(W.E. Talk) Portraying the Beauty of Chinese Culture Through Translation


By Shi Yuanfeng and Wan Shuyan from CNS

Karl-Heinz Pohl, a renowned German Sinologist, taught at the University of Trier in Germany until his retirement in 2010. He was the dean of the Faculty of Literature and Media at the university and head of its Department of Sinology, as well as a former professor of Chinese literature and philosophy at the University of Tübingen. His research interests include the history of Chinese philosophy, ethics and modern Chinese aesthetics and cross-cultural communication and dialogue between China and the West. He is the author of several monographs such as Chinese Aesthetics and Literary Theory (in German and Chinese translation), Chinese Thought in a Global Context, Intercultural Dialogue with China (in Chinese), and Discovering China: Tradition and Modernity (in German and Chinese translation). Prof. Pohl translated Peach Blossom Spring—The Poetry of Tao Yuanming and eminent philosopher Li Zehou’s The Path of Beauty into German.

Though Sinology in Europe started only 200 years ago, European translations of Chinese literature appeared much earlier in the sixteenth century. Karl-Heinz Pohl feels that despite the role played by Sinology and translations in creating exchanges between China and the West, there is still an “asymmetry” due to the “hegemonic discourse” of the West, which has many misunderstandings and prejudices about China. However, translations can convey the “beauty” of Chinese culture to the West, remove misunderstandings and help both to hold exchanges and learn from each other.

CNS: You have been studying Chinese philosophy and modern aesthetics for years, and you have also translated many Chinese classics and published academic monographs. How did you become interested in Chinese culture?

Karl-Heinz Pohl: I became interested in Chinese culture through (Chinese author, philosopher and translator and Harvard scholar) Lin Yutang’s inspiring book The Importance of Living, which I read in high school. It shows the fascinating differences between Chinese and Western cultures. Later, I read a book on Zen—a classic by British-American philosopher Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, which was equally amazing. The book claims that Zen is more of a Chinese philosophy than Japanese, as it is a fusion of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism. I am a Catholic, and my encounter with Zen was inspiring and broadened my worldview considerably. It also led me to switch from geophysics to Sinology studies at the University of Hamburg in Germany more than five decades ago.

 

CNS: Has studying Chinese culture been a spiritual journey? How has Chinese culture impacted you? How do you introduce it to the West?

Karl-Heinz Pohl: First, I studied the rich history of ancient Chinese thought. Although my interest began with Buddhism, I soon became interested in Confucianism and Taoism as well. I learned that these worldviews were not mutually exclusive, but complemented and influenced each other. Today, I find each of these three schools of teachings equally fascinating. I then studied modern Chinese history, particularly the impact of European colonialism and Japanese militarism on China, historical incidents such as the Opium Wars, the Boxer Uprising and the War of Resistance against Japan, and I began to understand how this history has influenced the mindset of the Chinese today. When I teach or write about Chinese culture, I first try to explain the characteristics of the Chinese language and then the influence of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism on the everyday life of the Chinese. I also talk about Chinese history that spans several thousand years, unique in the world for its long existence. Finally, I try to explain how to understand Chinese behavior through Chinese culture.

 

CNS: You translated Peach Blossom Spring—The Poetry of Tao Yuanming and Li Zehou’s The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics into German. How did you handle the “untranslatability” of translation?

Karl-Heinz Pohl: In 1982, I did my doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto in Canada on Zheng Banqiao, 18th-century poet, painter and calligrapher. To do my research, I made my first trip to China in 1981, staying in Nanjing for two months, where I was mentored by a calligrapher. That was a great experience and gave me a better understanding of Zheng Banqiao’s background.

On that trip, I developed a keen interest in Chinese poetry. When I returned to Germany from Canada, I decided to translate the entire collection of Tao Yuanming’s poems into German. In the process, Chinese aesthetics captivated me more and more. After Li Zehou’s The Path of Beauty (on the philosophy of Chinese art and literature) was published, I translated it with my students. I invited him to Germany, and he spent six months at the university where I worked. Later I invited him again and kept in touch with him until he passed away (in November 2021).

Translations are sometimes difficult because of the differences between Chinese and Western thought, but they can be overcome. Translating writings in the classical style is more difficult as the language is extremely rich in meaning and esoteric, and not always easy to understand, even for Chinese scholars. The Zhou Yi (Book of Changes), an ancient Chinese divination text, for example, has been interpreted differently by different Chinese scholars.

Poetry is the most difficult to translate because of its form. As the saying by Robert Frost goes, “poetry is what gets lost in translation.” The form cannot be fully reflected by translation, such as the tone patterns in (Tang Dynasty poet) Du Fu’s poems. Therefore, the translation of a Chinese poem into German can only convey its content, but hardly the beauty of its form.

 

CNS: How similar or different are Chinese and Western aesthetics? What are the characteristics of the communication between modern Chinese and Western aesthetics? Where can they learn from each other?

Karl-Heinz Pohl: Western aesthetics is a sub-discipline of philosophy. In the West, it is not considered a significant area anymore. In Chinese history, on the other hand, aesthetics is considered to be a unique “Chinese way” of exploring artistic and literary creativity, and the essence of poetry, calligraphy and painting. Chinese aesthetics is also closely related to cultural identity. When Western thought was introduced in China about 150 years ago, the Chinese believed that Chinese culture was shaped by aesthetics, while Western culture was shaped by Christianity. Cai Yuanpei, an influential Chinese philosopher and politician, advocated “aesthetic education instead of religion.” Thus, aesthetics is important to the discussion and understanding of a “Chinese identity.” The “aesthetics fever” in China in the 1980s (a cultural trend accompanying the economic reform and opening up of China), which was influenced by Li Zehou’s writings, would never occur in the West. We Westerners need to have a better understanding of the importance of aesthetics to the Chinese identity.

 

CNS: Cross-cultural communication and dialogue between China and the West is also your field of study. What do you consider to be the origins of the Chinese and Western value systems? How can intercultural dialogue be carried out between China and the West?

Karl-Heinz Pohl: The Western value system originated in Christianity. Although today the influence of religion has greatly diminished and is not so obvious, it is important to understand this background. This is why I call Western values post-Christian values. The origin of the Chinese value system is Confucianism, which has been the core of traditional Chinese culture and forms the moral foundation of the Chinese society. The Chinese values today still retain the Confucian precepts of “benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, wisdom and trust.”

Cross-cultural dialogue should be conducted with mutual respect and willingness to learn from each other. Both sides should try to understand each other’s point of view and the other’s civilization by thinking the way the other thinks.

 

CNS: How can translation inspire communication between China and the West today?

Karl-Heinz Pohl: Cultural development relies heavily on translation, just like the Bible, which was translated from Hebrew into Greek, from Greek into Latin, and from Latin into English… not to mention the translations between English, French, German, Spanish and other languages. In China, translations of Indian Buddhist scriptures once had a great impact on Chinese culture, and translations of Karl Marx’s works also had a profound impact on modern China.

As for translations between Chinese and Western languages, a main problem is the “asymmetry”: The Chinese have translated almost all the Western classics into Chinese, but Westerners know very little about China. Although Sinologists have played a critical role in promoting cultural exchange and mutual understanding between China and the West, it is far from sufficient.

This is because of the position of the West for centuries. Western ideas and perspectives have become the norm, the so-called “hegemonic discourse,” and Western views and ideas have influenced the entire world. China has also learned a lot from the West.

This “asymmetry” can be rectified only when China shows more cultural confidence on the global stage. It will then also make the West want to understand more about China.

 




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The week that life in Dubai ground to a halt – Egypt Independent

Dubai, UAE CNN  — 

The scenes from Dubai this week seemed apocalyptic to residents who are more used to the tranquil nature of the sunny metropolis in the desert.

This city hadn’t witnessed a natural disaster of such magnitude since records began, and the destruction it left behind only became apparent after the storm cleared.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, saw the heaviest rainfall in at least 75 years, with more than a year’s worth of precipitation in 24 hours. Life for many in the glitzy tourism and financial hub came to a near halt.

