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Over 1,000 Detained at Protests in Moscow

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  • Over 1,000 people were detained after participating in protests in Moscow on Saturday. 
  • Citizens were protesting the election officials’ refusal to allow opposition candidates on the ballot for upcoming elections. 
  • The commission claims that the candidates did not receive enough petition signatures to run, however the opposition claims otherwise. 
  • A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said these detentions undermined the “rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process.”

Protests in Moscow 

Police detained over 1,300 people during protests in Moscow on Saturday.

Attendees were protesting election authorities’ decision to not allow candidates opposing Vladimir Putin and the United Russian party on the ballot of upcoming elections.

Protestors chanted things like “Russia will be free” and “Putin is a thief” during the event. Officers say the demonstration was unauthorized. Footage shows them using force like pushing attendees and beating attendees with batons. 

According to OVD Info, a political persecution monitoring organization, 77 people sustained injuries. They also report that of the 1,373 people detained, 265 were held overnight. Some of those detained were people trying to run for office. 

Police say that 3,500 people attended the demonstrations. However, the Associated Press says that aerial footage shows over 8,000 people. Last week, 20,000 people attended protests in Moscow for the same reason. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said the detentions undermined the “rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process.”

What is being protested?

On September 8, all 45 seats in the Moscow City Duma will be up for re-election. The election commission raised the number of petition signatures required to appear on the ballot to 5,000 people, which is a move critics say was made to block opposition candidates from running. 

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a politician in Russia’s People’s Freedom party, wrote about the effects this will have in the Washington Post

“Each signature on the petition means volunteering one’s personal information for the government’s database of opposition supporters,” he wrote. 

Even with this setback, the opposition claims that most of their candidates did get enough signatures. However, election officials say that the signatures contained irregularities, like misprints.

Kara-Murza also disputes this.

“Naturally, most irregularities were created by the commissions themselves, whose official experts invalidated signatures by deliberately adding misprints to names or identity document numbers when cross-checking them against police databases,” he said. 

When hopeful opposition candidates tried to appeal, their requests were ignored, prompting protests for their inclusion. 

The Arrest of Alexei Navalny

Saturday’s protest was called for by prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny was arrested on Wednesday and sentenced to 30 days for calling for an anti-government protest. 

On Sunday, he was taken to the hospital after falling ill after alleged chemical exposure, with symptoms like severe facial swelling and skin redness. His spokesperson said that it appeared to be an allergic reaction, but also noted that Navalny has no known allergies. He left the hospital and returned to prison several hours later.

According to the doctor who treated him, Dr. Anastasy Vasilyeva, he was diagnosed with contact dermatitis. The substance that caused the condition is still unknown. 

Dr. Vasilyeva wrote on her Facebook page that she found the chemical tests run on him to be insufficient. She also said that she disagrees with the decision to have him return to prison. 

“I have clearly stated that I am categorically against such an emergency discharge of alexey (sic) and his premises again to the place where this most unknown chemical agent is probably there,” she wrote. 

Some reports are saying there is reason to believe Navalny could have been poisoned. However, according to The Guardian, he and his team do not expect foul play. They are citing poor conditions in the prison, as he experienced the same symptoms when last placed in that same cell.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The Guardian) (Vox)

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As Two Australian States Declare Emergencies, Scientists Warn that Climate Change is Making the Country’s Fire Season Worse

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  • Fires raging in Australia have forced officials to declare a state of emergency in New South Wales and Queensland.
  • The greater Sydney area is facing a “catastrophic” level warning, the highest level in the country and the first time it has been issued in the city since implemented after the 2009 Black Saturday fires.  
  • While scientists have said the fires are a result of worsening climate change, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister has said the concern should be on people losing their homes, not “the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city Greenies.”

States of Emergency Declared

Nearly 90 fires are raging in New South Wales, Australia, with more than half of them considered uncontained, promoting Australian officials to declare a state of emergency Monday.

Fear mounted on Tuesday over a concern that a cold front might shift the direction of the fires that span along 620 miles of Australia’s eastern coastline. 

The fires, which began in early September, have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes with more being warned to be prepared to leave, if necessary. More than 150 properties have been destroyed since the beginning of the fire season.

