Hostile Architecture and Homelessness

Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Back in 2014, Kuala Lumpur joined the many modern cities around the world who had certain anti-home measures set up.

Soup kitchens that provided food to the less fortunate on the streets, were once banned from operating by Former Minister of Federal Territories, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor. Mansor bore the brunt of criticism and online outrage following the announcement, but overturned the ban within months amid public pressure.

Homeless figures in Malaysia are not immediately available but even if they are, they are not all accurate. According to a 2016 study, over 1,500 to 2,000 are believed to be homeless in Malaysia. Today, there are at least 8,000.

When compared with other surrounding countries such as China, the Phillipines or even those further such as the United States, Malaysia seems like a droplet in an ocean as the Philippines is reported to have at last tens of thousands to several million that are homeless.

In the U.S., seventeen out of every 10,000 people experience homelessness and have to resort to makeshift homes and beds under pedestrian bridges, highways or just any “livable” area that provides shelter.

Safe to say, the city of Kuala Lumpur hasn’t since resorted to anti-homeless architecture such as those seen under the bridges of Guangzhou , China and New York City as while many individuals and organizations are in the fight to end homelessness, some are in it to end it too, but to literally end them.

Anti-homeless spikes to prevent lying down, bolts installed on steps to discourage sleeping, benches specifically designed to stop people from sleeping on them. These are just the few of many hostile architectures that is used to prevent homeless people from relying on public space.

Metal bars on public benches may seem aesthetic at first, but giving it thought, it is used to divide the benches to avoid lying down. Bolts on ledges are also put in place to discourage homeless people from sitting on them.

Some say this type of urban design is essential in maintaining order and discourage soliciting behavior, but hostile architecture especially in modern cities has increasingly attract backlash and criticize as targeting a certain vulnerable demographic – homelessness.

They, as a modern city, have forced those who have nowhere to go to have actually nowhere else to go. At times when the world looks to modern cities for homelessness solutions, the method that is hostile architecture has since been passed on one by one.

When walking along the streets of Jalan Tun Perak at certain times of the day or night, one can’t help but to notice the amount of homeless people seeking shelter outside restaurants or shop lots. 

Due to the movement control order (MCO), many of the homeless were left out on the street. On top of not having sanitary products at their disposal, a deadly pandemic was in the happenings. Luckily, homeless people were gathered and provided shelter by the government and responsible authorities. 

According to Berita Harian, part of the 800 homeless people are scheduled to go through job interviews for manufacturing factory operators or DBKL general workers whereas if successfully hired, will be paid between RM1,200 to RM1,400 

The homeless will also be placed in two boarding houses provided by DBKL or their future employer while waiting for their first day of work to start.

A lot goes into stopping homelessness; and it’s good to mention that, at least, measures are being set up here locally to help the homeless and not stop them such as those seen in the horrid sight that is hostile architecture.

Elderly Man Scavenges Through Trash for a Face Mask

Current standard operating procedure (SOP) guidelines means that any individual caught in public areas without a face mask would be fined up to RM1000. 

With this in place, and everyone flocking to prepare a supply of face masks for themselves, a Twitter image was circling around social media lately of an elderly scavenging through a dumpster area in search for a facemask. 

Similar to the time where there was a panic buy for toilet paper, the same thing has since happened with facemasks. Fearing that he won’t have the money to pay the hefty fine, the man has resorted to a doing so as face masks have also become dry in supply these days.

On top of that, the price of face masks being really liquid as of the very writing of this article, it is no wonder that he is being forced to pick up on what others won’t.

In the Twitter image that now has over eight thousand retweets, the elderly man is seen standing in the middle of a garbage dump, which according to the Twitter user, is located in Pasar Besar Ampangan, Seremban.

The tweet has since routed Malaysians on Twitter with many acknowledging the elder man’s desperation for a single face mask.

“Yeah not everyone can afford to buy mask when the money can only be use to barely survive from hunger.” said a user by the handle of @rashidtokwan.

The Eerie World of North Korean Advertising

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If I’m shot by a poison umbrella dart in an airport, this article will be the reason.

As a sister article to my piece on World War I propaganda in the US, it seems fitting to examine the crowned king of government advertising, North Korea.

Outside of government propaganda, there’s almost no commercial advertising in North Korea. It’s considered capitalist and therefore shunned. However, with loosening restrictions, some ads are popping up in Pyongyang, although they are very controlled, and still ooze propaganda.

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Note the Juche Tower monument in between the fireworks. It represents the self-reliance ideology, invented by North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung. (source: pic via Paul-Nikolas Hanz)

Outside of these one-offs, you can travel the entirety of North Korea without seeing a single ad, which produces a very grey tone, particularly against the brutalist architecture:

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Source: Pic via BI

It’s first important to understand the underlying conditions that facilitate this alternate reality. North Korea sits at the very bottom of the press freedom index:

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Soiurce: pic via Reporters without borders

The list is ranked by basic indicators such as transparency, pluralism (The proportion of opinions that are given by journalism versus the state media), and abuse scores (level of abuses towards independent journalists).