Emergency services worked round the clock, and no deaths in the city were reported, although a 70-year-old man died after flooding swept away his vehicle in neighboring Ras Al-Khaimah emirate.

The chaos that ensued was short-lived, but it showed the city’s vulnerability to natural disasters.

As runways went underwater, flights were canceled at one of the world’s busiest airports. Flashy malls were soaked with rain seeping through ceilings, and elevators stopped functioning in skyscrapers, forcing residents to climb stairs up dozens of floors. Unable to return home, some motorists slept in their cars due to blocked roads.

The images were shocking for the hi-tech city, a leading international tourist destination which boasts a world-class infrastructure, some of which gave in to natural disaster. Rain is scarce in the Persian Gulf region and urban planning does not account for the possibility of major storms.

Dubai has a unique demographic model. Of its 3.5 million people, 92% of are foreigners who come from 200 countries to live and work in the city, lured by its tax-free status and relaxed lifestyle.

It is the world’s second-best tourist destination, according to one report, with more than 17 million visitors arriving last year, drawn by year-round sunshine, gourmet eateries and luxury shopping.

The disruptions this week impacted almost everyone, from tourists and migrant workers to the minority citizen population and Western expatriates.

The authorities called on people to stay home, but many ventured out anyway, only to find themselves unable to return due to waterlogged streets.

“The scary part is that there was nowhere you can go,” said Sofie, an expatriate resident who declined to provide her last name. She ended up stranded by the submerged roads for nearly 12 hours, some of which were spent sleeping in her car.

On Sheikh Zayed Road, a 16-lane thoroughfare in Dubai lined with gleaming glass skyscrapers, motorists reported near-complete blockage in some areas, with cars going against the traffic to escape the gridlock. In the financial district, home to the regional operations of some of the world’s top banks, luxury cars were seen almost entirely underwater as the streets turned into lakes. In the man-made Dubai Marina, a popular destination for Western and Russian visitors, furniture from nearby restaurants and coffee shops was swept away by the current.

When the waters receded, streets were left strewn with debris. Images in local media showed highways with lanes of abandoned cars; in some neighborhoods, they had yet to be removed by Thursday morning.

The economic damage from the storm could go into billions of dirhams, with significant impact to vehicles, properties and infrastructure, said Avinash Babur, chief executive of InsuranceMarket.ae, an insurance broker in the UAE (1 dirham is equivalent to $0.27).

“The current damage is significant, with notable effects on both public and private properties, including key infrastructure,” he told CNN. “While Dubai has experienced storms in the past, the unique intensity of this event has posed new challenges.”

The volume of calls and enquiries for insurance companies has jumped tenfold, he said, with a surge in demand for home insurance.

As some residents became trapped in their houses without electricity and unable to leave due to flooding outside, some opted to swim through swamps to escape. With landline use becoming increasingly rare, those without electricity relied on power banks to use their smartphones.

For many, the confinement was reminiscent of Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020.

Heavily reliant on foreign visitors and capital, Dubai was one of the first cities to come out of lockdowns as tourist numbers dwindled and property prices fell, and the UAE was among the first countries to achieve 100% vaccination in November 2021.

Babur said the current situation presents an opportunity for Dubai “to showcase its resilience and rapid recovery capabilities, similar to its effective management during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

With food apps suspending deliveries during and after the storm, some residents had to resort to canned food, or whatever was left in their fridges, for sustenance. Those without electricity used barbeques to cook frozen food left thawing in freezers. Some fared even worse, with homes inundated with water, sometimes up to the waist, according to videos shared in local media, with belongings, furniture and appliances destroyed.

The UAE has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, at 96% (the United States is at 90%, while China is at 72%). Residents rely heavily on home deliveries for everything from groceries and car fuel to ice cream and pedicures at the tap of a screen, a phenomenon that took off during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

On a normal day, the city’s streets are teeming with bikers rushing to make deliveries for companies that promise a 20-minute dispatch for groceries and 40 minutes for food. But early this week, most weren’t delivering. That forced people to venture out on foot, leading to large crowds in neighborhood eateries and supermarkets, with hours-long lines for food in some cases. Some restaurants stayed open until the early hours to accommodate the demand. Residents reported seeing empty shelves for some items in supermarkets the day after the storm, including frozen food and ready meals. The delivery apps started resuming services by Thursday, but were still facing long delays.

Ali Salem, a 55-year-old retired Emirati, told CNN on Thursday that he had been trapped in his house in Dubai’s upscale Jumeirah district since the storm hit on Tuesday due to waterlogging on his street. The home has been without water or electricity since then, he said, and he was told by the utility agency on Tuesday that he’d have to wait two days for the issue to be resolved. Electricity was finally restored on Friday.

“Lesson learned,” he said. “A generator would be useful in the future.”

The rain, however, wasn’t as miserable for the young. Schools moved to distance learning for the rest of the week, but some pupils with no electricity in their homes were delighted to take a holiday, unable to power their computers.

Then the memes started, with residents finding joy and humor in the inconvenience of a once-in-75-years phenomenon. One viral social media video showed fish swimming in a pool of water on a pavement next to an overflowing manmade lake. Several videos on social media showed a festive atmosphere, with children hopping on dinghies as their neighborhoods turned into ponds. One video showed migrant workers playing volleyball in ankle-deep water; in several others, residents could be seen wakeboarding in flooded streets.

Another video showed boys jet skiing at full speed in a residential neighborhood, with the caption: “Only in Dubai.”



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‘Thank You America!’: Ukraine’s Zelensky and Israel’s Netanyahu hail House passage of $95 billion foreign aid package – Egypt Independent

Kyiv CNN  — 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu have thanked US lawmakers after they voted in favor of new aid packages for their countries worth billions of dollars.

“Thank you, America!” Zelensky wrote on his Telegram on Saturday, shortly after the House of Representatives passed the long-delayed Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act by a vote of 311-112.

The bill was part of a wider $95 billion package providing foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region. It provides nearly $61 billion to help Ukraine and others in the region fight Russia, while the House also passed funding worth $26.4 billion for Israel and $8.1 billion to counter China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific.

Zelensky said the decision would keep “history on the right track.”

“Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it. The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger. Just peace and security can only be attained through strength,” Zelensky added.

Meanwhile, the House passed the Israel Security Supplemental with a vote of 366-58.

“Thank you friends, thank you America!” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a post on social media, adding that the bill demonstrates “strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization.”

However, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the aid package for Israel, describing it as a “dangerous escalation” and act of aggression that would lead to more Palestinian casualties in Israel’s war on Hamas.

The measures still need approval from the Senate, which could begin voting on them as soon as Tuesday.

US President Joe Biden said the House passage of the foreign aid bills sent a “clear message” about America’s leadership to the globe, and urged the Senate to “quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law.”

The passing of the measures for Ukraine following months of resistance by some Republicans is seen by some as a potential turning point in the country’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s foreign minister told CNN the risk of a larger war in Europe had fallen following the vote.

“This is a historic day, when not only Ukraine got a boost of hope, but also the United States and all of the free world,” Dmytro Kuleba said.

Ensuring Russian President Vladimir Putin is defeated in Ukraine would protect the security and prosperity of Americans, he added.

“Enabling Ukraine to push back Russian aggression is equal to preventing a larger war in Europe and averting the risk of all wannabe aggressors plunging our world into chaos,” Kuleba said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova criticized the move, insisting to CNN in a statement Saturday that the aid package would only increase tensions.

“The allocation of US military aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan will exacerbate global crises: military aid to the Kyiv regime is direct sponsorship of terrorist activity, to Taiwan is interference in China’s internal affairs, and to Israel is a direct path toward escalating unprecedented aggravation in the region,” the statement read.

Three Ukrainian servicemen told CNN the vote provided a much-needed shot in the arm — and all three fighters were clear on the weapons they now need from the United States.

“We thought that our partners had forgotten about us,” an intelligence officer with the call sign Bankir, currently serving in the Zaporizhzhia region, said in a phone conversation. “This news gives us a sense of support and understanding that we have not been forgotten.”

