Two women have dominated Chinese social media during the Beijing Winter Olympics.
One is Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old skier born and raised in California who won a gold medal for China. The other is a mother of eight who was found chained around her neck to the wall of a doorless shack.
The Chinese internet is exploding with discussions about which of the two represents the real China. Many people are angry that the government-controlled algorithms glorify Ms. Gu, who fits into the narrative of the powerful and prosperous China, while censoring the chained woman, whose deplorable conditions defy that narrative.
The two women’s starkly different circumstances — celebrated vs. silenced — reflect the reality that to the Chinese state, everyone is a tool that serves a purpose until it does not.
Whether she wants it, Ms. Gu has become a powerful propaganda tool for Beijing to demonstrate its appeal to global talent and the benefits of being loyal to China. She represents the successful China that Beijing would like the world to admire.
“Does Eileen Gu’s success have anything to do with ordinary Chinese?” goes the headline of one viral article that was censored later.
“Can we remember these women while cheering for Eileen Gu?” asks another headline.
“To judge whether a society is civilized or not, we should not look at how successful the privileged are but how miserable the disadvantaged are,” the article said. “Ten thousand sports champions can’t wash away the humiliation of one enslaved woman, not to mention tens of thousands of them.”
The Chinese government doesn’t like where the debate is heading. The juxtaposition of the two women highlights that underneath the glamorous surface of one of the world’s largest economies lie jarring poverty and widespread abuse of women’s rights.
It defeats the purpose of recruiting star athletes like Ms. Gu: to showcase a powerful China with global appeal.
little pinks, posted a quote from a famous Chinese novel: “I love the country. But does the country love me?”
The story of the chained woman — whose name, according to the government, is Xiaohuamei (little flower plum) — has captivated the Chinese internet since a short video went viral in late January. In it, a middle-age woman with a dazed expression stood in the dark shack with a chain on her neck. Subsequent videos revealed that she had lost most of her teeth and seemed to be mentally disturbed.
conflicting statements in the following two weeks. In the latest statement on Thursday, the authorities reported that Xiaohuamei could be a victim of human trafficking and that her husband was under investigation for false imprisonment. The government had denied both earlier.
Chinese princess.” Ms. Peng accused a retired top Chinese leader of sexual assault in November, and her name remains strictly censored on the Chinese internet.
Because she avoids sensitive issues, Ms. Gu is hailed as the model athlete for the others of Chinese heritage to learn from. She’s also cited as evidence of the superiority of China’s governance model over that of the United States.
“It’s so great that the beautiful, talented Eileen Gu came back to compete for China and won,” wrote Hu Xijin, a former editor in chief of The Global Times who still writes for the Communist Party tabloid, “while the blind, disabled Chen Guangcheng went to the United States to ‘seek brightness.’” Mr. Chen is the blind human rights lawyer who was put under house arrests for years before moving to the United States in 2012.
Mr. Hu wrote that China welcomed more scientists, athletes and businesspeople. “Let China be the place to get things done,” he wrote.
Some social media users criticized Mr. Hu’s post, saying it revealed how the system thought of the disabled and the disadvantaged like Xiaohuamei.
“This is life in China,” the writer Murong Xuecun posted on Twitter. “On one side is a Winter Olympic champion who cannot be criticized. On the other side is the chained woman who is being censored. One has a bright future. The other has come to a dead end.”
The company also did not tell investors that its chief operating officer, Rod Copes, a Harley-Davidson veteran, left the company last year. Public companies and those in the process of listing their shares generally disclose the departures of top executives. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Understand the Supply Chain Crisis
Ms. Mast said Mr. Copes had a “phased transition from Rivian in fall 2021, prior to the I.P.O.” and retired in December, after the offering.
Mr. Copes, 55, said in an interview that he did not leave Rivian because of concerns about his performance or because there were problems with production. He said that he had achieved key goals and that the structures were in place for Rivian’s ramp-up in production. “It was a smooth and seamless transition,” Mr. Copes said.