Over the weekend, the death toll rose to three people.

According to the BBC, authorities called this week “the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen.” 

Alongside New South Wales’ state of emergency, around 600 schools have shut down. Planes are spraying some homes and trees with flame retardant. 

On Tuesday, as the fires encroached upon Sydney, Australia’s most populous city. The city’s skyline sat under a blanket of smoke as some of the fires reportedly reached suburbs as close as nine miles away from the city center.

Experts compared the day’s forecast to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in the state of Victoria, which killed 173 people.

The greater Sydney area is now under a “catastrophic” level-warning, which is the highest level warning for fires. It is also the first time Sydney has been hit with such a grave warning since the system was implemented after the Black Saturday Fires.

Queensland, which has also declared a state of emergency, reported 55 fires on Tuesday. While its fires were not considered as severe at the moment, officials warned that could change with little notice.

Bushfires Start as Bad “Omen” in September

While the bushfires started as part of Australia’s expected fire season, they were exacerbated by drought and high winds. 

This season’s drought is particularly bad, but Australia’s east coast has actually seen below-average rainfall over the past two years.

In Queensland, more than 50 fires burned in early September.

Reports estimated more than 20 buildings destroyed within days of the start of the season. The destroyed property also included the historic Binna Burra Lodge in Lamington National Park.

“We’ve never seen this before in recorded history, fire weather has never been as severe this early in spring,” Andrew Sturgess, an inspector with Queensland emergency services, said in September. 

Sturgess also called the fire a potential omen for worse to come, which proved to be true. 

How Are the Fires Related to Climate Change?

Climate scientists have associated Australia’s worsening fire season with climate change. Those scientists predict Australia’s bushfires will only continue to become more frequent and more intense as climate change worsens.

They also say that Australia is particularly susceptible to climate change because of its vast interior desert combined with rapidly-heating ocean currents surrounding the country.

“There’s a human fingerprint on the temperature increases since 1950 — all the weather patterns are occurring in a planet that is warming and warming because of human activity,” Joëlle Gergis, a climate scientist and writer from the Australian National University, told the New York Times.

“We’re really missing the opportunity to prepare for future life in Australia. It’s going to be a lot warmer, and we’re going to see a lot of prevalence of extreme fire conditions,” she added. “The further we kick the can down the road and avoid these conversations, we’re really missing the opportunity to get the Australian public ready for what is upon us.”

Australia’s Reliance on Coal

On top of climate change, Australia is at odds with its deep ties to coal, with the country’s primary energy consumption still being dominated by coal.

According to the Australian government, the country still relies on coal for 40% of its energy. It’s also the largest coal exporter in the world and has fallen behind on its promise in the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions.

Because of that, Australia has seen a number of dramatic protests over the last couple of months. In October, a man chained himself to railroad tracks while holding a sign reading, “Australia has the worst record of species extinction in the whole world.”

A couple of weeks ago, protesters locked arms to stop people from entering a mining conference. They were then forcibly dispersed by police using pepper spray.

Speaking with ABC Radio National on Monday, however, deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack denied that these fires are related to climate change. 

“We’ve had fires in Australia since time began, and what people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance – they need help, they need shelter,” he said.

“They don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlighted, and woke capital city Greenies at this time when they’re trying to save their homes,” he added after he was asked why it was wrong to discuss climate change while the fires raged.  

Following McCormack’s interview, the mayor of the New South Wales town of Glen Innes challenged his statement. 

“It is not a political thing — it is a scientific fact that we are going through climate change,” Mayor Carol Sparks said. “I think that Michael McCormack needs to read the science.”

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Weather) (Sydney Morning Herald)

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Bolivia’s President Resigns After Report Finds “Clear Manipulation” of Votes

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  • Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned Sunday after the Organization of American States released an audit saying it had found “clear manipulation” of election results that secured him a fourth term.
  • Morales has called the situation in Bolivia a “coup” orchestrated by his rival, Carlos Mesa.
  • A slew of Morales’ senior officials also resigned, with Second Vice President of the Senate Jeanine Añez saying she will assume the role as transitional president while new elections are held.