An artillery reconnaissance commander with the 110th mechanized brigade, who spent two years defending the industrial town of Avdiivka before it fell to Russia in February, had a similar message.

“When we feel support from the outside, it motivates us. After all, the military knows it cannot win with sticks and bows and arrows,” the commander, using his call sign Teren, told CNN. “For people who want to defeat the enemy, this news is a great morale booster.”

He went on: “To win, we need ammunition … we really need artillery shells because we have an artillery hunger. We also need drones, both reconnaissance and attack drones.”

Another soldier, Dmytro Kurylovich, fighting in eastern Ukraine with the National Guard, identified air defense and artillery as top priorities.

“First of all, we need air defense systems and artillery shells […] All big cities need air defense systems. Artillery is needed so that we can conduct a counter-offensive and fight back. If we have enough artillery, we will be able to liberate our territories faster and change the situation at the front,” he said in an audio message to CNN.

“Morale changes depending on whether there is ammunition,” he added, throwing into sharp relief the impact on Ukraine’s soldiers of being outgunned by Russian forces ten to one – a ratio recently reported by Ukraine’s president in an interview.

The intelligence officer Bankir also described how frontline soldiers would feel more secure knowing the rest of the country was better protected from Russian missile strikes.

“We need air defense systems. Here at the front, we need to be sure that our families in the back are protected and safe. Then we can fight,” he said.

People in Kyiv told CNN they were grateful for the vote but some were also sanguine about what it said about Ukraine’s dependence on outside help to survive.

Yulia, 32, thanked US lawmakers for their support but said delays had resulted in unnecessary deaths on the front lines as well as in the country’s major towns and cities. She also highlighted a widespread concern among Ukrainians that conflicts in other parts of the world have put Ukraine’s plight in the shadows.

“It is essential that the issue of assistance to Ukraine does not become secondary to the war in Israel, meaning we fade into the background. It is important that the aid does not stop, important that it continues,” she said.

Roman, 49, was even more circumspect, describing his frustrations with Ukraine’s reliance on Western support. He referenced a decision taken in 1994, shortly after independence, when Kyiv gave up the nuclear weapons stationed on its territory during Soviet times – now seen by many Ukrainians as a calamitous mistake.

“It seems to me that this [vote on military aid] should not have taken this long. Back in the day, Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons under pressure from the United States, and it was under US pressure that we destroyed all our aviation and handed some of it over to Russia. It is these aircraft that are now launching missile strikes against our country – missiles that we handed over to Russia,” he said, adding that US pressure back then meant Washington should feel an obligation to help Ukraine now.

“The war has taught us not to trust anyone. We became realists and fatalists a long time ago. I will believe that there is aid when it actually enters Ukraine,” he added.

Hanna, 42, was more upbeat.

“At last! We have been waiting for this for so long. The last six months have been very difficult, we lacked everything – equipment, ammunition, weapons. This is not only Ukraine’s war. It is a war of the entire world,” she said.

Danylo, 23, also struck a more positive note, saying the entire country felt relief knowing US military aid would likely start flowing again after the House vote.

“All Ukrainians have been waiting for this bill to finally pass. Ukraine has been without American aid for a long time. Without US assistance, Ukraine has little chance of success on the battlefield,” he said.

“We hope that after the adoption of this law, Ukraine will seize the initiative and save as many human lives as possible and finally be able to liberate our lands from Russian occupation.”

An expression of Ukrainian relief also came at Kyiv’s National Palace of Arts on Saturday evening. In a break between songs at a concert given by popular singers Oleksandr Ponomariov and Mykhailo Khoma, the event emcee took to the stage to announce the result of the US House vote.

The news triggered cheering among the three thousand plus audience and a sustained round of applause.

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Canadian farmers take precautions as bird flu outbreaks hit U.S. dairy cattle | CBC Radio

The Dose19:04What’s going on with H5N1 bird flu?

H5N1 is in the news again, and this time it has spread to cattle in several U.S. states. It has even infected a dairy worker in Texas. Global health epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan explains how avian flu is spreading, how transmissible it is, what vaccines are available, and why we shouldn’t be too worried just yet.

Beef cattle farmer Raquel Kolof of Gibsons, B.C., says she’s extremely concerned about recent outbreaks of a dangerous form of bird flu — also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) — in dairy farms across at least eight U.S. states.

Though she says protections are in place to prevent similar outbreaks from taking place north of the U.S. border, and there have been no confirmed cases of bird flu in Canadian cattle to date, she says she’s still worried “that it’s coming up here.”

“Cattle do move around … and 85 per cent of our beef market is handled in south Alberta, through massive, massive factories,” said Kolof, the owner and founder of Hough Heritage Farms. “They all conglomerate, they spread to each other and then it spreads from there.”

Despite that unease, experts say there’s no cause for alarm right now thanks to national food safety standards and steps being taken by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to ensure that food producers adhere to necessary biosecurity measures.

What is bird flu? 

HPAI is a strain of influenza that causes “severe disease and high mortality in infected poultry,” according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HPAI typically spreads between birds and has a high mortality rate for avian species, according to Genevieve Toupin, the national veterinary program manager with the CFIA, whose team is responsible for the agency’s ruminant and swine programs. 

Genevieve Toupin is the national veterinary program manager with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Her team is responsible for the agency’s ruminant and swine programs. (Submitted by Genevieve Toupin)

She says the virus currently infecting U.S. cattle is the same that’s been circulated by migratory birds flying along the Pacific-Central Flyway for approximately the past two years.

Thirty-two herds across eight U.S. states so far have been affected by HPAI infections since government agencies made the announcement almost four weeks ago. It’s still not clear how the virus is spreading to and between dairy cattle.

While the virus’s name implies it only affects birds, other animals — including mammals — can catch H5N1. 

“In fact, we’ve detected H5N1 in polar bears, sea lions, penguins, foxes, and the presumption there is they’re getting it from eating dead birds,” said University of Ottawa global health epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan, speaking with Dr. Brian Goldman, host of The Dose.

Symptoms among infected cattle include a sudden decrease in milk production, thicker milk, decreases in appetite and dry manure or constipation, according to the CFIA.

Can humans catch bird flu? 

Humans are susceptible to HPAI, though cases are rare and there has been no confirmed human-to-human transmission. 

Since 2003, nearly 900 people worldwide have been infected with H5N1, according to the World Health Organization. Canada has seen only one confirmed case, in 2013.

Infection occurs if the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled, according to the CDC. Symptoms in humans resemble influenza, including cough, shortness of breath, fever and body aches. 

In serious cases, people can experience severe respiratory illness, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, as well as neurological changes, and multi-organ failure. 

An estimated 52 per cent of known human cases result in death

“It’s not the typical seasonal flu that we’re all used to,” said Deonandan.

“However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are likely instances of people getting it and not even knowing it, because their symptoms were so poor, in which case the actual fatality rate will drop considerably.”

A man smiles at the camera.
Raywat Deonandan is a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. (Submitted by Raywat Deonandan)

Some estimates suggest the true fatality rate for humans infected with bird flu is “probably around 14 per cent to 30 per cent,” he said.

In comparison, during the height of the SARS outbreak in 2003, the disease had a case fatality rate of roughly 11 per cent

A Texas dairy worker in early April reportedly caught a case of bird flu from an infected mammal — likely a cow.

“The person in Texas … reported eye redness, or conjunctivitis, as their only symptom and is recovering,” according to the CDC.

WATCH | Bird flu is spreading in cows. Are humans at risk? | About That: 

Bird flu is spreading in cows. Are humans at risk? | About That

For the first time ever, avian influenza, or H5N1 bird flu, was detected in roughly a dozen dairy cow herds across the U.S. About That producer Lauren Bird explores why scientists and public health officials are concerned about the cross-species transmission and whether humans are now at higher risk.

This was only the second-ever recorded case of a human infected with bird flu in the U.S. The first was a Colorado inmate who caught the virus while working on a poultry farm as part of a pre-release employment program. 

So far, nearly all human cases have been from direct contact with infected poultry, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, with no evidence of any sustained transmission between people.

Deonandan says he’s especially worried about bird flu mutating, infecting a pig, and subsequently infecting a human in a form that would let it spread.