But corporate governance experts think Rivian ought to have disclosed his impending departure to investors during the I.P.O., given his senior role. “If they knew he was leaving, the optimal disclosure would have been to identify their C.O.O. but indicate that he was leaving,” John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School, said in an email.
According to one former executive, Rivian has a poor management culture.
The executive, Laura Schwab, said she was fired last year from a high-ranking sales and marketing position after expressing concerns about what she called the “boys’ club culture” and “gender discrimination” at the company. She filed a lawsuit in state court in California accusing Rivian of violating the state law prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation.
Ms. Schwab said she had been part of 30 vehicle introductions in prior auto industry jobs, including at Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover. Soon after arriving at Rivian, she said, she felt compelled to express concerns that the company was in danger of missing delivery targets.
“The production line doesn’t go from zero to thousands of cars overnight; it just doesn’t work that way,” she said.
ZARANJ, Afghanistan —From their hide-out in the desert ravine, the migrants could just make out the white lights of the Iranian border glaring over the horizon.
The air was cold and their breath heavy. Many had spent the last of their savings on food weeks before and cobbled together cash from relatives, hoping to escape Afghanistan’s economic collapse. Now, looking at the border they saw a lifeline: work, money, food to eat.
“There is no other option for me, I cannot go back,” said Najaf Akhlaqi, 26, staring at the smugglers scouring the moonlit landscape for Taliban patrols. Then he jolted to his feet as the smugglers barked at the group to run.
Since the United States withdrew troops and the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan has plunged into an economic crisis that has pushed millions already living hand-to-mouth over the edge. Incomes have vanished, life-threatening hunger has become widespread and badly needed aid has been stymied by Western sanctions against Taliban officials.
Aid organizations estimate that around 4,000 to 5,000 people are crossing into Iran each day.
European Union last fall pledged over $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and neighboring countries hosting Afghans who have fled.
“We need new agreements and commitments in place to be able to assist and help an extremely vulnerable civil population,” Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian prime minister, said in a statement at the U.N. Security Council’s meeting on Afghanistan last month. “We must do what we can to avoid another migration crisis and another source of instability in the region and beyond.”
But Western donors are still wrestling with complicated questions over how to meet their humanitarian obligations to ordinary Afghans without propping up the new Taliban government.
As the humanitarian situation worsened, the United States also issued some exemptions to sanctionsand committed $308 million in aid last month — bringing the total U.S. assistance to the country to $782 million since October last year.
But aid can only go so far in a country facing economic collapse, experts say. Unless Western donors move more quickly to release their chokehold on the economy and revive the financial system, Afghans desperate for work will likely continue to look abroad.
Crouching among the migrant group in the desert, Mr. Akhlaqi steeled himself for the desperate dash ahead: A mile-long scramble over churned-earth trenches, a 15-foot-high border wall topped with barbed wire and a vast stretch of scrubland flush with Iranian security forces. Over the past month, he had crossed the border 19 times, he said. Each time, he was arrested and returned over the border.
A police officer under the former government, Mr. Akhlaqi went into hiding in relatives’ homes for fear of Taliban retribution. As the little savings that fed his family ran dry, he moved from city to city looking for a new job. But the work was scarce. So in early November, he linked up with smugglers in Nimruz Province determined to get to Iran.
asylum claims in Europe, after Syria, and one of the world’s largest populations of refugees and asylum seekers — around 3 million people — most of whom live in Iran and Pakistan.
Many fled through Nimruz, a remote corner of southwest Afghanistan wedged between the borders of Iran and Pakistan that has served as a smuggling haven for decades. In its capital, Zaranj, Afghans from around the country crowd into smuggler-run hotels that line the main road and gather around street vendors’ kebab stands, exchanging stories about the grueling journey ahead.
At a parking lot at the center of town known as “The Terminal,” men pile into the backs of pickup trucks bound for Pakistan while young boys hawk goggles and water bottles. On a recent day, their sales pitches — “Who wants water?” — were nearly smothered by the sounds of honking cars and the angry shouts of haggling men exchanging tattered Afghani bank notes for Iranian toman.