Morales Resigns

Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned Sunday following the release of an audit by the Organization of American States, which said it had found evidence of the “clear manipulation” of electoral votes.

Morales had faced strong opposition since he was elected for his fourth term on Oct. 20. That opposition came to a blistering head on Sunday after the OAS’s report led to the national police and heads of Bolivia’s armed forces calling on Morales to step down.

In the report, auditors said the voting transmission system had not been “100% monitored” and that at one point, information was redirected. Because of this, auditors couldn’t have certainty over the results. 

Auditors also said that “good practices” were not used when conducting the official vote count because the voting system allowed someone to take control of parts of the process that were intended to be secure. Auditors even said that at one point, the system was frozen and fixed in a way that violated “essential principles of security.” 

The OAS then concluded that 78 of the total 333 evaluated vote counts from polling stations showed irregularities, noting that the last 5% of votes were especially odd because they showed an increase for Morales while his opponent, Carlos Mesa, dropped significantly.

Still, prior to the report’s publication, Morales had promised to stand by it and hold new elections if it found evidence of fraud.

In his resignation, Morales claimed he was leaving to ease the violence that has plagued Bolivia since the election last month. 

“We resign because I don’t want to see any more families attacked by instruction of Mesa and [opposition leader Luis Fernando] Camacho,” he said Sunday. “This is not a betrayal to social movements. The fight continues. We are the people, and thanks to this political union, we have freed Bolivia. We leave this homeland freed.”

“Mesa and Camacho have achieved their objective,” he added. “Now stop burning the houses of my brothers and sisters.”

On Twitter, Morales also threw a shot at a police officer who he said was attempting to “illegally” arrest him; however, the head of the national police denied that any warrants had been issued for Morales. 

“The coup mongers are destroying the rule of law,” Morales also said on Twitter.

Mesa, on the other hand, celebrated the news of the audit and Morales’ resignation. 

“To Bolivia, its people, the young, the women, to the heroism of peaceful resistance. I will never forget this unique day. The end of tyranny. I’m grateful to the Bolivian people for this historic lesson. Long live Bolivia!”

“We shall not permit the ex-president to use the excuse of a coup,” Mesa told reporters. “This was not a coup.”

Protesters Ransack Government Officials’ Homes

While some media outlets in Bolivia reported celebrations in certain areas, there were also widespread reports of violence against senior members of Morales’ Movement for Socialism party.

According to Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican embassy in the city of La Paz sheltered 20 of Morales’ senior officials on Sunday as protesters ransacked and burned their homes.

Video posted to Twitter also shows people walking through Morales’ home after it had been ransacked. Mexico has now offered him political asylum.

Some protesters even went so far as to reportedly kidnap the brother of Victor Borda, the President of the Chamber of Deputies.

In the city streets, police withdrew from La Paz following Morales’ resignation. While some people celebrated by chanting “Yes, we could!” and by setting off fireworks, others looted stores. Other people started what appeared to be politically-motivated fires.

Other Countries React

Morales’ resignation has ignited a firestorm of reactions from other countries.

In addition to offering Morales political asylum, the Mexican president called the situation regrettable, while Foreign Secretary Ebrard echoed Morales’ calls of a “coup.”

Like Mexico, Nicaragua came to Morales’ defense, with President Daniel Ortega saying, “The government of Nicaragua … denounces and strongly condemns the coup d’etat that was realised today.” 

Similarly, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro took to Twitter to call the situation a “coup,” also saying that rallies would be held to defend “the life of the Bolivian native people, victims of racism.”

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, described Morales as the leader of a powerful movement and said that he “has brought so much social progress.”

I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence,” Corbyn said.

In the U.S., the reaction has been mixed. 

Along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) denounced the situation as a coup.

We must unequivocally oppose political violence in Bolivia. Bolivians deserve free and fair elections,” Omar said.

On the other hand, President Donald Trump celebrated Morales’ resignation, calling it a “significant moment for democracy.”

“After nearly 14 years and his recent attempt to override the Bolivian constitution and the will of the people, Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard,” Trump said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also commended the OAS in supporting a new election.

Additionally, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lent his support to holding new elections. 

Who Will Lead Bolivia?