“What we’re concerned about is [bird flu] will share DNA with a flu that is adapted to live in humans and learn how to live in humans, in which case it will move from person to person, with presumably the same alacrity with which the seasonal flu moves from human to human,” he said. 

How are food producers monitoring their livestock? 

For her part, Kolof says she and other livestock producers already adhere to stringent safety standards to prevent the spread of infection and disease. 

“One of the beauties of being a small-scale farmer is that I interact with my herd multiple times a day,” she said. 

“I know and can see a change instantly.”

A woman leans on a goat while smiling the camera. Also in the frame is an alpaca.
Hough Heritage Farms owner Raquel Kolof primarily raises beef cattle, but she also raises goats, sheep and pigs. (Submitted by Raquel Kolof)

Toupin with the CFIA says working with stakeholders across the farming industry to coordinate the national response.

Cattle farms are being advised not to introduce any new animals into a herd, and to quarantine new animals for 21 days just in case the animal is incubating disease. 

WATCH | Sask. scientists developing avian flu vaccines: 

Sask. scientists developing avian flu vaccines

A team of scientists in Saskatchewan are part of the global push to create vaccines for avian flu. They’re trying to protect birds now and humans later if the virus mutates.

Farmers should also minimize contact between livestock and wild birds.

“We’re monitoring the situation closely,” she said. “I think that it’s not something that we should worry too much about [right now.]”

The Canadian Cattle Association declined an interview request to discuss this story. 

Canadians can also continue consuming beef, milk and egg products, though experts agree that food should be properly cooked. Pasteurization, a specialized heating process, also kills any harmful pathogens if they were to show up in milk or milk products.

Deonandan says he’s drawing attention to bird flu to contextualize the threat it poses to humans. 

“COVID-19 has shown us that there is a deep distrust of the so-called experts, deep distrust of authority,” he said. “By getting ahead of the narrative, by laying out the facts as we know them, maybe we can buy some more trust.”

 

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U.S. House passes billions in aid for Ukraine and Israel after months of struggle

The House swiftly approved $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies in a rare Saturday session as Democrats and Republicans banded together after months of hard-right resistance over renewed American support for repelling Russia’s invasion.

With an overwhelming vote, the $61 billion in aid for Ukraine passed in a matter of minutes, a strong showing as American lawmakers race to deliver a fresh round of U.S. support to the war-torn ally. Many Democrats cheered on the House floor and waved blue-and-yellow flags of Ukraine.

Aid to Israel and the other allies also won approval by healthy margins, as did a measure to clamp down on the popular platform TikTok, with unique coalitions forming to push the separate bills forward. The whole package will go to the Senate, which could pass it as soon as Tuesday. President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.

“We did our work here, and I think history will judge it well,” said a weary Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who risked his own job to marshal the package to passage.

Biden, in a statement, thanked Johnson, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers “who voted to put our national security first.”

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs,” the president said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said he was “grateful” to both parties in the House and “personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

“Thank you, America!” he said.

The scene in Congress was a striking display of action after months of dysfunction and stalemate fueled by Republicans, who hold the majority but are deeply split over foreign aid, particularly for Ukraine. Johnson relied on Democrats to ensure the military and humanitarian funding — the first major package for Ukraine since December 2022 — won approval.

The morning opened with a somber and serious debate and an unusual sense of purpose as Republican and Democratic leaders united to urge quick approval, saying that would ensure the United States supported its allies and remained a leader on the world stage. The House’s visitor galleries were crowded with onlookers.

“The eyes of the world are upon us, and history will judge what we do here and now,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee

Passage through the House cleared away the biggest hurdle to Biden’s funding request, first made in October as Ukraine’s military supplies began to run low.

The GOP-controlled House struggled for months over what to do, first demanding that any assistance for Ukraine be tied to policy changes at the U.S.-Mexico border, only to immediately reject a bipartisan Senate offer along those very lines.

Reaching an endgame has been an excruciating lift for Johnson that has tested both his resolve and his support among Republicans, with a small but growing number now openly urging his removal from the speaker’s office. Yet congressional leaders cast the votes as a turning point in history — an urgent sacrifice as U.S. allies are beleaguered by wars and threats from continental Europe to the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific.

“Sometimes when you are living history, as we are today, you don’t understand the significance of the actions of the votes that we make on this House floor, of the effect that it will have down the road,” said New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This is a historic moment.”

Opponents, particularly the hard-right Republicans from Johnson’s majority, argued that the U.S. should focus on the home front, addressing domestic border security and the nation’s rising debt load, and they warned against spending more money, which largely flows to American defense manufacturers, to produce weaponry used overseas.

Still, Congress has seen a stream of world leaders visit in recent months, from Zelenskyy to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, all but pleading with lawmakers to approve the aid. Globally, the delay left many questioning America’s commitment to its allies.

At stake has been one of Biden’s top foreign policy priorities — halting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advance in Europe. After engaging in quiet talks with Johnson, the president quickly endorsed Johnson’s plan, paving the way for Democrats to give their rare support to clear the procedural hurdles needed for a final vote.

“We have a responsibility, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans to defend democracy wherever it is at risk,” Jeffries said during the debate.

While aid for Ukraine failed to win a majority of Republicans, several dozen progressive Democrats voted against the bill aiding Israel as they demanded an end to the bombardment of Gaza that has killed thousands of civilians. A group of roughly 20 hard-right Republicans voted against every portion of the aid package, including for allies like Israel and Taiwan that have traditionally enjoyed support from the GOP.

At the same time, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has loomed large over the fight, weighing in from afar via social media statements and direct phone calls with lawmakers as he tilts the GOP to a more isolationist stance with his “America First” brand of politics.

Ukraine’s defense once enjoyed robust, bipartisan support in Congress, but as the war enters its third year, a majority of Republicans opposed further aid. Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., offered an amendment to zero out the money, but it was rejected.

The ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus has derided the legislation as the “America Last” foreign wars package and urged lawmakers to defy Republican leadership and oppose it because the bills did not include border security measures.

Johnson’s hold on the speaker’s gavel has also grown more tenuous in recent days as three Republicans, led by Greene, supported a “motion to vacate” that can lead to a vote on removing the speaker. Egged on by far-right personalities, she is also being joined by a growing number of lawmakers including Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who is urging Johnson to voluntarily step aside.

The package included several Republican priorities that Democrats endorsed, or at least are willing to accept. Those include proposals that allow the U.S. to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl; and legislation to require the China-based owner of the popular video app TikTok to sell its stake within a year or face a ban in the United States.

Still, the all-out push to get the bills through Congress is a reflection not only of politics, but realities on the ground in Ukraine. Top lawmakers on national security committees, who are privy to classified briefings, have grown gravely concerned about the tide of the war as Russia pummels Ukrainian forces beset by a shortage of troops and ammunition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Senate would begin procedural votes on the package Tuesday, saying, “Our allies across the world have been waiting for this moment.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, as he prepared to overcome objections from his right flank next week, said, “The task before us is urgent. It is once again the Senate’s turn to make history.”

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Lawrence Wong | Designated successor

It so happens that succession stories are often scripted like thrillers. When Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew stepped down in 1990, after three decades in power, he picked Goh Chok Tong to be the “stopgap” Prime Minister until his son’s time came. At times, the plot glitches, and the heir is chosen due to chance and circumstance. Take Lawrence Wong, the former Finance Minister who will succeed Lee Hsien Loong — the son who has been in power for 20 years — to become Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister.

Mr. Wong was not the first and familiar choice. The 51-year-old former civil servant has not been trained in the way Mr. Lee or Mr. Goh have. In 2018, the first pick withdrew, and the smooth succession planning was crinkled with uncertainty. All eyes shifted to Mr. Wong during COVID. His was a steadying voice guiding Singapore through the pandemic; a credible face representing Singapore’s equitable future. Corruption and ethics scandals within the ruling People’s Action Party have left Singaporeans yearning for accountability. Mr. Wong is now tasked with fortifying the party’s walls, and earning back the lost trust, before next year’s general elections.

