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AUGUST 26, 2020
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The Good News

SEASONED NUTS: QUOTABLE
“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

— Frederick Douglass

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

— Elie Wiesel

IN A NUTSHELL: MUST READ
Chained in Xinjiang

(Liu Xin via Getty Images)

In July, rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the far western region of Xinjiang sparked fears that the outbreak could reach the secretive internment camps where China is believed to be holding more than a million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities. 57 new cases were reported by the end of that month, bringing the overall total to a reported 235 cases. The infections appeared to take hold in the capital city of Urumqi, and spread to Kashgar, about 186 miles away.

Chinese officials took drastic steps to quash the spread of the virus. Urumqi residents have been in a “wartime state” of lockdown for weeks, confined to their homes, and ordered to take a Chinese herbal medicine called Lianhua Qingwen, a remedy promoted as a treatment for COVID-19. Some complained of being chained to buildings when they tried leaving their homes, while one person was reportedly kept in a quarantine center for two months and forced to take the medicine.

Internet users posted videos online purportedly showing residents screaming from their apartment windows in frustration. One residential compound posted an online warning saying anyone who participated in the “roaring” activity on August 23 had committed an “illegal act.” Other posts threatened residents that everything from social credit rating to their children’s school admissions could be affected by continued misconduct.

Concerned citizens posted notices from their residential compounds ordering all occupants to stop using or to delete their Weibo accounts due to the “release of bad information.” Hashtags related to Xinjiang and Urumqi were blocked over the weekend; some users claimed they were made to post positive messages about the city’s response to the virus.

Other users managed to upload images and posts to Twitter, and to a different forum called Douban. One user wrote on Weibo in a thread that was later deleted: “When things reach a certain point, the voice of the public cannot be suppressed. If it is blocked in one place, it will move to another. If blocked there, it will move again and new ways will be found. Collective memory cannot be erased.”

Urumqi had documented more than 531 cases by mid-August, but has not reported any new cases in eight consecutive days.

MIXED NUTS: QUICK TAKES ON WORLD NEWS
No Mo’ Polio

  • An independent body, the Africa Regional Certification Commission, has declared Africa free from wild polio. Two out of three strains of wild poliovirus have been eradicated worldwide.
  • Less than a decade ago, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all global cases; on Tuesday Nigeria became the continent’s last nation to be declared free of the virus.
  • Poliovirus spreads by ingestion of fecal matter through contaminated water or food; humans are the only natural hosts. People of any age can become infected, but children age 5 or younger are at greater risk. The disease can lead to irreversible paralysis and even death when breathing muscles are affected.
  • There is no cure, but the polio vaccine protects children for life. Twenty-five years ago thousands of children in Africa were paralyzed by the virus. Now more than 95 percent of Africa’s population has been immunized. Today the disease is only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (BBC)

Gucci Belt and Road Initiative

  • Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met for talks in Rome on Tuesday at the beginning of Wang’s visit to Europe, which includes stops in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. The men appeared at a news conference after their meeting, where Di Maio told reporters that China was a key strategic partner for his country.
  • Italy was the first major Western economy to join China’s international infrastructure project — the Belt and Road Initiative — when it signed a raft of accords in 2019. So far, however, the move has yielded little for Italy. Di Maio described his meeting with Wang as “very fruitful,” and added that they had discussed how to “relaunch (our) strategic partnership from the economic and industrial view point.”
  • This new rapprochement appears to put Italy at odds with the US. Not only does President Trump blame China for the spread of COVID-19, but he wants to restrict the global development of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which he accuses of acting as a Trojan Horse for Chinese cyberspies.
  • Italy has not joined the US in imposing restrictions on Huawei, and no reference to the company was made in Di Maio’s remarks to reporters. Di Maio did say he had raised the issue of Hong Kong with Wang, emphasizing that its citizens’ rights and freedoms had to be respected. (Reuters)

Additional World News

COVID-19

 

NUTS IN AMERICA
Liberty’s Flameout

(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)

