Virus cuts a cash lifeline for migrants’ families
The pandemic has jeopardized a vital artery of global finance: remittances sent home to hundreds of millions of families by migrant workers in wealthy countries.
As the coronavirus has destroyed paychecks, migrant workers are sending less money home, meaning it’s near-certain that poverty from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to Eastern Europe and Latin America will increase. The World Bank estimates that the remittances are likely to plunge by one-fifth this year — the most severe contraction in history.
That could result in the first global increase in poverty since the Asian financial crisis of 1998.
Quotable: “It’s very tough times,” said Flavius Tudor, a worker in England who is being sent money by his 82-year-old mother in Romania instead of the other way around. “I’m lost.”
Details: Last year, the payments sent home totaled $554 billion — more than three times the amount of development aid dispensed by wealthy countries, according to the World Bank. Over all, the pandemic has damaged the earning power of 164 million migrant workers who support at least 800 million relatives, according to one United Nations estimate.
Also: A boat carrying 95 migrants on the Mediterranean floated adrift for 33 hours before the Maltese authorities finally brought them to shore under pressure from activists and nongovernmental groups. The episode has raised questions about the danger of policies intended to deter migrants from maritime journeys.
In other news:
Poland’s government considers leaving domestic violence treaty
The Polish government, emboldened by a narrow election victory this month, is considering leaving a treaty aimed at curbing domestic violence and protecting women’s rights — with the country’s minister of justice filing initial paperwork on Monday.
The European treaty was intended to protect women from abuse and does not mention gay rights issues, but it has become a target for populist leaders who claim it poses a threat to “traditional families.”
Any plan to withdraw will most likely face resistance, however. Even the suggestion spurred thousands of protesters to the streets last weekend and prompted alarm from the Council of Europe, a human rights organization with 47 member states.
Context: The move came one week after European Union leaders relaxed demands that were supposed to tie funding in the bloc’s budget to issues related with the rule of law. Since then, both Poland and Hungary have pressed on with agendas that critics say compromise judicial independence, media freedom and gay rights.
Details: The Polish government insisted that no decision has been made, but Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister, said the treaty had “a second part, which concerns ideology and harms the interests of women and of family.”
If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it
Heartbreak as French wine becomes hand sanitizer
Between the coronavirus and the Trump tariffs, the French wine market has collapsed. So that’s why winemakers are — sadly — sending their succulent wines off to become hand sanitizer.
“We’re producing more than we can sell,” said Thibaut Specht, a winemaker in the Alsace region. “We have no choice.” Above, a truck picks up wine from Jérôme Mader.
Marion Borès’s family business is sending 30 percent of its production — 19,000 liters — to a distiller for conversion into alcohol for sanitizer. “It’s like you are saying goodbye to somebody who is very dear to you,” she said.
Here’s what else is happening
Lebanon border fighting: The Israeli military said Monday that it had thwarted a raid by Hezbollah in a disputed area along its northern border with Lebanon, resulting in an exchange of fire. No casualties were reported. Hezbollah denied carrying out an operation.
Google: The tech giant has told its employees that they would not be expected back at the office until mid-2021, reflecting the reality that no one can be sure how long the pandemic will last in the U.S.
Booker Prize: Hilary Mantel and Anne Tyler are two of the 13 novelists announced Tuesday as competing for the British literary award.
In memoriam: Milos Jakes, a former Czech Communist leader who headed the party in a tumultuous two years before being swept aside in 1989, has died at the age of 97.
Snapshot: Above, Chang Wan-ji, right, and Hsu Sho-er, the octogenarian owners of a laundry in central Taiwan. The couple has become Instagram stars for posing in garments left behind.
What we’re listening to: This podcast from New Naratif about the role of young people in Malaysian politics. It gives context about how nonprofit organizations and community organizers are leading efforts to engage young people, through cultural and systemic changes.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: These curry chicken breasts with chickpeas and spinach are an entire dish built for flavor — and ease.
Dance: Do you have itchy feet after all these months of lockdown? Here are eight cultural dances that you can learn at home through online tutorials or mobile dance apps. Take a look (or a spin).
Watch: In an era when viewers are re-evaluating cop shows, “Columbo,” the detective series starring Peter Falk, still stands out. You can catch the disheveled, cigar-smoking homicide detective free on several streaming channels.
At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
Spying fears and TikTok
Some U.S. officials worry that TikTok, the app owned by an internet giant based in Beijing, could let China’s government spy on users or spread propaganda. Shira Ovide, host of our On Tech newsletter, discussed those concerns with Kevin Roose, a technology columnist. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation.
Shira: Let’s start with TikTok. What are the legitimate concerns about it?
Kevin: Because TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, it could be compelled to give the data it collects on people watching videos to the Chinese government and abide by its censorship laws.
And let’s be real, TikTok has done things in the past that contributed to the sense of suspicion — temporarily removing a viral video that criticized the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, for example.
Well, if TikTok is potentially dangerous because it’s Chinese, then isn’t the solution to ban it or sell it to non-Chinese owners?
An American-owned TikTok could still legally sell user data to a third-party data broker, who could then sell it to the Chinese government.
What you really need is a federal privacy law that applies to all internet platforms operating in the United States, no matter whether they’re Chinese or American. If a big worry is data security, then this is a useful moment to impose more rules for TikTok and everyone else on how they’re collecting and using information about us.
TikTok also plays an important role in American technology. It’s Facebook’s only real competitor, and the creative culture there would be a shame to lose.
Yes to more data regulation! What else?
Another thing that makes TikTok powerful — and potentially dangerous — is that the videos served to us are based on opaque algorithms that we can’t see or inspect. The U.S. government could demand more transparency as a condition of allowing TikTok to continue operating.
Ideally, this should also apply to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. These algorithms shape our culture, politics and personal beliefs, and we know basically nothing about how they work.
Why all this talk about TikTok now? What changed?
Right, we’ve been getting technology hardware from China for many years with few complaints from regulators. I think what’s new here is the Trump administration’s desire to appear tough on China.
That’s it for this briefing. Explore our solar system. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about mistakes made in New York at the height of the pandemic there.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Beginning of an idea (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• “In “Finish the Fight!,” excerpted here, New York Times journalists tell the stories of lesser-known women of color who were part of the battle to give women the right to vote.