Following Morales’ resignation, his vice president, the Senate president, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, and the first vice president of the Senate also resigned. Respectively, those resignations eliminate the first through the fourth people in line to succeed Morales. 

In terms of succession, the next in line is Second Vice President of the Senate Jeanine Añez, who said she would step up as a transitional president, but she also needs quorum from the national assembly. Currently, the Movement for Socialism Party controls both houses and Añez has been described as strongly anti-Morales.

As for a new election, under the Bolivian constitution, elections must be held within 90 days of a constitutional crisis. Should she get transfer of power, Añez has said she’ll work to hold that election.

At the same time, Morales is reportedly hiding out, but that has not stopped him from reaching out to his supporters on social media and urging to resist forming a transitional government

“You never abandoned me and I will never abandon you,” he said Monday morning. 

See what others are saying: (Axios) (Reuters) (Aljazeera)

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Japanese Women Fight for the Right to Wear Glasses at Work

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  • Japanese women are speaking out against common workplace policies that restrict them from wearing glasses on the job. 
  • Domestic airlines argued their ban is for safety issues and beauty industries said glasses prevent people from clearly seeing a worker’s makeup. Meanwhile, shop assistants were told glasses give off a “cold impression” and traditional restaurants argued they don’t go well with traditional Japanese dress. 
  • The rule has reignited outrage over strict beauty standards for women just months after widespread anger over commonplace high heel requirements. 

Glasses Restriction for Female Employees 

Women in Japan are speaking out against companies who restrict them from wearing glasses to work, the latest demand that has sparked outrage over strict beauty standards for female employees.  

The hashtag “glasses are forbidden” began trending on social media this week after Japan’s Nippon TV aired a story about employers who require their female workers to wear contact lenses instead of glasses. The program followed a similar report published by Business Insider Japan late last month. 

Source: Twitter @yuki_09260613

The TV program listed a number of reasons companies gave for not wanting women to wear glasses while on the job.  According to Quartz, Domestic airlines explained that the policy is for safety reasons, meanwhile, companies in the beauty industry stated that it was hard to see an employee’s make-up behind glasses. 

Other major retail chains said their female shop assistants give off a “cold impression” when wearing glasses while traditional Japanese restaurants argued that glasses do not go well with traditional Japanese dress. 

Japanese women on social media confirmed those claims with similar experiences of their own. One Twitter user said she was told by an employer that glasses did not appeal to customers. Another painfully remembered being forced to wear contact lenses while recovering from an eye infection, according to translations reported by Fortune.  

Push Back Against Beauty Norms 

The restriction on glasses is the latest demand that has sparked outrage over outdated female beauty standards in the country. In March of this year, women rallied against the common requirement that women wear high heels to work.

The dress code policy sparked the hashtag KuToo, a phrased inspired by the #MeToo movement as well as a play on the Japanese words Kutsu (shoes) and Kutsuu (pain). 

“If wearing glasses is a real problem at work it should be banned for everyone — men and women,” said Yumi Ishikawa, the actor and writer credited with starting the movement against the high heel policy. In a statement to Fortune, she added, “This problem with glasses is the exact same as high heels. It’s only a rule for female workers.”

There are concerns that companies and officials will not condemn the glasses ban, especially after the response to the dress code complaints.

A group submitted a petition to the government in June calling on them to ban the high heel shoe requirement. However, activists were aggravated by the fact that Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto defended the mandate. 

“It’s generally accepted by society that (wearing high heels) is necessary and reasonable in workplaces,” Nemoto said at a Diet committee session, according to a report by Kyodo News. As of now, there has been no changes to the rules governing dress codes. 

The criticism over the glasses ban has also drawn comparisons to similar beauty standards questioned in South Korea last year. A female news anchor challenged beauty norms by wearing glasses on her early morning show, making her the first female presenter for a major TV network to do so. 

South Korean Lim Hyeon-ju in full makeup and contact lenses, and in her glasses. MBC News/YouTube/Business Insider

Viewers were shocked and impressed to see a woman wearing glasses while delivering the news, a move that prompted a local airline to change its own policy and allow female cabin crew to wear glasses. 

See what others are saying: (Fortune) (BBC) (Quartz)

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