One of the primary goals of journalism is to critique and question those in power. It is fundamental to freedom.

Where you see independent journalism declining, you often see a rise of propaganda and other unchallenged media distributed by the government. This is part of the reason that countries at the bottom of the press-freedom index report such low Covid-19 cases — North Korea denying any cases and China claiming only 4000 total deaths, despite being the epicenter of the outbreak.

Propaganda, in its purest form, was practiced by many countries, including the US, during WW1. This “fake news” was viewed as a necessary evil and was demonstrably over-the-top.

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Source: pic via history.com

In the decades that followed, most countries moved their messaging back to a place of (mostly) factual news. North Korea, from 1948 to the present, hasn’t slowed down on the opposite trajectory. You’ll see two key themes:

1. Promote the sacred status of leadership. Portray the public as blessed with their benevolence.

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Source: ABC News

This is propaganda, by definition (non-factual, idealized messaging), because of North Korea’s well-documented poverty. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the leader is one of the only overweight people in the country.

There is a decent amount of artistic effort in the ads. All models are depicted as attractive and smiling:

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‘Let the whole party, nation and people turn up to yield a good harvest in the first year of the new century.’ Source: CDNI

Godlike status is regularly attributed:

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Source: pic via IMG2

All messaging is designed to keep power with the state, which is solely run by their leader.

2. Depict forces that oppose the government in the worst possible light

At the core of all propaganda, is a need to create an “us versus them” fight. Assign motivations (envy, imperialism) as mechanisms and then depict the foe as monsters.

This will never be more evident than at the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities.

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Pic via i.nsider.com

Within it, you’ll find paintings depicting US Soldiers committing acts that never actually happened.

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Source: author via Twitter

It’s a museum that most schools are required to bring students to. It’s rarely shown to outsiders and is intended for internal propaganda, although journalist Travis Treppen was given a private tour:

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pic via The Daily Beast

Literature

Most fictional literature from North Korean libraries will promote the state.

Even romance novels often depict a male and female lead who, despite being beautiful or otherwise attractive, win each other over by making some sort of sacrifice for the state, volunteering for the military or working in the farms.

Every form of media, no exceptions, is required to point fealty back to the leader. Even if it’s dinosaurs — you’d better have a “Thank you to the great leader for giving us dinosaurs!” somewhere in there.


A Sunny, Beautiful Trip to the Hermit Kingdom

North Korea also practices experiential marketing, in effect.

If you were a journalist, you could actually take a trip to Pyongyang. However, you would be accompanied by a minder, who escorts you everywhere you go, carefully guiding you to prop areas of the city, such as eery staged church services:

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Source: pic via Express UK

All of this is designed to promote an image of a North Korea that is less harsh on human rights than they actually are. On occasion, journalists have seen people reading bibles with blank pages.

Minders will stop you from taking lots of photos of certain places. For example, these images are banned captures:

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Source: Pic via Autojosh

Most North Korean streets remain empty (few cars) and local children can be seen playing on them during off-hours. It’s illegal to take pics as it depicts the city as underdeveloped.

Or this image of a family who is shown having access to technology, yet it’s obvious their monitors have no power:

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Source: Pic via Static.bp

This next pic was banned for obvious reasons —the people appearing impoverished:

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Source: pic via News UK

During a visit, you’ll typically be presented with the most polished, healthy people. They’ll be notified that outsiders are in town and be ready for presentation. The people you see in the capital are the top 1% of society and rural areas are mostly off-limits.

The above pic is a grey market, part of an informal economy that North Korea has loosened restrictions on.

Here’s a more nuanced example of a banned photo:

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Source: Pic via News UK

This image was banned because of the sideways hat and the depiction of soldiers in a casual setting. Soldiers can only be shown if they are in proper formation or at attention, primed for the camera.

Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, you’ll see billboards, with the leader pointing the happy, perfect complexioned people, towards a promised land.

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Source: pic via The Guardian

In the ad, note that everyone seems to have a work outfit on and is gainfully and happily employed.

North Korea is flexing its own twisted form of product marketing — show the best features of the product, but not what the product does 99% of the time.


North Korea remains a sobering reminder that, despite our own media industry becoming a circus-like embarrassment, they’re still able to speak truth to power.

The moment we start locking up journalists and treating leaders as sacred from criticism is the moment you should take notice. That door leads to a much darker place.

By Sean Kernan

How does plastic turn into fashion?

At a time where plastic bottles are being a threat to our oceans and environment, innovation has taken another step as plastic is now being used to manufacture garments. 

With many taking the step towards a more sustainable future, brands such as Adidas, Nike, Gucci, H&M and Timberland have been steering towards to idea and eventually paving the way for smaller brands to follow suit.

So how in fact does plastic gets utilised and given purpose again in the fashion industry? Here’s a less complicating step by step list on how the plastic waste we produce gets given another chance at life.

