组图:国家速滑馆“冰丝带”完工


   记者从北京市重大项目办获悉,北京2022年冬奥会标志性场馆国家速滑馆“冰丝带”25日宣布完工,标志其历时3年的场馆工程建设任务圆满完成,场馆首次制冰调试工作将于2021年1月启动。

   这是12月25日拍摄的国家速滑馆。

   新华社记者 张晨霖 摄

 

   记者从北京市重大项目办获悉,北京2022年冬奥会标志性场馆国家速滑馆“冰丝带”25日宣布完工,标志其历时3年的场馆工程建设任务圆满完成,场馆首次制冰调试工作将于2021年1月启动。

   这是12月25日拍摄的国家速滑馆内景。

   新华社记者 张晨霖 摄

 

   记者从北京市重大项目办获悉,北京2022年冬奥会标志性场馆国家速滑馆“冰丝带”25日宣布完工,标志其历时3年的场馆工程建设任务圆满完成,场馆首次制冰调试工作将于2021年1月启动。

   这是12月25日拍摄的国家速滑馆内景。

   新华社记者 张晨霖 摄

 

   记者从北京市重大项目办获悉,北京2022年冬奥会标志性场馆国家速滑馆“冰丝带”25日宣布完工,标志其历时3年的场馆工程建设任务圆满完成,场馆首次制冰调试工作将于2021年1月启动。

   这是12月25日拍摄的国家速滑馆内景。

   新华社记者 张晨霖 摄


Why is India denying prisoners spectacles and straws?


He’s among 16

activists, poets and lawyers who have been arrested over the past two years on charges of instigating caste violence at a Dalit rally in Bhima Koregaon village in the western state of Maharashtra on 1 January 2018. They all deny the charges against them.


Government restricts sale, export, distribution of Hydroxychloroquine


India has lifted the temporary ban imposed on the export of anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol in appropriate quantities to neighbouring nations that are most affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

Anurag Srivastava, MEA spokesperson said in a statement that India has decided to license the export of paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in appropriate quantities to all neighbouring countries that are dependent on India, in the view of humanitarian aspects of the pandemic. Srivastava stated that India will also be supplying the drugs to nations, which have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. 

The statement noted that as a responsible government, India’s first obligation is to ensure that there is an adequate supply of the medicines for the requirement of its people and to ensure the same, India had restricted the export of the medicines. However, after confirming the availability of the medicines for all possible situations, India decided to largely lift the restriction on the export of the medicines. 

Besides this, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) lifted restrictions imposed on 14 drugs on April 6, 2020. Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol will continue to be kept in the licensed category and their demand will be monitored. 

India restricts sale, export, distribution of Hydroxychloroquine

The Union Health Ministry issued a notification on March 16, 2020 restricting the sale and distribution of “Hydroxychloroquine”. The Ministry has also banned the export of the anti-malarial drug. 

The Health Ministry has directed that the sale by retail of any preparation containing the Hydroxychloroquine drug shall have to be in accordance with the conditions specified for sale of drugs under Schedule H1 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.

The ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ drug is stated to be an essential drug to meet the requirements to tackle the emergency arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the drug is in short supply.  Hence, the centre issued the order restricting the sale and distribution of Hydroxychloroquine to prevent its misuse. 

India bans export of hydroxychloroquine

The Indian government banned the export of hydroxychloroquine on March 25, 2020 with immediate effect. The anti-malarial drug is expected to be effective in treating COVID-19 patients through clinical trials have not been conducted yet. According to the Commerce Ministry, the exports will only be allowed to special economic zones, to fulfil prior obligations or for humanitarian efforts by the government.

What is Hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug, which is used to prevent and treat malaria infections. It treats malaria by killing the parasites that cause the disease. The drug is also used with other medications to treat auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus when other medications cannot be used. 

Why is Hydroxychloroquine important?

ICMR’s National Task Force has recommended the use of Hydroxychloroquine to treat high-risk coronavirus cases such as asymptomatic healthcare workers, who are involved in the care of suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases and asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Background

The Hydroxychloroquine drug was reported to be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 infection during the clinical studies. US President Trump had touted the drug as a potential weapon to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 




组图:首都体育馆改扩建工程等4个冬奥项目完工


   这是12月26日拍摄的改扩建后的首都体育馆内景。

   12月25日,国家体育总局冬季运动管理中心首都体育馆改扩建工程、首都滑冰馆、首体冬奥赛事中心和运动员公寓等4个冬奥项目完工。

   新华社发

 

