A Game With No Winners
September 1, 2021
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“There should be no discrimination against languages people speak, skin color, or religion.” — Malala Yousafzai
A Game With No Winners
The full text of China’s National Security Law for Hong Kong was kept secret from almost everyone, but since the law was enacted, the city’s government has used new powers to arrest dozens of opposition figures and journalists, eject pro-democracy lawmakers, oust activist teachers, demand civil servants sign loyalty oaths, disband student groups for advocating “political propaganda,” close down independent news sources, and stifle dissent at every opportunity. The city’s judicial independence has been quashed, and its electoral system overhauled to make sure only “patriots” govern.
In 2017, Hong Kong was announced as host of the 11th Gay Games to be held in 2022. Being chosen as Asia’s first host for the Games was a nod to Hong Kong’s status as a cosmopolitan city and a relative bright spot in the region for progressive causes. Organizers estimated the city would profit by $128 million. Today, some pro-Beijing lawmakers are vocalizing opposition; Junius Ho Kwan-yiu is leading the crusade. In June, Ho called the Gay Games “disgraceful,” contending that any profit generated from the event would be “dirty money.”
Last week at a council meeting, Ho again warned against the Games. “On the surface, it is about equal opportunities, it is about inclusion. But it does not take a genius to figure out it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that could violate the national security law. Another lawmaker said activists could use the sports and cultural event to promote political causes. A third said while Hong Kong can “tolerate” homosexuality, it mustn’t “promote” it. Before the security law took effect, when the pro-democracy camp still existed in Hong Kong’s legislature, over half of the lawmakers voiced support for LGBT issues, but the activists who would typically push back against attacks like Ho’s are now either behind bars or in exile.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is on record as saying the comments from Ho and others “will unnecessarily divide society” and she’s pledged that her administration would continue to rent out venues to event organizers. But she’s pulled in two competing directions: trying to maintain the city’s global standing while effectuating a Beijing-demanded broad societal re-engineering, including closing avenues of expression for civil society groups. Asked if he worried that the event might be canceled, the founder and co-chair of Gay Games 2022 simply said he hopes the message of “unity in diversity” can “bring people together to withstand any political pressures.” (RTHK News, Reuters, WaPo, South China Morning Post)
Money Heist Or Real Life?
- In a bid to distract law enforcement early Monday, a gang of criminals positioned bombs all over the city of Aracatuba, in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. One man lost both his feet when the devices were detonated. Over 20 heavily armed robbers then used the confusion to target three of the city’s banks, taking hostages in the process.
- The hostages were tied to the roofs and hoods of 10 cars to act as human shields. Police say the robbers had inside information about a large sum of money in one bank, and used drones to monitor the streets as they entered and left the city. Three people died in the incidents, two of them victims and one a suspected robber. Five others were injured; two suspects were apprehended and sent to jail. Almost 400 police officers are now looking for over a dozen suspects who remain at large.
- Two similar bank heists occurred on consecutive days last December in the cities of Cametá and Criciúma. In July, eight armed robbers drove two trucks resembling those used by Brazilian federal police into a cargo terminal at Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport. They took two airport workers hostage and got away with at least $30 million in gold and other precious metals due for shipment to Zurich and New York. The hostages were released unharmed. (CNN)
- Relations between the EU and Belarus have worsened sharply over the past year since President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in an election his opponents and Western countries say was rigged. The EU slapped economic sanctions on Belarus and has accused Lukashenko of deliberately encouraging hundreds of illegal migrants to cross into Poland and the Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania in a form of “hybrid warfare.”
- Poland began building a barbed wire fence last week along the border in an effort to curb the flow of migrants from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan coming through Belarus. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government formally asked President Andrzej Duda to impose a state of emergency for 30 days in parts of two regions.
- That would give Polish authorities the power to restrict the movement of people, including non-governmental organizations in the border areas. Human rights groups strongly criticized Poland’s approach, saying Warsaw must provide more humanitarian aid to those stranded on the border. Morawiecki said the blame lies with the Lukashenko regime that “decided to push these people onto Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian territory in an effort to destabilize them.” (Reuters)
Additional World News
- Taliban declare victory from Kabul airport tarmac after US withdrawal (CNN)
- Split U.N. Security Council urges Taliban to allow travel, aid (Politico)
- Turkish, UAE leaders talk on phone as tensions seem to ease (AP)
- Trudeau Stumbles in Election Gambit, Risking Echo of U.K.’s Theresa May (Bloomberg)
- UN hails end of poisonous leaded gas use in cars worldwide (AP)
- What you need to know about the new COVID-19 variant C.1.2 detected in South Africa (The Hill)
- Down in polls, German CDU vows to fight hard in final campaign stretch (Reuters)
Flori-docking Your Pay
- Three days after a Florida state judge ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates was unconstitutional, the commissioner of Florida’s Department of Education made good on a threat to withhold funding from local school districts that defied the governor’s order. Richard Corcoran announced Monday that the state was withholding funds from Alachua and Broward counties “for their continued violation of state law.” The commissioner said it was the politicians who were failing to uphold the Constitution, and “elected officials cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow.”
