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Mozambique President Says Death Toll of Cyclone Could Pass 1,000

A tropical cyclone hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, with a death toll that stands at well over 100 people. The president of Mozambique believes that in just his country alone, the death toll will exceed 1,000. Right now, major areas are completely flooded, and people are without power or any form of telecommunication. Tropical Cyclone […]

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  • A tropical cyclone hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, with a death toll that stands at well over 100 people.
  • The president of Mozambique believes that in just his country alone, the death toll will exceed 1,000.
  • Right now, major areas are completely flooded, and people are without power or any form of telecommunication.

Tropical Cyclone Idai Hits Mozambique, Zimbabwe & Malawi

The President of Mozambique said Monday that the death toll of Tropical Cyclone Idai could reach 1,000 people.

The cyclone first hit the city of Beira in Mozambique on Thursday, and rain continues to fall in the area. The storm reached a Category 3 and had over 1.5 million people in its direct path. It also stuck Zimbabwe and Malawi, where the death tolls are currently at 98 and 56 people respectively.

Currently, the death count in Mozambique is at 84 people, but on Monday, President Filipe Nyusi said he believes it could double ten times over.

“Everything indicates that we can have a record of more than 1,000 dead,” he said during a radio announcement.

While officials do believe the death toll will increase significantly, they cannot confirm if it will reach the number Nyusi suggested.

Between Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed due to the severe floods. Officials are saying it is the worst storm to hit the region in two decades.

Damage in Beira and Buzi

The damage is reportedly most severe in Beira, where Idai hit the hardest. The city has a population of over 500,000, and winds reached speeds over 100 miles per hour.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, the damage caused is “horrifying” and impacted the majority of the city.

“The scale of damage caused by cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying,” their statement read.  “It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed.”

The city lies north of the Pungwe River, which has flooded over. A major dam also collapsed on Sunday, flooding all roads in the city, and cutting it off from surrounding areas. Beira is currently without power or any form of telecommunication. The city’s main hospital is also severely damaged, further complicating rescue efforts for those who are injured.

Just south of this is Buzi town, which lies on the Buzi river and has also overflowed. Right now, 50 kilometers of land is submerged underwater. Save the Children, a crisis response organization, said that whole town, “could be under water within 24 hours.”

Michael Pouw, a response leader for Save the Children, called the scenes of the damage, and those waiting for help “chilling.”

“The assessment emerging from Mozambique today is chilling,” Pouw said in a press release. “Thousands of children lived in areas completely engulfed by water. In many places, no roofs or tree tops are even visible above the floods. In other areas, people are clinging to rooftops desperately waiting to be rescued.”

Rescue Efforts

Rescue efforts are currently underway, with the airport in Beira being the center for operations, as it is one of the few areas not underwater.

The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are in immediate need of aid. The U.N. World Food Programme is currently airdropping food, clean water, and blankets to those who are stranded on roofs. The World Health Organization is also working to send health, emergency, trauma, and cholera kits to affected areas.

The IRFC says it has already released 340,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund and says that it will go “towards an initial response effort for about 7,500 people.”

Fans of the game APEX Legends have also rallied to support the victims of the cyclone. A weapon in the game is named “Mozambique,” which is what draws the two together.

One fan posted on the Apex Legends subreddit calling for people who play the game to donate. In that subreddit, there are several links to organizations taking donations.

If you are looking to donate to those affected by Tropical Cyclone Idai, Save the Children and UNICEF are both taking donations specifically for the cause.

See what others are saying: (The Weather Channel) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)

International

Anti-Asian Hate Crimes on the Rise in British Columbia

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  • A report given to Canadian police in Vancouver, British Columbia last week showed a 717% in hate crimes against Asians over the last year and a 97% increase in hate crimes overall.
  • Prosecutors have been urged to more seriously pursue hate crime charges, despite them being harder to prove in court.
  • The trend has been mirrored in Ontario, another Canadian province with significant Asian populations.

Massive Surges in Hate Crimes

The U.S. has struggled with anti-Asian hate crimes over the last year, especially in municipalities like New York City, which reported upwards of a 1,900% increase from one incident to 19 within the year.

However, the U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with the issue. Similar trends have been reported in Canada as well. A report given to the Vancouver police board last week found that in 2019, there were just 12 incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the city. In 2020, there was 98, which marks a 717% increase. Those numbers helped drive the stats of hate crimes in the city up 97% overall.

To be clear, crime overall has been on the rise, likely fueled by struggling local economies dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Hard To Pursue Charges

The report has caused Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth to push local prosecutors to seek more hate crime charges.

The region has failed to actually bring charges for most reported hate incidents, with the past year only seeing just one charge filed despite police evidence of such hate crimes. The issue at hand is that adding a hate crime charge makes getting a conviction much harder.

The incidents have led to a push for more strict anti-racism legislation in the province, a position that John Horgan, the British Columbian Premier, has pushed for as far back as June 2020.

British Columbia, according to an assortment of Asian-Canadian advocacy groups, has the most incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes, followed by Ontario. This is especially notable because they are the number two and number one locations of Asian populations in Canada, respectively.

