EU’s hypocrisy on human rights exposed in COVID-19 vaccine scuffle

EU’s hypocrisy on human rights exposed in COVID-19 vaccine scuffle

Pandemic exposes the real defender of human rights is China: observers

By GT staff reporters
Published: Mar 25, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccine scuffle between the EU and Western pharmaceuticals is not over yet. The latest move marks Brussels’ plan to up the ante on control over the export of vaccines outside the bloc, stopping shipments to countries like the UK which have seen higher vaccination rates.

When humanity is still threatened by the pandemic that has already claimed more than 2.74 million lives and when 130 countries are still waiting for vaccines, Western countries have engaged in an “all for itself” vaccine war by slapping on export controls and even intercepting vaccines that pass by their countries, said Chinese observers.  

Yet those so-called defenders of human rights wasted no time in echoing the US’ formation of a “human rights alliance,” and wielded sanctions against China, when the latter is devoted to guaranteeing fair global distribution of vaccines. In terms of self-interest, the fact itself speaks louder than words regarding who is the real defender of human rights and who are merely using it as an excuse to achieve their own political goals. 

The European Commission set out a proposal on Wednesday that would give the bloc’s governments more powers to block vaccine exports. The proposal is mainly aimed at the UK, who has imported millions of doses from the bloc but hasn’t exported any.

The EU, which lags behind the rich countries’ club in terms of vaccine inoculation, is under pressure to boost its sluggish vaccination campaign. Such eagerness has propelled the bloc into a months-long scuffle with pharmaceuticals over supply shortages. EU leaders would discuss the export ban regime in talks on Thursday.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa receives his first dose of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The country recently received two deliveries of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines donated by China. Zimbabwe is one of a dozen African countries to receive Chinese-made vaccines. Photo: VCG

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa receives his first dose of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The country recently received two deliveries of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccines donated by China. Zimbabwe is one of a dozen African countries to receive Chinese-made vaccines. Photo: VCG

“Brussels’ scrambling for vaccines has exposed their hypocrisy on human rights issues. What they really care about is the lives of Europeans, not the lives of others,” Chang Jian, director of Nankai University’s Center for the Study of Human Rights in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Chang said the EU’s vaccine fight contrasts sharply with its “caring face” on the Xinjiang affairs.

Early this week, the EU imposed sanctions on China over the so-called human rights issues in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which were soon hit back at by China’s more “fierce and timely” sanctions. 

Other Western countries, such as the US, UK and Canada, soon followed suit with the EU.

It took a pandemic to rip off the US-led Western society’s “hypocritical coat” in the name of human rights, especially when those Western governments’ failed response to the pandemic has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands in their countries domestically, and their fight for vaccines has taken away chances for other developing countries to inoculate their people, Chang said, noting that pointing fingers at China’s human rights issues only exposed the true purpose of those Western countries, which is to “weaponize” human rights to serve their own political aims. 

In early March, Italy blocked a shipment of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines destined for Australia after the drug manufacturer failed to meet its EU contract commitments. 

Later, AstraZeneca requested permission from the Italian government to export the vaccines but it was rejected by the Italian government with the European Commission supporting its decision. In a move to justify its decision, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said that “As long as these [vaccine] delays remain, it is right for the countries of the European Union to block exports to nations that are ‘not vulnerable’.”

In February, a senior official from the Biden administration, who often criticizes other countries’ human rights issues, said that the country won’t donate coronavirus vaccines to any impoverished countries because the US purchased doses before most Americans had been vaccinated, the Politico reported. 

Some representatives pointed out at the 46th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that the US, in pursuit of “vaccine nationalism,” has hoarded vaccines far in excess of its population during the pandemic, and refused to share them with other countries, including its allies.

“Such a disgraceful human rights record has really disqualified Western countries’ from their right to preach to other countries about this subject. Next time they plan to lash out against other countries regarding human rights violations, they should reflect upon themselves first,” Chang said. 

80.46 million people had received #COVID19 vaccination as of Mar 22. After the first vaccine was approved for emergency use in July 2020, China’s vaccination rate has accelerated. Check this graphic for more details: Infographic: Wu Tiantong/GT

80.46 million people had received COVID-19 vaccination as of Mar 22. After the first vaccine was approved for emergency use in July 2020, China’s vaccination rate has accelerated. Check this graphic for more details: Infographic: Wu Tiantong/GT
 
Defender of fair distribution

In contrast to the Western world, China stands up as a defender of fair global vaccine distribution. The country is providing and will offer vaccine assistance to 80 countries and three international organizations, China’s International Development Cooperation Agency said on March 19.

The pandemic will only go on longer if developing nations fail to get enough vaccines, Chen Xi, an assistant professor of public health at Yale University, told the Global Times on Thursday. “That’s why Chinese and Russian vaccines have played a key role in solving this problem.”