- Corcoran said the funds, which amounted to “the monthly school board member salaries,” would continue to be withheld in the two counties until the school districts complied. Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a statement Tuesday she was “very troubled by the state’s action.” Simon said the school board members made “a courageous decision to protect the health and lives of students, staff and the people of this community, and a court has already ruled they had the legal right to do so. They deserve praise, not penalties.”
- Florida continues to lead the nation in hospitalizations for children infected with COVID. The number of new pediatric admissions and total pediatric COVID-19 patients in Florida each hit record highs on Tuesday. DeSantis intends to appeal the court ruling because he believes there is no scientific evidence or medical consensus that universal school masking prevents the spread of the virus among children, and parents should decide whether their child wears a mask or not. (NBC News, News4Jax, AP News)
No Horsing Around
- Ivermectin is an animal dewormer that is not approved for use in people with COVID. But when Julie Smith’s 51-year-old husband got so sick he had to be put into a medically-induced coma, she got a prescription from an Ohio doctor for the anti-parasite medication. When the hospital in West Chester Township, Ohio refused to administer the drug to Jeffrey Smith while he was seriously ill and on a ventilator, Julie filed a lawsuit.
- On August 23, without stating his reasons, Butler County Judge J. Gregory Howard ordered the hospital to administer to Smith 30 milligrams of Ivermectin daily for 21 days. The FDA, the CDC, and the NIH have warned for months against using the drug to treat the coronavirus, saying its use can “cause serious harm.” (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Post-Ida highway collapse kills two, injures up to 10 others (CBS)
- A Lake Tahoe resident played the violin as his family sat at standstill in Caldor Fire evacuation traffic (CNN)
- Tapper presses top Biden aide on Afghanistan: ‘How are you going to get those Americans out?’ (The Hill)
- Trump acolytes poised to push out Senate dealmakers (Politico)
- Oxygen shortage leaves Florida metals producers without key raw material (Axios)
- Newsom has a huge cash advantage in California’s recall vote. It may mean nothing (Guardian)
- These 5 states have less than 10% of ICU beds left as Covid-19 overwhelms hospitals (CNN)
This One Alpacas A Wallop
Veterinary nurse Helen Macdonald owns an alpaca farm in Gloucestershire, England. In 2017, a wooly black alpaca named Geronimo was given a tuberculin vaccine before heading to England with other alpaca traveling companions from New Zealand. He also underwent four skin tests that all came back negative for bovine tuberculosis, an infectious respiratory disease among cattle that can be passed to humans through nasal contact and other bodily fluids like saliva and urine. After the group arrived on British soil, all the alpacas tested negative for bovine tuberculosis except Geronimo.
After his positive test, a warrant was signed for Geronimo’s destruction. Macdonald believed the British test results had returned a false positive because Geronimo had been given that tuberculin vaccine and had developed antibodies in his system. She appealed the ruling, but her appeal was denied. A public campaign began to save Geronimo.
Pressure mounted on the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs to retest the animal. Almost 100,000 people signed a petition calling on the British government to rescind the kill warrant. Macdonald launched a blistering attack on officials, urging them to review what they were ordering. Even Stanley Johnson, the prime minister’s father, joined the fight to save Geronimo, saying “I hope and believe his execution can be avoided even at this late stage.” But it was not to be. On Tuesday, the fuzzy-haired alpaca was put to death. There should absolutely be an Innocence Project for animals. (WaPo)
- A doctor was charged in an opioids scheme. Then he tried to hire a Hells Angel to silence a witness, feds say. (WaPo, $)
- Mormon vaccine push ratchets up, dividing faith’s members (AP)
- A Louisiana Man Is Missing After an Alligator Attacked Him (NYT, $)
- Baby cougar rescued from New York City apartment (Guardian)
- The launch of NASA’s new Landsat 9 satellite has been delayed by a liquid nitrogen shortage (Space)
- Inspiration4 Crew Will Take SpaceX Dragon Higher Into Space Than Anyone’s Gone in Nearly 15 Years (People)
- Can the ‘high heel index’ predict economic growth? (Guardian)
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