According to ABC, Spain, one of the worst-hit countries, is thinking about closing its borders this summer to prevent a second wave, despite the fact that the tourism sector makes up 12% of the country's GDP.

Several countries have already begun to explicitly encourage people to stay closer to home than usual. French cabinet minister Elisabeth Borne said last week: "Now is not the time to buy a ticket to go to the other side of the planet (...) But we can encourage French people to enjoy our beautiful country for the next holidays, which will also help the tourism industry." Australia and Italy are also putting in place incentives for residents to plan domestic holidays, with various bans on international travel potentially remaining in place until 2021.

A deserted beach in Barcelona, Spain — Paco Freire/SOPA Images via ZUMA

And even if borders are slowly reopened and travel restrictions lifted in the coming months, getting to your chosen holiday destination may not be easy. The crisis is taking a huge toll on the airline sector, with some industry analysts forecasting a round of major bankruptcies by May.​ Already, EasyJet's fleet has been grounded to a halt for two weeks in the UK while Air France expects more than 90% of its capacity to remain suspended at least until the end of May.

It's a question of survival for businesses, and responding to a pent-up demand from the public.

CEO of consulting firm Protourisme Didier Arino told Le Figaro that there will be few airplanes in the sky this summer, as "companies are planning to use only 50% of their capacity, for five months." In the U.S., the CDC has extended the No Sail Order for cruise ships carrying more than 250 passengers, for at least until mid-July.

For sun worshipers, after a long winter and months cooped up in quarantine, there is just one thing on their mind: the beach. Italy's Culture and Tourism Minister Dario Franceschini was asked last week if people will be able to go to the beach. "Sure! Of course it depends on how well we follow the (quarantine) measures now," he was quoted in Il Messaggero. "Then we'll let the scientists guide us on the right safety practices to deal with crowds."

Italian news site Linkiesta interviewed Marco Beoni who runs the "La Giunca" beach club in Sabaudia, south of Rome, who expects sunbathers will be itching to get to the seaside. But Beoni is already preparing a whole new approach to welcoming them, including fewer umbrellas to better regulate the space between people, special early hours restricted for senior citizens, repeated disinfecting of tables and beach chairs, as well as required testing of lifeguards and other beach personnel.

It's a question of both the survival of his own business, and responding to a pent-up demand from the public: "What's important is to be there this summer to save our business, " he said. "But we don't want to rush into a reopening, and make sure that all the safety measures are in place." So, you may have your summer after all, though it will be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

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Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: My Apartment Gets Smaller As The Virus Gets Closer

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: LISTENING TO MY APARTMENT WALLS AS CORONAVIRUS GETS CLOSER

Mexican authorities just announced tighter restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. But many here are continuing with business as usual, even as I've been doing all I can do is limit my time outdoors. But that led to an equally frightening prospect: my neighbors. Noise too is contagious, and unlike a virus, it penetrates walls and windows.

Some nights ago my neighbor had a girlfriend over, which later led to music. I was hoping it would mean I'd hear nothing more from that flat but he likes to regale his guests with loud television or soft-rock karaoke from the 1990s. I try to understand my rage toward him: is it his refusal to respect confinement, the very sound of his voice, or Phil Collins? As Jean-Paul Sartre reflects through a character in his play No Exit — on three people stuck together forever in a hotel room: hell is other people.

Noise has always been an issue in apartment blocks in Mexico City. Of course, understanding what noises disturb is not a science. I am indifferent for example to the construction noise that has been going on outside our building for over a year, to neighbors' dogs, or to traffic. I am however intolerant of anything suggesting a celebration inside the building, as I see it as brazen indifference to others. (I do not believe people are blissfully unaware of their neighbors. No noise is innocent). For now, in the battle against the tyranny of modern cheerfulness, I have a pandemic on my side.

Alidad Vassigh


THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: Cases worldwide passes 800,000 mark. Record one-day toll in Spain with 849 deaths, while the US overall death toll rises past 3,000. Italy sees glimmer of hope as number of new infection cases declines, from 1,648 from 3,815 the previous day.

  • Free fall: With two million flights cancelled, the International Air Transport Association estimates the industry will lose $252 billion, an "unprecedented shock".

  • Ugly video: Migrant workers, including women and children, are seen sprayed with disinfectant in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in a new video that sparks nationwide controversy.

  • Amazon workers walk: Strikes in New York to protest the e-commerce giant's handling of COVID-19 safety.

  • Red Bull: Helmut Marko, chief of Red Bull motorsport, wanted the team's drivers to become infected with coronavirus so they could be immune for next season. The idea was dropped.

  • Congo"s ex-president Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango dies at 81 after contracting the virus.
  • Missing Van Gogh: A painting by Vincent Van Gogh was stolen in a museum near Amsterdam that was shuttered because of COVID-19.
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