The News in times of Corona
Ella Goemans – this article is slightly different from the ones you are used to. It started as a Sunday Summary but became a combination of two summaries from two of our writers Marence Jurgens and Parthabi Kanungo. Through this article we hope to give you a sense of the news with and without Corona as the main player. Remember to wash your hands and to support one another!
Marence Jurgens – The week began with a geopolitical issue. Oil-producers Russia and The OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), led by Saudi-Arabia, did not find common ground on a strategy to conjugate the oil-price. As a result, on Monday the oil price collapsed which subsequently had a negative impact on the stock market. Normally, such a collapse is the simple result of a shift in supply or demand but this time it is driven by a massive demand shock and a supply overhang at the same time. Saudi-Arabia, the second largest oil-producing country in the world, asked Russia (number three), to reduce oil-production in order to secure a stable oil-price when the demand would naturally decrease due to the pandemic. However, Russia was afraid that the US, as the biggest oil-producer in the world, would make too much profit out of the stable price. Nevertheless, Saudi-Arabia gave the green light to the OPEC to increase the production of oil, resulting in the demand shock and subsequent low oil-price. Hopefully, they will find a suitable solution soon in this time of uncertainty.
Other, more liberating, news this week involved the Harvey Weinstein case. American film-producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment for sex crimes. 67 years old and in bad health; this could very well mean that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. The fall from power for Mr. Weinstein started in October 2017 when several women openly accused him of harassment and sexual assault. It was the beginning of a movement where woman all around the world shared their stories and speak about mistreatment at the hands of powerful men using a #MeToo caption.
Back to the US, Biden presented Sanders another big blow on ‘Super Tuesday’. Biden was able to win over one very important state in the democratic leadership race, namely Michigan. The 77 years old Democrat also received majority in two other states, putting rival Bernie Sanders in pursuit. On ‘Super Tuesday’ there is in 6 states a vote on who will be combatting the Republican candidate, President Trump. In Michigan (125), Missouri (68) and Mississippi (36) the most delegates were won by Biden. The first candidate that is awarded at least 1991 delegates will be representing the Democrats in the upcoming presidential elections. Nevertheless, it will still takes some time before that number is reached but for now Biden is taking the lead.
Then on Thursday, President Trump declared that as of this Saturday 04:59h Dutch time, there is a travel restriction in place for people from 26 European countries. The American President blames Europe for reacting too slowly to the outbreak. He states that numerous Americans were infected with the virus by European tourists. The European Union disapproves the measure set by Trump, they claim the decision was taken unilaterally and without consultation; the coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action. The measure will last 30 days. Additionally, India also declared that they will no longer provide Europeans with a tourist visa.
Parthabi Kanungo – To say that this semester has been anything but ordinary for UM students would still be putting it lightly. What with the after-effects of the cyber attack that welcomed us back in January, and now the discontinuation of all physical classroom education starting today, let us take this time to reassure our first-years that, in spite of all the craziness that is the norm in Maastricht, this is not quite the regular semester that it should have been. Speaking of the discontinuation of physical classroom education in universities, this was announced Thursday as part of new national measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. Until the 31st of March, gatherings of more than a hundred people are to be cancelled, prompting the closure of museums, concert halls, theatres, sports clubs, and the cancellation of all kinds of events, including sports matches. For Maastricht itself, Friday saw empty aisles in supermarkets, with pasta, bread and toilet paper in very high demand, as students grappled with the ever challenging dilemma of ‘to go or not to go’ home.
As far as Europe is concerned, we all woke up last Monday to the news of Italy going under lockdown, as the total number of cases in the country surpassed 9,000. Restaurants, bars and retail outlets, barring pharmacies and food stores, have all shut down, and social interaction has been reduced to a bare minimum, essentially meaning that everybody stays home. How are the Italians coping with this, you ask? Well, they are doing something that the whole world can take inspiration from. Balcony singing in solidarity has emerged over the weekend, as people have taken to their balconies, from Palermo to Turin, delivering renditions of folk songs and offering DJ sets. The practice has quickly spread to Spain, which is to go under a similar lockdown, starting Monday.
If you thought the lockdowns were all Europe has had to deal with, the United States on Thursday announced a travel ban for foreign nationals from the Schengen area, which on Saturday was expanded to include the United Kingdom and Ireland. Even as a large chunk of sporting events have been cancelled, many, from football and cricket to now the WWE smackdown, are to be held without a live audience. Meanwhile, the virus itself seems hell bent on proving that it does not discriminate, on the basis of socio-economic status, or political ideology. From Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Canadian First Lady Sophie Trudeau, the spread of Covid-19 is almost like a new testament to globalisation and a borderless world.
In major non-corona related news, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison, by a New York court on Wednesday, for first-degree sexual assault and third-degree rape. This comes as a significant milestone in the global #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, as allegations levelled against Weinstein by more than a hundred women in 2017, exposed the darkside of the workplace dynamic in Hollywood. The present charges were based on the testimony of Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Whether the sentencing will serve as a reckoning for the harassment culture in Hollywood can only be examined over time, but it may at least be a baby step along the way, of re-establishing a semblance of faith in the justice system. The fight may be far from over, but for the moment, let’s relish in the notion of justice served. Taking a page from the Italian book, grab a glass of wine, open a window if you don’t have access to a balcony, and pelt out your Lizzo track of the week.