1) Collection

– The plastic water bottles are compiled from various locations such as waste centres and transported to a proper recycling facility

– Only 16% of plastic bottles in Malaysia are collected for recycling purposes, a study found.

– Malaysia’s plastic bottles recycling rate is lower than the average among the six Asean countries studied.

2) Separation

– A conveyer at the recycling station separates green and clear plastic bottles

– The caps are then removed to be discarded

– Only PET (polyethene terephthalate) plastic made bottles are used 

3) Cleaned

– The bottles are washed, sterilized, dried and chopped up into small flakes

– The flakes are then compressed into bales

4) Heated

– The dried plastic is then heated until it forms a sticky, pliable substance

5) Transformation

– The heated plastic is then put through a machine to be turned into threads 

– It is then stretched and pulled before being moulded into a spool.

6) Colour

– The PET based yarn is then submerged in different coloured dyes

7) Threads into cloth

– The now dyed yarns are then fed into a knitting machine

– The machine turns the threads into bolts of knitted cloth

8) Released as clothing material

– Manufacturers then purchase the bolts of cloth and proceed to use it to make clothing

While we may never completely get rid of plastic waste, we could definitely do our part in reducing the amount of plastic waste we generate in our lives.

What other ways do you use to reduce plastic waste? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

Comparing e-wallets in Malaysia

E-wallets are starting to become one of the fastest trending payment methods in Malaysia amid the release of e-wallets such as Boost, GrabPay, Maybank E-wallet (MAE) and Touch ‘n Go eWallet just to name a few. With all these e-wallet platforms to choose from, which one should you use and which is the best? We’ve taken all the e-wallets in Malaysia into comparison so that you don’t have to, here is a verdict of the best e-wallets in Malaysia.

1) Maybank E-wallet (MAE)

– The Maybank payment platform serves both Maybank and non-Maybank customers; once registered on either the MAE or Maybank 2U app, users will have their own virtual Visa debit card along with a Maybank account number. 

– The e-wallet is pretty much usable anywhere that supports QR pay and can be topped up using any bank account. 

– MAE has a maximum wallet size of RM4,999.99 and a transaction limit of RM2,999.99.

– One of the more notable features is being able to split bills; just split it in the app and notify your friends via the app of how much they owe. It’s as simple as that!


2) GrabPay

– GrabPay integrates with GrabRewards to ensure points for every Ringgit spent. 

– Users go through the usual registration and can pay for cashless rides, food or shopping and also transfer GrabPay credits as part of its ecosystem. 

– The Grab app also helps wih topping up mobile phone credits for Celcom, Maxis and U Mobile. 

– GrabPay’s partnership with Maybank also allows cross-plaform use between users. 


3) Touch ‘n Go eWallet

– The first of it’s kind in Malaysia, the Touch n’ Go eWallet can be used to pay tolls at participating highways, thus reduced traffic congestion in the central region by 48.2% in 2019. 

– Other than tolls, users can pay for Apple Store and iTunes purchases, street parking, taxi rides and food delivery services.

– KLIA Express and KLIA Transit Tickets can also be purchased through the platform.

– Users can send up to RM5,000 per month to other Touch ‘n Go wallet holders.


4) Wechat Pay

– Malaysia holds the title of being the first foreign country outside of China to have WeChat enabled in a local currency.

– WeChat Pay allows payment through Quick Pay, QR Code, In-App Web-Based, or Native In-App Payments.

– It deals with the issue of cross-border foreign currencies. Users can pay in Chinese yuan but with the transaction being settled in a foreign currency.

– A fun party trick would be also to be able to send virtual money packets to family and friends during holidays such as Chinese New Year and Hari Raya.


5) Boost

– Launched in 2017, it boasts up to 7 million Boosties and is still growing as we speak. – Accepted at over 140,000 physical and online stores, it is recognize as one of the more widely notable competitors as it has partnerships with 17 banks across the country such as CIMB, Hong Leong Bank, RHB Bank and so on. 

– Users can pay for petrol at 800 Shell station countrywide and also pay for parking at Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) parking spots. 

– On top of that users can also pay bills for Astro, Syabas and Telekom.


6) Razer Pay

– Debuted in 2018, Razer Pay can be used at over 1,000 online stores.

– Participating banks include AmBank, Bank Islam, CIMB, Maybank and Public Bank,

– It benefits gamers and app streaming services through services such as being able to purchase zGold, MOLPoints, Steam Wallet, Garena, Sony PlayStation, Spotify, iFlix and more.

– Verified accounts are entitled to a transaction limit of RM3,000, and RM48,000 for annual transactions.


What is the difference between an e-wallet, credits cards and debit cards?

With the future seemingly more and more cashless, we have a vast number of options to pay for our dinner, ride to work and also online purchases. So, with all these payment methods in hand, we decided to break it down in this section.