Standing in line to climb into the back of a pickup, Abdul, 25, had arrived the day before from Kunduz, a commercial hub in northern Afghanistan that was wracked with fighting last summer during the Taliban’s blitz offensive. As the thuds of mortar fire engulfed the city, his business sputtered to a halt. After the takeover, his shop stood empty as people saved the little money they had for basics like food and medicine.
As the months dragged on, Abdul borrowed money to feed his own family, plunging further and further into debt. Finally, he decided leaving for Iran was his only option.
“I don’t want to leave my country, but I have no other choice,” said Abdul, who asked that The Times use only his first name, fearing that his family could face retaliation. “If the economic situation continues like this, there will be no future here.”
As the economic crisis has worsened, local Taliban officials have sought to profit off the exodus by regulating the lucrative smuggling business. At the Terminal, a Taliban official sitting in a small silver car collects a new tax — 1,000 Afghanis, or about $10 — from each car heading to Pakistan.
At first, Taliban officials also taxed the city’s other main migrant route, a smuggler-escorted journey across the desert and over the border wall directly into Iran. But after accusations in September that a smuggler had raped a girl, the Taliban reversed course, cracking down on this desert route.
Still, such efforts have done little to deter smugglers.
Speeding through a desert road around midnight, one smuggler, S., who preferred to go by only his first initial because of the illegal nature of his work, blasted Arabic pop music from his stereo. A music video with a woman swaying in a tight black dress played on the car’s navigation screen. As he neared his safe house, he cut the back lights to avoid being followed.
Moving people each night requires a delicate dance: First, he strikes a deal with a low-ranking Iranian border guard to allow a certain number of migrants to cross. Then, he tells other smugglers to bring migrants from their hotel to a safe house in the desert and coordinates with his business partner to meet the group on the other side of the border. Once the sun sets, he and others drive for hours, scoping the area for Taliban patrols and — once the route is clear — take the migrants from the safe house to the border.
“We don’t have a home, our home is our car, all night driving near to the border — one day my wife will kick me out of home,” S. said, erupting in laughter.
Crossing the border is just the first hurdle that Afghans must overcome. Since the takeover, both Pakistan and Iran have stepped up deportations, warning that their fragile economies cannot handle an influx of migrants and refugees.
In the last five months of 2021, more than 500,000 who entered these countries illegally were either deported or voluntarily returned to Afghanistan, likely fearing deportation, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.
Sitting on the ragged blue carpet of one hotel was Negar, 35, who goes by only one name. She had climbed over the border wall into Iran with her six children two nights before desperate to start a new life in Iran. For months, she had stretched out her family’s meager savings, buying little more than bread and firewood to survive. When that cash ran out, she sold her only goat to make the journey here.
But once she touched Iranian soil, a pack of border guards descended on the group of migrants and fired shots into the pre-dawn darkness. Lying on the ground, Negar called out to her children and had a horrifying realization: Her two youngest sons were missing.
After two agonizing days, smugglers in Iran found her sons and sent them back to her in Zaranj. But shaken by losing them, she was at a loss over whether to attempt to cross again.
“I’m worried,” she said. “What if I can never make it to Iran?”
Coups across West Africa show limits of diplomatic pressure
Poverty and Islamist violence mean people are losing patience
Regional bloc ECOWAS’ sanctions on Mali have not hurt junta yet
In Burkina Faso and beyond, French influence waning
Others stepping into vacuum, including Russia
DAKAR, Jan 26 (Reuters) – Earlier this month, West African countries slapped tough economic sanctions on Mali to punish coup leaders seeking to extend their hold on power, and to halt a run of military takeovers that have beset the region since 2020.
Burkina Faso’s military did not get the message. On Monday, two weeks after the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced the sanctions, the Burkinabe army arrested President Roch Kabore and seized power.
As the international community condemned West Africa’s fourth coup in 18 months, crowds in the capital Ouagadougou cheered the Burkinabe army – a contrast to anti-coup protests that erupted when the military briefly seized power in 2015.
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The reaction echoed scenes in Mali and Guinea, whose coup leaders received warm welcomes at home.
