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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 architect Antoni 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.

The coronavirus pandemic is turning the factor sector upside down
Spain
Alexis Rodríguez-Rata

Long Live Leggings! Deconstructing Pandemic Fashion

The pandemic has caused an overall drop in clothing sales. But is it also changing how we dress? External shocks have had an impact on fashion trends throughout history.

BARCELONA — Bell bottoms were worn in the 1960s and 1970s. Then they disappeared. They returned in the early 2000s, then disappeared again. And now they're back again, suddenly popular among teenagers. Does all fashion just go around in circles? Not always, and especially not right now, say experts.

That's because the coronavirus pandemic is turning the clothing sector upside down — in the short, medium and long term. There is talk of crashing sales and a fundamental break in dress codes. And in the midst of it all, there are a whole lot of leggings.

Since 2007, the sector has seen annual sales drop 10 times, or in every year bar 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019. Sales seemed to be recovering in recent years, in other words. But then along came the pandemic, which appears to have changed everything.

Acotex, one of Spain's main fashion retailing associations, observed an almost 40% fall in the sales of all clothes for men, women and children in 2020, as well as household textiles and accessories. Before the pandemic, these sales had declined by 2%, but fell 89.5% when the lockdown began. They recovered somewhat in June and August before sliding back to a 30% drop over the course of the year.

The changes, however, go beyond just the numbers.

La Vanguardia asked several experts, including Hazel Clark, a specialist in fashion history at New York's Parsons School of Design, about the scope of these shifts. She says the pandemic is causing a drop in sales as people buy simpler, more casual clothes to wear at home, and that when people are shopping for clothes, they're doing so online. Clark also suspects that when it's all said and done, we'll look back at this period as one of historic change.

Alessandra Vaccari, professor of fashion history at IUAV, an arts and design university in Venice and co-author of Time in Fashion, agrees. She believes the pandemic will "greatly influence the future chronologies of fashion," and that modern fashion history may be divided into pre- and post-pandemic phases, as private and domestic spheres gain social importance and earn themselves "a new public identity."

Call it fashion's "aesthetic revenge" alongside historical crises.

But it is not the first time global events have prompted momentous changes in fashion. Transparent bags became popular in the 1980s after a proliferation of terrorist attacks. Jeans became popular after the Vietnam war and the protests of May 1968. Christian Dior's "new look" — with high heels, gloves and generous skirts — arrived after World War II, when textile rationing ended and, as the couturier said, there was a need for "happiness."

Fashion was forced to embrace austerity during World War II, after the glamor of the 1920s, the effervescence of art déco, and the Nazi bid to impose sartorial uniformity. After World War I, female clothes had become more masculine, for practicality's sake and to allow them to work in positions hitherto reserved for men.

The current debate is about comfort, practicality and functionality — Photo: Nappy

More than a century before, the French Revolution put an end to old fashions and the citoyens, with their new rights and duties, decided to ditch the corset. Vaccari says feminine fashion immediately following the revolution "offers an excellent example, with the Directory's white, narrow dresses and elevated waistlines. They were so light as to be scandalously transparent. They were undoubtedly a historic leap, though the aim wasn't a new image. The intention was to revive the tunics of ancient Greece or Rome."

She says female emancipation expressed itself in the first decade of the 20th century with a revival of the Directory's fashions.

Clark says fashion may change in response to shock events, but a better way of looking at it would be to see it as a reflection of its time. La Vanguardia"s fashion correspondent Joana Bonet calls it fashion's "aesthetic revenge" alongside historical crises.

The idea of the historic shock affects views on fashion historiography.

So does fashion revolutionize itself every time there is a historical shock? "It changes by definition," says Vaccari. "Without changes there would be no fashion."

But the idea of the historic shock, she believes, affects views on fashion historiography. Some think fashion simply follows history and is limited in its ability to forge historical change. Others see it as a transformative agent in history (it has a role for example in current debates on gender or sustainability). Finally, says Vaccari, there is the opinion that "fashion change is abstract or illusory and would not mix with history. According to the latter view, everything would change to stay the same."

The current debate is about comfort, practicality and functionality. Second-hand shops and online retailing are flourishing. Social networking sites set the tone. Bonet summed it up with a fact that is also an example: Loewe of Madrid has discontinued the tie, as there is little demand for them. There will be more such changes. Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele wants to abandon the concept of seasons, and is cutting them to two a year.

