- 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)
Death Toll in Myanmar Surpasses 50 People as Police Continue To Use Live Ammunition
- At least 50 people have died across Myanmar since the start of the coup on Feb. 1, with Wednesday being the single largest loss of life to date after 38 were shot by security forces.
- Despite the danger, tens of thousands of citizens continue to take to the streets to protest the coup and demand the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.
- The U.N. Security Council is due to meet Friday to discuss how to deal with the situation in Myanmar in response to calls for a solution from nations and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Growing Violence Across Myanmar
Over the weekend, security forces in Myanmar killed 18 anti-coup protesters and wounded at least 30 more. Across the subsequent three days, that number rose considerably.
According to the U.N., at least 38 people were killed on Wednesday alone.; making it the bloodiest day of the coup so far and raising the overall death toll to over 50. Exact number are difficult to find, as the chaos on the ground precludes outlets from confirming accounts of possibly more deaths.
The violence has occurred across the country, with the deaths largely being tied to the use of live ammunition by security forces. The demonstrations, and the response to them, have been widely captured on camera. Some of the most shocking scenes are of police passing a BA-53 (a Burmese Army variant of the HK G3 military rifle) to fire into protesters.
Despite the death, tens of thousands of citizens continue to take to the streets to protest the coup and demand the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. Thursday morning saw thousands in the streets who attended vigils for those slain on Wednesday, an increasingly common ritual for the prior day’s deaths.
Sanctions May Not Work
The United States has tried to get neighboring countries to join it and the European Union in sanctioning the Burmese military, but few Southeast Asian countries wanted to sign on, which gives the Burmese military breathing room as most of its diplomatic and trade relations are with neighboring countries.
At the U.N., Security Council members are due to meet on Friday to discuss calls from countries and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to stop the coup and the escalating crackdowns against protesters. However, it’s unclear what more they can do. Sanctions against specific military leaders are often ineffective, yet sanctions on the country as a whole would affect the everyday people they’re trying to support.
Other options include direct intervention, but Justine Chambers, Associate Director of the Myanmar Research Center at the Australian National University, pushed back against this, telling The New York Times, “Unfortunately I don’t think the brutality caught on camera is going to change much.”
“I think domestic audiences around the world don’t have much of an appetite for stronger action, i.e. intervention, given the current state of the pandemic and associated economic issues.”
While it’s unclear what more the international community can do, it’s quite likely that violence will continue in Myanmar as citizens try to peacefully restore democracy.
See what others are saying: (AP) (Reuters) (New York Times)
Saudi Arabia To Require Vaccine for Hajj Pilgrims
- Saudi Arabia will require all pilgrims participating in the Hajj this year to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to local media.
- The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime if they are physically or financially able to.
- Many believe the inoculation requirement may help allay suspicions over vaccines within certain Muslim communities.
- Those suspicions have persisted despite Muslim leaders clarifying that there are no theological problems with taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines available.
COVID-19 Vaccines for Pilgrims
Saudi Arabia’s health ministry will only allow people vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Hajj this year, according to local outlet Okaz.
The Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime – assuming they are physically and financially able to. However, requiring a vaccine before taking part in the Hajj isn’t a new thing. In fact, Saudi Arabia already has a list of necessary vaccinations for pilgrims.
For a virus that is among the most virulent in recent history and requiring a COVID-19 vaccine makes sense, especially since the Hajj is among the most densely populated events in the world.
In an effort to combat COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has also introduced restrictions over how many pilgrims can come to Mecca for the first time in modern history.
Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to partake in the Hajj will likely have the added benefit of allaying fears about COVID-19 vaccines in Muslim communities, which account for nearly 2 billion people in the world. While Muslims overall support vaccinations and their religious leaders openly support vaccination efforts, some do doubt vaccines for either political reasons or religious ones.
Changes in Vaccine Hesitancy
Suspicions have arisen due to recent history, notably after Osama bin Laden was located through a vaccine program that acted as a front for the C.I.A. That incident led to a wider-anti vaccine movement in parts of Pakistan that have seen vaccine clinics burned to the ground.
Others are worried over more religious concerns, such as whether the vaccines are Halal, which is roughly the Muslim version of Kosher. To that, most major vaccines say that they are Halal and contain no animal products, such as Pfizer’s, Moderna’s, and AstraZeneca’s,
While other possibly non-Halal vaccines, such as Sinovac’s, have been given the okay from major Islamic authorities, such as Indonesia’ Ulema Council.
The concerns over whether a vaccine is Halal or not may be mute as most imams and Islamic councils have clarified that such dietary restrictions are trumped by the need to save human lives.
While the Health Ministry’s statement is for 2021, it’s possible that the decision will last beyond that based on the pandemic’s progress.
See what other are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Hill) (Middle East Eye)
E.U. and U.S. Sanction Russian Officials Over Navalny Detention
- The E.U. and U.S. coordinated new sanctions against seven Russian officials tied to the current fate of activist and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
- More efforts are expected to follow, with officials claiming that 14 Russian entities tied to the manufacturing of Novichok – the rare nerve agents that supposedly poisoned Navalny – are the next to be sanctioned.
- Despite the sanctions, Biden’s administration hopes to be able to work with Russia on other world issues, such as nuclear arms in Iran and North Korea.
- Navalny himself isn’t likely to benefit from the sanctions as he’s serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.
Coordinated Efforts by E.U. and U.S.
The U.S. and E.U. both announced coordinated sanctions against Russia Tuesday morning over the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
In particular, seven senior officials are targeted by the sanctions.
- Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
- Chief of the Presidential Policy Directorate Andrei Yarin
- First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko
- Deputy Minister of Defense Aleksey Krivoruchko
- Deputy Minister of Defense Pavel Popov
- Federal Penitentiary Service director Alexander Kalashnikov
- Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.
Both the E.U. and U.S. also plan to add fourteen entities that are involved in making the extremely deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok.
First Step For Biden
These sanctions are the first such action by the Biden administration against Russia and seem to be a tone shift from the previous administration. The Trump administration was considered relatively soft on Russia and only enacted a few sanctions over election interference, which were only softly enforced.
One U.S. official, according to NBC News reportedly said, that “today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”
“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate,” the official went on to add.
The man at the center of all this, Alexei Navalny, has been an outspoken critic of Putin who was arrested when he returned to Russia from Germany after being treated for Novichok poisoning.
He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison over alleged fraud crimes and is reported to have been sent to one of Russia’s worst penal colonies outside of the city of Pokrov to serve out his term.