   这是12月26日拍摄的首都滑冰馆外景。

   12月25日,国家体育总局冬季运动管理中心首都体育馆改扩建工程、首都滑冰馆、首体冬奥赛事中心和运动员公寓等4个冬奥项目完工。

   新华社发

 

   这是12月26日拍摄的改扩建后的首都体育馆外景。

   12月25日,国家体育总局冬季运动管理中心首都体育馆改扩建工程、首都滑冰馆、首体冬奥赛事中心和运动员公寓等4个冬奥项目完工。

   新华社发

 

   这是12月26日拍摄的改扩建后的首都体育馆内景。

   12月25日,国家体育总局冬季运动管理中心首都体育馆改扩建工程、首都滑冰馆、首体冬奥赛事中心和运动员公寓等4个冬奥项目完工。

   新华社发


Coronavirus: What has Covid done for climate crisis?


When Covid-19 sparked lockdowns around the world, emissions of one of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, atmospheric carbon dioxide, plummeted. But is this record drop a short-term effect of the 2020 pandemic or a ‘new normal’? BBC Weather’s Ben Rich explores the impact of coronavirus on the global climate.

Motion graphics by Jacqueline Galvin

Produced by Soraya Auer


A Biden presidency doesn’t need a Green New Deal to make progress on climate change – TechCrunch


Even without a Green New Deal, the sweeping set of climate-related initiatives many Democrats are pushing for, President-elect Joe Biden will have plenty of opportunities to move ahead with much of the ambitious energy transformation plan as part of any infrastructure or stimulus package.

Should Republicans manage to maintain control of the Senate, there are still several opportunities to build climate-friendly policies into the infrastructure and stimulus bills Congress will be pushing through as its first orders of business, according to experts, investors and advisors to the President-elect.

That’s good news for established companies and the wave of startups focused on technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change. And these changes could happen despite intransigence from even moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney on climate issues.

“I think people are saying that conservative principles still account for a majority of public opinion in our country,” Romney said on “Meet the Press” last week. “I don’t think they want to sign up for a Green New Deal. I don’t think they want to sign up for getting rid of coal or oil or gas. I don’t think they’re interested in Medicare for All or higher taxes that would slow down the economy.”

Already, current market conditions are forcing some of the largest oil, gas and energy companies to transition to renewables. As those companies begin closing refineries in the U.S., Congress is going to feel increasing pressure to find a way to replace those jobs.

For instance, Shell announced earlier this month in Louisiana that it was closing a factory and laying off roughly 650 workers. The closure is primarily due to declining demand for oil brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, but both Netherlands-headquartered Shell and its U.K.-based counterpart BP believe fossil fuel consumption may have reached its peak in 2019 and is headed for long-term decline.

U.S. oil and gas giants aren’t immune from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and a global shift away from fossil fuels either. Two of the largest companies, Chevron and ExxonMobil, have seen their share prices decline over the past year as the oil industry reckons with steep reductions in demand and other market pressures.

Meanwhile, some of the nation’s largest utilities are working to phase out fossil fuel-based power generation.

The markets are already supporting the transition to renewable energy, without much government guidance, at least here in the U.S. So against this backdrop, the question isn’t if the government should be supporting the transition to renewable energy, but how quickly stimulus can be mobilized to save American jobs.

“A lot of the really consequential climate-related stuff that’s going to come out in the [near term] … won’t actually be related to renewables,” an advisor to the President-elect said.

So the questions become: What will economic stimulus look like? How will it be distributed? and how will it be financed?

Image Credits: Artem_Egorov/Getty Images

Economic stimulus, COVID-19 and climate

President-elect Biden has already spelled out the first priorities for his incoming administration. While trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed over 238,000 Americans comes first, dealing with the economic fallout caused by the response to the pandemic will quickly follow.

Climate-friendly initiatives will loom large in that effort, analysts and advisors indicate, and could be a boon to new technology companies — as well as longtime players in the fossil fuels business.

“If we are going to be spending that money, there is an enormous opportunity to make sure that these investments are moving us forward and not recreating problems,” said one advisor to the Biden campaign earlier this year.

To understand how the trillions of dollars that are up for grabs will be spent, it’s helpful to think in terms of short-, medium- and long-term goals.

In the short term, the focus will be on “shovel-ready” projects that can be spun up as quickly as possible. These would be initiatives like environmental retrofits and building upgrades; repairing and upgrading water systems and electricity grids; providing more manufacturing incentives for electric vehicles; and potentially boosting money for environmental remediation and reclamation projects.

