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Italy Issues Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown Amid Panic and Prison Riots

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  • On Sunday, Italy extended quarantine measures to 14 northern provinces in the country, locking 16 million people—a quarter of Italy’s population—in the region. 
  • Inmates at more than two dozen Italian prisons rioted in protest of overcrowded conditions as the country deals with a massive coronavirus outbreak.
  • Some prisoners escaped while six others died after they broke into an infirmary and overdosed.
  • By Monday, the Italian government announced it would further expand travel restrictions to the entire country of 60 million people.

Italy Quarantines 16 Million People

The Italian government has imposed a massive quarantine measure affecting all of Italy and its 60 million residents.

Monday, it announced that the country’s travel restrictions would be expanded across all of Italy. On Sunday, Italy issued a similar quarantine in 14 northern provinces on Sunday, preventing 16 million people—a quarter of the country’s population—from leaving the region.

The decree, which will not be lifted until April 3rd, also shuts down movie theaters, gyms, bars as well as public and private events. Those private events even include weddings and funerals. 

Italy faces one of the worst outbreaks in the world, with 7,300 cases as of Monday morning. It now compares to South Korea which also has recorded 7,300 cases, but only 50 people have died.

In Italy, the death rate has been much higher, with the death toll jumping from 233 to 366 between Saturday and Sunday. 

Notably, most of those deaths have occurred in the northern region of Lombardy. 

With an increasingly worsening situation, the Italian government planned to close the region on Sunday, but on Saturday, an Italian newspaper leaked a draft of the decree that extended Italy’s “red-zone” quarantine to 14 northern provinces. 

That leak then prompted people to flee the region in buses and trains before the lockdown was imposed. Many have even described the measure as “draconian,” because even though China issued a similar lockdown, it is a communist nation while Italy is a democracy. 

If caught leaving one of the red zones, people can be fined or even face jail time. 

Italian Prison Riots

In prisons, the situation escalated, with prisoners in more than two dozen facilities protesting overcrowded conditions and fearing that the coronavirus could easily spread among cells.

Reportedly, those protests quickly turned into riots with several prisoners escaping from one facility. Other prisoners at a different facility also escaped prison walls and climbed onto the roof, holding up a painted sheet that read, “Indulto,” the Italian word for “pardon.”

In one prison, six inmates died on Monday after they broke into an infirmary and overdoses on drugs. 

Outside of prisons, inmates’ families protested on the streets, some clashing with police. Part of the reason why those inmates’ families showed up is that in addition to overcrowded conditions, prisons have stopped allowing visitors to see inmates to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Health Officials Say U.S. Is Past the Point of Containment

In the United States, the number of cases has also climbed, with nearly 550 cases reported Monday morning. Of those, 22 people are dead, and 19 of those deaths are from Washington state alone.

Washington’s outbreak began after several patients at a nursing home came down with the coronavirus. 

Several health officials have also indicated that the U.S. is past the point of containment. Now the goal is to try to protect as many people from catching the virus as possible. 

“Initially, we had a posture of containment so that we could give people time to prepare for where we are right now,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN. “Now, we’re shifting into a mitigation phase, which means that we’re helping communities understand you’re going to see more cases. Unfortunately, you’re going to see more deaths, but that doesn’t mean that we should panic.” 

Adams went on to say that communities need to decide whether or not to close schools, have employees work from home, and cancel large gatherings. As the outbreak in the U.S. continues, many schools have already shut their doors. Some cities have even started canceling large music events such as  Ultra Music Fest and South by Southwest.

Adams, however, did note that he believes the virus is contained in certain parts of the country. 

Democrats Blame Trump Administration for “Mixed Messages”

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus aid package. Though Trump originally proposed a $2.5 billion plan, this bill easily passed through the House, and later, the Senate.

It will now fund prevention efforts, medical supplies, and vaccine research. 

After signing that bill, Trump then visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, where he held a press conference with CDC officials. 

“It will end,” he told reporters. “People have to remain calm.” 

When asked whether or not Americans should start canceling their travel plans, Trump said it was important to look at where they are traveling before making the decision.

“I think it’s fine if they want to do it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an overreaction. But I wouldn’t be generally inclined to do it. I really wouldn’t be.” 