Credit cards

With credit cards, you pay for a service via a borrow now and pay later method. Once you reach the end of every month, you’ll be required to pay the bank at least a partial of the money spent. It’s also important to know to not over use a credit card as it’ll show up on your credit score, which in turn affects you in the long run when renting a room or requesting a loan of any kind.


Debit cards

The way debit cards work is with the direct opposite of credit cards. Instead of paying with borrowed money, purchases are made with money that is in already present in your bank account.


E-wallets

If you have a mobile device, you’re already halfway through the steps of owning an e-wallet. In other words, a digital wallet requires you to add money in it first whether with an actual debit or credit card. It may seem that they functions intertwine at times, but the way they operate is completely different.

All in all, the e-wallet industry is a growing industry and one wouldn’t want to get left behind do they? With the world emphasizing social distancing at times like this, why not try your hand at e-wallets today!

Should you wash your face mask?

Reusable face mask

With face masks being mandatory from August 1st onwards, one can’t help but to wonder about the already rising number of disposable face masks being used in the country.

Those caught in public places without a face mask will be fined 1000 ringgit as of said date, it is inevitable that many of those who didn’t do so before to start following the guidelines one way or another and those who already do before, continue doing so without hesitation.

Sights of facemasks on the ground have been a usual sight and it’s hard fact to swallow that perhaps more facemasks are being thrown away or dropped when compared to the ones that are actually being used.

In combat to that, the public have shifted to using bandannas, face scarves and masks made of fabric, such as cotton with hopes to reduce the wastage.

According to Hopkins Medicine, you should clean your mask after every wearing. This not only reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus or other germs but also reduces the waste as we are so succumbed to throwing away facemasks after each use.

Now why should we wash our face masks? The reason is simple.

A face mask whorks by keeping you from breathing out if you happen to be sick and asymptomatic. 

Imagine your saliva being contaminated with coronavirus. That’s where the mask fulfil its roll, the mask keeps your spit contained at the cost of itself becoming full of the virus. 

You wash your hands to prevent the spreading of viruses to surfaces or other people. So, you wash your mask for the same reason.


How should you do it?

  • Bandanas, face scarves and masks made of fabric and cotton can be washed such in a regular laundry machine using hot water.
  • However, it is important to know that disposable blue surgical are to be disposed of immediately after use and not to be washed.
  • After washing your fabric mask, tumble dry them in the dryer on a high setting or hang them out on the clothing line to dry for at least a few hours.
  • Consider using a non-scented laundry detergent if you are sensitive to the smell as you’ll be wearing it for pretty much all day depending on your schedule.
  • You can also hand wash your mask under hot, soapy water for 20 seconds while scrubbing.
  • Remember to store your mask in a clean and dry place when you’re not using them to prevent contamination of other kinds.

Do you know of any other places that make fabric face masks? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

BBC host’s attempt at cooking rice backfires

Rice is pretty much a norm in every Asian household as it can be seen on the dining tables of various family meals at any time of the day.

Majority of Asians grew up watching their Mums preparing rice in the ever so timeless rice cooker and it plays an important role in a family meal.

However, a recent reaction video from Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng, better known as Uncle Roger, has made us realize that growing up at different parts of the world does bring differences.

Titled “Hersha’s Easiest Ever Egg Fried Rice”, BBC cooking show host, Hersha Patel was attempting to prepare the staple southeast Asian dish. 

“Don’t be afraid, this is going to be really simple,” Patel said.

Little did Ng know, he was going to be very afraid as Patel started off by demonstrating her rice cooking method by putting water and unwashed rice into a pan then boiling it, this did not sit well with Ng’s persona – Uncle Roger.

With just two minutes into the eight minute YouTube video, Ng mumbled in his comedic accent, “I am not confident that this video is not going to be good.”

At the moment the rice was put through a strainer, “Uncle Roger” wasn’t ready to hold back.

“You killing me, woman!” he exaggerated with his comedic accent when the rice went through the sift and eventually being washed thoroughly with tap water.

“Who cooks rice like this!”, “Uncle Roger sad now,” he continued exclaiming.

In other news, Ng met with Patel a few days ago and a collaboration between the two is seem to be in the plans.


We at Newswav figured to leave a step-by-step guide on how to cook rice amid this mayhem.


What to prepare?

1) A rice-cooker that could be found easily at stores or a large saucepan if you couldn’t find one.

2) A type of long grain or short grain rice (obviously).

3) Optional aromatics such as garlic, coriander, ginger etc.


Steps (Using a rice-cooker)

1) Measure the amount of rice you are about to prepare.

2) Wash the pre-measured rice by swirling it in cold water at least two times.

3) Measure the amount of water, generally a set amount of rice and slightly more water than rice (example: 2 cups raw rice with 2 1/2 cups water).

or 

Pour the rice into the pan you’re going to cook it in. Level it out and place your index finger so that it is touching the surface of the rice. Add enough water so that it comes up to your first knuckle.

4) Drain the rice and place it in the rice cooker.