Even the British Ambassador to China Caroline Wilson once pointed out that China has played an important role in ensuring fair global vaccine distribution, China News Service reported. 

China’s mass vaccination campaign has entered the fast lane with daily inoculations leaping from 1 million to nearly 3 million within a week.

China is also likely to include foreigners in its vaccination process. Foreigners in Shanghai who meet the requirements will be eligible to take domestically made COVID-19 vaccines, the municipal authorities announced on Tuesday night, making Shanghai the first Chinese city to publicize an inoculation plan for foreigners. Experts also noted that it is possible more cities will follow suit.

A German expat works in a German company in Shanghai, who declined to be named, told the Global Times that his company sent an email urging the employees to take the chance and get vaccinated. “There’s no evidence showing that the quality of Chinese vaccines is inferior to European or US vaccines…Thus, I strongly recommend you to accept such a preferential offer.”

A total of 150 foreign journalists from 27 countries have voluntarily taken vaccines in China, and they are safe and gratuitous, said Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a Wednesday conference. China is doing so for the sake of their health and providing convenience for them in their daily lives in China, she noted.

Many foreign media outlets also casted doubt on China’s production capacity, asking whether China can meet the target of mass vaccinations at home while exporting vaccines to other countries and regions.

Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xiao Yaqing emphasized the stable output of China’s vaccines on Wednesday. China’s current daily output of vaccines has increased from 1.5 million doses on February 1 to the current 5 million doses. It is equivalent to more than 1.8 billion doses a year. 

The cumulative supply of domestic vaccines currently exceeds 100 million doses, the minister said.

SOURCE: GT staff reporters
VIA: globaltimes.cn
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Asian American churches call for actions beyond prayer

Asian American churches call for actions beyond prayer

Nation Mar 19, 2021

Asian American Christian leaders said Thursday their congregations are saddened and outraged after a white gunman killed eight people — most of them women of Asian descent — at three Atlanta-area massage businesses. And they’re calling for action beyond prayers.

Asian Americans were already rattled by a wave of racist attacks amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the United States. While the motive behind Tuesday’s rampage remains under investigation, some see it as a wake-up call to stand up against a rise in violence against the community.

The lead pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, located a few miles from two of the spas that were targeted, said he will ask congregants during his Sunday sermon to “not just pray, not just worry,” because “it’s time for us to act.”

“I’m going to urge people with love and peace that we need to step up and address this issue, so that … our next generation should not be involved in tragic … violence,” the Rev. Byeong Han said. “That’s what Christians need to do.”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry says diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed with police that four of the dead were women of Korean descent, and are working to determine their nationality.

Jane Yoon, a congregant at Korean Central Presbyterian and a 17-year-old high school junior in nearby Marietta, said she increasingly worries for her family, which is of Korean descent, and was shocked by the killings.

“I was definitely very outraged,” she said. “I was in shock at first of the news and just also how close it is to my community.”

It also hit home on a very personal level: Last week, she said, she was in a car accident and another driver punched her in the face and body before she was able to call 911. Yoon said the woman, who was arrested, did not make any racist comments during the assault, but she couldn’t help but think about rising attacks against Asian Americans.

Following that incident, she has been getting spiritual guidance and counseling from the congregation.

In the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, the Rev. Jong Kim of Grace Korean Presbyterian Church said he found a glimmer of hope in the wake of the killings after a woman reached out to donate $100 to his church “to express her feelings of sorrow to the Asian community.”

Kim spoke to several other Korean pastors in the area Thursday, and they now plan to join the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, through which they hope to have discussions about issues of race and ethnicity and provide funeral service assistance for the victims’ families.

The Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice has said that while details of the shooting are still emerging, “the broader context cannot be ignored.” The attacks, it said, “happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”

Ripples from the killings have been felt well beyond Atlanta.

In Chicago, Garden City Covenant Church invited Asian Americans “in need of a community who understands your pain” to join an online meeting in which they could “share, listen, lament and pray” together.

“There were a lot of tears, and there were a lot of questions, and for many I think there is a sense also of helplessness,” said Gabriel J. Catanus, the lead pastor, who is Filipino American. The church’s diverse congregation includes about 60 percent Filipino Americans, he said, along with worshippers from Latino and other communities.

“It’s an important Biblical practice, and Christian practice, to come before God honestly and to pour one’s own heart out before God,” he said. “God can handle even the rage and the devastation that comes out of us at times.”

Catanus said he was glad to see that people are now “more awakened” to the experiences of Asian Americans. But he said much works remains to be done in faith communities and called on religious leaders to denounce anti-Asian racism from their pulpits.

“In the Christian community and in our Christian institutions, specifically, we need to confess that we have in many ways failed to lead and to teach our people,” he said. “Our discipleship has failed in many ways to address these very powerful forces that have led to violence and death.”

Kevin Park, an associate pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church, said not only Asian Americans but the whole country needs to speak out against the violence, racism and “more subtle marginalization” that have been suffered for generations.