One of the big takeaways from Trump’s press conference stemmed from confusion over who could be tested if they think they may have the virus.

“Anybody, right now and yesterday, anybody who needs a test gets a test. They’re there,” Trump said on Friday after CDC officials announced four million tests would be mobilized by the end of this week.

On Thursday, however, Vice President Mike Pence said that though the government would provide testing for people it believes have been exposed or are showing symptoms, it doesn’t “have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”

On Saturday, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the Trump Administration on MSNBC, saying it was sending “mixed messages” in regard to if every American could be tested.

Cuomo’s message is not unfamiliar from that of other Democratic governors in states with outbreaks of the coronavirus. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom also called the U.S.’s testing capacity, quote, “simply inadequate.”

A couple of weeks ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee also criticized the Trump Administration, saying that Washington’s “work would be more successful if the Trump Administration stuck to the science and told the truth.”

At his CDC press conference Friday, Trump retaliated against Inslee, calling him a “snake” and saying, “If you’re nice to him, he will take advantage.”

Sunday night, Trump also directly responded to Cuomo on Twitter. There are no mixed messages, only political weaponization by people like you…”

This morning, he added, “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, ‘The risk is low to the average American.’”

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Reuters) (CNBC)

International

ByteDance Lays Off Hundreds of Workers After China’s Private Tutoring Crackdown

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Major changes to the massive education industry in China have left many companies scrambling to adapt.


Industry Blowback

TikTok owner ByteDance laid off hundreds of employees Thursday in response to new Chinese regulations that prohibit private, for-profit tutoring in core curriculum subjects.

These employees worked in ByteDance’s online education businesses, such as GoGokids, which were effectively killed by the new rules. The over 300 workers have been laid off “with compensation,” although it’s unclear just how much compensation they will receive.

The entire education industry, one of the largest in China, was gutted by last month’s new rules, which not only ban private tutoring in the most important subjects but also give preferential treatment to public school students trying to enter China’s top universities.

Some firms, like the $15.5 billion startup known as Yuanfudao, had to largely shut down all marketing while figuring out what to do next. Others have had to shutter nearly all of their facilities. The only exceptions are those that offer tutoring in extra-curricular activities like music, which is still allowed.

Leveling the Playing Field

The move is supposed to help combat inequities within China between wealthier students and those who are poor or from more rural areas. Often, those with fewer resources often struggle to get into top universities because of their need to go to public schools and lack of access to increasingly costly private tutors in subjects like math, Chinese, history, science, and physics.

Those subjects are almost exclusively what Chinese universities look at when considering applicants.

It’s expected that with the ban and preferential treatment to public school students, the percentage of university applicants being accepted will lead to more low-income Chinese people having better opportunities.

Even if the long-term goals have merits, companies like ByteDance and even those outside of China are reeling in the short term.

The new rules not only target for-profit tutoring. They also prohibit most foreign investment into the Chinese education market, bar foreign curriculums, and ban most foreign teachers working in China, effectively shutting off large segments of the worldwide education industry, which catered to sending teachers to China.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Financial Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Police Arrest Hong Kong Man for Booing Chinese National Anthem

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The man’s boos were launched during the first time the Chinese national anthem had ever been played for a Hong Kong athlete at the Olympics.


Instulting the Anthem

Hong Kong authorities announced Friday that a man was arrested for allegedly booing and “insulting” the Chinese national anthem while watching the Olympics on Monday.

The unnamed 40-year-old, who identified himself as a journalist, was allegedly watching the Olympics fencing medal ceremony for Hong Konger Edgar Cheung at a local mall. When the anthem began playing, he allegedly began booing and chanted “We are Hong Kong!” while waving a British Hong Kong Colonial flag.

The man’s actions were particularly noteworthy because it was the first time the Chinese national anthem had been played for a Hong Kong athlete in the Olympics. Hong Kongers compete at the Games under a separate committee called Hong Kong, China. The last time a Hong Konger won gold was in 1996 for windsurfing, at which time the British anthem of “God Save the Queen” was played.