5) Use the settings on the rice cooker to cook the rice.

6) Once done, stir the rice with a spoon or chopsticks to fluff it up.


Steps (Using a stove-top and large saucepan)

1) Drain the rice well and put it the saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups of water.

2) Reduce the heat to low, put the saucepan on a cooking stove, then let it cook for 20 minutes. Avoid removing the lid during that time. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes with the lid on.

3) Remove the lid and stir the rice with a spoon or chopsticks to fluff it up.


What are your tips for cooking perfect rice? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comment section!

Why Sugu Pavithra’s YouTube videos are all deleted

Sugu Pavithra’s updated YouTube channel as of July 27th.

The famed husband and wife cooking duo, Sugu Pavithra, who have been viral since the movement control order (MCO) period has had all their YouTube videos deleted.

Referencing personal factors in an interview with Bernama, M.Sugu, 29, the husband of S. Pavithra, 28, said that he was the one who deleted all the videos after the series of events that unfolded in the past few days.

A spokesperson for the couple has since took to social media to release the following statement regarding the deletion of the videos:

Hi, the couple (Sugu and Pavithra) would like to take some time off and focus on their personal life and hence, they would not be proceeding with any brand engagement for few weeks now.”

The silver play button is gifted by YouTube to channels with more than 100,000 subscribers.

The channel boasts a following of 800,000 subscribers and were well on their way to clinching the Gold Play button by, a YouTube creator award given to every channel with 1,000,000 subscribers, but that may not happen anytime soon as the channel has now been emptied out.

Before this, it had featured up to 100 videos of cooking instructions and demonstrations; other than that, it also gave viewers a glimpse into the wholesome lifestyle of the Ipoh couple.

Ever since news of Pavithra having bruises on her lips, left cheek and right arm was widely shared around on social media, netizens had called foul play.

It was later revealed that life behind the camera hasn’t been as wholesome as the front of the camera. The YouTube sensation’s bruises and scars came from being allegedly slap in the face several times until she bled and also hit by a sickle by her husband.

Apparently Sugu resented against Pavithra for not crediting him during her Ipoh City Icon award event.

“The argument continued the next day where the man wanted to go to the hospital to find the wife’s sister. The man who was under the influence of alcohol had called up the wife’s sister to meet her but to no avail. This led the man hitting his wife,” an insider told Hype.my.

Pavithra has been called an inspiration by many Malaysians, she uses a cup as a phone holder to record her videos and also have been widely recognized as having a humble approach. News of her being on the receiving end of physical abuse did not sit well with many of her viewers as many had then urge Pavithra to leave Sugu.

Sugu being taken to court.

Sugu was arrested on the 22nd of July following the allegations.

He was also charged at the Sessions Court with unlawful possession of a sickle at the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun’s parking compound on July 21 and also with hitting his wife.

Pavithra said that among all the complications, she’d had chosen to forgive her husband and to put this whole episode behind them.

The couple had to undergo a rollercoaster of events under the eyes of national media earlier due to their fame; from receiving praises by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail, known as Chef Wan, to the unearthing of the presence of Pavithra on the receiving end of abuse.

Although, their famed YouTube success has drastically increased their household income, with earnings up to 8,700 ringgit (US$2,000) a month, life seemed good when compared with Sugu’s previous monthly income of about 1,000 ringgit as a plantation worker.

The couple had plans to open a restaurant next year, those plans are now unsure as their means of income from YouTube has been forfeited. 

“But that is okay, because I have hands, feet, to look for a job. Even before this, I earned money by working,” Sugu said.

On the bright side, the channel would not be staying without content for long as Sugu said that he expects their latest video to be uploaded on YouTube once discussions with various parties are finalised.

After posting bail for him, Pavithra said they wanted to live normally and just want to focus on their YouTube channel.

Deteriorating U.S.-China Relations Doesn’t Bode Well for the Pandemic

U.S.-China Trade War: It's Time For A Change In Strategy

his was not a good week for U.S.-China relations. On Tuesday, the White House ordered China to close its consulate in Houston. By Friday, China had retaliated by ordering the closure of the American consulate in Chengdu. The U.S. Justice Department also recently accused Chinese hackers of trying to steal data on a coronavirus vaccine, the latest in a long line of allegations of Chinese espionage.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in the United States passed a grim milestone: 4 million. A bright spot on the horizon is that four of the 165 vaccines currently in development are in Phase 3 trials, according to New York Times data. Two of them are made by Chinese companies, state-owned Sinopharm and the private company Sinovac Biotech. There’s only one vaccine already approved for limited use, and it’s been developed by China’s CanSino Biologics. The Chinese military approved it on June 25 as a “specially needed drug.”

When President Donald Trump was asked on Tuesday whether his administration would collaborate with China on a vaccine for Americans, he said: “We’re willing to work with anybody that is going to get us a good result.”