“There’s opportunities among faith communities that we need to stand up together and reach out to communities that are hurting, not only Asian American communities but other communities of color,” he said.

“And I think there needs to be kind of this movement toward solidarity. … We’re all in this together.”

Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

SOURCE: Luis Andres Henao, Associated Press
Mariam Fam, Associated Press
Jessie Wardarski, Associated Press
VIA: pbs.org

Dallas widow pleaded for answers in husband's murder. Now she is in jail.

Dallas widow pleaded for answers in husband’s murder. Now she is in jail.

Authorities said Jennifer Faith texted the alleged gunman, whom she was having an affair with, and instructed him to destroy evidence.

Feb. 27, 2021, 12:21 AM PST
By Minyvonne Burke

A Dallas woman who publicly pleaded for answers after her husband was gunned down while walking the dog has been arrested after authorities said she instructed the alleged killer to destroy evidence.

James Faith was killed on Oct. 9 after he was shot seven times while walking in his Oak Cliff neighborhood with his wife, Jennifer Faith.

About two months after the crime, Jennifer Faith spoke with local media and demanded justice.

“We walk our dog every morning, and it’s kind of our bonding time in the morning,” she told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. “Just the two of us.”

She said on the day her husband was killed, she heard someone running behind them. When she turned around, the person “just started shooting at him,” she said.

In another interview with WFAA, she said the gunman tackled her, beat her and taped her hands together. James Faith, an IT director with American Airlines, died at the scene

At one point in the interview with WFAA, Jennifer Faith appeared to get emotional as she described losing her husband of 15 years.

“I’m not supposed to be widowed at 48,” she said, pleading with the suspect to come forward. “I just hope that at some point maybe this person can recognize the gravity of what they’ve done and some sort of guilt enough to come forward.”

While Jennifer Faith appeared to be a grieving widow, federal authorities said she had been in communication with the alleged gunman, Darrin Lopez, with whom she was having an affair.

Lopez, 48, of Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, was arrested by local authorities on Jan. 11 and charged with murder. Federal authorities later charged him with transporting a firearm in interstate commerce.

He is accused of arming himself with a .45-caliber handgun and driving from his home in Tennessee to the Faiths’ home in Texas on the morning of Oct. 9. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas said he “laid in wait, then shot the victim seven times” before fleeing and returning home.

The handgun was found in Lopez’s home following his arrest, according to authorities.

James Faith was dead at 49-years-old.
James Faith was dead at 49-years-old.NBC Dallas Fort Worth

Jennifer Faith was arrested at her home on Wednesday and charged with one count of destruction of an object with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. She was booked into the Dallas County jail, records show.

In a complaint unsealed Thursday, authorities accused Jennifer Faith of sending Lopez text messages prior to their arrests instructing him “on how to respond to potential police questioning.” She also told him to remove a “T” decal off the back of his truck because witnesses reported seeing it on the day of the murder, prosecutors said.

“So I woke up in a little bit of a panic … something is eating away at me telling me you need to take the sticker out of the back window of the truck,” Jennifer Faith texted Lopez on Dec. 3, according to the complaint.

Officials said Lopez responded that he didn’t want to remove the decal all at once because his daughters “would notice that.” Days later, he allegedly told Jennifer Faith that the decal had been removed.

“Oh YAY!!! Thank you!!” she replied, according to the complaint. “I feel SOOOOOO much better.”

In another text, authorities said Jennifer Faith updated Lopez on her efforts to collect her husband’s life insurance policy.

Proscecutors also alleged that she told Lopez that she was wiping her phone clean and instructed him on how to respond to police if questioned about the nature of their relationship.

“Don’t text me Monday. I am going to factory reset my phone on Sunday night after deleting texts,” one message read, according to the complaint.

“If asked about you, you are an old friend going through a divorce. We talk every night because I am helping/giving support with the girls since you have sole custody. If it ever comes to it, I’ll answer the same way. Just so you and I have the same explanations,” she allegedly wrote in a text. “Just thinking in case they [law enforcement] pulled phone records and asked.”

The deleted messages were later recovered off of Lopez’s cellphone, according to authorities.

“Thanks to the dedication of our agents and officers, Ms. Faith could not keep law enforcement from identifying her husband’s killer,” U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said in a statement. “Even so, we cannot allow her obstruction of justice to stand. We are determined to hold her accountable for her crime.”

Attorney information was not available for Jennifer Faith or Lopez.

SOURCE: Minyvonne Burke
VIA: nbcnews.com

How a new wave of smart wearables is humanizing technology

How a new wave of smart wearables is humanizing technology

For Zepp, tech humanism is not just a buzzword

BY ZEPP
02-19-21

During a time of social isolation and distancing, people have realised just how much human connection is essential to feel…well, human. Empathy and compassion have never been more important.