The budding economist

Mr. Wong on April 15 accepted the leadership position with “humility and a deep sense of duty”.

He was raised in the Methodist tradition of Christianity; the family of four living in public housing in Marine Parade. His mother was a teacher. “To have a strong sense of responsibility, of making sure that if I commit to something, I do it well… that shaped me in a certain way,” he said in an interview. His father is from China and travelled to the British-controlled Malaya to work with his grandfather. He later went to Singapore to work as a sales executive. If his mother passed along discipline, his father bequeathed him a love for music. At age eight, Mr. Wong received a guitar, sparking a love affair with rock, blues and soul, jazz. He put up pictures of Eric Clapton’s guitar on his walls; fostered an adoration for Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. After high school, Mr. Wong pursued economics on a government scholarship in the U.S., because “all the guitarists and musicians I followed were largely American”, he told The Straits Times.

He often went busking; even took classes on rock and roll. Reality hit as he inched towards graduation when he failed to answer a question about Singapore’s model of development: he was going to graduate “without a mastery of the subject”, he recalled. The childhood discipline kicked in: he dedicated himself to mastering macroeconomics, economic modelling, even Singapore’s economic model. Mr. Wong later also completed a Public Administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.

The young economist picked a job in the Ministry of Trade and Industry circa 1997, the start of the Asian financial crisis (“nothing that I learned in school prepared me for such an assignment”, he said). Future stints included time at the Ministries of Finance and Health, after which he shadowed PM Lee between 2005 and 2008. The private sector beckoned in between; he told Petir he “was tempted to leave” for more lucrative opportunities. His mentor, former civil servant Lim Siong Guan, told him to be “patient”. The advice paid off: “my job started to grow considerably… [including] work that entailed national policies or working with fellow Singaporeans…”

Political entry

Mr. Wong’s first test came during the COVID-19 pandemic when he “rose to the occasion without breaking under the stress and pressure”, a colleague said in an interview. His “down-to-earth approach” and calm handling of the pandemic helped him build trust within the PAP. Mr. Wong is also known for spearheading the Forward Singapore agenda, involving more than 200,000 people in the exercise that maps Singapore’s priorities and vision.

The current deputy Prime Minister lives a guarded personal life. His first marriage ended after three years due to “incompatibility”; he is now married to Loo Tze Lui, a former banker working in wealth management. Mr. Wong’s social media offers a peek into his world; he is a “bookworm, guitar player and dog lover”, his bio reads. Scroll and one finds reels of Mr. Wong jamming to Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode and a rendition of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ dedicated to teachers for their hard work. He comes across someone “who is comfortable with emoting and personable,” but can be “tough” if required, analyst Eugene Tan told Bloomberg.

Over time, Mr. Wong has cultivated a professional reputation for being clear and persuasive; serious and sincere; attentive and amicable. Speaking of his work ethic, the politician said: “…in the Methodist tradition, you would say your work is your worship… [your work] is a testimony of how you as a person are an example… for the world.”

In him, politician Yaacob Ibrahim told The Straits Times was a rare quality: Mr. Wong “never had ambitions to become the prime minister”.

Mr. Lee had intended to step down before his 70th birthday, a plan upended because of the pandemic. The transition also overlaps with crises on the PAP’s frontiers. Two high-profile politicians resigned last year after an ethics case rocked the party and a minister resigned in January this year after he was charged with corruption. Mr. Wong said in July he would “work doubly hard” to earn Singaporeans’ confidence. “Everything depends on the success of this third transition in our history,” he said during a party convention.

In the successor’s hands lies the dynasty’s legacy. But what will be Mr. Wong’s legacy? Some think he may uphold the status quo without ruffling many feathers. The opposition Singapore Democratic Party in 2022 said Mr. Wong is “substantively no different” from his colleague [PM]. Critics have censured him for increasing taxes; it encumbers people living in one of the most expensive countries in the world. Others foresee more worker-friendly policies, devised through processes that engage citizens. Mr. Wong has also spoken about changing the “identity” of the island state to make it “a more middle-income society”.

Mr. Wong in a 2022 interview recollected a wisdom his mentor acquired when he worked with Goh Keng Swee, the deputy to Lee Kuan Yew. Dr. Goh’s philosophy was to always know the answers to Lee’s questions. If the deputy failed, he “would make it a point” to try and master the topic within hours. To the dutiful Mr. Wong, this was a “very inspiring example”.The designated successor is inheriting this advice. One month before the change of the guard, he said in a post: “I pledge to give my all in this undertaking.”

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‘It’s our purpose’: How two young men from the NT combat mental health issues in their community

When Jahdai Vigona and Danté Rodrigues were heading down the wrong path after high school, they had two options: keep going or make a change.

They chose the latter, and ever since they have been working tirelessly to improve the mental and physical health of Indigenous men in their community.

The two cousins, who are are both proud Tiwi Islands men, say that with the help of mentors, family members and positive role models, they were able to turn things around for themselves, and hope to do the same for others.

“Jahdai and I grew up around a lot of things like domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and crime and for a while we were even going off on our own wrong path,” Danté says.

“I’m only 22 and I’ve lost more friends and family than I can count,” Jahdai adds.

“I’ve attended more funerals than weddings in my lifetime. That’s just the harsh reality for someone like me coming from the NT.”

A better self, 1 per cent at a time

Jahdai and Danté decided to take matters into their own hands — or boxing gloves.

“How can you expect someone to be a good person, if you don’t teach them how to be,” Danté says.

“We are lucky that we had a lot of positive role models to help us, but for a lot of people in the Northern Territory, Indigenous or not, they just don’t have that support.” 

With their One Percent program, they try to help young Indigenous men in the Northern Territory become better versions of themselves day by day, 1 per cent at a time.

Mindfulness is a integral part of Jahdai and Danté’s program.(Supplied)

The duo run weekly sessions in Darwin, inviting anyone who’s keen for a work-out and a proper feed to join.

A session usually starts around 10 in the morning at an oval in Darwin. Participants start with a jog around the field.

What follows is Danté leading the physical component of the session, which consists of kickboxing, pad work and other exercises.

The second half of the session moves into the more spiritual side.

“We do team building and I facilitate theatre work as a way of strengthening communications and bonds within the group,” Jahdai says.

Theatre work generally takes the form of games that strengthen group bonds, like one where the participants have to count to 21 by yelling a number without interrupting each other.

If they manage to get to 21 uninterrupted, Jahdai asks the group who didn’t yell out a number. Those quieter members are encouraged to let their voices be heard in the next round.

“Sometimes there are stronger voices and sometimes quieter ones, but we try to teach people that the stronger voices aren’t any more or less important than the quiet ones,” he says. 

Group picture of 20-odd people on a field, behind them are soccer goals.

Participants start off the day with a jog around the field.(Supplied)

The program also incorporates a lot of practical life skills.

“I’ve had to figure a lot of things out for myself, like how to get a loan for a car, how to do my taxes, how to write a proper job application, how to communicate, how to write effectively,” Jahdai says.

“All these foundational skills you think you’d learn in 12 years of schooling.”

Danté acknowledges that a lot of those skills are usually taught by parents.

“But a lot of kids, Indigenous or not, don’t have that. We want to make those services more available to people like us.” 

Jahdai and Danté know from their own experience what it’s like to struggle with their mental health.

One of the things that helped them through it is sports.

Two young men are pictured sitting down on a flight of stairs.

Jahdai and Danté have used their own personal experiences and backgrounds to develop the program.(ABC News: Leah White)

Discipline through kickboxing

Danté, who is also a professional fighter and has competed in the WAKO Kickboxing World Championships, explains how his sport got him off the wrong path.

“There was drug and alcohol abuse, not attending school, running amok and just being a nuisance. You know, normal stuff,” he says. 

“But when I started focusing full time on sport, that’s when I noticed my life was getting better in almost every aspect.

“A really big lesson that kicked into me was to surround myself with positive people, always.”

Two men are pictured, the one of the left is hitting at the boxing pads that the one on the right is holding.

Danté says kickboxing helped him get his life under control.(Supplied)

Kickboxing teaches important values like discipline and self-worth, he says.