In all, that spending could total $750 billion by some estimates and would be used to get Americans back to work with a focus on industrial and manufacturing jobs that could have long-term benefits for the national economy — especially if that spending targets the government-designated Opportunity Zones carved out around the country to help low-income rural and urban communities.

If these efforts incorporate Opportunity Zones, there’s a chance to deploy the cash even faster. And if there are ways to preferentially rank infrastructure projects that also include a tech component, then that’s even better for startups who have managed to overcome hurdles associated with technology risk.

“Any time you craft policy, especially federal policy, you have to be so careful that the incentives line up correctly with what you’re trying to achieve,” said a Biden advisor.

Medium- and longer-term goals will likely require more time to plan and develop, because they’re relying on newer technologies in some cases, or they will have to wind their way through the planning process at the local and state levels before they can receive federal funds to begin construction.

Expect another $60 billion to be spent on these projects to finance development, workforce training and reskilling to prepare a labor force for a different kind of labor market.

Incentives over mandates 

One of the biggest risks that Biden administration climate policies face is the potential for legal challenges heard before an increasingly sympathetic conservative judiciary appointed under the Trump administration.

These challenges could force the Biden team to emphasize the financial benefits of adopting business-friendly carrots over regulatory sticks.

“Whenever possible you do want to let the markets figure themselves out,” said the advisor to the President-elect. “You always want to default to incentives rather than mandates.”

Coming off of the news this week that Pfizer has received positive results for its vaccine, there are some models from the current administration’s progress on a COVID-19 vaccine that can be instructive.

While Pfizer wasn’t involved in the Operation Warp Speed program created by the Department of Health and Human Services, the company did cut a $2 billion deal with the government that guaranteed a market for its vaccines.

The type of public-private partnerships that Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy mentions could also be employed in the climate space — especially in areas that will be hardest hit by the transition away from coal.

Some of that spending guarantee could come in the form of environmental remediation for orphaned natural gas wells or coal mining operations — especially in regions of the country like the Dakotas, Montana, West Virginia and Wyoming, that would be hardest hit by a transition away from fossil fuels. Some could come from the development of new geothermal engineering projects that require the same kind of skills that engineering firms and oil companies have developed over the past decades.

And, there’s the looming promise of a hydrogen-based economy, which could take advantage of some of the existing oil-and-gas infrastructure and expertise that exists in the country to transition to a cleaner energy future (n.b., that’s not necessarily a clean energy future, but it’s a cleaner one).

Already, nations like Japan are building the groundwork for replacing oil with hydrogen fuels, and these kinds of incentive-based programs and public-private partnerships could be a big boost for startups in a number of industries as well.

Image Credits: Cameron Davidson/Getty Images

Sharing the wealth (rural edition)

Any policies that a Biden administration enacts would have to focus on economic opportunity broadly, and much of the proposed plan from the campaign fulfills that need. One of its key propositions was that it would be “creating good, union, middle-class jobs in communities left behind, righting wrongs in communities that bear the brunt of pollution, and lifting up the best ideas from across our great nation — rural, urban and tribal,” according to the transition website.

An early emphasis on grid and utility infrastructure could create significant opportunities for job creation across America — and be a boost for technology companies.

“Our electric power infrastructure is old, aging and not secure,” said Abe Yokell, co-founder of the energy and climate-focused venture capital firm Congruent Ventures. “From an infrastructure standpoint, transmission distribution really should be upgraded and has been underinvested over the years. And it is in direct alignment with providing renewable energy deployment across the U.S. and the electrification of everything.”

Combining electric infrastructure revitalization with new broadband capabilities and monitoring technologies for power and water would be a massive windfall for companies like Verizon (which owns TechCrunch), and other networking companies. It also provides utilities with a way to adjust their rates (which they appreciate).

Those infrastructure upgrades are also useful in helping utilities find a way to repurpose stranded coal assets that are both costly and — increasingly — useless.

“Coal … it doesn’t make sense to burn coal anymore,” Yokell said. “People are doing it even though it’s out of the money for liability reasons … everyone is looking to retire coal even in the assets.”

If those assets can be decommissioned and repurposed to act as nodes on a distributed energy grid using energy storage to smooth capacity in the same way that those coal plants used to, “it’s a massive win,” according to Yokell. Adoption of energy storage used to be a cost issue, Yokell said. “It’s now a siting issue.”

Repowering old hydroelectric assets with newer, more efficient technologies offer another way to move the needle with shovel-ready projects and is an area where startups could stand to benefit from the push. It’s also a way to bring jobs to rural communities.

The promise of infrastructure spending can be born out across urban and rural areas, but the stimulus benefits don’t end there.