Zepp, a smart wearables brand, aims to empower users with personal health management. The company is a proponent of physical-mental-emotional wellness. Innovative features, such as the Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) health assessment platform, turns sophisticated information on users’ heart rates and daily activity levels into a single metric, to guide them on the state of their health. This simple gesture shows how the heart of the wearable technology company is humanism.

As we have seen from the pandemic, people are changing the ways they manage their health and well-being. During this challenging period where physical interaction is limited, it is even more important for tech companies use their innovation to serve the communities.

A WELL-MEANING SMARTWATCH PLAYER

In light of the pandemic, Zepp worked with experts, including general practitioner Dr. Sarah Jarvis, to study whether the classic bodily indicators of attraction, such as your heart rate, have changed. The result is a rational reference-slash-personal checklist of tell-tale body reactions indicating genuine attraction.

Adding in a real-life element, the brand also chronicled two potential matches on a blind date and monitored their heart rates with the use of Zepp E smartwatches. The mini film provided a light-hearted and heartwarming relief during a season of virtual Christmas celebrations, prompting people to celebrate the healing power of human connections.

The inspiration behind Zepp’s vision stems from its history using sensors to empower humans to go further. Ten years ago, the company created waves in the North American exercise market by using a unique wearable sensor device to help people monitor and analyse their exercise data, enabling athletes to double their training results.

Fast forward to 2021 and Zepp is reimagining itself with a new look and feel, combining high-end design with superior health- and fitness-tracking capabilities. Since the brand’s relaunch in August 2020, it has unveiled several wellness-centric initiatives for the public:

Zepp Global Sleep Study + World Sleep Society

In October, in consultation with global sleep health authority World Sleep Society, Zepp commissioned an independent Global Sleep Study of 12,000 respondents from six countries to understand the concerns, perceptions, and attitudes around sleep quality in these unprecedented times.

In recognition of the importance of what Zepp was doing, Dr. Lourdes DelRosso, who represents the World Sleep Society and co-chairs World Sleep Day 2021, commented, “Sleep is a basic human need—a crucial component of survival, much like breathing, eating a healthy diet, or getting enough exercise. We thank supporters like ZEPP for helping to increase awareness about sleep and sleep disorders.”

Collaboration with Swedish creative masterminds to launch the Zepp Lullaby Generator

The Global Sleep Study also revealed music’s role in helping people fall asleep. The free Lullaby Generator helps to create customized music based on users’ sleep patterns for an enhanced night’s rest. The result is an immersive journey that combines music and sleep metrics. Existing Zepp users can log in to share their sleep metrics and automatically produce a unique and personalized lullaby. Non-users can also participate by answering a number of questions about their sleep habits.

It is no wonder the Lullaby Generator garnered a cadre of fans, with huge recorded impressions, and received shout-outs from fitness influencers Obi Obadike and Julie Germaine, actress and writer Natalie Anderson, and neuro-acoustic research expert Dr. Jeffrey Thompson.

From robust research to personalized extension of the smartwatch experience, Zepp’s efforts reveal an ambition for humanizing technology and extending its impact beyond physical wellness. In an age of dubious technology, Zepp continues to demonstrate an integration of technological innovation and human values, leveraging tech for good and putting people first.

SOURCE: ZEPP
VIA: fastcompany.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: ZEPP

California passes 30,000 COVID-19 deaths amid continuing surge

California passes 30,000 COVID-19 deaths amid continuing surge

By RONG-GONG LIN IIVANESSA MARTÍNEZSWETHA KANNAN
JAN. 10, 2021

California continued to see a dramatic surge Sunday in its number of COVID-19 deaths as the state surpassed another milestone: 30,000 fatalities.

The pace of daily COVID-19 deaths has climbed since the most recent surge began in November. On Nov. 3, California was recording about 40 deaths a day; by Thanksgiving, about 70 deaths a day; and by Christmas, about 220 deaths a day. By Sunday night, California was recording an average of 481 deaths a day for the previous week, a record.

It took roughly six months for California to record its 10,000th death, which came Aug. 6, and four more months to record its 20,000th death, which was logged Dec. 8. California recorded its 30,003rd death Sunday night, just about one month later, according to a survey of local health jurisdictions conducted by The Times.

Five of the highest single-day death tallies for California have been recorded in the last week.

The most recent single-day death record for California occurred Friday, when 685 deaths were recorded, breaking the previous record of 575 deaths tallied on New Year’s Eve. An additional 456 deaths were tallied statewide Saturday, the sixth-highest single-day tally, and 297 on Sunday.

California is recording an increasing number of daily coronavirus cases after a post-Christmas lull. From Dec. 16 to Dec. 22, the state had an average of 45,000 coronavirus cases a day, a record; that stabilized to between 35,000 and 40,000 cases a day until Thursday.

But the seven-day average of new cases rose to nearly 45,000 by Sunday night, the second-highest such number of the pandemic.

