It was notthe way you would expect a scientist to be celebrated. InStyle, an American fashion magazine showed on its cover Anthony Fauci, America’s frontline warrior against the COVID-19 virus. Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, and has been honored by presidents since Ronald Reagan, battling against HIV/Aids, SARS, swine flu, MERS, and Ebola. He is, BBC News stated, “the face of America’s fight against COVID-19”. The virologist, wrote online magazine The Daily Beast (July 16), has spent most of this year as an avuncular figurehead for many Americans desperate for facts and dealing with a truth-adverse administration. InStyle portrayed him sitting by a pool, button-down shirt, dark sunglasses, relaxed, a touch of Hollywood—without face mask though. “Whatever Fauci may lack in outright glamour, he makes up in ubiquity”, observed the Daily Beast. “For much of 2020, his celebrity remains unparalleled … Without trying—only by showing up to work and sharing facts—Dr Fauci has reached the type of all-out idolization Trump so desperately craves”.
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John Wayne was more than just a Hollywood actor. He was an icon, a symbol of the fearless pioneer, fighting Indians, advancing the settlers into unknown territory, always defeating, even humiliating the Indians—proud tribes such as the Sioux and Apache. John Wayne was also a staunch conservative and white supremacist, transferring his movie roles into political life.
Peace was near, most of the 5000 Taliban fighters were released—one condition for serious peace negotiations—and a city was selected for the negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government: Doha, Qatar. But an invisible enemy committed sabotage. COVID-19 brought down members of both sides. Worse: the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada was rumored to be on the threshold of death. NATO’s new senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, confirmed to Radio Free Afghanistan that COVID-19 was “impacting on all levels. It’s impacting on the levels of forces on both sides. It’s impacting the leadership” The new date of the Intra-Afghan talks will be announced as soon as the quarantined members of the negotiation teams reach Doha and test negative.
The unshaven man, who did not let go of his Kalashnikoff while we talked, had been wounded in battles with Israeli troops, and was now hiding in the land that those troops had occupied—the Jordan Valley. Yasser Arafat, whom I met for the first time in the spring of 1968 at his secret base, was then still known as Abu Ammar, willing to sacrifice his life for the liberation of his people dispersed by around the world, particularly in neighboring Arab nations. The 1968 interview, Arafat’s first extensive one-to-one with a foreign publication, documented an optimistic leader of El-Fatah, 38 years old and certain of triumph. “I believe in our revolution and victory, and I am certain that we will recover our stolen land”, said Arafat, later honored with a Nobel Peace Prize for his struggles to achieve peace with Israel. “History is on our side”.
At the beginning of June, officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, usually active on America’s periphery, were deployed to Washington D.C., where President Donald Trump had sighted an internal threat posed by “anarchists, agitators, looters, or lowlifes”. In reality, American citizens were protesting, mostly peacefully, against police brutality, and the killings of African-Americans by cops.
In times of shadow and despair, populists and authoritarians move in to undermine free speech and democracy. For authoritarian-minded leaders, wrote Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, writing in the New York Review of Books, “the coronavirus crisis is offering a convenient pretext to silence critics and consolidate power. Censorship in China and elsewhere has fed the pandemic, helping to turn a potentially containable threat into a global calamity. The health crisis will inevitably subside, but autocratic government’s dangerous expansion of power may be one of the pandemic’s most enduring legacies”.
On January 24, 2020, the Bana, a freighter, left the Turkish port of Mersin. Its destination was the Tunisian harbor of Gabes. It was a routine trip, until its transponder was deactivated and the ship disappeared from the radar. No mayday was received; the boat vanished like a ghost. Four days later a satellite observed three dots approaching Tripoli, Libya and when the images were enlarged, it became clear that the Bana was on a secret mission, since she was shadowed by two Turkish navy G-class frigates. At the end of March, the BBC broadcast the proof: videos, obviously recorded by a cell phone, documenting some of the cargo: tanks, jeeps with anti-tank guns, self-propelled howitzers.
She is just seventeen. An African-American high-school student. If Darnella Frazier had not turned on her cellphone on May 25, when she witnessed four police officers arresting a black man in Minneapolis, the world would never have known how George Floyd died that day, or why. A convenience store employee had called the police, accusing Mr Floyd of buying cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. Possibly Mr Floyd resisted arrest, which did not result in a “medical incident” as the police initially claimed, but allegedly in his murder. Frazier’s video proves that one officer put a knee on the neck of the arrested man. George Floyd said repeatedly “I can‘t breathe”, but there was no mercy.