For rural communities there are business opportunities in “climate-smart agriculture, resilience and conservation, including 250,000 jobs plugging abandoned oil and natural gas wells and reclaiming abandoned coal, hardrock and uranium mines,” as the Biden transition team notes. And there’s a huge opportunity for oil industry workers to find jobs in the new and growing tech-enabled geothermal energy industry.

The farm subsidies that have skyrocketed under the Trump administration could continue, just with a more climate-focused bent. Instead of literally giving away the farm to the tune of a projected $46 billion that the Trump administration will hand out to farmers over the course of 2020, payouts could be predicated on “carbon farming.” Wooing the farm vote with the promise of payouts for carbon sequestration could be a way to restart a conversation around a carbon price (a largely failed prospect in government circles). Beyond carbon sequestration, rapid innovations in synthetic biology for biomaterials, coatings and even food could take advantage of the big biofuel fermenters and feedstocks in the Midwest to enable a new biomanufacturing industry.

Furthermore, the expansion of rail lines thanks to the fracking and oil boom means opportunities and the potential to build out other types of manufacturing capacity that can be transported across the U.S.

vw-plant-tennessee

Volkswagen broke ground Wednesday, November 13, 2019 on an $800 million factory expansion in Tennessee that will be the North American hub of its electric vehicle plans. Image Credits: Volkswagen

Sharing the wealth (urban edition) 

The same spending that could juice rural economies can be equally applied in America’s largest cities. Any movement to boost the auto industry through incentives around electric vehicles or federal mandates to upgrade fleets would do wonders for automakers and the original equipment manufacturers that supply them.

Public-private partnerships for urban infrastructure could first receive support from funds devoted to planning and managing upgrades. That could boost the adoption of new tech from startup companies around the country, while creating new jobs for a significant number of workers through implementation.

One large area where urban economic revitalization and climate policies can intersect is in the relatively unsexy area of weatherization, energy efficient appliance installation and building retrofits.

“Local governments across the country are highly interested in the green economy and transitioning to the low-carbon economy,” said Lauren Zullo, the director of environmental impact at the real estate management firm, Jonathan Rose Companies. “Cities are really looking to partner with the private real estate sector because they know we’re going to have to get buildings involved in the green economy. And any work that you do retrofitting local buildings is literally local economy.”

By channeling dollars into green retrofits and the deployment of distributed renewable energy, local economies will get a huge boost — and one that disproportionately will go to helping the communities that have been on the front lines of climate change.

You saw … a lot of investment made just this way out of the Recovery Act,” Zullo said, referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus bill passed in the first term of the Obama administration. “A lot of [funds] focused on low-income weatherization that were earmarked for low income and affordable housing. [Those] funds have allowed us to reduce energy consumption anywhere from 30% to 50% … and being able to gain those utility cost savings have been transformational to those communities.”

Why are these programs so important? Zullo explained further, “Low-income folks are disproportionately burdened by utility and energy costs. Any sort of energy-saving opportunities that we can earmark or target in these low-income communities is truly impactful … not just on a carbon footprint, but on the lives and success of these low-income communities.”

Paying for it

For even this more-modest legislation to make it through Congress, a Biden administration will have to answer the questions of who would pay for the stimulus and how it would get distributed.

In a tweet, the political commentator Matthew Yglesias proffered that the country could afford “to throw an ice cream party.” That policy would enable Republicans to keep the tax cuts while allowing the government to continue to spend on stimulus measures.

“[Interest] rates are very low. The country can afford an ice cream option where we spend money on some good things and ‘offset’ with tax cuts,” Yglesias wrote.

To distribute the funds, Congress could set up a body similar to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which was established by Herbert Hoover’s administration back at the start of the Great Depression. It was expanded under Franklin Delano Roosevelt to disburse funds to financial institutions, farms and corporations at risk of collapse.

While the success of the institution itself is somewhat murky, the RFC along with federal deposit insurance and the related Commodity Credit Corporation (which, unlike the RFC, still exists) laid the groundwork for the country to emerge from the Great Depression and gear up manufacturing to engage with a world at war in the 1940s.

The durability of the CCC could provide a model for any infrastructure credit corporation that the government may want to establish.

Some investors support the idea. “It’s more about channeling dollars to state, municipal or private businesses with the ability to underwrite heavily subsidized loans to any entity proposing a modern infrastructure project that could be paid through municipal bonds or tolling,” said one investor in the infrastructure space. “It would offer a credit backstop to anyone who wanted to invest in infrastructure and could have a technological requirement associated with it.”