The post-Christmas surge in new coronavirus cases has been growing by the day. L.A. County’s average number of new coronavirus cases Thursday, Friday and Saturday was about 18,000 — significantly above the average of about 14,000 new cases a day over the last week.

“This very clearly is the latest surge from the winter holidays and New Year’s — no question about it,” Dr. Paul Simon, the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s chief science officer, said Friday. “It had gradually started earlier in the week, but [definitely] here in the last day or two.”

A survey of local health jurisdictions in L.A. County found 13,247 new coronavirus cases reported Sunday and 162 deaths. The daily tallies for Sundays are generally lower because of reporting delays over the weekend.

L.A. County is now averaging about 211 COVID-19 deaths a day, a record. That’s a far more accelerated pace than the number from Christmas, when L.A. County was averaging about 80 deaths a day, and Thanksgiving, when about 30 deaths a day were recorded.

There continues to be ongoing pressure on California’s overloaded intensive care units. According to data released Sunday, the number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICUs climbed to a record 4,863 on Saturday. That’s about triple the number from Thanksgiving.

About 22,000 COVID-19 patients were in California’s hospitals Saturday. That number has remained relatively flat for the last week. Officials expect the number of hospitalizations to start worsening this week, as people who were infected over Christmas start to become ill. What’s still not fully known is how bad the post-holiday surge will be in the hospitals.

L.A. County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been stable in recent days, hovering between 7,900 and 8,100 patients, including about 1,700 in the ICU.

The ICUs in L.A. County are effectively out of available space. There are typically about 2,000 staffed ICU beds in the county, and as of last week, about 400 were occupied by non-COVID patients.

In recent days, available ICU beds in the county fell to zero or one in each of the following regions: central L.A., the Westside, southeast L.A. County, the San Gabriel Valley and the Antelope Valley. The South Bay-and-Long Beach region had as few as three available ICU beds in recent days, and the San Fernando Valley as few as six.

An increasing percentage of people infected with the coronavirus are now dying of COVID-19 in L.A. County without any underlying health conditions. Earlier in the pandemic, 7% of all COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County occurred among people without underlying medical conditions; now, 14% of cumulative deaths are among people with no underlying medical conditions.

Though California’s existing pandemic surge is dire, the state has one of the lower cumulative numbers of COVID-19 deaths on a per capita basis, ranking 38th among the 50 states, probably a result of the early imposition of the stay-at-home order in the spring and summertime closures of certain high-risk businesses. New Jersey’s cumulative COVID-19 death rate is triple that of California’s, Arizona’s is double and Florida’s is 1½ times larger.

Times staff writer Thomas Suh Lauder contributed to this report.

SOURCE: RONG-GONG LIN IIVANESSA MARTÍNEZSWETHA KANNAN
VIA: latimes.com
MAIN IMAGE: The body of a deceased COVID patient lies in a room at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Disguised Toast to take extended break from content creation

Disguised Toast to take extended break from content creation

He will still stream, but other content might be cut back.

Cale Michael
Jan 3, 2021

Popular content creator Disguised Toast has been on a grind when it comes to content creation over the last several months, both with his streams and YouTube content. But as everyone begins to set their 2021 content schedules, Toast has decided to take a step back for a bit. Sentinels STOMP the competition with TenZ and defensive tactics | VALORANT Tactics

Just a day after uploading his 10,000 IQ Among Us special, Toast announced he would be taking a break from actively creating content. 

This comes as the creator is heading back to Canada to visit family and take care of his father for an undisclosed period of time. Toast has frequently made trips like this in the past, so long-time fans shouldn’t be too surprised by this announcement. 

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything coming out of the top Facebook Gaming streamer, however. He did also confirm he will continue streaming to fulfill his contractual obligations while away. 

Since Among Us started blowing up last year, Toast has uploaded daily videos to his YouTube channel, sometimes even posting twice a day. And if he continues to let his editors and animators work on content in his absence, there shouldn’t be a lapse in YouTube content either.

Dozens of content creators that he collaborates with frequently and outside of his usual circle have been wishing him and his family well since his announcement. There is no clear timetable for when Toast will return to his usual content schedule.

SOURCE: Cale Michael
VIA: dotesports.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Screengrab via Disguised Toast

2020 pop culture moments you may have forgotten

2020 pop culture moments you may have forgotten

Analysis by Lisa Respers France, CNN
Updated 2159 GMT (0559 HKT) December 31, 2020

(CNN) In many aspects, 2020 has felt like the longest year ever.

As we continue to grapple with a worldwide pandemic, it can be hard to remember that the year started with the tragedy of losing NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of seven other people.It just seems like so long ago.A great deal has happened since then, so let’s take a refresher on some notable and sometimes more … interesting moments in pop culture in 2020:

Sun-kyun Lee (left) and Yeo-jeong Jo (right) appear in a scene from "Parasite."

Sun-kyun Lee (left) and Yeo-jeong Jo (right) appear in a scene from “Parasite.”