Javier Casares, lecturer in Applied Economics at the Complutense university in Madrid, places it in a historical context that, from the point of view of numbers, would be evolutionary. In the 14th and 15th centuries in Europe, China or the Byzantine Empire, he says, fashion was essentially for elites and an expression of hierarchy. Only from 1850, he adds, did clothing "increasingly begin to fit people's wishes, not their bodily needs. In the period 1900-1939, ostentation and extravagance dominated, which was a big boost to the sector. From the 1960s, the unstoppable rise of youth fashion meant fashion's dissemination through the social classes." The permeation he says, is now sideways and geographical, as East and West increasingly dress the same way.

Current changes may thus become global in scope, with big distribution groups acting as their agents and catalysts. Inditex (Zara) has more than 7,000 shops in 202 markets worldwide. Clark calls it one of the world's main purveyors of fast fashion, and of "athleisure" or sports clothing used as casual wear.

This is already a trend in the fashionable districts of big cities like New York, Paris or Tokyo. The question is: Are the new fashions a sign of this particular time, or are they here to stay in a sector that generates 3% of Spain's GDP — a little below banks and insurance?

Cafe Florian reopened in June, but it's future is very much in doubt
Coronavirus
Benjamin Witte

Six Iconic Landmarks That May Be Shuttered By COVID-19

Founded a century (or centuries) ago, these businesses survived world wars and economic depressions. Now the pandemic could close them forever.

PARIS — New York City's Roosevelt Hotel, a midtown mainstay that first opened to the public in the roaring 1920s, is now a not-so-distant memory after closing its doors — permanently — just before Christmas.

Like so many businesses around the world, the nearly century old facility — famous, among other things, as the place where then New York state governor Thomas Dewey erroneously declared victory over President Harry Truman in the 1948 U.S. presidential election — is a victim of the times. The grand old hotel survived the Great Depression but not, as it turns out, the revenue loss caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic and financial costs of the current health crisis are being felt far and wide. But there's something particularly poignant about the demise of businesses that enjoy true landmark status, places that are cultural cornerstones in our communities.

Owners and employees pay the heaviest cost, of course. But for clients, culture and the public as a whole, what's at stake in each case is also a tangible piece of history that, once gone, is gone for good:

Is the festa in Venice over forever?

By the time the Roosevelt Hotel opened, in 1924, Venice's venerable Café Florian had already been going strong for more than 200 years. And this past December, it officially reached the three-century mark. That's a lot of candles!

But rather than mark the milestone with some kind of celebratory festa, all was eerily quiet. Sadly, the doors of Café Florian's elegant lounge — whose famous clients included Nietzsche, Grace Kelly and Margaret Thatcher — were closed to the public, as ordered by the government. More troubling still is that they could remain that way even if Italy's current lockdown measures are lifted.

"We pay around a million (euros) a year in rent to a private landlord and the State. The private sector has exempted us from half of the part of it, the State nothing," the owner told La Vanguardia. "We will stay open as long as we can, but more than that we cannot guarantee."

A Mexican treasure

Across the Atlantic, the pandemic has also forced the closure — for now at least — of another historic hangout spot with a penchant for attracting celebrity guests.

Mexico City's Sálon Los Angeles, the country's oldest dance hall, was founded in the 1930s during the height of the swing and Charleston dances, and its famous patrons include Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky and Celia Cruz.

The ballroom was redecorated in the late 1940s — the era of chachachá and mambo — with mirrored columns and neon colors. Then owner Miguel Nieto Hernández also gave the sálon its iconic motto: "Who does not know Sálon Los Angeles, does not know Mexico."

And yet, there's real concern now that the place may not survive. Current owner Miguel Nieto is struggling to keep up with expenses, despite receiving some aid money from the government. Dedicated customers are also helping in the form of small donations. "In the Sálon Los Angeles, we have learned that we must live life as intensely as if we were to die tomorrow and as prudently as if we were going to survive," Nieto told the Mexican daily El Universal.

The meter is running in London

Survival is also the name of the game these days for London's iconic black cabs, which were facing an existential crisis even before the pandemic due to stiff competition from ride-hailing apps like Uber.

Now, with few tourists and many Londoners working from home, they're struggling even more. According to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, the number of active black cab licenses has fallen from more than 18,000 to just over 14,300 since June.

London black cab — Photo: Hanno Rathmann

The so-called "army of black cabs' is now pinning its hopes on the UK's vaccine rollout — and in more ways than one. As reported in the Financial Times, drivers are offering fixed price-rides for vulnerable and elderly to medical centers.

So far it's unclear if the government will take them up on the offer. The other question mark is just how long the classic cabs can hold out. "I can't even begin to describe it to you; dead is underplaying it," Howard Taylor, a taxi driver for 33 years, told the newspaper. "The city is bereft, it is desolate. It is like tumbleweed."