Several investors suggested that capital from loans paid out through the infrastructure bank could finance the reshoring of industry, with potential tax revenues from the businesses offsetting some of the costs of the loans. Some of these measures could have additional economic benefits if the loans get funneled through local financial institutions as well.

“If you think about a vehicle to deliver these funds, you already have an existing architecture to deliver this … which is the municipal bond market,” said Mark Paris, a managing partner at Urban.us, a venture capital fund focused on urban infrastructure. 

The infrastructure answer

There’s no shortage of levers that the Biden administration can pull to reverse the course of the Trump administration’s policies on climate change, but many of these federal policy changes are likely to face challenges in courts.

Vox’s David Roberts has an excellent run down of some of the direct actions that Biden can take along the path toward decarbonization of the U.S. economy. They include restoring the over 125 climate and environmental regulations that the Trump presidency reversed or rolled back; working with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a new, more sweeping version of the original Obama-era Clean Power Plan; push the Department of Transportation’s development of new fuel economy standards; and supporting California’s own, very aggressive vehicle standards.

Biden can also encourage financial markets to make more of an effort to price climate risk into their financial models for investment, which would further encourage investment in climate-friendly businesses and a divestment from fossil fuels, as Roberts notes.

Some of America’s largest financial services institutions are already doing just that, and oil-and-gas companies are wrestling with the need to transition to renewable or emission-free fuels as their share prices take a pummeling and demand plummets on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Mother Jones suggested last year, a Biden administration could declare climate change a national security emergency, in the same way that the Trump administration declared immigration to be a national security emergency. That would give Biden extensive powers to reshape the economy and directly influence industrial policy.

Declaring a national climate emergency would give Biden the powers he needs to enact much of the infrastructure initiatives that comprise the President-elect’s energy plan, but not a popular mandate to support it.

Before taking that step, Biden may choose to try and exhaust all legislative options first. In a divided Congress that means focusing on infrastructure, jobs and industry incentives.

“The impacts of climate change don’t pick and choose. That’s because it’s not a partisan phenomenon. It’s science. And our response should be the same. Grounded in science. Acting together. All of us,” Biden said in a September speech.

“These are concrete, actionable policies that create jobs, mitigate climate change and put our nation on the road to net-zero emissions by no later than 2050,” he said. “We can invest in our infrastructure to make it stronger and more resilient, while at the same time tackling the root causes of climate change.”

 




What Gen Z Latino Voters Want America To Know : Code Switch : NPR


Victor Samuel Martinez-Rivera, Fernanda Ruiz Martinez, Heber Toscano and Alejandro Vasquez are voting for president for the very first time.

Eve Edelheit, Deanna Dent and Xueying Chang/NPR


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Eve Edelheit, Deanna Dent and Xueying Chang/NPR

Victor Samuel Martinez-Rivera, Fernanda Ruiz Martinez, Heber Toscano and Alejandro Vasquez are voting for president for the very first time.

Eve Edelheit, Deanna Dent and Xueying Chang/NPR

Every election cycle, there’s an endless stream of voter demographics stories that trot out the same tropes and truisms: about the “Black vote,” the “youth vote,” the “women’s vote.” And true to form, pundits have been making the carbon-copy predictions about the Latinx voters for decades. The bloc, according to them, is a “sleeping giant,” unaware of their full electoral power — but this election will be the one where they’ll finally turn out in huge numbers. But those predictions are rarely realized; despite their increased presence in the U.S., a little less than half of eligible Latino voters turned out back in 2016, a number well below Black and White ones.

However, those cliches conceal a greater truth: Latinx voters have seldom been taken seriously by electoral politics. Sure, they’ve been courted by Democrats and Republicans alike — but that often takes the form of Hispandering. (Remember the list of “7 ways Hillary Clinton is just like your abuela”? Or Jeb Bush’s ad, in Spanish, celebrating Cinco de Mayo?) And that lack of serious effort has shown. In August, two thirds of Latino voters polled by Latino Decisions said they had not been contacted by either Republicans or Democrats ahead of the 2020 election.

But if there was ever a time to take Latinx voters seriously, it’s this year. For the first time, they are projected to be the second-largest voting demographic, trailing only behind non-Hispanic white people. The reason for that? Well, the youth. Every 30 seconds, a Latinx person turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote, according to Census Bureau data. And according to historian Geraldo Cadava, there are a million more eligible Latino voters this election cycle than there were in 2016.

So we wanted to ask these new voters: Who do you plan to vote for? What issues do you care about? And what do you want the rest of the country to know about you?