West African nations and international allies have struggled to mount an effective response, as populations lose faith in governments many see as manipulating the democratic process and unable to alleviate poverty or repel Islamist militant violence.
The problems pre-date recent coups. Unlike its vocal opposition to military takeovers, ECOWAS remained silent as sitting presidents maintained their grip on power by extending terms under what critics call “constitutional coups”.
“Today, ECOWAS is not a credible institution to people,” said Abdoulaye Barry, a Burkinabe researcher at the United Nations’ University for Peace.
“As long as they are not going to offer adequate responses to the governance deficit, coups are going to multiply.”
An ECOWAS spokesperson was not available to comment on its track record.
Other countries, including France and European allies, have maintained a military presence in the region, and partner local armed forces to fight groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State, meaning military support continues despite criticism of coups.
France in particular has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa’s Sahel region over the past decade, but security has progressively deteriorated, fuelling anti-French sentiment.
OPENING FOR RUSSIA?
The sanctions and international condemnations have arguably bolstered coup leaders’ standing at home.
Mali’s military-led transitional government, which took power in an August 2020 coup, went back on a commitment to hold elections next month. Instead, it proposed to rule for another four years.
ECOWAS’ sanctions included locking Mali out of regional financial markets and closing its borders, potentially devastating blows for the impoverished landlocked country.
Although the pain caused by rising food prices and shortages could yet turn people against the authorities, forcing the junta to the negotiating table, for now sanctions appear to be having the opposite effect.
Protests against the sanctions, which even some critics of the junta criticise as draconian, drew tens of thousands into the streets. People held signs that read: “Down with ECOWAS” and “Down with France”.
Coup leaders have found new allies. As tensions with France rose, Mali’s interim government struck a deal with Russia to send in military trainers.
France and its Western allies say many of these trainers are mercenaries from a private military contractor under European Union sanctions. Malian authorities deny this.
“Coalitions outside the traditional U.N. structures are emerging and staking a claim to security and economic partnerships in Africa,” a West African diplomat said, citing Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf States.
On Tuesday, Alexander Ivanov, the official representative of Russian military trainers in Central African Republic, issued a statement on the situation in Burkina Faso.
“I believe that if Russian instructors are invited to train the Burkina Faso army, they will be able to do so effectively,” Ivanov said.
The new Burkinabe authorities have not commented on any potential Russian deployment. At the pro-coup rally on Tuesday, some in the crowd held Russian flags.
Alliances closer to home may also undermine attempts to punish military takeovers.
When ECOWAS ordered member states to close borders with Mali, Guinea said it would not comply, allowing continued access to the port of Conakry. The junta in Burkina Faso, which also borders Mali, has not yet said if it will do the same.
ECOWAS, founded in 1975 to promote economic integration in post-colonial West Africa, can still inflict pain through sanctions.
Nearly 30% of Mali’s trade is with ECOWAS member states, according to U.N. data, and food prices are starting to rise in the capital Bamako, residents say.
But diplomats and analysts said the influence of ECOWAS and foreign powers traditionally active in the region has been hampered by eroding credibility.
Some traced that back to 2015, when the bloc came close to banning presidential third terms after Burkina Faso’s veteran leader Blaise Compaore was ousted the previous year in an uprising sparked by his efforts to extend his time in office.
Such a move would have been a first for an African regional body, but it never happened.
ECOWAS was silent in 2020 as the presidents of Guinea and Ivory Coast won third terms after altering constitutions that barred them from running again.
“ECOWAS needs to address the root causes of the recent coups … including the situations where governments manipulate the constitutions to remain in power,” said Said Djinnit, the former commissioner for peace and security at the African Union and top U.N. diplomat in West Africa.
Anger over Guinean President Alpha Conde’s third term was one of the reasons the military cited when it overthrew him last September.
Guinea’s ruling junta has promised to oversee a transition back to democracy but has declined to set a date for elections. ECOWAS has imposed targeted sanctions against junta members and their families.
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Reporting by Aaron Ross in Dakar and David Lewis in Nairobi; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mike Collett-White
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
MAUMEE, Ohio–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Therma-Tru has launched its new Keys 2 Success national sweepstakes for building trade professionals to learn about Therma-Tru products and current home design trends.