Going down the drain in Hungary

London isn't the only place lamenting the loss of tourists. Hungary is hurting too, especially its network of thermal baths, which have been an integral part of the country's culture since the Romans invaded.

Now, with border closures limiting the number of foreign visitors, and older clients reluctant, for safety's sake, to return, as many as two thirds of these spas might be facing closure.


"By the summer, 40% of our yearly revenue was gone, and by the end of the year, 70% of the revenues will disappear at some of the spas," Attila László Boros, head of the Hungary Spa Association, told the Chinese media outlet CGTN. Estimates are that of the 18,000 people employed in the industry, up to 4,700 face layoffs.

A San Francisco treat

Across the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has also pushed countless restaurants over the proverbial precipice, including the famous Cliff House Restaurant in San Francisco, California.

Known for its stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, the iconic eatery weathered many storms since it first opened more than 150 years ago. It even caught fire — twice — including once on Christmas Day.

But what it couldn't cope with, in the end, was the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Unable to sell it's high-priced seafood, the Cliff House closed its doors for good last month. More than 100 gathered to watch the restaurant's iconic sign being taken down. Somewhere, Mark Twain, who dined there on multiple occasions, is turning in his grave.

The future of the building itself is unclear, and will depend on the National Park Service, which had leased the land to the Cliff House owners since the 1970s.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is lobbying for the structure to be preserved. In a statement, she encouraged "the National Park Service to explore all possible opportunities to maintain the historic role of this building as a restaurant and visitor destination. Our history is too important to set aside so readily."

True indeed. Even if responding to today's emergency is the first priority, we should remember that history can never be rewritten.

Walking past a closed Chinese shop in Madrid's Usera district
Spain
Laura Aragó

The Multiple Faces Of Spain's Shifting Immigration Map

From Moroccan migrants to British pensioners, Spain has plenty of foreign-born residents. Each group differs, however, in terms of where and how they concentrate upon arrival.

BARCELONA — Mare Nostrum Avenue in Almería, a mid-sized city in southern Spain, is a dividing line between two realities. On one side, half the residents were born in Morocco; on the other, more than 98% of the population are native Spaniards. Likewise, the city center of Mazarrón, an hour-and-a-half drive up the coast, has little in common wth the surrounding suburbs, an expanse of detached homes where 60% of residents are British. And then there's Madrid's Usera neighborhood, which has developed a distinctly Asian profile: It's now home to 25% of the capital's registered Chinese residents.

Almería, Mazarrón and Usera are just three examples of the residential and communal segregation that divides Spain's territory into different realities and highlights growing inequalities. Typically, a community is segregated from the rest of the population when recently arrived members have fewer options in obtaining credit to access housing, as well as because of racism in the housing market.

While the situation in Spain is not comparable to ghettos in the United States or the Paris banlieue, there is a separation of national communities in Spain. The Moroccan community, as the largest and oldest among immigrant groups, is the most studied in terms of its segregation.

The autonomous communities of Catalonia and Andalusia together host more than 45% of the approximately 934,000 Spanish residents born in Morocco. Not surprisingly, it's also in those regions that the greatest contrasts are seen.

Along Almeria's Mare Nostrum avenue — Photo: Google Street View

As with other groups, economics is the decisive factor for Moroccans when it comes to residential location. Jordi Bayona, a researcher at the Center for Demographic Studies at Barcelona's Autonomous University says "foreigners follow very similar patterns to the rest of the population, and like any other group, find it very difficult to enter the highest-income neighborhoods."

This, he says, is due to economic restrictions and is exacerbated if there is a "white flight" process, whereby locals start moving away as more foreigners move into their district. Juan Carlos Checa, a geography professor at Almería University who studies residential segregation in Spain, observes that U.S. academics have fixed 22% foreign residents as "the inflection point when locals begin moving to other parts of the city with fewer foreigners."

Economics is also an enabling factor.

But economics is not merely restrictive. It can also be an enabling factor. Money is precisely the element that allows aging foreigners from the EU, as well as Britons, to isolate themselves on the Mediterranean coast, in gated communities where they spend their retirement years.

Spain is home to nearly 270,000 people born in the United Kingdom. More than half are distributed between Alicante, Murcia, Almería and Málaga. German and Danish pensioners have also moved to Spain in large numbers.

To understand other foreign communities, one must bear in mind that the smaller the community, the easier it is for contrasts within it to raise the segregation level. In academic terms, a group's segregation index is obtained by calculating a migrant group's numbers in any census sector, and comparing the figure with that community's proportional size throughout a locality.