On this week’s episode, you’ll hear this new generation of Latinx voters speak for themselves about what’s gotten them fired up in 2020. Here’s a sampling of what people told us; their responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Victor Samuel Martinez-Rivera, 23, is from Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, but has been living in Orlando, Fla. since Hurricane Maria hit the island. Since Puerto Ricans can’t vote for president, this is his first time voting in a general election.

Eve Edelheit for NPR


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Eve Edelheit for NPR

Most of these voters experienced their political awakening after the 2016 election and during the Trump administration.

“I remember in the eighth grade when Donald Trump first had his announcement that he was running for president. I had never heard of him or seen him before in my life. And so I was like, Who is this dude? I was surprised that someone could just outright say the things that he said, targeted towards Mexicans specifically. The assumptions that I already had about Republicans were that they were racist, but I had never actually seen flat-out racism like that, unapologetic, that they weren’t hiding the fact that they’re racist.” Alanisse Pineda, 18; Chicago, Ill.

“I think I was 14, so I was just starting high school. I remember feeling very surprised by the outcome. I remember reading some news articles and watching the news and seeing that Hillary had actually won by popular vote. But then the actual outcome was Trump became president. And I was like, how? How did the system become so messed up that the people haven’t been represented? I think that’s something that sparked my interest in politics right now and just in organizing and volunteering, and how I am working today to ensure that doesn’t happen.” -Laura Hermosillo, 18; Tucson, Ariz.

“Being a freshman in high school was very scary, because my parents are immigrants from Mexico. And just seeing how my community reacted to Trump and Mike Pence being inaugurated really set forth me becoming educated in what stances I believe in.” Leslie Gomez, 18; Kinderhook, N.Y.

Some have struggled with how to cast their ballot.

“The only information that I know [about the two candidates] is based on what people have told me, and basically I’ve heard that both options aren’t the best. With Trump, for example, there’s a lot of racism on his side. And as for Biden — well, I’m a Christian, and so I’ve heard that he’s for same sex marriages and all that, and we’re supposed to be against that. But I’m just not too sure where I would want to place my vote.”Andrea Torres, 19; Prescott Valley, Ariz.

Heber Toscano, 19, was born in El Paso, Tx., but spend a lot of time right across the border in Juarez. His time in Mexico shaped his now-conservative politics and vote for Donald Trump: “I never really speak of my political views because I know they’re controversial, and because it’s something personal to me, because of what I’ve lived through.”

Deanna Dent for NPR


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Deanna Dent for NPR

Their families’ experiences have had a big impact on their politics.

“I came here [to Florida from Puerto Rico] and immediately I’m faced with discrimination, and I’m faced with stares. I’m faced with reading the news about another Black person being killed, just because of their skin color, or another trans woman being killed because of their identity. So, I’m taking this fear, and I’m taking these emotions and I’m stepping up.”Victor Samuel Martinez-Rivera, 23; Orlando, Fla.

“My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Guatemala, and they were fortunate because they were able to become citizens. But it wasn’t that easy for a lot of people, and it isn’t easy for a lot of people. And so immigration is definitely a huge issue. This is as well as education. Me being from Arizona, we’re not really the best in education here, and I feel like there’s a lot that could be done to improve the education system and improve funding.” –Donna Prado, 18; Phoenix, Ariz., volunteering with the Arizona Center for Empowerment

“[I’m voting for Trump] because he keeps the government away from our affairs. I know what a failed government looks like in Mexico. The government in Mexico has really, really failed their people and I got to see that. Even the police in Juarez were really corrupt and paid by the cartels themselves. Over there, you just don’t trust the government.”Heber Toscano, 19; Tempe, Ariz.

Alejandro Vazquez, 19, voted early for the Green Party candidate for president, Howie Hawkins. “I think people are doing a terrible job of getting young people to vote because they are trying to fit us in their system that is inherently against a radical teenager’s thought,” he said.

Xueying Chang/NPR


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Xueying Chang/NPR

They’ve thought hard about the perception that young people don’t care about voting.

“I think people are doing a terrible job of getting young people to vote, because they are trying to fit us in their system that is inherently against a radical teenager’s thought. Like, I don’t want to support this person that voted for the 1994 crime bill. And, then people are like, ‘Why aren’t young people voting?’ It’s because politics is terrible in the U.S.! If youth were actually taught the actual history of the U.S., young people would be political.” -Alejandro Vaszquez, 18; Norwalk, Conn.

“I know a lot of people and they’re frustrated because it’s like the 2016 election. It’s like, oh, we had two terrible options, and now we have another two terrible options. I was actually talking about this with my friends just the other day, like, ‘How do we have two rich white men that are older than 70 years old [as candidates]?’

