- Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Stockholm, Sweden, was unveiled as Time’s 2019 Person of the Year on Wednesday.
- She is the youngest individual to ever receive the honor, which has been one recognized annually by the magazine for over 90 years.
- Thunberg has turned into an emblem of youth activism, calling out world leaders for change and inspiring others worldwide to protest for political action.
Time Person of the Year 2019
Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist from Sweden, was announced as Time magazine’s Person of the Year on Wednesday morning.
Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal unveiled her as the honored figure on NBC’s Today show, calling her “the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year.”
“She embodies youth activism,” Felsenthal said.
At age 16, Thunberg is the youngest individual ever to be Time’s Person of the Year, a 92-year-old title that recognizes “the man, woman, group or concept that has had the most influence on the world during the previous 12 months.”
Past honorees have ranged from prominent world leaders to groups of people, such as the 2017 Silence Breakers which includes those who spoke out on sexual harassment and misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Thunberg has had an eventful year, rising from what Felsenthal called a “solo protester” planted outside of Swedish parliament to a figure of hope and change.
She launched the #FridaysForFuture movement, inspiring masses of people worldwide to protest outside of their local government buildings weekly, demanding climate action. In September, she stood before the United Nations Climate Action Summit and delivered a passionate speech to some of the planet’s most powerful leaders.
“People are suffering, people are dying, and our ecosystems are collapsing,” she said. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
Thunberg is diagnosed with Asperger’s and has spoken out about her condition, likening it to a “superpower.”
“I have been very limited by my diagnosis in the past but now I don’t suffer from it anymore,” she told Time. “I use it in a way that [I] can take advantage of.”
Time’s 2019 pick has been praised by many.
Not everyone is in support of Thunberg or her climate-focused agenda. After her remarks at the UN Climate Action Summit in the fall, President Donald Trump tweeted out a message about the teen.
“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future,” he wrote. “So nice to see!”
The POTUS’s message was widely believed to be sarcastic, as Thunberg appears anything but happy in the video of the summit.
Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s former communications director, called him out for his response.
“Parents in America and around the world: he went after a 16 year old girl yesterday,” Scaramucci tweeted. “@realDonaldTrump unfit to serve.”
Thunberg retaliated subtly, briefly changing her Twitter bio to describe herself as: “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
Just one day before Time’s honor of Thunberg was revealed, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsanaro called her a “brat” to reporters. His comment came after Thunberg tweeted a video on Sunday drawing attention to indigenous people that are allegedly being murdered for their efforts to protect the Amazon from illegal deforestation.
In the past year, Thunberg has been publicly insulted by others as well, including Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Conservative commentator Michael Knowles.
The teenage activist doesn’t seem fazed by her critics—they seem to only push her to work harder for a more sustainable planet.
“All we young activists are doing is telling people to listen to and unite behind the science,” she told Time in November. “We get all this hate that shows we are actually making a difference and they see us as a threat.”
Thunberg doesn’t even seem to be very stirred by the honors she has received. In October, she posted a lengthy Instagram caption explaining why she turned down the 2019 Nordic Council’s environmental award.
“The climate movement does not need any more awards,” she wrote. “What we need is for our politicians and the people in power [to] start to listen to the current, best available science.”
Thunberg posted on Wednesday morning, thanking Time for the recognition and declaring that she shares the honor with “climate activists everywhere.” Her focus seems to remain primarily on the planet that she is fighting for.
“I’d like to tell my grandchildren that we did everything we could,” she told Time. “And we did it for them and for the generations to come.”
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (Washington Post)
Japan’s Government To Encourage 4-Day Workweek, Experts Doubt Implementation
Most Japanese companies that offer a four-day workweek don’t pay for the extra day off, which is a major point of concern for employees who don’t want to lose out on income.
Four Days of Pay for Four Days of Work
The government of Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide finalized its annual economic policy guidelines on Friday, which included a push for a four-day workweek option.
The initiative is already facing some pushback by employers, employees, and experts in the country. Some major concerns include how a four-day workweek would be implemented. At the 8.3% of Japanese companies that currently offer an extra day off, that day off is usually unpaid, according to the Ministry of Labor. For those that use it, it’s effectively a pay cut — a major concern for many employees who don’t want to lose out on income.
That pay cut could indicate why it’s rarely used. Yahoo Japan, for instance, offers it and only 100 out of 7000 employees take the extra day off, though a company spokesperson told Kyodo News, “It has been favorably received in general, with some employees saying that it became easier to match their days off with their children’s activities.”
There are also concerns that the extra day off, and the pay cut associated with it, will lead employees to seek part-time jobs to make up for the lost income. Those second jobs could mean that employees effectively have less time off than before and could result in a decrease in productivity, countering any alleged benefits of a four-day workweek.
Despite these concerns, the government thinks offering a four-day workweek would be a net benefit for Japan. It hopes that people will use the extra day to procure other skill sets that will help them gain work in emerging technologies and markets. In general, the government wants to promote “diversified working styles.”
Experts like Yamada Hisashi, vice chairman of the Japan Research Institute, think that any move towards a four-day workweek needs to be clearly spelled out to avoid issues such as pay cuts that motivate employees to stick to five days a week. He told Kyodo News that there were also complications for managers, saying, “Let’s say, if employees take second jobs, it would be difficult for managers to know how long they work in total and to evaluate equally those who take two days off a week and those who take three.”
“From the employees’ standpoint, they would not want to see their income from their main jobs decrease.”
Mixed Implementation With Tangible Benefits
Another criticism of the plan is that the extra day off doesn’t address other societal pressures that cause work-life imbalances. Japanese employees work fewer hours than their Australian, Canadian, Italian, and American counterparts, according to the Organization for the Economic Co-Operation and Development.