That, Bayona explains, is why there are higher concentration levels among residents of Chinese or Pakistani origins than Moroccans, as the latter are evenly distributed. The same applies to Latin Americans whose characteristics and shared language aid a more even spread.

The Chinese community, which is 10th in Spain in terms of size, is especially concentrated in large urban areas like Madrid and Barcelona. And within those two cities, the community is mostly concentrated in specific neighborhoods.

In Malleu, Spain, boasts a strong Moroccan community — Photo: Google Street View

In Madrid, the epicenter is the Usera district, which some geographers have termed an "ethnic enclave." Usera's demographics contrast sharply with the rest of the city where — with the exception of the central part of Lavapies — the presence of Chinese immigrants is irrelevant in percentage terms.

In Barcelona, the pattern is repeated in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, where in a number of census sectors, people of Chinese origin represent the largest group of foreigners, constituting up to 30%. Likewise, the Pakistani community living in Sant Roc in Badalona is much more numerous than anywhere else in the Barcelona metropolitan area.

The arrival of nationals of other countries has in turn led to overlaps within domestic migratory flows, with some notable results. After more than 30 years of steady depopulation, an emptied Spain has become a fertile ground for this type of phenomenon.

Torre del Burgo, near the city of Guadalajara, attained sudden fame in January 2019 when the census revealed it to be the district with the most foreign residents. Almost 90% of its inhabitants were, and remain, born outside Spain. The vast majority (83%) are Bulgarians, drawn here by jobs in green asparagus farming. Demand for work has also impacted demographics in the neighboring village of Heras de Ayuso, where 40% of the population is Bulgarian.

The district of Fuente del Olmo de Fuentidueña, north of Segovia, has seen a similar process. The multinational Planasa works 120 greenhouses there for endives and other vegetables, and a shortage of farming hands drew about 90 Romanians, now more than half the district's residents.

The National Institute of Statistics counts all these foreigners as official residents in their given district, though that does not mean they are there throughout the year. Farming activities are seasonal, and when they end, many move to other provinces looking for work.

Migration can also produce more peculiar situations.

The International Labor Organization estimates that migrant workers make up 73% of all migratory flows worldwide. Spain itself sends out an average 67,000 work-seekers a year, based on average figures of the past decade.

Migration can also produce more peculiar situations, such as when relatives of those who emigrated in the past return as immigrants. That is precisely what has occurred in Avión, A Lama and Beariz in Galicia, which have relatively high concentrations (15-30%) of Latin Americans, especially from Brazil and Mexico.

One of those is the Mexican tycoon Olegario Vázquez Raña, a descendent of Galician emigrants who currently runs the successful Ángeles consortium and maintains a summer home in Avión, one of Spain's most prosperous districts. The higher proportion of Latin Americans in Avión is exceptional, even across Spain.

Bayona points out that compared to Pakistanis or even Moroccans, Latin Americans don't tend to live in such high concentrations. Sharing the Spanish language is one reason, but it also has to do with how heterogeneous Latin Americans are in socio-economic terms.

Masks for all ages
BUSINESS INSIDER

Third Wave Coming: How We’re Getting Smarter About COVID-19

PARIS — With much of the world trying to minimize the impact of a COVID-19 second wave, governments are again forced to make impossible choices between relaxing restrictions to avoid total economic implosion or staying shut down to limit death tolls. Even countries typically mentioned as pandemic role models, like South Korea, are seeing a resurgence of cases.

But perhaps the grimmest news of the second wave is that many experts say we're bound for a third wave.

We know little about how things will play out, especially as hopeful results continue to arrive from several major vaccine efforts. But the logistical challenge of deploying a global vaccination effort means there's a real risk of a third wave arriving well before the virus is defeated. Others say that the next surge would be better characterized as a second installment of a drawn-out second wave.

Either way, the West is unlikely to go into crippling lockdowns again given the depth of economic damage caused by previous efforts to contain infections. What we do have is nine months of gained experience of grappling with the pandemic, and from that, governments have learned important lessons and fashioned new tools for minimizing the impact of the crisis in the months ahead. Here's a look at some of the progress that's been made:

Better knowledge of the virus

Treatments Three major vaccines have been developed and moved into final approval phase, with the UK set to deploy this month. But as we wait, the medical community has been testing and repurposing existing drugs and studying their effect on health, mortality and length of hospitalizations. Some show promise:

• A recent WHO worldwide study (conducted on 11,266 adult patients, across 500 hospitals in more than 30 different countries) reported that the steroid dexamethasone, used as a last resort among the most serious cases requiring oxygen, reduced mortality rates by up to one-third.