“When we talk to people who are not wanting to vote, it’s frustrating. Because it’s like, could I have said something else? Could I have approached it a different way? But there’s only so much you can do. Whether they exercise their right or not is up to them.” -Alexa Franco, 19; Phoenix, Ariz.; volunteering with Living United For Change In Arizona (L.U.C.H.A.).

“I myself am not a very politically active person. It sounds a bit selfish, but I’m concerned about what’s happening in my life right now. But in spite of that, with what’s happening in the current administration, [I realize that] this is above me. And even if the simplest thing that I can do is just to vote and that will help, I should do it. Not being a very politically active person isn’t really an excuse to turn a blind eye to what’s happening now.” -Mateo Casalino, 18; Kirkland, Wash.

Fernanda Ruiz Martinez, 19, has been helping get out the vote in her community in Phoenix, Ariz. since high school. “I’m trying to emphasize to them how important it is to vote in the local elections,” she said.

Deanna Dent for NPR


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Deanna Dent for NPR

They view their vote as something that can help their communities and families.

“A majority of my family can’t even vote, and I think that’s a very unique position to be in. Because with my friends who are also Hispanic and who are first generation, it’s sort of like, my parents can’t vote, but I can.” -Alanisse P.

“I think it’s a great opportunity that my voice is going to be heard and to be able to represent my family. Immigration laws separated my family from me and my sister, so I at least want the president to understand the situation and improve it. And I think climate change could affect poor communities, and I’m from a poor community, so I want that to improve.”-Fernando Camarillo Gutierrez, 18; Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We’re tired of being tired. So voting is something that we understand holds more significance to us, especially considering that our ancestors and the people who came before us in this country were fighting for our right to vote and to not be intimidated at the polls.” -Alexa F.

And they don’t want the media’s attention on their community to only come around every four years, either.

“Sometimes I just feel like they are aware that we are important, but at the end of the day we are not going to get the respect that we deserve. After the elections, they are just going to portray us with stereotypes, and they are just going to forget about writing stories that actually reflect who we are. It’s a lot of research, you know. You have to learn more about our culture. You have to learn about our history.” -Fernanda Ruiz, 19; Phoenix, Ariz.


George Blake: Soviet Cold War spy and former MI6 officer dies in Russia


Obituary: George Blake


George Blake, British Cold War double agent, dies at 98



Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR, announced his death on Dec. 26 but provided no further details. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Mr. Blake as a “brilliant professional” and a man of “remarkable courage.”

News accounts from the 1960s described Mr. Blake as a “Super Spy,” and perhaps one secret to his successful treachery was that he hid in plain sight. As one of his friends, a Salvation Army executive, told a reporter at the time, Mr. Blake resembled “a typically blasé bowler-hatted, rolled umbrella government official.”

In fact, he was the last high-profile survivor of a string of British turncoats who spied for the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s, a badge of dishonor that included the Cambridge Four: Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

Dick White, a former chief of British intelligence, once said Mr. Blake wrought the most damage. The information he turned over reputedly led to the deaths of scores of highly placed Western agents, including Robert Bialek, a top-ranking East German police official.

He also betrayed to his Soviet handlers a joint mission between British and U.S. intelligence known as Operation Gold. The goal was to dig a tunnel underneath East Berlin to tap Soviet phone lines in the early 1950s. Mr. Blake sabotaged the multimillion-dollar operation before a shovel had ever struck German soil.

“There was not an official document on any matter to which I had access which was not passed on to my Soviet contact,” Mr. Blake confessed at his closed-door trial in 1961, news accounts reported at the time. According to a CIA report, Mr. Blake passed more than 4,720 pages of classified documents to the Soviets.

Mr. Blake spent nearly a decade leading a double life before he was arrested, tried and sentenced to 42 years in prison for espionage. At his trial, the presiding judge, Lord Chief Justice Hubert Parker, said that Mr. Blake had “rendered much of [Britain’s intelligence] best efforts useless.”

Five years into his term, Mr. Blake escaped in the middle of the night using a ladder made of knitting needles and rope. He was smuggled into East Berlin while hidden inside a secret compartment of a camper van and later traveled to the Soviet Union.

In his adopted motherland, Mr. Blake was bestowed with the Order of Lenin, the highest civilian award in the Soviet Union. A countryside dacha, a Volga car and a pension, along with his ribbons for courage and dedication to the communist cause, were the trappings Mr. Blake earned for his 9½ years of service to the KGB.

“It is hard to overrate the importance of the information received through Blake,” Sergei Ivanov, an official for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, told Russian media in 2007. “It is thanks to Blake that the Soviet Union avoided very serious military and political damage which the United States and Great Britain could have inflicted on it.”