Concerns for Freedom of Speech

The man is suspected of breaking the relatively new National Anthem Ordinance, which was passed in June 2020, and has a penalty of up to three years in prison and fines of $6,000 for anyone who publicly and intentionally insults the anthem. The law mirrors one in mainland China, but it has faced considerable scrutiny from increasingly persecuted pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong.

They argue that it tramples the right to free speech, which is supposed to be enshrined in the city’s Basic Law. Hong Kong police, however, say that’s not the case and claim that his actions breach common restraints on freedom of speech. Senior Superintendent Eileen Chung said that his actions were “to stir up the hostility of those on the scene and to politicize the sport.”

Police issued a warning that it would investigate reports of others joining his chants or violating the separate National Security law passed last year.

This incident isn’t the only case of alleged politicization of the Games. Badminton player Angus Ng was accused by a pro-Beijing lawmaker of making a statement by sporting a black jersey with the territory’s emblem. The imagery was very similar to the black-and-white Hong Kong flag used by anti-government protesters.

Ng countered that he wore his own clothes to the event because he didn’t have sponsorships to provide jerseys and he wasn’t authorized to print the emblem on a jersey himself.

See what others are saying: (Inside) (Al Jazeera) (CNN)

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Canadian Catholic Priest Says Residential Schools Survivors Lied About Abuse

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The Roman Catholic Church is facing considerable backlash across Canada for its treatment of indigenous peoples in the residential school system, along with its subsequent efforts to downplay the problem.


Priest Sparks Outrage

Father Rheal Forest was put on forced leave Wednesday following remarks he made over a weeks-long period starting July 10 in which he doubted victims of the country’s infamous residential school system.

Residential schools were a system of schools largely for indigenous children that were mostly run by the Catholic Church with federal government funding. The schools were notoriously cruel and long faced allegations that children had been abused or went missing under their care.

To date, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been found at four former residential schools across Canada, a fraction of the over 130 that used to exist.

Forest, of the St. Boniface archdiocese in Winnipeg, was standing in for a couple of weeks while the main priest at his church was away. During that time, Forest told parishioners that victims of the residential schools, particularly those sexually abused, had lied.

“If [the victims] wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes — lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” he said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

In that same sermon, he also added that during his time with Inuit groups in the north of the country, most had allegedly said they appreciated the residential school system. Instead, he said they blamed any abuses on lay people working at the facilities rather than priests or nuns.

Forest’s comments drew a ton of backlash, prompting the archdiocese to place Forest on leave. A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that the institution “completely disavow” Forest’s comments, adding, “We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people, not least of course Indigenous people and, more specifically, survivors of the Residential School system.”

Overall, the archdiocese has attempted to apologize to indigenous communities for its part in the residential school system, with Archbishop Albert Legatt saying in a video that the way forward was by “acknowledging, apologizing, and acting” on terms set by indigenous groups.

Church Allegedly Kept Money From Victims

Forest’s views and subsequent dismissal aren’t the only public relations scandal the Roman Catholic Church faces in Canada.

According to documents obtained by CBC News, the Church spent over a decade avoiding paying out money to survivors per a 2005 agreement. At the time, it, alongside the protestant churches that also ran some residential schools, agreed to pay an amount to victims of the schools in the tens of millions.

Instead, according to an internal summary of 2015 court documents, the Catholic Church spent much of that money on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans. It seems that some of this was technically legal, such as a promise to give tens of millions back via “in-kind” services; however, there was no audit completed to confirm that these services actually happened or to prove the alleged value of the services. This led to doubts about whether or not they were done effectively.

The Catholic Church was unique among the signatory churches in the 2005 agreement with its efforts to avoid paying victims. All of the other denominations paid out their sums many years before without issues.

While priests such as Father Forest have supported the Church, there has been internal backlash. Father André Poilièvre, a Saskatoon priest and Order of Canada recipient, said the Church’s actions are “scandalous” and “really shameful,” adding, “It was a loophole. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical.”

With these latest revelations, widespread anger at the Church has triggered allegations that indigenous groups are behind a spree of church burnings across the country.

The entire situation is likely going to continue to smolder as a government commission set up to investigate the schools estimates there will be thousands of more unmarked graves found across Canada.

See what others are saying: (CBC News) (The Guardian) (CTV News)

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