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LA VANGUARDIA
La Vanguardia is a leading daily based in Barcelona, published in both Spanish and Catalan. It was founded in 1881.
K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global
Future
Rozena Crossman

K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

Glitchy online museum tours are a thing of the past. From Barcelona to Bollywood, the metaverse is bringing immersive cultural experiences right into our homes.

Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.

While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.

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How Courts Around The World Are Stripping No-Vaxxers Of Parental Rights
Coronavirus
Irene Caselli

How Courts Around The World Are Stripping No-Vaxxers Of Parental Rights

The question of who gets to decide questions around a child's health when vaccines are at play is complicated, and keeps popping up from Italy to Costa Rica to France and the U.S.

It is a parent’s worst nightmare to find out their child needs heart surgery. When it happened to the parents of a two-year-old child in the central Italian city of Modena, there was something extra to worry about: The blood transfusion required for the operation could include traces of the COVID-19 vaccine, which they opposed for religious reasons.

The parents asked the Sant'Orsola clinic in Bologna if they could vet the blood for the transfusion to make sure it hadn’t come from vaccinated donors. When the hospital refused, the parents took it to court, putting their child’s surgery on hold.

The court objected to their decision and temporarily stripped the couple of their parental rights, allowing doctors to go ahead with the transfusion and with the surgery, which took place in early February and was successful.

The court motivated its decision by saying that a parent’s religious belief does not come before a child’s health, reports La Gazzetta di Modena daily. Moreover, there is no scientific proof that the donor’s vaccination status can affect the health of the person receiving the transfusion, added the judge.

Between private rights and public health

The case in Italy is the latest in a series of complicated court decisions regarding parents who are opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations. It is, in some ways, the most complicated anti-vax battle, involving questions over who gets to decide what is in the best interest of a child, who is bound by the law to a parent or legal guardian and cannot decide for themselves.

We’ve seen repeatedly how the pandemic has blurred the sphere between private and public, with courts and medical experts intervening to tell parents the state knows best about a child’s wellbeing. While it is not unprecedented for states and courts to scrutinize what parents do, polarized views about vaccines have been playing out in several court cases involving children.

Several cases have come up of divorced couples who disagreed about the vaccine and ended up in court to decide who should have the final say.

Parents are trying to do what they think is best for their kids

Last year, a judge in Illinois took away a mother’s custody rights because she was unvaccinated, but rescinded the ruling a few weeks later, according to The Chicago Tribune. A New York City judge suspended parental visits for an unvaccinated father unless he got vaccinated or got tested each time he wanted to spend time with his 3-year-old child. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a judge ordered a father to get vaccinated or provide a medical statement explaining why he couldn't.

Visiting rights for the unvaccinated

Attorney Patrick Baghdaserians, who represents the mother in the Los Angeles case, said he was surprised by how far the judge had gone. “I’ve never seen a judge take the next step, which is ... if one of the parents is not vaccinated, that potentially exposes the child to harm,” Baghdaserians told The Los Angeles Times.

In two different cases in Canada, unvaccinated fathers have lost their visitation rights or their custody altogether — in the latter case the child in question is immunocompromised and at risk. A court in British Columbia, Canada, asked an unvaccinated father not to discuss or share anti-vax social media posts with his 11-year-old child.

Family courts in Australia and in Spain are also siding with vaccinated parents in divorce cases — except for a couple of exceptions, including one in Tenerife, Canary Islands, where the judge agreed that the low COVID risk among the youngest family members did not outweigh the unknown long-term effects of the vaccines on children, as reports La Vanguardia.

Studies around the world have concluded that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children, with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommending them for children ages 5 and older, while trials for children up until the age of five are still ongoing.

Protest against vaccine and mask mandates in Tucson, Arizona

Christopher Brown/ZUMA

A terrible position

"Parents are in this terrible position, trying to do what they think is best for their kids, and then fighting with their estranged spouse to try to do what's best for their kids," Ric Roane, a family law attorney in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told CNN.

In several other countries provisions have been put in place to avoid this kind of legal trouble to arise.

For example, in France, the authorization from one parent is enough for children to be vaccinated from the age of five onwards. Initially it was only possible for the age group 12 to 15, but then the parliament approved a law that covers every child, using the health emergency to ground the decision, as the Paris-based daily Libération explains.

Costa Rica became the first country in the world to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all minors

Moreover, France allows young people to go ahead and get the vaccine without parental approval from the age of 16 onwards. This is in stark contrast to countries like Italy, where several underage teenagers are trying to get their families to allow them to get the vaccine, and even contacting lawyers and medical personnel to get their help.

Bioethical questions

Italy’s state-run National Committee for Bioethics also addressed the issue, siding with adolescents. “If the minor's desire to be vaccinated were to conflict with that of the parents, the Committee believes that the adolescent should be heard by medical personnel with pediatric expertise and that his or her wishes should prevail, as they coincide with the best interests of his or her mental and physical health and public health,” it said in a statement.