He was born Georg Behar on Nov. 11, 1922, in Rotterdam. His mother was Dutch, and his father was a Jewish businessman of Middle Eastern descent who earned British citizenship while fighting for the Allies in World War I. After his father died, his mother married a man with the last name Blake.

As a youth, he spent summers with family in Cairo. It was there, Mr. Blake later said, that his interest in communism was sparked by cousins with left-wing views.

During World War II, Mr. Blake served in the Dutch underground as a bicycle courier before making his way to Britain. He joined the British navy in the early 1940s and, because of his facility with languages, was recruited to British intelligence.

As a covert officer for the British Secret Intelligence Service — often called MI6 — Mr. Blake held posts in Vienna, Berlin, Milan and Beirut. He studied Russian at Cambridge and developed a specialty in the Soviet Union.

He was assigned to the British diplomatic mission in Seoul when North Korean forces invaded the capital city in 1950. Mr. Blake spent 34 months as a prisoner, subsisting on a diet of rice and turnips in a North Korean camp. With the other prisoners, Mr. Blake sometimes displayed his creative ability to take on personas.

“He loved to imagine himself . . . a great officer of the crown ennobled for gallant and devoted service,” journalist Philip Deane, who spent time imprisoned with him in North Korea, wrote in The Washington Post in 1961. “Lightly we would tap him on the shoulder and say solemnly: ‘Arise, Sir George.’ We promoted him to baron, earl, marquess. He never quite made duke; captivity ended too soon.”

Mr. Blake said his decision to spy for the Soviet Union came after witnessing what he described as atrocities perpetrated by the West. In the PBS documentary “Red Files,” Mr. Blake described watching American bombers obliterate small Korean villages.

“It made me feel ashamed of belonging to these overpowering technical superior countries fighting against what seemed to me quite defenseless people,” Mr. Blake said in the broadcast. “I felt I was committed on the wrong side. And that’s what made me decide to change sides. I felt that it would be better for humanity if the communist system prevailed, that it would put an end to war, to wars.”

He passed a note written in Russian to his guards and was granted an audience with a KGB official, offering his services to the Soviets.

As a highly placed mole, Mr. Blake leaked secrets to the Soviets that few British spies were even cleared to know. Among the most damaging to be revealed was the Berlin tunnel operation.

Although the tunnel was built and the phone lines were tapped, no worthwhile intelligence ever resulted from the intercepts by the CIA or MI6. The project ended up wasting the equivalent of $51 million in today’s dollars, according to the Cold War Museum in Warrenton, Va.

Instead, the Soviets used the phone lines for a disinformation campaign. To protect Mr. Blake, they allowed the operation to toil for 11 months before the tunnel was “accidentally” discovered after rainstorms washed up the handiwork of the British and American intelligence branches.

Mr. Blake’s downfall came after a Polish officer defected to the West and described — but did not identify — a top-ranking British officer who was a Soviet mole. While posted to Lebanon, Mr. Blake was called back to MI6 headquarters under false pretenses, accused and arrested.

His trial at the Old Bailey was considered so sensitive that the judge ordered the courtroom vacated, the doors locked and the windows shuttered.

Mr. Blake was found guilty, and his 42-year sentence was one of the harshest in British history for such a crime. (Klaus Fuchs, the physicist who betrayed atomic secrets to the Soviets in the 1950s, was sentenced to 14 years.)

In 2007, Mr. Blake received the Order of Friendship from Putin. “You and your colleagues made an enormous contribution to the preservation of peace, to security and to strategic parity,” Putin said in 2007. “This is not visible to the eyes of outsiders, but very important work deserves the very highest acknowledgment and respect.”

No information on survivors was immediately available. His first wife, an Englishwoman with whom he had three children, divorced him after his defection. He later was said to have married a Soviet woman and had a son with her.

Mr. Blake embraced his new life with a new name: Giorgi Ivanovich Bekhter. Early on, he naively planned to drive across his new homeland in his gifted Volga.

“At the time, I knew very little about Russian roads,” Mr. Blake later said.

Instead, Mr. Blake remained in his wooded dacha outside Moscow, reading Gogol and Chekhov. He described his life in Russia as happy and peaceful. Contemplating his legacy on occasion of 90th birthday, Mr. Blake said he had no regrets.

“I do not believe in life after death,” Mr. Blake told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, in 2012. “As soon as our brain stops receiving blood, we go, and after that there will be nothing. No punishment for the bad things you did, nor rewards for the utterly wonderful.”


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