Sunday, September 17, 2023

On Our Virtual Route 66 This Week: A Brief "Snapshot" of The Week That Was...


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Belarusians in exile could be facing even greater challenges ahead as a new law went into effect on September 7, stating Belarusians abroad can no longer renew their passports at overseas consulates, thereby forcing exiled Belarusians abroad to either return home, where they would likely be persecuted, or remain abroad with an expired passport.

An estimated 200,000–300,000 Belarusian citizens have fled the country after Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko violently repressed the peaceful protests calling for governance reform in 2020. Since then, the state has severely tightened its hold on the civil society and media sectors and virtually eliminated any freedom of expression and free speech. 

The state has also detained at least 1,500 political prisoners — those which have been reported — which has created a climate of uncertainty and fear that has driven many dissidents, journalists, and pro-democracy activists out of the country. Given the new passport laws, these exiles could soon be stuck in limbo.

Keep reading to see our top stories, word of the week, featured photos, the answers to last week’s trivia question, and more.


Top stories of the week

Key highlights from first Africa climate summit held in Kenya

Some African campaigners have opposed the summit’s approach to climate finance

As Xi Jinping snubs the G20 Summit, India replaces China as leader of the Global South

India could replace China as the EU and US's Asian partner

Water scarcity and its impact on period poverty in Jamaica

Drought conditions have a 40 percent chance of continuing until the end of the year

Death of young man raises debate on police violence in Mozambique

'Cebolinha' died two days after being arrested by the police

Arrested humor: Lebanese comedian Nour Hajjar detained in censorship case

Hajjar was arrested for jokes about the military and Islam

Ecuador's historic referendum reignites Latin America's debate on extractivism and economic growth

Latin America is caught in ongoing dilemma between extractivism and conservationism

Featured photo

community-based coral restoration and livelihood diversification project in St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In the photo above, the divers work to capture evidence, clean and remove various types of coral that were either dead, bleached or otherwise adversely affected by ocean acidification and warming temperatures. The coral gardening is taking place in a bay near Mayreau, an island in the Tobago Cays Marine Park.

GV phrase of the week:

bir milyon

In Turkish, this phrase means "one million." One lucky woman won one million Turkish Lira on the Turkish version of the TV trivia show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" However, the win — the first since 2011 — stirred some controversy as many pointed to the significant depreciation in the value of the Lira over the last three years, meaning her earnings won't get her nearly as far in today's Turkey.

Find out more here

The U.K.’s Labour Party announced on Tuesday that it would repeal recently introduced conservative legislation that limits workers’ right to strike should they win next year’s election, and deputy leader Angela Rayner pledged to enhance worker protections. 


In the wake of the state supreme court’s new liberal majority Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced it will resume services next week


Kevin McCarthy Announces Impeachment Inquiry Into Joe Biden

The investigation could look into "allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption" related to the president's involvement in his son's foreign business dealings.

By Christian Britschgi

At the Group of 20 (G20) meeting today in New Delhi, leaders announced plans for a new rail and shipping corridor that will connect India and Europe through the Middle East. This ambitious plan is part of Biden’s larger vision of creating high-quality infrastructure projects and the development of economic corridors that together should promote sustainable growth in low- and middle-income countries. The theory is that enhanced global trade should reduce economic gaps among countries, expand access to electricity and telecommunication, and promote clean energy.

They also agreed to continue developing the Lobito Corridor, a rail line linking the port of Lobito, Angola, on Africa’s Atlantic coast, with the city of Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in Africa’s interior mining region. The White House and U.S. allies in this project say they are hoping that an injection of money to build infrastructure will support a transparent and developed critical minerals sector that will advance global supply chains for those minerals while benefiting local economies in Angola, Zambia, and DRC. 

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of Africa has reason to be skeptical of this plan, although Japan and India don’t carry the same colonial baggage European countries do in Africa. G20 leaders are trying to combat the legacy of colonialism by expanding the table of leadership to those countries previously excluded. In New Delhi the G20 admitted the African Union as a permanent member. The African Union was formed in 2001, and its 55 member states cover more than 12 million square miles and have a total population of more than 1.3 billion people. The G20 is now effectively the Group of 21.

