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Brazil struggles with new COVID-19 strain; Entire Dutch government resigns over child welfare scandal; Deadly earthquake hits Indonesia

Brazil is the latest country to identify a new coronavirus variant. The UK has banned all travel from South America, amid fears of importing new infections. In Manau, Brazil’s largest Amazonian city, a critical oxygen shortage has left health officials asking for help.

A woman whose father is hospitalized with COVID-19, cries during a protest amid the new coronavirus pandemic outside a hospital in Manaus, Brazil,  Jan 14, 2021.

Credit:

Edmar Barros/AP

Top of The World — our morning news roundup written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Brazil is the latest country to struggle with an outbreak of a new coronavirus variant, after South Africa and the United Kingdom also identified new strains of the virus. In Manaus, Brazil’s largest Amazonian city, a critical oxygen shortage has left health officials asking for help, as the Brazilian air force scrambles to airlift 18 tons of oxygen cylinders from São Paulo, with more to come.

The UK announced on Thursday that it will suspend travel from all over South America and Portugal, as well as the Cape Verde off the coast of Africa, and Panama in Central America, to reduce the risk of importing infections. The UK variant has already spread to 50 countries, and its hospitals are reportedly so overwhelmed that authorities have turned hotel floors into wards.

And in the US, coronavirus cases continue to soar with the grim figure projected to surpass 400,000 people dead from the disease by the time President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US has so far distributed nearly 31 million vaccines, with jabs to 11 million people, according to the CDC. But efforts to vaccinate across the US still lag.

What The World is following

The entire Dutch government resigned on Friday over the mismanagement of child care funds. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire cabinet stepped down, acknowledging responsibility after an investigation revealed how thousands of parents were wrongly labeled “fraudsters.” Many of those parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded payback. In March, the government earmarked about $607 million to compensate over 20,000 parents. This marks the end of a decade in power for Rutte. But his party is expected to win the next election, which could put him in line to become prime minister again.

And, a strong 6.2 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Friday, toppling buildings and triggering landslides that killed at least 42 people and injured 600. Authorities are still gathering information on the full scale of impact. It’s been a devastating week for the southeast Asian country as search and rescue officials on Friday found parts of a black box while searching for wreckage and victims of a plane crash that left 62 people dead over the weekend. Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crashed into the Java Sea just minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, in heavy rain, and likely broke apart upon impact, leaving no survivors. Experts suspect the aging Boeing may have been a factor in the crash, warning that the overall collapse of air travel during the pandemic could pose serious risks to “mothballed planes” that have been out of commission for months without maintenance.

From The World

Brazil weighs COVID-19 vaccines as its death toll climbs

Amazonas Federal University's workers carry empty oxygen tanks at the Getulio Vargas Hospital amid the new coronavirus pandemic, Manaus, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Scores of COVID-19 patients in the Amazon rainforest's biggest city will be transferr

Amazonas Federal University's workers carry empty oxygen tanks at the Getulio Vargas Hospital amid the new coronavirus pandemic, Manaus, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Scores of COVID-19 patients in the Amazon rainforest's biggest city will be transferred out of state as the local health system collapses and dwindling stocks of oxygen tanks begin to falter.

Credit:

Edmar Barros/The World 

Brazil’s health regulatory agency Anvisa has yet to approve a vaccine, but the directors are expected to meet this Sunday to vote on both the CoronaVac and AstraZeneca vaccines.

US bans cotton products from China's Uighur region over forced labor concerns

A protester from the Uighur community living in Turkey, participates in a protest in Istanbul, Oct. 1, 2020, against what they allege is oppression by the Chinese government to Muslim Uighurs in far-western Xinjiang province. 

A protester from the Uighur community living in Turkey, participates in a protest in Istanbul, Oct. 1, 2020, against what they allege is oppression by the Chinese government to Muslim Uighurs in far-western Xinjiang province. 

Credit:

Emrah Gurel/AP

The US is now banning imports of cotton and tomatoes from China’s Xinjiang region, a semi-autonomous region in northwestern China, where Beijing has placed as many as 1 million Muslim Uighurs and other majority Muslim populations in so-called "reeducation camps."

Allison Gill, the forced labor program director with Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum, told The World's Marco Werman why the ban is important.

"This is a huge deal because China produces 20% of the world's cotton," Gill said. "Most of that is produced in the Uighur region. In addition, a huge amount of textile production happens in the Uighur region. And, you know, we talk about supply chains in the garment industry — they are really supply webs."

Bright spot

Inside an abandoned apartment building in Istanbul, Turkish artists have built an overnight museum of urban art. It's called “Mikrotopya,” and it's a collection of installations, graffiti art and sculptures of found items created by 16 artists in an empty, four-story apartment building slated for demolition as part of an extensive urban renewal project.

On the exterior of the building, the stencil of a stag created by the artist MAD stands solemnly, with pieces of women's underwear hanging from its horns. 

On the exterior of the building, the stencil of a stag created by the artist MAD stands solemnly, with pieces of women's underwear hanging from its horns as a part of Istanbul exhibit, “Mikrotopya.”

 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World 

Stencil artist MAD, from Tabriz, Iran, contributed a floor-to-ceiling image of a sniper aiming a gun, tied to puppet strings. He calls the piece “Hidden Reality.” 

Stencil artist MAD, from Tabriz, Iran, contributed to Istanbul exhibit, “Mikrotopya,” a floor-to-ceiling image of a sniper aiming a gun, tied to puppet strings. He calls the piece “Hidden Reality.” 

 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World 

This is “Mikrotopya,” a collection of installations, graffiti art and sculptures of found items created by 16 artists in an empty, four-story apartment building slated for demolition as part of an extensive urban renewal project. The art can be found thro

A blue and red mural of faces by Berat Cizer covers the wall of a middle-floor apartment. "Mikrotopya's" visitors often find themselves picking their way through broken glass and debris as they discover new works of art. 

Credit:

Durrie Bouscaren/The World 

In case you missed it

Listen: Cleaning up the US Capitol after the riot

Rep. Andy Kim is shown kneeling and with a clear trash back helping clean up debris and trash strewn across the floor.

Rep. Andy Kim cleans up debris and trash strewn across the floor after protesters stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC, Jan. 7, 2021.

Credit:

Andrew Harnik/AP

A now-viral photo shows New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim cleaning up the Capitol rotunda after the mob rampage. Rep. Kim speaks with The World’s Marco Werman. Also, China is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, but at the same time, it's at the forefront of renewable energy innovation and has some of the world's largest conservation projects. And, a group of artists in Istanbul turned an abandoned apartment building into a multistory art installation.

Don't forget to subscribe to The World's Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

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