Last November, Costa Rica became the first country in the world to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all minors from the age of five onwards, except in the case of medical exemptions. If parents refuse, health authorities have the right to allow the vaccination, reports La Nación newspaper. Earlier, in February, a conversation between a father and a doctor resulted in a heated argument and then a fist fight among several people, with the arrest of seven people, reports CNN.

While more than 90% of people between 12 and 19 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the numbers are much lower for children aged 5-12. Some lawmakers in Costa Rica are calling the mandate a “health dictatorship,” but public health expert Roman Macaya Hayes, who heads the Costa Rican Social Security Institute, declared that "the collective good supersedes the rights of the individual.” For any parent, it’s the hardest pill to swallow.

Black and white photo showing someone looking by the widow
Coronavirus
Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

Why The COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis Is Hitting Teenage Girls The Hardest

A growing number of studies around the world show that COVID and lockdown restrictions have prompted a disproportionate increase in mental health illness and suicide attempts among adolescent females.

Catherine Zorn had struggled through her youth with mental health until discovering a passion for dance that helped suicidal thoughts and panic attacks largely disappear. “Then the pandemic ripped away her lifeline. In March 2020, her dance school shut down.” So begins an article by Rose Wong and Kailyn Rhone for the Tampa Bay Times, about how COVID-19 has brought a rise in teen suicide attempts, particularly among girls, in Florida, and elsewhere in the United States.

It is a situation mirrored in other countries around the world, two years since the pandemic sparked lockdowns and school closures, taking away the normal means of socialization for millions of young people at a formative age of their development. And evidence points to a disproportionate impact on teenage girls.

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A Visit To Shusha, A Ghost City Marked By Culture And Ethnic Cleansing
Geopolitics
Jordi Joan Baños

A Visit To Shusha, A Ghost City Marked By Culture And Ethnic Cleansing

The capture of the city sealed last year's Azerbaijani victory against the Armenians — the latest change of control after a century of war and ethnic cleansing.

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Photo of Fabiola da Silva, Brazilian pro inline skater, tying her ponytail
Society
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Rozena Crossman and Jane Herbelin

Meet The Trailblazing Female Athletes Competing With Men

Playing to defeat their male opponents — and gender division in sports.

Whenever a sports team composed of women plays a game, it is referred to as a "women's team." Their male counterparts, however, are simply considered a "team," with no explanatory adjective needed.

This argument has long been invoked when discussing women's secondary place in sports, and the battle is ongoing. Earlier this year, American soccer hero Meghan Rapinoe appeared in Congress to testify about the U.S. Soccer Federation's unequal pay between women's and men's teams.

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photos of a candlelit memorial for slain Russian journalist  Anna Politkovskay
Society
Carl Karlsson

A Nobel For Brave Journalists, And Remembering Those We've Lost

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have won the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight to defend freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.

Ressa, who co-founded the news site Rappler, was commended by the Nobel committee for using freedom of expression to "expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines," while Mr Muratov, the co-founder and editor of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was awarded the prestigious price for decades of work defended freedom of speech in Russia.

The award also came one day after the 15th anniversary of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, one of six Novaya Gazeta reporters who have been murdered since the publication's inception in 1993. It was her deep reporting on the suffering of ordinary people during the first war in Chechnya that first brought global attention and prestige to Novaya Gazeta — and also what cost Politkovskaya her life, shot down as she entered the lift in her apartment block in Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006.

As Muratov dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize he won on Friday to his six colleagues murdered for their work, sadly the risks for those covering conflict and exposing wrongdoing continues. Already in 2021, at least 18 journalists have been killed around the world, including 14 assassinated. Here are some of their stories:

Borhan Uddin Muzakkir 

rsf.org


On February 19, Borhan Uddin Muzakkir, a Bangladeshi correspondent for online news portal Barta Bazar and the Bangladesh Samachar, was shot in the throat while filming street clashes between two factions of the ruling Awami League party, in the Companiganj area of southern Noakhali district. As police and armed demonstrators opened fire during the intra party conflict, at least 50 people were injured and nine were shot.

Muzakkir's father filed a police murder case over the journalist's killing, which led to the arrest of three suspects. However, in late August, the three men were granted a three-month bail by the High Court, according to Bangladeshi daily The Independent. Muzakkir, was 25 years old at the time of his death.

Ricardo Domínguez López

Ifj.org


Ricardo Domínguez López, the founder of news site InfoGuaymas, was shot and killed on July 22 by an unknown assailant using a .38 caliber handgun in a parking lot of a convenience store in the Mexican city of Guaymas.

López had said in a March press conference that he had received death threats from criminal gangs over his reporting, and that he was also subject to a smear campaign by local police — accusing López of having ties to organized crime. The day of the murder was López's 47th birthday.

According to Mexican daily Expansión Política, it was the second murder of a journalist in less than a week, following the killing of Abraham Mendoza outside a gym in Morelia, Michoacán. The publication also noted that at least 139 journalists have been assassinated in Mexico since the year 2000.

