Welcome to Friday, where the coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000 in Africa, the Myanmar coup protests record the first casualty and NASA's Mars rover sends its first picture of the Red Planet. We also look at how the lack of internet access is preventing minorities in the United States from getting the COVID vaccine.
• Myanmar coup protests: Mya Thweh Thweh Khine, 20, has died ten days after she was shot in the head by government forces during protests against the recent military coup. The UK and Canada have announced sanctions on military businesses and other officials.
• U.S. opens to Iran nuclear talks: The White House has agreed to restart negotiations with Iran alongside European allies over the nuclear deal that former President Trump had pulled out of. President Joe Biden will also meet for the first time with G7 allies to discuss democracy and diplomacy, bearing a $4 billion gift to the World Health Organization's COVAX global vaccine project.
• Shots fired in Somalia: Heavy gunfire erupted during a protest in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, after weeks of tension over its disputed presidential election. In recent weeks, the U.S. Navy seized smuggled weapons off the Somali coast, while at least two car bombs have detonated and one suidice attack targeted the PM.
• NASA rover lands on Mars: The NASA Perseverance rover safely landed on Mars last night after a 292.5 million-mile journey that lasted more than six months.
• Uber loses in UK Supreme Court: Britain's highest court confirms a landmark decision against ride-sharing app Uber, ruling that the company's drivers have employee status.
• Romantic getaway without privacy: A five-star hotel on the popular resort island of Jeju in South Korea published an apology after honeymooners ended up in therapy following their discovery that the women's sauna was visible from the street.
Daily The West Australian devotes its front page to the row between Australia and Facebook, after the tech giant blocked users' news feed in response to a proposed law that would force the platform to pay for news content.
The tech divide is shutting minorities off from vaccines
Reporters and scholars have written about the effects of lack of internet access in rural areas in the U.S. and developing countries, but they have paid less attention to the harm of lack of internet access in racial and ethnic minority communities in major cities. For researchers Tamra Burns Loeb, AJ Adkins-Jackson and Arleen F. Brown, writing in The Conversation, this explains why these communities have been left behind in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Access to the internet is essential during a pandemic. This has been particularly true as the vaccine has been rolled out. Signing up for the vaccine has predominantly occurred online. This means that far fewer older adults from under-resourced racial and ethnic minority communities have been able to make appointments. In 2018, more than one in four Medicare beneficiaries had no digital access at home. Those without digital access were more likely to be 85 or older, members of racial or ethnic minority communities and from low-income households.
Now, it appears that internet access is emerging as a new and troublesome determinant of health. This appears to be particularly true for under-resourced racial and ethnic minority communities and aging populations. Many advocacy groups and public health experts have begun to see internet access as a fundamental civil rights issue.
To address the internet gap, we believe that policymakers must identify the lack of internet access as a barrier and protect against its effects. This could include reserving vaccines in under resourced racial and ethnic minority communities for residents and designating senior hours for those 65 and older.
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Fishermen in Yemen strike gold with whale vomit discovery
It's a modern tale with a rich and fragrant whiff of Jonah and the Whale, when a group of Yemeni fishermen made the catch of their lives this week in the Gulf of Aden.
After a large, dead whale was spotted floating in the waters of the coast of Yemen, 37 fishermen helped drag it ashore, the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reported. But what they found in the belly of the beast could make them incredibly rich in one of the world's poorest countries: a giant blob of un-expelled and very valuable vomit.
Known as ambergris, the waxy substance is used to make high-end perfumes. And as gross as it may sound, it's literally worth its weight in gold.
Last year, a fisherman in Thailand made headlines when he came across about 100 kilograms (220 lbs) of the stuff washed up on a beach. London's The Daily Mail estimated that the find to be worth some 2.4 million pounds ($3.3 million).
The chunk discovered in Yemen is reported to be larger still — weighing nearly 130 kilograms (287 lbs) — and perfume makers have already made offers to buy it. But in a war-torn country where the average annual income is just $800, the ambergris is also a serious source of stress.
"We want to strike a deal to sell it as soon as possible because the longer it stays the more challenging the situation will become," one of the lucky fishermen told The National. "We have already had a big quarrel over how the money should be shared."
➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com
LeBron James became the third NBA player to pass 35,000 career points, and youngest player to reach the milestone. He now trails 1,911 behind Karl Malone and 3,370 behind fellow Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Getting vaccinated is a moral duty.
— Israel Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announces new regulations of domestic vaccine IDs, moving in the direction of a two-tier system for freedoms afforded to the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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