“That sport builds so much resilience and so much accountability, compared to any other sport,” he says.

“It teaches young men that when you get knocked down, you have to get back up.”

More than just boxing

“[The program] covers all aspects of needs for a young male. It’s spiritual through meditation and mindfulness, there’s social connection and a mental health side where we talk and listen to each other,” Jahdai says.

Jahdai, who has a mental health education background, has worked a lot with Indigenous youth in correctional settings and remote communities.

He uses those experiences at the One Percent Program. Each session focuses on a different value: from discipline to mindfulness and social connections.

A row of men is pictured boxing, some hold pads as others are wearing gloves, hitting at the pads.

“[The program] covers all aspects of needs for a young male,” Jahdai says. (Supplied)

Fourteen-year-old Numaka Jarlson says the program has taught him about discipline.

“It’s been something that gets me out of bed on the weekends instead of just sitting on my phone all day,” he says.

“[The program] gives me a really good model of a good man … It gives me a standard that I look up to.”

“I really enjoy just settling down and just talking about feelings and life because I think it’s really meaningful and it’s really important. 

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‘It’s our purpose’

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2022 the rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was more than twice that of the broader population, with over three-quarters of those who died by suicide being male. 

Earlier this year a Darwin inquest was told that NT’s child and youth suicide rate was more than three times the national average.

Two men are pictured, both are wearing sunnies are wearing dark shirts. They are standing on a field with soccer goals.

Jahdai and Danté say that there is a need for a program like theirs.(Supplied)

Jahdai and Danté say they get regular reminders of why they started the program.

“We’ve had participants share with us that three days before coming to a session they felt suicidal. The only thing that got them out of the house was participating in our program,” Jahdai says.

“We didn’t think a program like this would have such an impact and to hear stuff like that from our participants, shows that there’s a need for it.

“The program really is just who we are, our characters, our people’s upbringing, it’s what we want to do. It’s our purpose,” Jahdai concludes. 

Danté agrees: “It’s a reflection of who we are.” 



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U.S. House passes $95B US aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other allies | CBC News

The U.S. House of Representatives swiftly approved $95 billion US in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies in a rare Saturday session as Democrats and Republicans banded together after months of hard-right resistance over renewed American support for repelling Russia’s invasion.

With overwhelming support, the $61 billion in aid for Ukraine delivered a strong showing as American lawmakers race to deliver a fresh round of U.S. support to the war-torn ally. Some cheered on the House floor, waving blue-and-yellow flags of Ukraine.

Aid to Israel and the other allies also won approval by healthy margins, as did a measure to clamp down on the popular social media platform TikTok, with unique coalitions forming to push the separate bills forward.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, centre, walks to the floor of the House of Representatives ahead of a series of votes on Saturday that saw lawmakers swiftly approve $95 billion US in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

The whole package will go to the U.S. Senate, which could pass it as soon as Tuesday. U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.

“We did our work here, and I think history will judge it well,” said embattled House Speaker Mike Johnson, who risked his own job to marshal the package to passage.

In a statement, Biden thanked Johnson, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers “who voted to put our national security first.”

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs,” the president said.

Zelenskyy expresses gratitude

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was “grateful” to both parties in the House and “personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track,” he said on X, formerly Twitter. “Thank you, America!”

The scene in Congress was a striking display of action after months of dysfunction and stalemate fuelled by Republicans, who hold the majority but are deeply split over foreign aid, particularly for Ukraine.

Activists supporting Ukraine demonstrate outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Activists supporting Ukraine demonstrate outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

Johnson relied on Democrats to ensure the military and humanitarian package won approval.

The morning opened with a sombre and serious debate and unusual sense of purpose as Republican and Democratic leaders united to urge quick approval, saying that would ensure the United States supported its allies and remained a leader on the world stage. The House’s visitor galleries crowded with onlookers.

“The eyes of the world are upon us, and history will judge what we do here and now,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House foreign affairs committee.

Pressure on Speaker

Passage through the House cleared away the biggest hurdle to Biden’s funding request, first made in October as Ukraine’s military supplies began to run low.

The Republican-controlled House struggled for months over what to do, first demanding that any assistance be tied to policy changes at the U.S.-Mexico order, only to immediately reject a bipartisan Senate offer along those very lines.

A view of the U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington on Saturday, the day that U.S. lawmakers were to vote on legislation providing $95 billion US in security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives began voting on legislation providing $95 billion US in security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, in Washington on Saturday. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

Reaching an endgame has been an excruciating lift for Johnson that has tested both his resolve and his support among Republicans, with a small but growing number now openly urging his removal from the Speaker’s office.

Yet congressional leaders cast the votes as a turning point in history — an urgent sacrifice as U.S. allies are beleaguered by wars and threats from continental Europe to the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific.

“Sometimes when you are living history, as we are today, you don’t understand the significance of the actions of the votes that we make on this House floor, of the effect that it will have down the road,” said New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee. “This is a historic moment.”

Opponents, particularly the hard-right Republicans from Johnson’s majority, argued that the U.S. should focus on the home front, addressing domestic border security and the nation’s rising debt load — and they warned against spending more money, which largely flows to American defence manufacturers, to produce weaponry used overseas.

Still, Congress has seen a stream of world leaders visit in recent months, from Zelenskyy to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, all but pleading with lawmakers to approve the aid. Globally, the delay left many questioning the U.S. commitment to its allies.

At stake has been one of Biden’s top foreign policy priorities — halting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advance in Europe. After engaging in quiet talks with Johnson, the president quickly endorsed Johnson’s plan, paving the way for Democrats to give their rare support to clear the procedural hurdles needed for a final vote.

While aid for Ukraine failed to win a majority of Republicans, several dozen progressive Democrats voted against the bill aiding Israel. Ukraine’s defence once enjoyed robust, bipartisan support in Congress, but with the war now in its third year, the bulk of Republicans oppose further aid.

At the same time, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has loomed large over the fight, weighing in from afar via social media statements and direct phone calls with lawmakers as he tilts the Republican Party to a more isolationist stance with his “America First” brand of politics.

Russian missile fragment seen near area where a farmer works in his field in Izium, Ukraine.
A fragment of a Russian missile is seen in the foreground as a farmer works on his field in Izium, in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, on Saturday. (Andrii Marienko/The Associated Press)

The package included several Republican priorities that Democrats endorsed, or at least are willing to accept. Those include proposals that allow the U.S. to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl; and legislation to require the China-based owner of the popular video app TikTok to sell its stake within a year or face a ban in the United States.

Still, the all-out push to get the bills through Congress is a reflection not only of politics but of realities on the ground in Ukraine. Top lawmakers on national security committees, who are privy to classified briefings, have grown gravely concerned about the tide of the war as Russia pummels Ukrainian forces beset by a shortage of troops and ammunition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the Senate would begin procedural votes on the package on Tuesday, saying, “Our allies across the world have been waiting for this moment.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, as he prepared to overcome objections from his right flank next week, said, “The task before us is urgent. It is once again the Senate’s turn to make history.”

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Venice Biennale titled ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ gives voice to outsiders

Outsider, queer and Indigenous artists are getting an overdue platform at the 60th Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition that opened Saturday.

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Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa’s main show, which accompanies 88 national pavilions for the seven-month run, is strong on figurative painting, with fewer installations than recent editions. A preponderance of artists are from the Global South, long overlooked by the mainstream art world circuits. Many are dead. Frida Kahlo, for example, is making her first appearance at the Venice Biennale. Her 1949 painting “Diego and I” hangs alongside one by her husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera.

Despite their lower numbers, living artists have “a much stronger physical presence in the exhibition,” Pedrosa said, with each either showing one large-scale work, or a collection of smaller works. The vast majority are making their Venice Biennale debut.

Visitors to the two main venues, the Giardini and the Arsenale, will be greeted by a neon sign by the conceptual art cooperative Claire Fontaine with the exhibition’s title: “Stranieri Ovunque — Foreigners Everywhere.” A total of 60 in different languages hang throughout the venues.