Danish Siddiqui 

commons.wikimedia.org


On July 16, Reuters correspondent Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near the border with Pakistan. Siddiqui, 38, was embedded with Afghan special forces at the time of his death, and had told his employer he'd been wounded in the arm by shrapnel earlier that day. Resuming work after receiving medical treatment, Siddiqui was talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked, and was killed in a subsequent crossfire.

In 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh. Siddiqui took this picture of an exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touching the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat. The Reuters photography team of which Siddiqui was a member later won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Roberto Fraile

es.wikipedia.org


On April 26, Roberto Fraile — a Spanish journalist and cameraman — was kidnapped by unidentified attackers along with fellow Spanish journalist David Beriain and Irish conservationist Rory Young while filming a documentary about poaching in Pama, Burkina Faso. The next day, the three were confirmed to have been killed.

According to a statement by the Burkina Faso government, during an excursion the team's convoy came across a position held by terrorists who opened fire. Soldiers from the military escort tried to protect Fraile, Beriain and Young, but the three had disappeared by the time the shooting stopped.

In a tweet the day following the kidnapping, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez extended a recognition of those who "carry out courageous and essential journalism from conflict zones on a daily basis."


In 2012, Fraile — who had worked for 20 years as a cameraman and filmmaker covering corruption, crime, human rights and conflict — was hit by shrapnel from a grenade in the Syrian war and had to undergo emergency surgery in Turkey. According to Spanish daily La Vanguardia, Fraile often used vacations and paid leave from his dayjob at broadcaster Televisión Castilla y Leónto to pursue passion projects like the one that brought him to Burkina Faso. He was 47 years old at the time of his death.

Sulabh Srivastava

rsf.org


On June 13, Sulabh Srivastava, a reporter with Indian broadcasters ABP News and ABP Ganga, was declared dead at a hospital in the Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, shortly after his body was found near a brick kiln. Police initially said Srivastava had died in a motorcycle accident, but reports that he'd written a letter to the police just a day before his death, saying he was feeling threatened, prompted a police investigation.

The threats Srivastava received followed his reporting on a criminal liquor-selling group, according to reports by Indian The Wire. In his complaint, Srivastava said he was being followed and that sources had informed him the criminal outfit was planning to harm him for his coverage. According to New Delhi Television, A photograph of the body - taken at the scene of the "accident" - showed the journalist lying on the ground with what appear to be injuries to his face and his clothes seemed to have been almost entirely removed.

Lokman Slim

commons.wikimedia.org


On February 3, Lebanese political commentator, journalist and activist Lokman Slim went missing after leaving the home of a friend near the town of Niha, south of Beirut. The following day, Slim was found shot dead in his car.

Slim was a prominent columnist and political voice who frequently contributed columns commenting on Lebanese politics and legislation to the French-language daily newspaper L'Orient Le Jour. He was especially known for his stance against the Shia political party and militant group Hezbollah and frequently received threats for his work relating to the group. In December 2019, Slim issued a statement saying that he believed Hezbollah to be fully responsible for threats he had received, and for any future attack on him or his family.

Slim's widow, Monika Borgmann — a German filmmaker who found first her vocation and then her husband in Lebanon — said in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle: "We worked and lived together for 20 years. They may have murdered Lokman, but his work lives on in all of us here."

La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time
food / travel
Laure Gautherin

La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Gaudí.

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architectAntoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

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Murder Of A Spanish Bear Leads To Bust Of Colombian Cocaine Ring
WHAT THE WORLD
Laure Gautherin

Murder Of A Spanish Bear Leads To Bust Of Colombian Cocaine Ring

A major bust last week of a Colombian-led narcotics ring deep in the Spanish Pyrenees led to the arrest of 12 people, the seizure of two kilograms of cocaine and the discovery of the laboratory where the drug was processed. Police say they discovered the traffickers while on the trail of the killer of a brown bear.

Both pro- and anti-bear associations in Spain remember well the death of Cachou the Bear, whose body had been found last April at the bottom of a ravine in the eastern region of Catalonia. Known to be responsible for several attacks on livestock, the brown bear had many enemies among the locals, and murder was quickly suspected. The theory was confirmed when the autopsy revealed that it had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, a toxic antifreeze used in car coolants.

An investigation was open, which included secret wiretapping of half a dozen people suspected in the death. Hoping to record conversations about the killing of the bear, the investigators instead stumbled on to even more juicy discussions about cocaine purchases and a laboratory where cocaine paste imported from Colombia was processed into ready-to-use doses. Among the suspects arrested last week is a mayor of the region.

"It is as if the animal, in gratitude for the effort (of investigators) responded to them with the alleged organization of drug traffickers," an official source told Barcelona-based La Vanguardia.

And what about justice for Cachou? The primary suspect, a forest ranger of the Aran Valley, had been arrested back in November. Still, like with the battle against international drug traffickers, that investigation continues.