“Parasite” makes history: One of the most intriguing films of last year made history in February when it became the first non-English movie and first South Korean film to win the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards. And it didn’t pick up just that statue — it swept the night with four wins.

Actor Steven Seagal settled some charges this year.Actor Steven Seagal settled some charges this year.

Steven Seagal runs afoul of the SEC: The action star had faced charges from the US Securities and Exchange Commission for promoting an investment in an initial coin offering conducted by Bitcoiin2Gen and not disclosing he was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 worth of B2G tokens for his work.The charges were settled.

Joe Exotic is one of the stars of "Tiger King." Joe Exotic is one of the stars of “Tiger King.

Attack of “Tiger King: Big cats, an unsolved mystery, a murder-for-hire plot and a zoo owner with a mullet. The Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” was a welcome addiction, and even basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal took part. Quite literally, that is, as he had a cameo in it.

Charlotte Hornets owner and former NBA star Michael Jordan is seen at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on January 24.Charlotte Hornets owner and former NBA star Michael Jordan is seen at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on January 24.

Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance”: Speaking of professional basketball, in May we got to relive the glory of Jordan’s playing days in the televised docuseries “The Last Dance.” It was the Chicago Bulls icon unlike we had ever seen him.
A screen grab of the sports legend reacting to a video of former fellow player Isiah Thomas’ comments about Jordan on an iPad was quickly adapted into memes that went viral.

Kylie Jenner attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 9 in Beverly Hills, California. Kylie Jenner attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 9 in Beverly Hills, California.

Kylie Jenner has her billionaire designation stripped: There was major controversy in 2018 when Forbes magazine put Jenner on the cover of an issue with the headline “America’s Women Billionaires” and referred to the reality star and makeup mogul as “self-made.” Just two years later, the magazine published a piece declaring she was “no longer a billionaire” after it examined public records following her selling a stake in her company.

Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith shared private information on her "Red Table Talk" show. Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith shared private information on her “Red Table Talk” show.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s ‘entanglement’: Pinkett Smith brought herself to the table in July to answer speculation about her relationship with singer August Alsina. Sitting with her husband Will Smith, she confirmed her “entanglement” with the younger Alsina after he gave an interview saying that he had been involved with the actress and her husband was aware. It was a rare glimpse into the Smith marriage and also gave us a new word for a particular type of relationship.

SOURCE: Lisa Respers France
VIA: edition.cnn.com

Life after death: Man believes he crossed into 'perfect' realm

Life after death: Man believes he crossed into ‘perfect’ realm

A MAN who had a brush with death believes he saw the afterlife, where he was bathed in light in an otherworldly realm.

By SEAN MARTIN
Dec 23, 2020

Following an accident as a child, a man named Chris believes he was taken to the afterlife. While Chris was not clinically dead, he was unconscious for several minutes following an accident, and believes he saw the afterlife. The afterlife, according to Chris, consists of being bathed in a “formless” light where one instantly forgets about what came before.

He also said that the place he was in was “perfect” where he was no longer a physical being.

Writing on the Near Death Experience Research Foundation, Chris said: “I suddenly found myself in a different realm. It was formless, light, and colourful. I didn’t see anyone. It was like a soft, light-bath.

“I was fully surrounded in and a part of this light. I felt at one with the light and at peace. I was definitely ‘me,’ but I didn’t’ have a body. In this place, my old life didn’t exist.

“I had no thought of the life on earth. I was just there, and ‘there’ was perfect.

“Then I felt a strange, sucking sensation. It felt like I was being pulled into and becoming something else at the same time.

“As I got closer, I could see my old life coming back to me. I suddenly remembered I had this other life with school, family, and friends.

“I had a sinking feeling of ‘oh no, not this’ and I knew I’d have to face all the mess of normal life again.

“I even had this feeling about my own family. Although I loved them, my family was imperfect and unhappy in many ways.

“The realm I visited is so hard to quantify or describe, because it was totally formless so it was purely a subjective experience. There is no way to explain it to other people

“When I came back to my body, I recognised my life with the feeling of ‘oh this thing again.’ It was as if I had forgotten about this life, but then remembered it only when I came back into the body.”

While Chris believes his experience is proof of the afterlife, researchers state that the vivid vision is actually associated with a surge in brain activity as one dies.

Researchers from the University of Michigan came to this conclusion after they clinically induced cardiac arrest in rats while simultaneously monitoring their brain activity.

The found a huge surge in brain activity in the final 30 seconds of the rodents’ life.

Jimo Borjigin, PhD, associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology and associate professor of neurology, said: “This study, performed in animals, is the first dealing with what happens to the neurophysiological state of the dying brain.

“We reasoned that if near-death experience stems from brain activity, neural correlates of consciousness should be identifiable in humans or animals even after the cessation of cerebral blood flow.”

