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Your Thursday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering catastrophic floods in China, a shift by governments to a new pandemic normal and protests over water shortages in Iran.

At least 25 people died in and around Zhengzhou, a city of five million people and the capital of Henan Province, as a result of severe flooding caused by the heaviest rainfall on record in the area. Twelve of the victims were trapped on a subway train when the water level began to rise.

When floodwaters breached a retaining wall near an entrance to the subway’s Line 5, which makes a loop around the city centre on Tuesday evening, it set off the chaos. While travelling between two stations, water poured into the train’s water system, flooding the train car.

Passengers who were stranded uploaded videos to YouTube as the disaster unfolded. Other photographs and videos, some of which were reportedly removed by censors later, showed several lifeless bodies on a subway platform, according to reports.

While they waited to be rescued from chest-deep floodwaters, passengers communicated with family members or emergency services. Survivors reported that it became increasingly difficult to breathe in the remaining congested air after two hours.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, issued an order ordering authorities to give top priority to public safety while also describing the flooding as “very severe.” Despite the fact that flooding is common in China, scientists have linked the extreme weather that has been sweeping the world to the effects of climate change.

Meanwhile, wildfire smoke from the Western United States and Canada has spread to the East Coast, prompting health advisories from Toronto to Philadelphia. After wildfire evacuation orders were issued in the Canadian province of British Columbia, the province declared a state of emergency.

Governments in Asia, Europe, and the Americas are urging people to return to their normal routines and to accept that rolling coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions are an unavoidable part of the recovery process from the disease. The message is becoming increasingly clear: we must learn to coexist with the virus.

England has lifted nearly all restrictions on the spread of viruses. Germany is allowing people who have been vaccinated to travel without being subjected to quarantines. Italy has abolished the requirement to wear a mask. Singapore’s shopping malls, meanwhile, remain open.

In order to prevent severe illness and death from pandemics, those governments and others are urging citizens to shift their pandemic perspective and concentrate on preventing infections, which are more difficult to prevent. Some scientists, however, believe that the moves are premature, particularly because they do not fully understand the effects of variants or “long Covid,” as they are known.

Quotable: In Singapore, Dale Fisher, who is in charge of the committee for infection prevention and control at the Ministry of Health, said, “You have to warn people that we are going to get a lot of cases.” We have to let it go, and that’s part of the plan,” says the author.

Here are the most recent updates on the pandemic, as well as maps.

In other developments:

  • Half of Australia has been placed on lockdown as the Delta variant is responsible for outbreaks in three states.

    Final stages of manufacturing for Pfizer shots will be completed in a South African facility, with the products being distributed exclusively to countries on the continent.

    Prisoners of conscience in Myanmar are dying of Covid because they lack access to oxygen or other life-saving treatments, according to reports.

    For Black Americans, the life expectancy dropped by 2.9 years in 2020, and for Hispanic Americans, the life expectancy dropped by three years, a more dramatic drop than for white people.

“I am thirsty!” shouted demonstrators on the streets of Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran, where they have been gathering for the past week. Long-term drought, exacerbated by climate change and government mismanagement, has turned the water crisis into a breeding ground for civil unrest in the region.

Several people have been killed in clashes with security forces, just a few weeks before a new president with an ultraconservative political ideology takes office. Iran’s government had been aware for months that it would be experiencing the driest summer in 50 years, but it did nothing to prepare.

Context: The unrest in Khuzestan, which is home to a large Arab population that has been marginalised, has only added to the whirlwind of challenges. A fifth wave of the coronavirus is sweeping the country, and U.S. sanctions are putting a strain on the country’s already-stressed economies. A stalemate has also been reached in negotiations to save the nuclear deal.

A Morning Read

Mormon women are speaking out against the itchy, constrictive sacred undergarments that are designed by the church and that they are required to wear. Thousands of comments from women expressing their dissatisfaction with the fabric poured in after an Instagram post by a church member proclaimed, “We really want buttery soft fabric.”

Asians now make up a third of the orchestra members in top-tier institutions such as the New York Philharmonic, despite the fact that they account for only 6 percent of the country’s population. Asian artists frequently take home top honours at competitions.

Their success, on the other hand, can obscure the widespread racism and discrimination they face on a daily basis. Furthermore, many stereotypes are directed at the music itself.

Asian artists frequently receive negative feedback about their performances, which they describe as “soulless and mechanical.” They are treated as outsiders in a world whose primary lineage can be traced back to Europe. The Japanese-American Akiko Tarumoto, assistant concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a member of the orchestra, said, “You get written off as an automaton.”

Some musicians claim that Asians are frequently excluded from discussions about increasing diversity in classical music because they are assumed to be adequately represented by cultural institutions.

There have, on the other hand, been some encouraging signs of progress. South Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim will take over as music director of the San Francisco Opera Company next month, making her the first woman to hold such a position at any major American opera company.

“On the surface, Asians are accepted in these realms of orchestras, ensembles, and as soloists,” said David Kim, a violist with the San Francisco Symphony and a member of the Asian American Cultural Center. “But are we truly accepted?” says the author.


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