  • Evangelical leader and longtime Trump supporter Jerry Falwell Jr. confirmed Tuesday he was resigning as president of the conservative evangelist Liberty University after being embroiled in a number of compromising and hypocritical incidents, the latest of which was a sex scandal involving his 53-year-old wife, Becki, and Giancarlo Granda, a much younger business partner.
  • Granda claimed that from 2012 through 2018 he and Becki engaged in sexual activity while Jerry watched. Granda shared texts and other material to support his account.
  • The resignation was the culmination of a weeks-long rollercoaster ride during which Falwell’s fate was up in the air. On August 7, Falwell posted a photo of himself on Instagram with his arm around a young woman and his pants unzipped, revealing his navel, stomach, upper crotch, and underwear.
  • Liberty University, based in Virginia, was founded in 1971 by Falwell’s televangelist father, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. The university currently has an online and on-campus enrollment that exceeds 100,000 students, and holds those who attend to an exacting honor code.
  • It has strict rules overdress, social activities, and marriage. Falwell’s posting drew accusations of hypocrisy and he was forced to take “an indefinite leave of absence.” After the full sex scandal came to light, Falwell eventually resigned.
  • Falwell’s decision in January 2016 to endorse Donald Trump had immediately raised support among evangelicals, a major constituency for the Republican party. Becki Falwell served on the advisory board of Women for Trump. She also spoke with her husband and Donald Trump Jr at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. And she was referred to as “the first lady of Liberty University.” (Guardian)

 Choosing Ejection Ahead of the Election

  • Polarized partisans and COVID-19 have overwhelmed many election officials. So much so that death threats have seemingly become part of the job. American politics has reached an almost unbearable fever pitch, and the bureaucrats who operate the machinery of democracy are harassed and threatened to such a degree it is affecting their health and prompting an unusually large number of them to step down.
  • The near-daily false assertions by President Trump and members of his administration about widespread vote-by-mail fraud have spurred much of the backlash against state and local election administrators. More than 20 have resigned or retired since March 1, citing burnout, stress or health concerns.
  • Public distrust is thinning the ranks of experienced administrators at a turbulent time as they deal with record numbers of absentee ballot applications, which are mostly processed by hand.
  • Across the country, election administrators and their staffs face unprecedented attacks from both left- and right-wing voters and activists, much of which comes from outside their jurisdictions. Multiple election officials in Milwaukee quit after a chaotic Wisconsin primary in April.
  • The elections director in Harris County, Texas — the state’s most populous county — resigned in May, less than halfway through her first term, as she tried to navigate a massive increase in voting by mail while beset with complaints from Republican activists.
  • Oregon’s state election director has been harassed on the phone and social media by people accusing him of changing voters’ party affiliations without consent. In Washoe County, Nevada, a mailed-in ballot for the state’s May primary had “SEALED WITH COVID SPIT” written on the outside of the envelope.
  • The clerk of Marion County, West Virginia, resigned on July 1st after serving for 39 years. And in Montgomery County, Tennessee, the clerk resigned in June, two years into her four-year term, after her mother died from complications of COVID-19. As election day quickly approaches, leadership changes at the local level will surely be a story worth tracking. (ProPublica)

Additional USA News

LOOSE NUTS: FASCINATING NEWS
On the Struggle Bus

  • Making school rooms and cafeterias and playgrounds safe for returning youngsters is one thing. What about the buses that have to get them there? During a normal year in America, an estimated 15 million students ride the bus to school every weekday. That’s about a third of all K-12 students.
  • But health and safety precautions in the age of COVID-19 mean far fewer kids will find a seat on the bus as the new school year begins. How do you socially distance on a bus? If masks are mandatory, what about kids with disabilities? Where should temperatures be screened?
  • States that are keeping schools closed for the time being can worry about those questions later. But federal law still requires transportation for certain groups of students, like those with disabilities and homeless children. For one district in Colorado, instead of the normal 65 students on a bus, there will be about 20 — one kid per row of seats.
  • It’s likely high school students will have to find their own transportation so buses can serve elementary and middle schools exclusively. But that could change — the schedule is still in flux. But they’ll have to decide soon — as school starts on September 1.
  • What about the drivers? School bus drivers are among those workers with the highest risk of exposure to the virus. Even if there are enough buses available, will there be enough drivers? Then there are those districts dealing with a shortage of buses and drivers and available money for cleaning equipment.
  • The pandemic is making planning difficult and uncertain, and with President Trump insisting that schools open before election day, the debate over how to reopen safely is ratcheting up. Some states have opened or will open schools despite soaring COVID-19 rates. It’s a quandary inside a conundrum inside a calamity. (The Verge)

Additional Reads

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