Funding for the projects will come through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI), the Group of Seven’s answer to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The G7 is a political bloc of advanced economies that share values of liberal democracy. 

In a joint statement, the leaders of India, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States said they met on the margins of the G20 “to reaffirm our shared commitment to the G20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation to deliver solutions for our shared world.” Aside from the U.S., the three countries making that statement are all members of BRICS, the economic bloc that includes China. 

Their statement, along with the fact that each of those countries will hold the presidency of the G20 for the next four years, indicates G20 pressure on China. So does the fact that the president of the World Bank, nominated by Biden, is former MasterCard chief executive officer Ajay Banga, an American citizen who was born in India. Banga is both familiar with financial services and deeply concerned about inclusive and sustainable growth. 

The economic news coming out of New Delhi shows the global side of Biden’s political vision. Led by the U.S., the G20’s call for massive investment in developing the infrastructure and economies of other countries echoes the post–World War II Economic Recovery Act of 1948, better known as the Marshall Plan. Under this plan, the U.S. spent more than $13 billion to help Europe rebuild its infrastructure and economy. This rebuilding stabilized European governments and provided the U.S. with reliable trading partners. 

“One Earth, One Family, One Future,” Biden told a meeting of the PGI. He called for “building sustainable, resilient infrastructure; making quality infrastructure investments; and creating a better future [that] represents greater opportunity, dignity, and prosperity for everyone.”

The idea that public investment in infrastructure serves democratic goals fell out of favor in the U.S. in the 1980s. Leaders insisted that private investment reacted more efficiently to market forces whereas government investment both distorted markets and tied up money that private investment could use more effectively. In fact, the dramatic scaling back of public investment since then has not led to more efficient development so much as it has led to crumbling infrastructure and its exploitation by private individuals. 

In late July the New York Times noted that since 2019, billionaire businessman Elon Musk has steadily taken over the field of satellite internet, infrastructure that is hugely important for national security. In just four years Musk has launched into space more than 4,500 satellites—more than 50% of all active satellites. This means that Musk’s Starlink is often the only way for people in places hit by disasters or in war zones to communicate. 

On Thursday, excerpts from a forthcoming biography of Elon Musk by historian Walter Isaacson revealed that Musk “secretly told his engineers to turn off [Starlink] coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast” after learning that the Ukrainian military was sending six small drone submarines packed with explosives at the Russian naval fleet based in Crimea. After talking to Russian leaders, who said they would respond with nuclear weapons—later events suggest this was a bluff—Musk shut off Starlink, the drone submarines lost the connectivity they needed to find their targets, and the weapons simply washed ashore.

According to Isaacson, Ukrainian officials begged Musk to turn the coverage back on, but he refused, saying that Ukraine “is now going too far and inviting strategic defeat.” He told U.S. and Russian officials that he wanted Starlink to be used only for defense. Then he offered a “peace plan” that required Ukraine to give up territory to Russia and reject plans to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Later, he again disabled Starlink coverage in the midst of a Ukrainian advance.

Isaacson portrays Musk as frustrated by being dragged into a war. “Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars,” Musk told Isaacson. “It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes.” Since the story broke, Musk has defended his unwillingness to be in the middle of a war. 

But Mykhailo Podolyak, a top advisor to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, pointed out on Musk’s own social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that the same Russian fleet Musk protected went on to fire missiles at Ukrainian cities, killing civilians, including children. Russia is also attacking Ukraine’s infrastructure for exporting grain, which threatens the price and availability of food in Africa.

The privatization of the functions of government in the U.S. has given a single man the power to affect global affairs, working, in this case, against the stated objectives of our own government. Republican leaders eager to push that privatization have made their case by turning voters against taxes, although the tax cuts put in place since 1981 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and corporations, permitting a few individuals to amass fortunes: Forbes, for example, estimates Musk’s net worth at $251.3 billion.

On Friday the Internal Revenue Service announced that increased federal funding under the Inflation Reduction Act and the help of artificial intelligence will enable a new push to go after 1,600 millionaires who owe at least $250,000 and 75 large businesses with assets of about $10 billion apiece that owe hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. 