See what others are saying: (Vancouver Sun) (CBC) (CTV News)

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Japan Appoints ‘Minister of Loneliness’ To Combat Rising Suicide Rates

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  • Earlier this month, Japan appointed Sakamoto Tetsushi as the country’s Minister of Loneliness, tasked with addressing rising suicide rates.
  • Suicides were declining worldwide, except in the U.S., ahead of the coronavirus pandemic but have since seen startling spikes.
  • In October, Japan reported 400 more suicide deaths than all COVID-19 related deaths in the nation until that point.
  • While suicide cases among men in Japan are higher, the country has seen a drastic increase in suicides among women, who are more likely to have unstable work that is susceptible to market disruptions from the coronavirus.

Editor’s Note: The Japanese government has asked Western outlets to adhere to Japanese naming conventions. To that end, Japanese names will be written as Family Name followed by Given Name.

Loneliness Is a Rising Issue

Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshinori appointed Sakamoto Tetsushi as its Minister of Loneliness earlier this month.

Sakamoto is already in charge of combating Japan’s declining birthrate and regional revitalization efforts, but his new role will see him combating Japan’s rising suicide rate. Suicides were actually on the decline in Japan until the COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically exacerbated the issue.

That trend reached a milestone in October 2020 when Japan suffered 2,153 suicides – nearly 400 more than all COVID-19 related deaths in Japan until that point. Currently, monthly suicides no longer exceed the total amount of deaths from COVID-19, as Japan faced an outbreak at the end of the year and has over 7,500 COVID-19 deaths.

Even though monthly suicides no longer outstrip total coronavirus deaths, the rate hasn’t let up. While men still make up the vast majority of suicides, there’s been a drastic increase in women taking their own lives. Between October 2020 and October 2019 there was a 70% increase in female suicides.

According to Ueda Michiko, a Japanese professor at Waseda University who studies suicides, women are particularly affected because they often have more unstable employment that is more susceptible to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

She went to tell Insider, “A lot of women are not married anymore. They have to support their own lives and they don’t have permanent jobs. So, when something happens, of course, they are hit very, very hard.”

Internationally Suicides on the Rise

Sakamoto hasn’t outlined any specific plans to combat loneliness in Japan, but he has a blueprint to work from as he’s not the world’s first Minister of Loneliness. The U.K. appointed one in 2018 after a report found more than 9 million Brits said that they often or always felt lonely.

But the job doesn’t seem very easy or desirable, as the U.K. has gone through three ministers of loneliness since then.

COVID-19 has been a massive disruption to suicide rates globally, which had actually been steadily declining for decades. The notable exception to this is the United States, which has faced increases nearly every year since 1999 adding up to almost a 30% total increase over the past two decades.

If you’re in the U.S. and feeling suicidal or have thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

For reader across the globe, here are resources in your nation.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (NDTV) (Insider)

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Thailand Pushes Marijuana as Next Cash Crop

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  • The Thai government issued a statement Sunday urging farmers to grow cannabis as a cash crop.
  • A relatively small amount of farmers currently grow the crop for the nation’s medical marijuana industry, but state-run entities are now offering to buy it for $1,500 per kilogram, which is exponentially higher than other cash crops.
  • For reference, a staple like rice goes for about $1 per kilogram.
  • While other countries in the region have followed Thailand’s footsteps in approving medical cannabis, no others allow local farmers to grow the plant.

Underlying Shift in Region

In a drastic change for marijuana policy across Asia, the Thai government made announcements on Sunday that pushed for farmers to grow marijuana as a cash crop for the country’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

The decision is in stark contrast to much of East and Southeast Asian marijuana policy, which often features extreme punishments for trafficking the drug, and nearly as harsh punishments for using it recreationally or for medical purposes.

Thailand was the first to approve cannabis for medical use at the end of 2018, with the law practically going into effect in 2019. Since then, according to deputy government spokesperson Traisuleee Traisoranakul, “…2,500 households and 251 provincial hospitals have grown 15,000 cannabis plants.”

“We hope that cannabis and hemp will be a primary cash crop for farmers.”

Worth Its Weight in Gold

The push for more farmers to partake in the marijuana industry comes after hospitals and the nation’s state-run pharmaceutical company found that they needed more of the plant. Currently, the government’s pharma company is hoping that their price of $1500 for 1 kilo of marijuana that contains 12% cannabidiol (CBD) will be enough incentive.

That’s considerably more than what the government pays for other staple crops, such as rice, which goes for about $1 per kilogram.

Additionally, the government also announced that marijuana can now be used in foods and beverages at restaurants as long as it comes from an approved producer. This opens the door for a tourism industry akin to Amsterdam’s coffee shops

While Thailand is leading the way when it comes to marijuana policy, other nations in the region are following in their footsteps. In 2019, South Korea approved the plant and its derivatives for medical use, and Japan has opened the door for clinical research into the drug and its compounds. Still, those nations require that THC and CBD be imported, and their use is heavily restricted.

Thailand’s move to cultivate a homegrown marijuana industry is a huge shift and will likely help the nation secure a hold in the growing industry, which the industry marketing firm Market Research Future believes will be worth over $50 billion by 2025.

See what others are saying: (Bangkok Post) (Reuters) (Chiangrai Times)

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