But the deteriorating relationship between the two superpowers doesn’t bode well for the potential of the U.S. to do so. And it generally doesn’t look good for vaccine development, or for either country’s response to Covid-19. “People’s health on both sides could become collateral damage,” Yanzhong Huang, PhD, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells the Medium Coronavirus Blog. Trump says he will work with China, he notes, “but there’s no plan, or I don’t think there’s any conversation happening with the Chinese.”

Acknowledging that relations between the two superpowers were already straining in recent months, Huang says that “Covid-19 only accelerated that process” on multiple fronts. Including, he notes, “this issue of vaccine development and distribution.” China not only has vaccines in development but plays a critical role in the global pharmaceutical industry.

“It’s not just the way vaccines become available,” he says. “You need to consider the parallel support, including bottles, not to mention those ingredients used to make those vaccines. China traditionally has played an important role in supplying those things.”

Between China and the U.S., he says, “there’s no state-level cooperation, information sharing — there is no talking between the two.”

This isn’t, of course, the first time this relationship has soured. What happened in the past can inform what to expect as the current situation plays out, says Zuoyue Wang, PhD, professor of history at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Historically, he says, “bilateral scientific exchanges would often be negatively affected, especially in terms of the movements of scientists and technological transfers.” This happened, for example, during the Korean War. Chinese scientists working or studying in the U.S. weren’t allowed to return home, and the U.S. led a broad Western technological embargo against China. Exchanges started up again during the Cold War for a number of reasons; the U.S. wanted to counter the Soviet Union and capitalize on the huge Chinese market, for example, and China wanted to catch up to “American-led world standards in science and technology.” Now, as the prioritization and urgency of those motivations has faded away, the U.S. has tightened the scope of bilateral scientific exchange and collaboration: Chinese scientists are being denied visas; Huawei phones won’t run Google apps.

The present-day tension has already shaped public health exchanges during the pandemic. In March and April, the U.S. struggled to get personal protective equipment from China. Wang says this demonstrates how a “usually mundane technology,” like mask-making, “could suddenly become essential in certain circumstances and play a prominent part in geopolitical dynamics.”

Though there doesn’t seem to be much conversation at the state level between President Trump and President Xi at the moment, there’s still hope for cooperation at the industry or individual level, says Huang. He points to the moment, in the 1990s, when the American pharmaceutical company Merck supplied China with the technology for making a hepatitis B vaccine shortly after the Tiananmen crackdown. This, he says, is an example of how public health collaboration between the two countries can “sustain its own dynamic.”

“I think this actually highlights the importance of nonstate level collaboration and cooperation,” he says. This could happen between firms, like U.S. and Chinese pharmaceutical companies or the researchers themselves, or between U.S. NGOs and Chinese individuals. Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, he notes, sent a million masks to the U.S., and Bill Gates donated millions to the international effort against Covid-19.

None of the vaccines being produced around the world are likely to be a “magic bullet” that single-handedly solves Covid-19, says Wang. That’s why it’s important not to forget that “global problems such as pandemics and climate change require international collaboration.” When political tensions limit that collaboration, “the U.S. along with the rest of the world suffers from the consequences.”

“No one is truly safe until the world community can work together in dealing with these threats,” says Wang.

By Yasmin Tayag

How the American Idiot Made America Unlivable

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New Zealand declared victory over Coronavirus yesterday. “Team New Zealand,” as Kiwis refer to themselves, celebrated having a virus free country. America, on the other hand, had close to 70,000 cases. Seventy thousand — and exploding.

What the American Idiot has done to America is to make it an impoverished country. Not just any kind of poverty — what you might call deep poverty. Let me explain.

New Zealand has zero new cases of Corona. In America, they’re spinning out of control. One way to think about it is to say that your chances of dying of this lethal pandemic are now…infinitely higher in America than in New Zealand. Compared to Europe and Canada, they’re about a hundred times higher.

That’s a kind of poverty, too. A poverty of public health. Americans have spent decades being impoverished of public health by the American Idiot — the kind of person who votes against better healthcare for everyone, including themselves, their kids, their parents. What the? What kind of idiot does that? A very, very large number of Americans.

The result of that attitude was a society poor in a gruesome and strange way — poor in public health itself. What I mean by that is that American life expectancy is the lowest in the rich world, and plummeting, that Americans have the highest rates of all kinds of preventable chronic diseases, from diabetes to obesity to heart disease. You can see it on American faces, in fact: a society poor in health is a society of unhealthy people.

We expect much, much poorer societies to be impoverished in public health. It’s a strange concept to have to think about precisely because we don’t expect it of a rich country. Perhaps one of a poor one, that’s never really developed at all. This is a syndrome unique to America — a form of poverty that Europeans and Canadians struggle to understand, because, well, they’ve mostly eliminated it. But in America, health poverty is endemic.

So endemic that you can see America’s gotten shockingly poorer and poorer in health — right down to the resurgence of old, conquered diseases, from measles to mumps. Again, that’s the work of the American Idiot — the kind of person who won’t vaccinate their kids, which is an idea that in the end takes society right back to the medieval days of endemic smallpox and polio.