When taken in the context of global conflicts and hardening borders, the title seems a provocation against intransigent governments — at the very least a prod to consider our shared humanity. Through artists with underrepresented perspectives, the exhibition address themes of migration and the nature of diaspora as well as indigeneity and the role of craft.

“Foreigners everywhere, the expression has many meanings,’’ Pedrosa said. “One could say that wherever you go, wherever you are, you are always surrounded by foreigners. … And then in a more personal, perhaps psychoanalytic subjective dimension, wherever you go, you are also a foreigner, deep down inside.”

“Refugee, the foreigner, the queer, the outsider and the Indigenous, these are the … subjects of interest in the exhibition,” he said.

Some highlights from the Venice Biennale, which runs through Nov. 26:

GEOPOLITICS AT THE BIENNALE

Facing the threat of protests, the Israel Pavilion stayed closed after the artist and curators refused to open until there is a cease-fire in Gaza and the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas -led militants are released.

Ukraine is making its second Biennale art appearance as a country under invasion; soft diplomacy aimed at keeping the world focused on the war. Russia has not appeared at the Biennale since the Ukraine invasion began, but this time its historic 110-year-old building in the Giardini is on loan to Bolivia.

For a short time during this week’s previews, a printed sign hung on the Accademia Bridge labelling Iran a “murderous terrorist regime,” declaring “the Iranian people want freedom & peace.” The venue for the Iranian pavilion was nearby, but there was no sign of activity. The Biennale said it would open Sunday — two days after the departure from Italy of Group of Seven foreign ministers who warned Iran of sanctions for escalating violence against Israel.

GOLDEN LIONS

The Golden Lion for best national pavilion went to Australia for Archie Moore’s installation “kith and kin,” tracing his own Aboriginal relations over 65,000 years. It’s written in chalk on the pavilion’s dark walls and ceiling and took months to complete. The Mataaho Collective from New Zealand won the Golden Lion for the best participant in Pedrosa’s main show, for their installation inspired by Maori weaving that crisscrosses the gallery space, casting a pattern of shadows and interrogating interconnectedness.

LGBTQ+ ARTISTS

As a queer artist born in South Korea and working in Los Angeles, Kang Seung Lee said he identified with Pedrosa’s “invitation to look at our lives as foreigners, but also visitors to this world.”

His installation, “Untitled (Constellations),” which considers the artists who died in the AIDS epidemic through a collection of objects, is in dialogue with spare paper-on-canvas works by British artist Romany Eveleigh, who died in 2020. “The works speak to each other, an intergenerational conversation, of course,’’ said Lee, 45, whose works have been shown in international exhibitions, including Documenta 15. This is his first Venice Biennale.

Nearby, transsexual Brazilian artist Manauara Clandestina presented her video “Migranta,” which speaks about her family’s story of migration. “It’s so strong, because I can hear my daddy’s voice,’’ she said. Clandestina, who hails from the Amazon city of Manaus, embraced Pedrosa during a press preview marking her Venice debut. She said she continues to work in Brazil despite discrimination and violence against transgender people.

NEWER NATIONAL PARTICIPANTS

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The Giardini hosts 29 national pavilions representing some of the oldest participating nations, like the United States, Germany, France and Britain. More recent additions show either in the nearby Arsenale, or choose a venue farther afield, like Nigeria did this year in Venice’s Dorsoduro district.

The Nigerian Pavilion, in a long-disused building with raw brick walls that exude potential, houses an exhibition that spans mediums — including figurative art, installation, sculpture, sound art, film art and augmented reality — by artists living in the diaspora and in their homeland.

“These different relationships to the country allow for a very unique and different perspectives of Nigeria,’’ said curator Aindrea Emelife. “I think that it’s quite interesting to consider how leaving a space creates a nostalgia for what hasn’t been and allows an artist to imagine an alternative continuation to that. The exhibition is about nostalgia, but it’s also about criticality.”

The eight-artist Biennale exhibition “Nigeria Imaginary” will travel to the Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria, where Emelife is curator, which will give it “a new context and a new sense of relevancy,’’ she said.

BREAKTHROUGHS

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Ghana-born British artist John Akomfrah created eight multimedia film- and sound-based works for the British Pavilion that looks at what it is to be “living as a figure of difference” in the U.K. Images of water are a connecting device, representing memory.

“In the main, I’m trying to tease out something about collective memory, the things that have informed a culture, British culture let’s say, over the last 50 years,’’ Akomfrah told The Associated Press. “As you go further in, you realize we’re going further back. We end up going to the 16th century. So it’s an interrogation of 500 years of British life.”

Considering the question of equity in the art world, Akomfrah indicated the adjacent French Pavilion — where French-Caribbean artist Julien Creuzet created an immersive exhibition — and the Canadian Pavilion on the other side, featuring an exhibition examining the historic importance of seed beads by Kapwani Kiwanga, who is in Paris.

“I mean, this feels like a very significant moment for artists of color,’’ said Akomfrah, who participated in the Ghana Pavilion in 2019. “Because I’m in the British Pavilion. Next to me is the French one, with an artist, Julien, who I love a lot, of African origin. And then next to me is a Canadian pavilion that has a biracial artist, again, with African heritage.

“So that’s certainly not happened before, that three major pavilions have artists of color inhabiting, occupied, making work in them. And that feels like a breakthrough,” he said.

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UKRAINE

The Ukrainian Pavilion engaged ordinary Ukrainians to collaborate with artists on work that documents how they are experiencing, and in some ways adapting to the Russian invasion.

The artistic projects include silent video portraits of European actors styled by Ukrainians displaced by the war to represent an “ideal” refugee. In another, neurodiverse young adults show their linguistic flexibility in incorporating a new reality where niceties like “quiet night” have a whole new meaning. And a film installation has become a sort of archive, taken from social media channels that once chronicled pre-invasion pastimes but that turned their attention to documenting the war.

Co-curator Max Gorbatskyi said it was important for Ukraine to be present at the Biennale to assert its distinctiveness from Russian culture, but also to use the venue to keep the wider world’s attention.

“We wanted to look at stories of real people,’’ he said. “There was no way we were going to show some abstract paintings, maybe beautiful and interesting, but which only pose questions in the art discourse. Instead, we wanted to bring real people together with artists in a non-hierarchical way to tell their stories.”

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COLLATERAL EVENTS

Greek American George Petrides’ installation “Hellenic Heads” outside of Venice’s Church of Saint George of the Greeks and the Museum of Icons is among the many collateral events that spill over into the city.

Petrides’ created six oversized busts, each inspired by a significant period of Greek history, using family members as models. His mother, in turquoise blue, is in the classical style and his daughter represents the future in a golden hue. To withstand the weather, Petrides recreated an earlier series but this time from recycled plastic, using a digital sculpting software and a 3D printer, reworking details from hand.

“This space is unique. We have the Museum of Icons here, which is one of the most spectacular collections of icons in the world. We have a church started while Michelangelo was still alive, which any sculptor finds interesting. But further, this particular quarter is the Greek quarter,’’ he said, noting an influx after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453.

Across the city, at the base of the Accademia Bridge, the Qatar Museum’s installation “Your Ghosts Are Mine” presents clips of feature films and video art from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia organized thematically and exploring issues such as migration, conflict and exile. Films will be screened in their entirety four days a week.

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“These different thematics tell a story about all the congruences and the parallels that exist among filmmakers that may have never met or are from different parts of the global south,’’ said assistant curator and filmmaker Majid Al-Remaihi. “Some films were the first from their countries to premiere in Cannes or make it to the O

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‘Ghostly’ city: How Russia’s war in Ukraine is taking a toll on its own Belgorod region – Egypt Independent

CNN  — 

Deserted streets, shuttered shops and silent restaurants. Damaged buildings and craters from missile strikes pockmarking the asphalt. Arrows on house facades signposting the nearest bomb shelters and stock of emergency supplies.

The once-tranquil city of Belgorod, some 25 miles north of Russia’s border with Ukraine, has been transformed into a kind of ghost town, its eerie silence interrupted by the regular wail of missile warning sirens – a reminder that the war raging in neighboring Ukraine looms ever closer.