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the plan “goes to the heart of Democrats’ effort to ensure the wealthiest are paying their fair share.” It also goes to the heart of the idea that billionaires must not be able to impose their will on the rest of us by virtue of their monopolization of key aspects of our infrastructure. Still, Republicans continue to argue for private investment according to market forces. Opposing taxes and the government programs they fund, they have clawed back as much of the new funding for the IRS as they have been able, and they continue to call for more cuts. 

This week, as a fight over funding the government by the end of the month looms, the implications of the parties’ different visions of government could not be clearer. 

One Big Headline

Mahsa Amini Death Anniversary 

Iran deployed security forces yesterday in the western province of Kurdistan in anticipation of demonstrations through this weekend, marking the one-year anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of the morality police for allegedly violating the country's hijab requirements. 


Amini had been stopped last year by a guidance patrol—commonly referred to as morality police—while visiting the capital of Tehran. She was initially expected to be released after a few hours but later arrived at a hospital in a coma. Police claimed she suffered a heart attack and a blow while falling to the floor.


Amini's death ignited a wave of monthslong antigovernment protests across the country, mostly led by young women. More than 500 people, including 71 minors, were killed in the protests, while hundreds were injured, thousands were arrested, and several others executed. See background here


Separately, the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia issued sanctions yesterday against Iran, citing the country's violent crackdowns on protestors after Amini's death. 

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Quick Hits

Deliberations begin in impeachment trial of Texas attorney general.

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) was impeached by House legislators in May on offenses including bribery, obstruction of justice, and misuse of public funds. A two-thirds majority of the Senate's 30 voting members will be required to remove Paxton from office. 


Jury acquits three men in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor.

Eric Molitor and twin brothers William Null and Michael Null were found not guilty on all counts tied to supporting terrorist acts and illegally possessing firearms in what was the last trial connected to a 2020 plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). The trio was among 14 men charged in state and federal court over the alleged plan.


Ukrainian troops reclaim eastern village near Bakhmut.

Ukraine's military said Friday it had recaptured the village of Andriivka, advancing further into the southern portion of Russian-occupied Bakhmut as part of its counteroffensive. In other news, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to travel to New York next week to attend the United Nations General Assembly. 


Court issues restraining order against ex-Spain soccer chief Luis Rubiales.

Spain's high court imposed a restraining order against Rubiales to keep the former soccer federation head from being within roughly 650 feet of Spanish soccer player Jenni Hermoso. Rubiales faces a sexual assault probe after allegedly forcibly kissing Hermoso during the women's World Cup celebration last month. Spain's players who won the women's World Cup also continue to boycott the national team.


New species of chicken-sized dinosaur discovered on UK island.

The fossils of the species, named Vectidromeus insularis, were found on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England. The species is the second member of the hypsilophodont family, a group of small plant-eating dinosaurs that are different from those found in Asia and North America. The fossil is considered to belong to a juvenile animal, which scientists say could have grown larger.


Planet Fitness shares sink after board ousts CEO Chris Rondeau.

The workout chain's stock fell to a new 52-week low after the announcement Friday. Rondeau had started at the company nearly 30 years ago, first working in a front desk position before moving his way up and becoming the CEO in 2013. The reasons behind his ousting are unclear. Board member and ex-governor of New Hampshire Craig Benson will serve as the interim CEO.  


Renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero dies at 91.

The artist was known for his depictions of politicians, saints, animals, and other objects and scenes in colorful and exaggerated forms (see here). His works comprised more than 3,000 paintings and 300 sculptures, including bronze sculptures that can be found in parks in European and Latin American capitals. He died Friday from pneumonia complications. 

In partnership with Pendulum

It Takes Guts to Get Healthy, Ask Halle Berry


Meet Akkermansia, one of the most powerful probiotics you may have never heard of. Award-winning actor Halle Berry reached out to Pendulum—the company that makes Akkermansia—after experiencing impressive results taking their probiotics. She’s such a believer in the product that she joined the company as their Chief Communications Officer.