So what was going to happen when a society impoverished in terms of health met a pandemic? Utter catastrophe. America’s mortality rate and infection rate are so high precisely because America was a time bomb of failing public health waiting to go off.

What then are the results of creating a society impoverished in public health? Well, Americans face a gruesome choice that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the rich world, even in much of the poor one: your money or your life. “Medical bankruptcy” is the result — I put in quotes because it’s a notion that scarcely exists elsewhere.

How did all that happen?

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Americans are culturally impoverished, too. The American Idiot has turned American culture into the one of the world’s regressive, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and, well…idiotic. Literally the tiniest shreds of decency and sanity come under a murderous, withering barrage of denial and false “debate” — from things as simple as wearing masks to ones as large as educating Americans about how the rest of the rich world and even the poor one now has vastly better functioning societies.

Huge chunks of American culture are so hateful, foolish, or bizarre that they’d be either illegal, laughable, or bewildering in much of the rest of the world, from Canada, Europe, or Asia. “Debating” whether the answer to school shootings — which happen nowhere else — is to arm teachers? The idea that billionaires are somehow good for society, or that things like healthcare, retirement, pensions, income, and safety aren’t human rights? That money is all that should matter? Nearly everyone else in the world finds such notions jaw-droppingly foolish by now, which is how the American Idiot made his country a laughingstock the world over.

The point of a Culture of Idiocy, of course, is to create idiots, and American Culture is the cradle and mothers’ milk of the American Idiot. From Tucker Carlson to Bill O’Reilly to Ancient Aliens, an impoverished culture keeps Americans ignorant, pliable, submissive, and frightened.

Tucker will fill your head with misinformation, and the reality TV will make it seem normal to be an idiot. The result of cultural impoverishment, though, is that Americans they stay poor in more visible, visceral ways — like poor in healthcare, in equality, in power, in money.

But also poor in time. That’s my next dimension of poverty. Americans can’t do much to change their society — not nearly enough — because they’re time poor.They work harder than anyone else in the rich world, by a very, very long way. Taking a vacation in America is something that mostly, you’ll get fired for. Commuting three hours a day? That’s your problem. Americans have no time — and they don’t quite understand yet that that’s a deep form of poverty. Because when you’re always running out of time, when do you save, invest, educate, reflect, or just have a decent life? You don’t. You’re always weary, tired, panicked, on a hair trigger, and eventually, you go numb.

That brings me to the next kind of poverty — emotional poverty. Americans live severely impoverished emotional lives. America consistently ranks as a much, much unhappier country than Scandinavia, and falling. It’s among the angriest place and most stressed out place in the world.

Backing all that up, rates of depression have soared way, way past global norms, suicides are skyrocketing, and hopelessness and despair are endemic, too.

Imagine that you live a life of financial poverty, time poverty, and public health poverty, like most Americans do. What kind of life is that, emotionally? A poor one. It’s full of nights where you can’t sleep, wondering how to pay the bills. It’s riddled with anxiety and panic. Uncontrollable thoughts race through the mind. Pretty soon, you’re like, well, most Americans: angry, stressed out, depressed. No matter how hard you work, you never seem to able to make ends meet. You never have enough time to spend with your loved ones — or just relaxing, or learning something new. But those are the greatest sources of happiness of all. Is it any wonder Americans are miserable and furious, mostly, then?

The American Idiot made all that happen, too. Who votes, again and again, for no real mental healthcare? In America, you can get medicated— the lowest cost answer, or you can get “therapy.” But getting proper mental healthcare, the way you can in Europe or Canada — careful, long-term psychotherapy? That doesn’t exist at all in America, outside maybe a handful of major cities.

The American Idiot responded, instead, to life becoming a nightmare of dystopian stress, misery, and anger, with something else. With rage. With hate. With the cruelty and brutality that have made America a laughingstock the world over. Why does the American Idiot deny everyone — including themselves — better incomes, healthcare, retirement, pension, more time to have a decent life? Because they’ve internalized the notion that nobody has any intrinsic worth. And therefore, everybody must be a vicious competitor, fighting everyone else off, for a morsel of basics, whether jobs, healthcare, pensions, and so on.

But these are things that when people cooperate — as they do in Canada and Europe — they can simply give each other.

Never mind. The American Idiot — led off a cliff by greater fools, like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump — believes that the only way out of an abusive society is to be a bigger, hungrier, more vicious predator.

But all that happens that way is that society implodes into a spectacular orgy of self-destruction, and becomes an unlivable place, because unbelievable cruelty to the rest of the world becomes the norm — like letting kids be shot at school, in indifference to life which culminates, ultimately, in the mass death of a virus.

