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Greta Thunberg is Time’s Youngest Ever Person of the Year

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  • 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.

Thunberg’s Critics

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.

Thunberg’s Persistence

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)

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Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Fired Over Speech Reminiscent of Nazi Rhetoric

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  • Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Roberto Alvim was fired on Friday after he appeared to paraphrase Nazi propaganda in his announcement of a national arts initiative.  
  • Several of Alvim’s sentences were strikingly similar to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany.
  • Additionally, the music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was from an opera that Adolf Hitler found imperative in his life. 
  • After much backlash and call for the culture secretary’s termination, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he dismissed Alvim from his position.

Controversial Address

Brazil’s Secretary of Culture was terminated from his role on Friday after an official video was released of him seeming to paraphrase Nazi propaganda remarks. 

Roberto Alvim, who was appointed to his position by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, announced a new initiative for increased funds dedicated to national art awards. In the 6-minute video, which has now been deleted from all Brazilian government official pages, Alvim was seen sitting at a desk beneath a portrait of Bolsonaro, a wooden cross to his side.

“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national,” he said to the camera in Portuguese. “It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement, and it will also be imperative since it will be profoundly connected to the urgent aspirations of our people — or it will be nothing.”  

Parts of Alvim’s phrasing was almost identical to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany. The similarities can be seen in a speech of Goebbels’, quoted in a biography by historian Peter Longerich.

“German art of the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality,” Goebbels said in 1933. “It will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”  

The music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was also noteworthy. It came from Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin,” which Adolf Hitler described in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, as being decisive in his life.

Reactions to Alvim’s Speech  

It wasn’t long before people began to notice the likeness of Alvim’s rhetoric with the Nazi propaganda, and individuals across the political spectrum expressed outrage. Some — including prominent Brazillian politicians — publicly called for Alvim’s immediate professional termination. 

Alvim first defended his speech in a Facebook post, saying, “what the left is doing is a remote association fallacy.” He called his controversial sentences a “rhetorical coincidence.” 

But a few hours later, Alvim softened his defensive stance with an apology to the Jewish community. In another post, he claimed that the speech was brought to him by advisors who pulled various ideas tied to national art and that he had no idea of the fascist origin of those few lines. Alvim called the criticized phrases an “involuntary mistake” and said he was sorry from the bottom of his heart.

President Jair Bolsonaro announced on his official Twitter page that he had dismissed Alvim from his position on Friday. Bolsonaro wrote that despite Alvim’s apology, his remarks made his tenure “unsustainable.” 

The Brazilian leader emphasized his “rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies” and expressed full support for the Jewish community. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (Washington Post)

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Pope Francis Names First Woman to Senior Vatican Diplomatic Role

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  • Pope Francis appointed a woman to a management role in the Vatican’s most powerful department for the first time on Wednesday.
  • Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, a Vatican official of 27 years, will now serve as the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. 
  • Among other duties, Di Giovanni will oversee the coordination of the Vatican’s relationships with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations. 
  • While several other women hold high-ranking positions in the city-state, Di Giovanni’s leadership role in the Vatican’s most powerful branch is unparalleled. 

Appointment of Di Giovanni

Pope Francis made an unprecedented move on Wednesday by appointing a woman for the first time to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State, the most powerful department of the Vatican.

Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, an Italian lawyer and Vatican official of 27 years, was named the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. Among other responsibilities, Di Giovanni will oversee a division that coordinates the Vatican’s relations with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.  

“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women,” Di Giovanni told the Vatican’s in-house media

“But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman,” she added.

Milestone for Women in Catholic Church

Several women hold leadership positions in other Vatican offices, but the Secretariat of State is the most powerful branch, making Di Giovanni’s career shift extra significant. 

Pope Francis’ appointment of Di Giovanni is the latest development in his ongoing open support of women having more say in the Roman Catholic Church. Currently, women cannot be ordained as priests and the Church’s leadership is almost entirely male-dominated.

On New Year’s Day, the pope expressed praise for womankind. 

“Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes,” Pope Francis said. “Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”

Di Giovanni referenced these words in her interview with the Vatican News calling them the pope’s “tribute” to the role of women.

“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” Di Giovanni said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”  

See what others are saying: (Vatican News) (NPR) (BBC)

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Protests Erupt in Iran After Military Admits to Shooting Down Plane

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  • Protests broke out across Iran over the weekend after the military admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian airline’s passenger jet, killing 176 people when mistaking it for a hostile aircraft.
  • Officials originally said there was no evidence of the plane being struck down by one of their missiles but ultimately admitted fault three days later.
  • Protesters are demanding leaders be held accountable. 
  • There are reports of tear gas and gunfire being used against demonstrators, but Tehran’s head of police has denied claims of shots being fired.

Backlash from the Plane Strike

Monday marked the third straight day of Iranian protests since Iran’s military admitted it shot down a passenger jet last week, mistaking it for a threat and killing all 176 people on board. 

Videos emerged on Sunday of protesters running from tear gas and in others, which could not be immediately verified, gunfire could be heard.

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Iranians—last week, hundreds of thousands were rallying in the streets to publicly mourn Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.

During those rallies, cries of hate against the United States and Donald Trump—who ordered the strike— were heard. This week there is a sharp contrast, as protesters seem to be targeting the Iranian government and military.

According to The Washington Post, demonstrators were filmed late on Sunday in at least two locations ripping down posters of Soleimani. In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a billboard mourning the victims of the plane crash replaced one of the deceased military leader.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran fired missiles at an Iraqi military base that houses American troops on Wednesday. The plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just hours later after taking off from Tehran. 

After maintaining for days that there was no evidence the aircraft was struck down by one of their missiles, Iran admitted that its military had shot down the jet by mistake.

The military initially claimed in a statement that the plane took an unexpected turn that brought it close to a sensitive military base, but an Iranian official later backtracked on that notion. 

“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said on Saturday. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident an “unforgivable mistake” and said that investigations are continuing to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy.”  

A mix of individuals from multiple countries was onboard the aircraft, including dozens of Canadians. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a national tragedy” and publicly called for further investigation.

“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said at a memorial event on Sunday.

Escalating Protests

Protesters are demanding that leaders be held responsible for the fatal mistake. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that up to 1,000 people were protesting at various points in the capital city. Some videos posted to social media show crowds demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

One of the scenes of protest was the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed in the plane crash. Iranian security forces stepped in and escalated the demonstration.

They “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh told The Washington Post, keeping her full name anonymous.

“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she told the news outlet.

Iran’s security forces have a history of taking extreme action to contain protesters. In November, after protests broke out in response to the spike in Iran’s gas prices, about 1,500 demonstrators were killed by security forces, according to the Trump administration. 

Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying “Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” according to reports by the Associated Press. 

Rahimi denied claims that police were shooting at protesters and said that tear gas was only being used in certain areas.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (CNN)

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