However, those numbers usually fail to reflect events such as dinner and drinks with superiors late into the night as often as multiple times a week in some of the most extreme cases. While these events are technically voluntary, societal pressures and traditions dictate that subordinates need to attend or face ostracization.
A four-day workweek has some evidence providing tangible benefits for employers, but whether that means employees get paid the same or receive a pay cut differs from company to company and is one of the things experts want the government to make clear.
In Japan, Microsoft’s local subsidiary experimented with a four-day workweek in 2019 and found a 40% boost in worker productivity. On top of increased productivity, the company also saved 58% on paper, and electricity consumption went down 23%.
See what others are saying: (Kyodo News) (Japan Times) (The Mainichi)
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily Raided, Top Editors and Execs Arrested
Police claim the paper violated a controversial National Security law by publishing articles that asked foreign countries to sanction the Hong Kong and Chinese government.
Apple Daily Raid
Nearly 500 Chinese police officers carried out a raid on Thursday at the headquarters of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, a tabloid-style paper and one of the largest publications in the city.
During the aid, which was live-streamed by the outlet, police arrested top executives and editors while also seizing journalistic materials over violations of the city’s controversial National Security law. Apple Daily said CEO Cheung Kim Hung, COO Chow Tat Kuen, Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law, Deputy Chief Editor Chan Pui-man, and Online Editor Cheung Chi-wai were arrested and accused of “colluding with foreign forces and external elements to endanger national security.”
Police also froze $1.8 million in Apple Daily assets.
John Lee, Hong Kong’s Security Secretary, told reporters that “this case involves a conspiracy” and added that the police were targeting those who use journalism as a “tool to endanger national security.”
Police claim that since 2019, Apple Daily has published articles calling on foreign countries to sanction the Chinese and Hong Kong governments. Many of those articles were published before the National Security law went into effect, meaning the law is being applied retroactively.
However, China’s Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said the law wouldn’t be retroactive, so it’s unclear if there’s been a shift in policy and if authorities are seeking to change how they approach violations that occurred before the law was enacted.
Not Meant to Restrict Freedom of the Press
Thursday’s raid could also have repercussions for other Hong Kongers. The city’s Senior Superintendent of the Police’s National Security Department warned citizens not to repost certain Apple Daily articles by saying, “If you have no real reason to share these types of articles, I would advise everyone not to.”
He claimed that this raid wasn’t targeting the press but rather one individual organization that violated the law. He also said Hong Kong’s government values the freedom of the press, a right that is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Lee concurred with the Senior Superintendent, adding, “Please understand that our actions are not targeting journalistic work. We target perpetrators who use journalistic work as a tool to endanger acts of national security.”
Apple Daily has vowed to carry on with its work while also acknowledging that its fate was out of its hands. In a letter to its readers, the paper wrote, “In today’s Hong Kong, we are unfamiliar and speechless.”
“It seems that we are powerless to deal with it, and it is difficult to prevent the regime from doing whatever it wants.”
See what others are saying: (AP) (The New York Times) (NBC News)
Hamas Launches Incendiary Balloons Into Israel Over Right-Wing March, Israel Responds With Airstrikes
No casualties were reported and the tentative ceasefire that ended last month’s hostilities largely remains in place.
10 Minutes of Airstrikes
Alleged Hamas training facilities were hit by Israeli airstrikes early Wednesday morning as a response to the group sending incendiary balloons into Israeli territory late Tuesday night.
The airstrikes, which lasted for 10 minutes, destroyed two compounds while the balloons started about 20 fires across southern Israel. There were no casualties on either side and damage was kept to a relative minimum. By Wednesday morning, calm had returned and neither group pursued further hostilities.
Hamas risked breaking a tenuous ceasefire in order to respond to right-wing Israeli demonstrators that marched through Palestinian neighborhoods to commemorate a holiday that is seen as highly provocative. The ceasefire has gone on to its eleventh day, stopping widespread rocket and airstrike campaigns that left hundreds of buildings in Gaza destroyed and dozens in Israel damaged.
The marchers were celebrating Jerusalem Flag Day, a day to mark Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and its holy sites during the 1967 Middle East War. It was originally supposed to occur on May 10 but was delayed as fighting between Hamas and Israel began last month. Hamas actually listed the celebrations as one of its primary causes for starting hostilities and warned that any further Jerusalem Flag Day events in East Jerusalem would be met with violence.
Tuesday’s march proved to be one of the first big tests faced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who only just started the job this week. As a right-wing figure himself, he supported the marchers and saw rerouting or canceling the event as giving into Hamas’ demands. However, his center and left-wing allies pushed for the event to be canceled. In the end, security forces slightly amended the route to avoid passing through the Damascus Gate and into the Muslim Quarter.
Those same security forces have been accused by Palestinian protesters of violence as they moved to disperse anti-Israel demonstrations and make way for Flag Day marchers. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least 33 Palestinians were injured by police in those clashes.
Chants of “Death to Arabs!”
The celebrations by Israelis were largely peaceful, if not extremely provocative. The entire holiday itself is seen as a celebration of what many Arabs lost in the 1967 Middle East War, and hosting events in what is considered occupied territory puts salt in the wound. However, a large group of young Israelis inflamed the situation after video surfaced of them chanting “Death to Arabs!“
Their actions were widely condemned, including by Defense Minister Yair Lapid, who said, “The fact that there are extremists for whom the Israeli flag represents hate and racism is abominable and intolerable.” He added, “It is incomprehensible how one can hold an Israeli flag in one’s hand and shout ‘Death to Arabs’ at the same time.”
The Palestinian Authority, the government of the West Bank, said that there could be ‘dangerous repercussions” because of Tuesday’s right-wing march.
Despite the small rise in hostilities posed by Tuesday’s march and subsequent responses by Hamas and Israel, their ceasefire remains.