Good morning. We’re talking about Covid-19 protests in Thailand, political changes in Japan and the end of Jimmy Lai’s media business in Hong Kong.
Thais protest Covid failures
Demonstrations against the government’s botched response to the pandemic have become a daily occurrence and the crackdown is becoming more aggressive.
In August, at least 10 demonstrations were violently broken up. A protester lost sight in his eye. A 15-year-old boy was shot and is now in intensive care, although police have denied firing live ammunition. Hundreds have been arrested for sedition.
The anger is intense. More than 12,000 people have died from Covid-19 this year, compared to fewer than 100 last year. The economy has been ravaged, with tourism almost non-existent and production slowing.
Opposition lawmakers in parliament also tried to pass a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, though that attempt failed on Saturday.
Vaccines: The vaccine rollout this summer, which was already late, was further hampered by production delays. Only about 15 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and social inequalities make the young rich prey on the older, poorer people.
context: Not so long ago, Thailand was seen as a virus-carrying wonder. Now it has become yet another example of how authoritarian hubris and a lack of government accountability have fueled the pandemic.
citable: “Sometimes I think that with one tear gas bottle you can buy six to eight doses of a good quality vaccine,” says Nipapon Somnoi, the 15-year-old boy’s mother.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
Suga’s abrupt decision came after days of trying to save his historically unpopular government, battered by Japan’s battle with the coronavirus. The country has taken months to ramp up its vaccination program, leaving the population weary of ongoing economic restrictions and Suga’s approval rating below 30 percent.
Now Suga’s decision has plunged Japan into deep political uncertainty. He announced his decision just two weeks before the party leadership race kicks off on September 17, which is likely to determine the next prime minister.
Legacy: Suga, 72, was a behind-the-scenes worker for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated Japanese politics for decades. A deeply uncharismatic leader, he struggled to connect with civilians and often looked awkward in public.
context: His departure offers the prospect of a return to the revolving door leadership that once marked the top of the world’s third largest economy.
Unfree media in Hong Kong
Jimmy Lai’s media company, Next Digital, said Sunday that a crackdown had left him unable to operate. The company, which has been criticizing China for decades, is taking steps to close.
In a statement, the company’s board of directors called for the company’s liquidation and said they had resigned. Lai, the founder and controlling shareholder, is in prison on charges of violating the national security law that has stifled the once free-spirited Hong Kong press.
context: The flagship newspaper, Apple Daily, was the leading pro-democracy voice in the Hong Kong media. In June, officials froze some of the company’s bank accounts, forcing it to close.
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News from Asia
Four centuries after being hunted to extinction in Scotland for their fur, beavers are back. But some farmers — frustrated by dams flooding their fields — have been granted permits to kill the otherwise protected animals, sparking outrage among conservationists.
Understanding Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the US
- Vaccine Rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies are increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are permitted by law and have been confirmed in court proceedings.
- Mask Rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in July that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas with outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. Find out where CDC guidelines apply and where states have their own masking policies. The battle over masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are demanding that students be vaccinated against Covid-19. Nearly all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for educators. A survey published in August found that many U.S. parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who have not received their injections.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers. Many hospitals and major health systems require workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, citing the increasing caseload fueled by the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination coverage in their communities, even within their workforce.
- New York City. Evidence of vaccination is required from employees and customers for indoor meals, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement will not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system must have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital employees should also receive a vaccine or be tested weekly. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced it would aim to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “by mid-September.” President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
Black surfers ride the waves
Although surfing is derived from Polynesians who settled in Hawaii, and various African cultures have age-old practices of wave riding, white men have long dominated the sport in the US
That is all changing. Now a new generation of black surfers and activists are competing professionally, building on the efforts and achievements of a few surfers who began building a formal community in the 1970s.
And the surfing industry is taking note. Popular brands provide sponsorship, equipment and other support to black surfers and organizations.
Of course black people surf for the fun of the sport, for the same reason as everyone else. But sometimes they organize paddle-outs together as protests, or to mourn victims of police brutality. And often black surfers describe a deep sense of healing in an ocean that their ancestors may have crossed as slaves.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook?
Breakfast burritos are an easy, spicy, and filling way to start the day.
What to read?
Maggie Nelson’s ‘On Freedom’ exposes the paradoxes of America’s foundational value.