Essentially, if the brain is more active, one might have vivid visions, leading them to believe they had seen the afterlife.

Dr Borjigin added: “The prediction that we would find some signs of conscious activity in the brain during cardiac arrest was confirmed with the data.”

SOURCE: SEAN MARTIN
VIA: express.co.uk
MAIN IMAGE: Life after death: Man believes he crossed the line into ‘perfect’ realm (Image: GETTY)

Why Inner Peace Is the Workplace Skill You Didn’t Know You Needed

Why Inner Peace Is the Workplace Skill You Didn’t Know You Needed

When life is chaotic and precarious, we can’t go to work a stressed-out mess. Instead, we must be calm, positive, and perpetually open to hearing and acting on the best ideas. Ed Hess explains why inner peace is the business skill we all need.

November 13, 2020 by Edward D. Hess

Oakland, CA (November 2020)—No doubt about it: The world is loud, chaotic, and outright scary. And with a pandemic piled on top of political/social/economic upheaval piled on top of “normal” disruptors like AI advancements that change everything about the way we work, it’s only going to get more so. Here’s the question: How do you get heard above the chaos? Do you shout louder? Work harder? Bulldoze over others?

Actually, quite the opposite. Ed Hess says your “secret weapon” to thriving in a world of chaos, change, and uncertainty might surprise you. Inner Peace.

“Whether you’re a leader or an employee, you need to be kind of a port in the storm right now,” says Hess, the author of Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, September 2020, ISBN: 978-1-523-08924-6, $29.95, edhess.org). “You need to be fully in the moment so you can connect and listen to others. And you need to tune out the noise and do the kind of high-level critical thinking that lets you make smart decisions.”

So, touchy-feely though it may sound, cultivating Inner Peace is a hot business skill.

Not that it’s a brand-new COVID-era issue. Hess—known for identifying workplace trends early on and helping companies operationalize behaviors that allow them to excel in the face of change—has said for years that we need a new way of being and leading. Keeping your head down and following orders (if you’re an employee) or letting your out-of-control ego confirm your biases (if you’re a leader) just don’t work in today’s world.

Hess says Inner Peace is a foundational building block to becoming a Hyper-Learner: a person who has the mindset and humility to continuously learn, unlearn, and relearn by adapting to the reality of the world as it evolves. And you won’t be able to excel at one of the remaining jobs that require “human skills” after the machines take over the rest unless you embrace Inner Peace.

“Inner Peace is really a survival skill,” he says. “It’s what allows us to bring our Best Selves to work and engage with others in ways that enable them to be their Best Selves also.”

Here are a few simple steps for achieving Inner Peace:

Take a good look at how you define yourself. Ego is one of the biggest inhibitors of Hyper-Learning. When we define ourselves by how much we know and how “smart” we are (a common problem for leaders!), or when someone disagrees with us, our very sense of self is threatened. If you want to be open to feedback and are willing to challenge your own perceptions, you must first make a conscious decision to quiet the ego.

“The first step is admitting you have a non-Quiet Ego!” says Hess. “The next step is to redefine yourself, perhaps by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating. Making this mental shift is surprisingly difficult, but it is a necessary starting point.”

Give mindfulness meditation a try. To be a Hyper-Learner, you must develop a Quiet Mind that is fully present. Mindfulness meditation can help. It’s a way of focusing awareness to something specific like your breath or a part of your body or an object or mantra and continually bringing your attention back to that thing every time your mind wanders off. Hess recommends you start small—perhaps just two to three minutes at first. Eventually, you’ll be able to work your way up to 20-30 minutes a day.

“Mindfulness meditation is Inner Peace ‘superfood,’” says Hess. “Research suggests it may quiet down your brain’s default mode, leading to less self-referential mind-wandering. It also suggests that training in mindfulness can lead to an ability to let go of thoughts rather than fixate on or identify with them. The goal is reaching the stage where you are not your thoughts and you are not your emotions—they do not control you and your behavior. You have the choice—you can engage them or let them go so you focus your attention on what you want to attend to.”

Engage in acts of gratitude. This practice reduces your tendency to be self-centered and cultivates a Quiet Ego. Acts of gratitude may include saying thank you in the moment, writing thank-you notes, keeping a gratitude journal, and every night reflecting back on those who’ve had the biggest positive impacts on your life.

“The idea is to steep yourself in daily reminders that individual success is not all about ‘me,’ and that none of us got here all by ourselves,” says Hess.

Practice deep breathing to calm your body, emotions, and mind. Hess says back in 2018 he started practicing deep breathing exercises that the Navy SEALs do and monitoring his heart rate daily. Now he does breathing exercises a couple of times a day to regulate the pace of his body so he can be more in the moment.

“When I experience a fast heart rate, rising temperature, or stress in parts of my body, I immediately do my deep breathing and my self-talk,” he explains. “I tell myself to slow my motor down, and I try to experience a micro-joy—feeling very positive about someone or nature or something positive in my life.”