All that brings me to another kind of poverty: one we don’t yet have a good name for. A poverty of trust, of goodness, of decency. Americans are impoverished in this deep way, which I can put most simply and accurately by saying that they seem to genuinely hate each other. It’s not nice living in a society of people who hate each other. A society of hateful people can’t ever cooperate to accomplish anything, whether beating a deadly pandemic, or creating a better future by investing together in schools, hospitals, ideas, research, accomplishments.

Now, I don’t mean that you hate anyone. I mean it in a more technical way, one that’s almost invisible in America, because like air, it’s just the atmosphere that surrounds everyone. What else, though, can it really be called, when some large number of Americans deny, over and over, everyone else the right to have healthcare? An education? A job with decent standards? Free time? A rising income? A democracy?

You only do those things if you hate people. Yes, really hate them. I would never deny you healthcare, goes the sentiment in Europe and Canada, where even the hard right wing isn’t against basic public goods. American Idiots will deny their own kids and parents decent lives, though.

The only accurate word to describe such a sentiment is hate — because when you deny someone the basics, like medicine or retirement, you are also hurting them badly, and in very real ways. They are going to suffer much, much worse lives — whether measured in longevity, happiness, income, or relationships — as a result of that denial.

The American Idiot is an abuser. He abuses everyone he can, right down to his own loved ones — and think that’s sanity, compassion, goodness. It’s not: it’s only a recipe for self-destruction. Because a society of people — enough of them — hell-bent on abusing everyone else, right down to their loved ones — can only implode into ruin, bitterness, hardship, and suffering.

That brings me to my final form of poverty. If I deny you the basics — healthcare, education, and so on — what am I really doing? I am destroying your human potential. And that is America’s truest and deepest form of poverty.

Americans now live lives of sharply limited and circumscribed possibilities. Go-nowhere, dead-end lives. You can see that, too, in basic statistics, like the death of upwards mobility, the loss of hope in the future, the fact that young people can’t afford to move out and start families, that half of all jobs are now “low-wage service work.”

In America, your life is going to be much, much poorer than in any other rich country. Elsewhere? You can probably get an education — a much better one — and not be crippled by debt for life. There are more better jobs, with better standards. There’s more free time, to have a family, to form bonds, to love. There are better social protections, which mean you spend less time anxious and stressed out. All of that doesn’t just add up to less depression and suicide and more happiness — happiness is facet of an even greater thing, human potential.

There you are, a young person in America. What are your options? Most industries have now imploded, from news to media to education. That’s why half of jobs are now “low-wage service work,” which is polite pundit’s way of saying: being a servant.

You end up driving an Uber, delivering an Instacart. Doing gig work. Pursuing your side hustle when and where you can. What the hell? You’re educated. You have a long collection of degrees and diplomas.

And yet you never become the thing you could have. The one that would have benefited everyone. That scientist, researcher, novelist, journalist, professor, musician. Who can? Nobody can make ends meet. Nobody has time for anything but to be exploited and abused, in the name of trying to make ends meet. So what is there left over in time or money to invest in one’s self?

One dimension of human potential is what you make of yourself professionally — and you realize, one day, terrified, that you will never amount to what you wanted to, but be a glorified neo-servant for much of your life. But another is relational — what you make of yourself socially. And as an American, now, you can’t even afford to start a family, have a home, develop a lifelong relationship.

That’s how badly your human potential has been destroyed. That’s how poor you are in human possibility. You won’t not just be that scientist, researcher, journalist, novelist — you also won’t be that dad, mom, grandparent, husband, wife, loved one.

You will work, for a pittance, and then die. You’ll make billionaires trillionaires — and demagogue dictators — along the way. But you?

You’re expandable, disposable, nobody.

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That’s thanks to the American Idiot. He’s a person so breathtakingly foolish to the rest of the world he’s made America a laughingstock. Precisely because he believes nobody’s life has any intrinsic value — beginning with his own, extending to his loved ones…all the way to you, to everyone. If he’s happy to abuse himself — having internalized the lesson he’s been taught all his life, that only brutality matters and cruelty counts — why wouldn’t he abuse everyone else, too?

America’s become unlivable. Sure, you can live there, and you’ll be OK. But you’ll be poor. Poor in ways that are strange and hard to comprehend because they’re both old and new. You’ll be poor financially, of course, like someone living in a collapsing society — but that’s just the beginning.

You’ll be poor in terms of public health, like someone from medieval times. You’ll be poor in terms of time and power, like a peasant from pre-war times. You’ll be poor emotionally, like someone living in a country with no hope. And you’ll be poor socially, politically, and culturally, like in a country turning fascist-authoritarian. All that adds up to the coup de grace — you’ll be poor in terms of human potential. You’ll never become what you’re capable of being — not to the same degree as elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong. Humanity has lived through a lot. Plagues, wars, collapses, implosions. Life doesn’t come to an end. It goes on. But you know what the point of all those things was? Not to repeat them.

That is the most minimal definition of what progress is. And so far, America has yet to meet even that. Maybe, then, that’s what the truest kind of poverty is, too.