Welcome to Wednesday, where North-South Korea ties keep improving, the investigation on U.S. Capitol riots is off to an emotional start and a Fiji politician is delighting Twitter users. Meanwhile from Germany, Die Welt"s Marlen Hobrack helps us deconstruct the twisted logic behind the feminist defense of prostitution.
• North-South Korea rapprochement continues: A day after restoring hotlines South and North Korea, the two countries are discussing reopening a joint liaison office that was demolished by Pyongyang last year. According to South Korea government sources, a summit to restore relations is also being discussed.
• First day of Capitol riot inquiry: Four police officers gave their emotional, first-hand accounts of the Capitol riots, at the opening hearing of the congressional panel investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee also shared never-before-seen footage of protesters storming onto the Senate floor.
• Ecuador revokes Julian Assange citizenship: An Ecuadorian court ruled in favor of revoking the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The decision nullifies Assange's status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador, which was granted to him in 2017 by then President Lenín Moreno. Assange's lawyer said he would appeal the ruling.
• COVID-19 update: With the Delta variant surging, U.S. President Joe Biden said plans requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated are "under consideration." Meanwhile in the UK, plans to end the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals coming from the U.S. or amber-listed EU countries are to be announced later. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has said it will impose a three-year travel ban on citizens who travel to countries listed as "red" by the Kingdom.
• At least 18 die in India bus crash: At least 18 migrant workers were killed after a truck crashed into their bus early Wednesday morning. The bus, which was "overloaded beyond its capacity," was being fixed after its engine broke down in the Barabanki district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
• Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics: U.S. gymnast Simone Biles has pulled out from the individual all-around final at the Tokyo Games. The four-time Olympic gold medallist said she wanted to focus on her mental wellbeing, a decision praised by fellow athletes. It is unclear whether Biles will participate in next week's gymnastics events.
• Fiji politician discovers Twitter: Pio Tikoduadua, a leading opposition MP from Fiji, is gaining online fame after his awkward start on Twitter. Among other things, he had to be told what "OG" means (he assumed it was short for "Old Girl").
German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung"s front page features yesterday's blast at an industrial park in Leverkusen, western Germany, which killed at least 2 people and injured 31. Several people are still missing and an investigation has been launched into the cause of the explosion.
Really? The feminist case against prostitution
Some feminists celebrate women who sell sex, claiming they are the pinnacle of self-determined empowerment. If that were true, millions of men would be queuing up for such a dream job, Marlen Hobrack writes in Die Welt. Those who defend sex work, she continues, are missing the point:
Criticizing the sex industry does not equate to disparaging or patronizing sex workers. Quite the opposite. It also doesn't mean painting all sex workers as victims of abuse and violence. It is possible for well-intentioned people to support sex work and mistake this stance for liberalism. But it's not possible as a feminist, without getting tangled up in a web of contradictions. Feminists who support sex work ignore the fact that this industry is indisputably gendered and exists within a patriarchal framework.
What are the feminist arguments in favor of sex work? There is only one: self-determination. Whatever a woman freely chooses must be good, according to popular feminism. It's clear, however, that this argument relies on a twisted logic, because women can of course make choices that are damaging. The suggestion of freedom is even more problematic. Doesn't feminism constantly remind us that we do not live in a vacuum? That there are forces, pressures, expectations and societal gender roles acting on us at all times?
If we are to take seriously the argument that sex work is simply another kind of work, then we must talk about what belongs to the world of work: safety regulations and employers' responsibility to check their workers' documentation, for example. Complaints about bureaucracy are a regular refrain among freelancers and businesspeople. If the "oldest profession in the world" wants to step out of the shadows, it must also be subject to this bureaucracy.
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According to a study from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, the Netherlands is the country in Europe that boasts the highest number of electric vehicle charging points, with 66,665 installations reported in 2020 — a surprising fact for the relatively small country. The study also found that 70% of public charging points are concentrated in just three countries in Europe (the Netherlands, France and Germany), highlighting the difficulty for some member countries to reach their electric mobility goals.
"Seditious' sheep: inside Hong Kong's crackdown on children's books
The Hong Kong National Security Police was on the move again recently, although this time the surprising target was a series of children's stories.
On July 22, authorities arrested five people over conspiring to publish seditious publications. The accused, all relatively young (between the ages of 25 and 28), are members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, as Hong Kong-based media The Initium reports. The operation against them marks the first time the National Security Law has been used to target stories directed at children.
The three books in question center around an imaginary village of sheep. The most recent, titled Dustman of the Sheep Village, was published in March and is accused of alluding to last year's Hong Kong medical workers' strike; the other two, Guardians of the Sheep Village and Twelve Warriors of the Sheep Village, was blamed for making direct links to the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill movement in 2019 and the detainment of 12 Hong Kong residents in 2020. Authorities say the books are "creating hatred and instilling anti-government ideas among children."
In a press conference, Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department, explained in detail why the books are considered "illegal": The characters in the story, wolves and sheep, respectively symbolize mainlanders and Hong Kongers, local news website Stand News quotes Li as saying. By portraying wolves as "dirty," he said, the book implies that mainlanders are responsible for introducing "viruses to Hong Kong."
Li also said that the images of sheep fighting wolves and of sheep being eaten up by wolves are an attempt to incite violence and hatred against the regime. "Sheep are gentle animals, but highlighting that they can attack is publicizing violence," he said.
Li urged bookstores to hand in remaining copies to the police, and encouraged owners of the books to destroy their copies. Teachers, he added, are forbidden from using books for educational purposes.
"This isn't about criticizing the government," Li explained. "It's that actions, books and so on, should never make people hate the government."
When asked whether political fables such as George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm would be illegal in Hong Kong, Li responded that he had read the latter and thinks it is different from the children's books in question.
This is how I'm going to die.
— Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell told a Congressional committee at the opening hearing of the investigation into the Jan. 6 riots in Washington. Gonell and three other officers gave emotional testimonies of the insurrection and the trauma the violence led to.