Create micro-joys throughout your workday. Hess is a big fan of Barbara Fredrickson’s writings on the power of positivity resonance, which is the highest level of human connection that results from the sharing of positive emotions. Teams are far more effective when they can attain this elusive state. Obviously, leaders who are mired in negativity will inhibit positivity resonance and thus team performance. This is why it’s crucial to do what you can to keep yourself in a state of joy and happiness—one of the keys to being your Best Self.

“What has worked well for me is creating micro-joys during my day,” says Hess. “For example, I might focus mindfully on the beauty of nature, the beauty of colors, the unconditional love of a pet, seeing a friend in passing and wishing them a good day, thanking a custodian for keeping the bathroom so clean at work, and going out of my way to smile and express gratitude to fellow workers for specific things I have witnessed.”

Create your daily intentions. Spending 15 minutes or so each morning reflecting on how you want to behave today—how you want “to be”—can help you start your day with the right mindset. This can involve inspirational readings and journaling. Hess includes a workshop in his book to help readers cultivate their own daily intentions.

“Daily intentions are very personal,” he says. “The idea is to consciously choose how you are going to react and behave and what you’re going to pay attention to each day. This is very powerful.”

Human Excellence in today’s workplace is heavily dependent upon our being able to control our mind, body, and emotions, says Hess. “It’s a lot harder than it sounds,” he admits. “It takes work. But if we want to be viable employees and leaders, we need to do that work. Once we master our inner world—our ego, our mind, our emotions, and our body—we can better engage with the outer world as it is, not as we want it to be. And it feels a lot better than living in constant stress and turmoil. In fact, the inner calm you can achieve is liberating and joyous.”

SOURCE: Edward D. Hess
VIA: goodmenproject.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: iStock

Generation Z and spiritual wellnessGeneration Z and spiritual wellness

Generation Z and spiritual wellness

November 4, 2020 
by Aolani Brown | Layout Editor

Teens in 2020 are trading in their parents’ Bibles, crucifixes and holy water for Tarot cards, crystals and sage.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, only about 52% of millennials say that they believe in God with “absolute certainty” and about 41% of millennials think that religion is an important aspect in their lives.

So, why are millennials straying from traditional religious doctrines and leaning toward more free spirited spiritual identifications? What is it about spirituality that is so attractive to the younger generations?

Ayanna Foster, a 21-year-old psychology student at Florida A&M University, felt as though her disconnect to the church was a factor in her waivering religious beliefs.

“I grew up questioning everybody including God and I honestly didn’t find a church I could relate to until I was 19, which was a big struggle for me,” Foster said. “Not having a church that spoke to my heart and not feeling like I was being good enough as a Christian played a big part in me feeling lost.”

Foster’s story is one that mirrors those of many millennials and kids of Generation  Z — growing up in a fundamentally religious household and straying from the path that was laid before them by their parents.

“I realized that I don’t have a specific belief,” Foster explained. “But I realized I don’t have to put a title on it. I believe in astrology, spirituality, witchcraft and God. I talk to my guides, I talk to God. I talk to my ancestors. That’s just what it is. I guess I’m just a free spirit.”

It can be noted that some of the strict teaching in many religions do not align with the current progressive ideals of young adults we see today. The upcoming generations are ones setting out to demolish every problematic ism — the same isms that are found within the sacred texts of the religions they followed growing up.

Social media plays a vital role in the spreading of these spiritual beliefs and practices.

Brittany, a worker at locally owned metaphysical store Stone Age who declined to provide her last name, has seen firsthand the effect that social media has on young people’s spiritual beliefs.

“Spiritual objects have become more popular with social media like TikTok and Twitter,” Brittany said. “We had a lot of people coming in asking about Tarot cards, pendulums and moldavite.”

Moldavite, a forest green rock formed by the impact of a meteorite over 15 million years ago, surged in popularity on the social media platform TikTok as hundreds of thousands of videos were created dubbing the rock the world’s “most powerful crystal.”

“Every single day we were getting phone calls asking if we sell moldavite and where it could be bought,” Brittany said. “The whole market bought moldavite and could barely keep stock because of importing issues and shortages.”

The power of social media on the spiritual and religious beliefs of young people  shouldn’t be overlooked.

Foster feels as though social media helped to further propel her into her spiritual journey.

“I follow many spirituality pages that educate me and give their experiences about their journeys,” Foster said. “Maybe tell me things I didn’t know that make me wanna pick up a book or get on google and learn more about it. Maybe I saw something that I didn’t understand and then I’ll get on Twitter and it’ll explain it deeper for me. Or I’ll go on YouTube and watch others talk about their spiritual journeys and deeper explanations of spirituality.”

Millennials are continuing to carve out their own spiritual path by any means necessary and this shift is anything but unprecedented.

SOURCE: Aolani Brown | Layout Editor
VIA: thefamuanonline.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: pexels.com