In Brief: June 13, 2021

Biden urges G-7 leaders to call out and compete with China

CARBIS BAY, England — Leaders of the world’s largest economies unveiled an infrastructure plan Saturday for the developing world to compete with China’s global initiatives, but they were searching for a consensus on how to forcefully to call out Beijing over human rights abuses.

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Citing China for its forced labor practices is part of President Joe Biden’s campaign to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing. But while they agreed to work toward competing against China, there was less unity on how adversarial a public position the group should take.

Canada, the United Kingdom and France largely endorsed Biden’s position, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy during Saturday’s first session of the Group of Seven summit, according to two senior Biden administration officials. The officials who briefed reporters were not authorized to publicly discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The communique that summarizes the meeting’s commitments was being written and the contents would not be clear until it was released when the summit ended Sunday. White House officials said late Saturday that they believed that China, in some form, could be called out for “nonmarket policies and human rights abuses.”

In his first summit as president, Biden made a point of carving out one-on-one-time with the leaders, bouncing from French president Emmanuel Macron to German chancellor Angela Merkel to Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, a day after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as if to personally try to ward off memories of the chaos that his predecessor would often bring to these gatherings.

Teachers wary of new laws limiting instruction on race

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As middle school teacher Brittany Paschall assembled a lesson plan on the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues, she wondered how she might have to go about it differently next year under a new Tennessee state law that prohibits teaching certain concepts of race and racism.

The unit was about baseball, but more importantly, it was about segregation and racism in America.

“I kept thinking, in light of this bill, if this were next year, how would I teach this to my students?” said Paschall, an English teacher in Nashville. “Do we teach students to ignore tough subjects?”

Laws setting guiderails for classroom instruction on race passed this year in Republican-controlled states have left some teachers worried about how they will be enforced. Particularly in districts with large numbers of people of color, educators say they worry everyday discussions about students’ experiences could land teachers in hot water.

In response to a push for culturally responsive teaching that gained steam following last year’s police killing of George Floyd, Republican lawmakers and governors have championed legislation to limit the teaching of material that explores how race and racism influence American politics, culture and law. The measures have become law in Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma and bills have been introduced in over a dozen other states.

From wire sources

GOP governors tie economy to relaxed approach to coronavirus

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. — Republican governors running for reelection have begun trumpeting the party’s more hands-off approach to the coronavirus pandemic, trying to flip the script on an issue that helped Democrats win the White House and control of Capitol Hill in 2020.

GOP governors, especially in populous, diverse Sun Belt states, credit a resurgent economy to their resistance to strict public health protocols they frame as shackles. At the same time, Republican challengers are hammering Democratic governors as slow to relax business restrictions, end mask mandates and reopen schools full time. And across the board, Republicans relish swipes at Democratic bastions New York and California, “lockdown states” where unemployment remains higher than the national mark.

The political and economic realities are more complicated than the rhetoric suggests.

States, regardless of partisan control, have benefited from trillions in pandemic aid approved by Congress and vaccines that governors had no role in developing. Yet Republican leaders believe, at least for now, they can capitalize on circumstances that just last November helped deny Republican Donald Trump a second presidential term.

“Choosing to lock down heavy and hard for an extended period of time hasn’t proven to help states in the long run,” said Joanna Rodriguez of the Republican Governors Association. She said GOP governors “talked to each other throughout the pandemic and talked about what was working. Now we can see the value of that leadership. … Our governors certainly will run on that record.”

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Bolsonaro fined for flouting mask order at motorcycle rally

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro led thousands of motorcyclist supporters through the streets of Sao Paulo on Saturday — and got hit with a fine for failure to wear a mask in violation of local pandemic restrictions.

The conservative president waved to the crowd from his motorcycle and later from atop a sound truck, where helmeted but largely maskless backers cheered and chanted as he insisted that masks were useless for those already vaccinated — an assertion disputed by most public health experts.

Sao Paulo’s state government press office said a fine — equivalent to about $110 — would be imposed for violation of a rule that has required masks in public places since May 2020. According to a survey by local authorities, 12,000 motorcycles participated in the pro-Bolsonaro event.

Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The procession of motorcyclists wound out of the city and back, arriving at Ibirapuera Park, where the president clambered atop a car to defend his denunciation of masks for the vaccinated.

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Pandemic relapse spells trouble for India’s middle class

NEW DELHI — Ram Babu moved from his village to the Indian capital New Delhi in 1980, to clean cars. Soon, he learned to drive and got a job as a tour bus driver. Decades later, he set up his own company, Madhubani Tours and Travels.

In March 2020, a stringent nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic froze economic activity overnight. Babu’s business collapsed, and he drove his family back to their village.

“Since March last year, we haven’t earned a single rupee,” he said. “All of my three buses are standing still for more than a year. We are completely broken.”

India’s economy was on the cusp of recovery from the first pandemic shock when a new wave of infections swept the country, infecting millions, killing hundreds of thousands and forcing many people to stay home. Cases are now tapering off, but prospects for many Indians are drastically worse as salaried jobs vanish, incomes shrink and inequality is rising.

Decades of progress in alleviating poverty are imperiled, experts say, and getting growth back on track hinges on the fate of the country’s sprawling middle class. It’s a powerful and diverse group ranging from salaried employees to small business owners like Babu: many millions of people struggling to hold onto their hard-earned gains.

Chicago man jumps into Lake Michigan for 365th straight day

CHICAGO — A Chicago bus driver looking for a way to relieve stress during the coronavirus pandemic jumped into Lake Michigan for a 365th straight day on Saturday.

Dan O’Conor said he started jumping into the lake at Montrose Harbor on the city’s North Side last year to relieve stress.

“It was during the pandemic, it was during the protest, it was during an election year. … So it was somewhere where I could come down here and block all that noise out and kind of be totally present with me in the lake, and find some moments of Zen,” said the father of three.

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He continued jumping into the lake through the fall before the hard part: Hacking a hole in the ice on the frozen lake that was big enough for him to jump through during the winter. He said when he got home after one such jump, he found about 20 scrapes and cuts on his body.

He was encouraged by the response he got for his undertaking.

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