President Trump's hospitalization, in the United States, shed light on an experimental treatment using a combination of two synthesized "monoclonal" antibodies to boost the natural immune response of patients. U.S. officials have granted emergency authorization for the treatment — though the WHO remains unsure about the method.

• According to CNN, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu from Texas could help deliver another potential COVID-19 treatment. Using in-silico methodology, she developed a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to attach to human cells, infect them and replicate.

• Health professionals and authorities around the world have learned just how crucial timely diagnoses and treatments are. We now know that it's critical to act fast in symptomatic cases, while asymptomatic or only lightly affected patients can quarantine at home.

Viral load - One question researchers have sought to explain is why hospitals and ICU admissions dropped drastically over the summer. The going theory now is that when people receive lower doses of the virus, largely due to social distancing and wearing a mask in public spaces, their bodies are able to fight it and develop immunity more quickly. And the smaller the viral dose people carry, the less infectious they are. The hypothesis is backed by several studies, according to the The Washington Post, but more research is needed to confirm it, especially about how the viral load may impact the severity of the infection.

Masking up in Frankfurt — Photo: 7C0

Prevention is the best cure, but how?

The right tracking - The faster a cluster can be identified, the better the chances of containing the spread. Countries like South Korea have been praised for their streamlined responses to new cases, made possible through extensive contact tracing systems using both manual and digital methods. Many countries have tried to copy that approach, launching smartphone apps that rely on Bluetooth and geolocation to identify and notify people who might have become infected.

• In Germany, the Corona-Warn-App has been downloaded approximately 22 million times but only around 60% of users who have tested positive for Corona upload their findings onto the app, meaning that the people they have come into contact with aren't duly informed of the risk.

• In Finland, an app launched at the start of September became one of Europe's most popular with 1 million downloads in the first 24 hours, as reported by AP. It now has 5.5 million users and counting.

• Across the EU, three out of the 23 member states with a contact-tracing app have switched on cross-border interoperability: Germany's Corona-Warn-App, the Republic of Ireland's COVID-19 tracker, and Italy's Immuni app. Any user traveling from and to these countries can now receive exposure notifications through their national app, without downloading the local one.

Up to the test - Several countries have carried out massive testing campaigns. But the results of the standard PCR tests take up to 4-5 days to arrive, limiting their ability to prevent infected people spreading the virus further. Several labs worldwide have developed antigen tests that work just like the PCR-tests but produce results much more quickly (15 to 30 minutes).

• In the United States, Abbot Laboratories, the only one manufacturing rapid tests, received emergency authorization in August to put them on the market. At the end of September, Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million of them.

• The WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered to reach volume guarantee agreements with Abbott and SD Biosensor to make 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests available to low- and middle-income countries.

On air - Unlike during the first wave, we now know that the virus can be airborne and thus ventilation of potentially infected places is key, with new studies suggesting that the virus can survive in the air for as long as eight minutes. This summer, the WHO issued new recommendations regarding ventilation in public spaces.

Germany will reportedly invest 500 million euros to help schools, offices, museums, entertainment halls, and other public buildings upgrade their ventilation systems.

Buenos Aires province will ban using air conditioning in hospitality venues around primary tourist spots during seasonal holidays, El Tribuno reports.

• In Spain, the Ministry of Education and Employment of the Junta de Extremadura issued clarifications to educational centers in preparation for winter, advising for a "balance" between ventilation to minimize the spread, "adequate" air conditioning to keep a decent temperature, and "adequate" clothing for pupils to stay warm.

Finding new indicators

Back in April, studies pointed out that traces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) of COVID-19 could be found in wastewater. The information was at first explored as a potential new source of contamination but it is now used for wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), a powerful tool to trace the circulation of a virus in a community and estimate its prevalence and geographic distribution. It is particularly useful to monitor asymptomatic infections, which often slip under the radar of clinical surveillance. Wastewater analysis can help locate potential clusters by detecting the virus from 24 hours up to six days before the first symptoms appear.

• In Madrid, Spain, the regional government implemented a method for collecting samples along the city's 15,000-kilometer sanitation network. The action helped the city predict hospitalization rates several days in advance, La Vanguardia reports.

• In late July, maritime-firefighters from the dedicated COMETE unit in Marseille, France predicted an outbreak that only became clinically measurable in early August. The unit recently started collecting more targeted samples in nursing homes to test the residents' environment without exposing them.