Akkermansia is a next generation strain known for its ability to strengthen the gut lining and improve gut health. In a survey of 180 customers after 3 months of Akkermansia use, 81% reported improved GI/gut health. Backed by a staggering 3,000+ scientific publications, this probiotic demands attention.


But why a probiotic? Well, you can’t get Akkermansia from food, but you can get it as a daily probiotic available exclusively from Pendulum. Today, 1440 readers get 20% off their first month of any Pendulum membership order with code 1440NEWS.

Please support our sponsors!


Meet "American Ninja Warrior" winner Vance Walker—an 18-year-old with cerebral palsy. (More


How José Hernández went from working on a farm to becoming one of the few Latino astronauts at NASA after being rejected 11 times. (More)


High school cross-country runners help opponent reach the finish line. (More)  


California Costco worker returns nearly $4K left behind by a customer. (More


US Navy veteran receives unexpected help from a young Iranian political activist while in jail in Iran and repays the favor once released. (More


Viewers watching a livestream bear cam help save stranded hiker in Alaska. (More


Scuba-diving couple rescues baby shark caught in a work glove at the bottom of the ocean. (More

From our partners: It takes guts to get healthy. Research shows that Akkermansia is a keystone strain for gut health, and many people have low levels of this beneficial bacteria in their gut or none at all. Backed by a staggering 3,000 scientific publications, this next-generation strain is available as a daily probiotic, exclusively from Pendulum. 1440 subscribers get 20% off their first single bottle or multipack with code 1440NEWS.


Today, we're sharing a story from reader Steve G. in American Canyon, California.

"On a recent flight, a fellow passenger experienced a heart attack. The flight crew responded quickly, gently laying the patient on the deck and beginning assessment. They asked if there were any doctors or nurses aboard—and thank God there were several! CPR was initiated to no avail. AED was introduced—successfully—and our flight was diverted to the closest airport to further triage. The mood of the passengers was extremely positive—and supportive! It's heart-warming to see a huge group of people refocus their priorities to help a fellow human."


Repression in Iran: ‘They took my clothes off and cut my hair’
Elaheh Ejbari, 22, was kidnapped in the street and held for four days after taking part in a protest in Tehran following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died while in custody of Iran’s morality police.…
Paris’s Catholic Foreign Missions Society under fire over alleged sexual abuse

The French Catholic Church is facing new accusations of a sexual abuse scandal within Paris’s Foreign Missions Society, an organisation dedicated to...



Repression in Iran: 'Whoever targeted my eye knew exactly who I was'
Saman, a 31-year-old export consultant, fled from a Tehran hospital when Iranian security officers came to arrest him in October. His left eye was seriously wounded when he was shot at point-blank range…


‘A global problem’: Libya floods a wake-up call to dangers of climate change and old infrastructure

The dams that ruptured in the eastern city of Derna in Libya had been built to protect the city from heavy rains, but their collapse made the flooding...


Meet the emblematic bulls of France's Camargue region
Endless hardship: Libya's political instability deepens flood disaster
Video of a huge tree on a logging truck draws attention to deforestation in Tasmania


Princess Diana's iconic black sheep sweater sells for $1.1M at auction

> Raising a child from birth to age 18 now costs $237,482 on average



> An alien-like nautilus wins the ocean photo awards.

Rosh Hashanah begins—what is it, and how is it celebrated?

Ranking the biggest, most crowded, and most expensive theme parks.

The chemistry behind how bourbon gets its taste and color.

> iPhones are getting new ringtones for the first time in a decade.



> How to be kinder to yourself and practice self-care


Can you change your sleep schedule

The unexpected origin of the Michelin star system.

> Modern words and phrases that come from the ancient world.


Long Read 

The race to catch the last Nazis

> The mystery of how our taste buds can detect two types of saltiness.


Best of the Week: Double rainbow appears in New York City on 9/11 anniversary.


Historybook: Pilgrims depart from England on the Mayflower (1620); Actress Lauren Bacall born (1924); American musician BB King born (1925); Historian and author Henry Louis Gates Jr. born (1950); Singer Nick Jonas born (1992).

"The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you."

- BB King


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