Reporting from the region is complicated by media restrictions and government control over press freedom. Many Russians are afraid to speak openly for fear of prosecution.

Against that backdrop, residents of Belgorod have shared with CNN their struggle to navigate an uncertain future in the city, where everyday life has been irrevocably altered by the full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched by Russia in February 2022. Conversations were conducted by phone and audio messages.

Belgorod has been the launch site for many rocket and missile attacks on Ukraine, and a key military hub for Russia’s invading forces. In 2023, after a year of strikes on its towns and cities, Ukraine changed tactics and expanded its operations more overtly onto Russian territory, putting Belgorod region firmly in its crosshairs.

In recent weeks, the Belgorod region has been subject to almost daily shelling and drone attacks. Russian authorities blame Ukraine and report having repelled the attacks, while also admitting destruction and casualties caused by them. The Belgorod region has borne the brunt of the war compared to more distant Russian regions, which have been relatively untouched.

The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said on March 23 that 24 people had been killed and 152 injured in the span of less than two weeks.

At the peak of the shelling of Belgorod, Timur Khaliullin, the 36-year-old organist for the Belgorod Philharmonic, took a rollerblade ride through the city center’s deserted streets to show others what it looked like, in a video titled “Alarmed Belgorod.”

Khaliullin points to the sealed-off doors of shops and restaurants and the arrows leading to shelters, emergency kits and basements where residents can take cover.

Just as he reaches the central square and puts on his rollerblades, the sirens go off. “Can you hear that? That’s how frightening the sirens sound. It’s an air raid alarm. It means there will be incoming fire now, I need to take cover,” Khaliullin says from behind the camera.

He seeks refuge inside one of the empty, white-painted concrete boxes positioned at regular intervals throughout the square, each marked with the word “Shelter.” Screens stationed around the square instruct residents on proper conduct during shelling, offer guidance on administering first aid and echo patriotic encouragements. One of the messages reads, “The battle for Russia persists. Victory will be ours!”

As the sirens stop, Khaliullin resumes his rollerblade ride, filming empty streets, and people waiting at the bus stops. According to locals, those traveling by public transport often spend hours standing at stops until the all-clear signal sounds, allowing buses to run again, and the city to resume its life – until the next missile threat.

This is not how the city always looked. Describing her hometown of Belgorod pre-war, 25-year-old volunteer Natalia Izotova painted a charming picture. “It’s a small, cozy southern town with lots of trees and lots of greenery, which gets very hot in the summer,” she told CNN. “It’s such a quiet, tiny place where everyone simply lives their life and tries to change something for the better in every way they can.”

Born and raised in Belgorod, Izotova said despite the “terrible fear” she experiences every time the sirens go off, she is hesitant to leave, bound as she is by her work with a local charity helping people with special needs. “You live in a very large cocoon of misunderstanding and fear. At the same time, you don’t really want to leave the city. But the Belgorod you remember no longer exists.”

Now that the city has emptied out, far fewer people dare to step outside unless they have to, she said. “They still try to venture onto the streets, but it’s all getting gloomier. The city is becoming more ghostly.”

In mid-March, amid escalating Ukrainian attacks and with warning sirens sounding four to five times daily, Gladkov, the regional governor, announced the closure of malls and schools, and the cancellation of classes for two days in several regions, including the city of Belgorod.

Videos emerging from Belgorod showed scenes of chaos as people drove through thick smoke and burned-out cars, as well as damaged buildings and residents fleeing with their belongings amid the sounds of explosions and distant air-raid sirens.

The main square’s tiled pavement bears shrapnel damage – a reminder of a shell that fell on December 30 during one of the most devastating attacks. Toys and flowers have been placed on the steps nearby in memory of those lost.

Following a major air attack on Ukraine by Russia overnight into December 29, Kyiv retaliated a day later by targeting the Belgorod region. At least 25 people were killed, including three children, and 113 were injured that day, Gladkov said, making it the deadliest shelling within Russia since the war began.

“This is the darkest day we’ve had recently,” 24-year-old Elizaveta, who asked to be identified only by her first name for safety concerns, told CNN. She was among those who witnessed the December 30 attack.

As she left her job at a beverage chain store near the city center, she heard explosions. At first, everyone thought it was the usual sound of air defense operations.

“And then I saw it all: everything on fire, covered in smoke, buses stopped running, and taxis weren’t moving either because the roads were completely blocked,” she recalled.

“At some point, the city just died, no one expected this. Many people perished, and the entire city mourned and continues to mourn to this day.” Life there has not been the same since, she said. Her store has seen fewer customers, with many people afraid to step out of their homes.

Like many others in Belgorod, Elizaveta has family in Kharkiv, across the border, with whom she has not spoken since they fell out in the first few months of the war. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has suffered a recent increase in Russian attacks.

“Here in Belgorod, many of us have relatives on both sides of the border. People from Belgorod frequently visited Kharkiv, and vice versa. It’s truly disheartening to see such a rift between people who were once so closely connected,” Elizaveta told CNN.

“I long for a return to normalcy, when people feel less fearful and regain a sense of security. The city is lifeless: stepping out to the streets at any hour you don’t see anyone or any vehicles, it’s as if you’re on a deserted island.”

Vasily, a 27-year-old human relations manager who asked only to give his first name for safety reasons, described a pervasive sense of anxiety that accompanies his fellow residents every time they set foot outside the house, the fear of shelling or missile attacks weighing heavily on their minds.

By the end of March, the disruptions caused by the attacks had become so predictable that setting a morning alarm seemed redundant. “You don’t even need to set an alarm anymore because like clockwork, at 8 in the morning, we’re met with another shelling, another missile launch, air defense operations or other war-related operations,” he told CNN.

As the situation deteriorated, essential services began to falter. Shops and eateries were closing their doors, and food deliveries were becoming increasingly sporadic. Confronted with the reality of living in a conflict zone, Vasily, like many other residents, contemplated leaving the city but decided to stay because his wife is enrolled at a local university.

“Swathes of people in Belgorod are opting to move either further away from the region or entirely out of it, basically, anywhere far from the border where it should potentially be less dangerous,” Vasily said.

While the authorities have never ordered a general evacuation, Gladkov disclosed on March 30 that 5,000 children had been evacuated to more secure regions, including St. Petersburg, Bryansk and Makhachkala. In total, the authorities were planning to relocate approximately 9,000 children to other regions due to ongoing shelling, state media reported.

Deserted areas have witnessed an escalation of crime and disorder. In early April, the head of the Grayvoron district in Belgorod region sounded the alarm over a rise in looting incidents, with the highest number of such cases reported in the district’s border settlements.

The authorities have since said they aim to restore the border territories in time for Victory Day on May 9, when Russia commemorates the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

Meanwhile, the border villages in Belgorod region remain largely abandoned and in a state of disrepair, and authorities don’t seem in a hurry to encourage residents to return home.

As the war drags on, those who remain in Belgorod become less optimistic about the future.

“Considering that Russia is fighting in a way that what is left behind is scorched earth, I have a great fear that scorched earth may be left from the territory around Belgorod as well,” Vasily said.

Volunteer Izotova voiced a similar sentiment, describing the overwhelming sense of abandonment that has loomed large since the December 30 attack – a feeling that has only grown more pronounced in recent weeks.

In one of his latest references to the Belgorod region, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his “appreciation” and “admiration” for its residents’ courage and pledged support to it and other border regions.

Despite that assurance, according to Izotova, many residents of Belgorod still feel neglected by the media, authorities and the broader Russian population, which appears oblivious to the war.

The challenges faced by Belgorod appear to have been overlooked, she said, which in turn has led even those who oppose the war to feel that sympathy should no longer be extended only to the Ukrainian victims.

“While panic, fear and uncertainty persist, people are still trying to offer help. I think our main task right now is to assist those facing hardship – both Ukrainians (suffering from the Russian aggression) and victims of the conflict within Russia,” Izotova said.

“It is important not to remain silent or divert attention to comparisons of suffering, but rather to acknowledge the reality of war and remember who instigated it. Russia is entrenched in perpetual sorrow, experiencing it internally while also imposing it on others.”

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