The Keys 2 Success program provides builders, remodelers, dealers, distributors and fabricators a chance to unlock the opportunity to win daily and weekly prizes for watching select videos. The program helps building professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends and Therma-Tru’s products to better facilitate conversations with homeowners.
“We’re excited to launch Keys 2 Success this year in conjunction with our Virtual Experience,” said Mark Ayers, senior vice president of marketing and product development for Therma-Tru. “The videos provide participants with the information they need to learn about the benefits of Therma-Tru’s new and recently introduced products.”
For each video watched, participants receive one entry into the sweepstakes. Participants can unlock 10 additional entries if they watch all eight 2022 videos. If they watch all 2022 and 2021 videos, they unlock the opportunity to win a grand prize.
Each day of the program, three participants will receive a $25 VISA eGift Card. Each week, one participant will win their choice of a Phillips espresso machine, exercise bike or backyard theater. At the end of the program, grand prizes will be awarded to three participants, including a solo stove, pizza oven or outdoor heater. Prize winners have the option to forgo a prize and donate the value of the prize to charity.
Participants must first log in to the Therma-Tru Virtual Experience to access Keys 2 Success, which can be found on the Main Menu at the front desk, under the Quick Access Menu or in the Keys 2 Success room on the right.
More information about the Keys 2 Success program and the official rules are available at thermatru.com/2022virtualexperience. Keys 2 Success runs February 1 through April 30, 2022.
Therma-Tru has launched its new Keys 2 Success national sweepstakes for building trade professionals to learn about Therma-Tru’s 2022 new products and current home design trends. Learn more at thermatru.com/2022virtualexperience.
More information about the Keys 2 Success program and the official rules are available at thermatru.com/2022virtualexperience. Keys 2 Success runs February 1 through April 30, 2022.
Therma-Tru is the leading entry door brand most preferred by building professionals. Founded in 1962, Therma-Tru pioneered the fiberglass entry door industry, and today offers a complete portfolio of entry and patio door system solutions, including decorative glass doorlites, sidelites and transoms, and door components. The company is headquartered in Maumee, Ohio and also offers low-maintenance Fypon® polyurethane and PVC products. For more information and product warranty details, visit www.thermatru.com, www.fypon.com or call 800-537-8827.
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When the International Olympic Committee met seven years ago to choose a host for the 2022 Winter Games, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, sent a short video message that helped tip the scale in a close, controversial vote.
China had limited experience with winter sports. Little snow falls in the distant hills where outdoor events would take place. Pollution was so dense at times that it was known as the “Airpocalypse.”
Mr. Xi pledged to resolve all of this, putting his personal prestige on what seemed then like an audacious bid. “We will deliver every promise we made,” he told the Olympic delegates meeting in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
host of the Summer Olympics, the Games have become a showcase of the country’s achievements. Only now, it is a very different country.
China no longer needs to prove its standing on the world stage; instead, it wants to proclaim the sweeping vision of a more prosperous, more confident nation under Mr. Xi, the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Where the government once sought to mollify its critics to make the Games a success, today it defies them.
Beijing 2022 “will not only enhance our confidence in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” said Mr. Xi, who this year is poised to claim a third term at the top. It will also “show a good image of our country and demonstrate our nation’s commitment to building a community with a shared future for mankind.”
Mr. Xi’s government has brushed off criticism from human rights activists and world leaders as the bias of those — including President Biden — who would keep China down. It has implicitly warned Olympic broadcasters and sponsors not to bend to calls for protests or boycotts over the country’s political crackdown in Hong Kong or its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, the largely Muslim region in the northwest.
combat Covid and imposed stricter safety measures than those during the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year. It has insisted on sustaining its “zero Covid” strategy, evolved from China’s first lockdown, in Wuhan two years ago, regardless of the cost to its economy and its people.
an accusation of sexual assault by the tennis player Peng Shuai, a three-time Olympian, the I.O.C. did not speak out. Instead, it helped deflect concerns about her whereabouts and safety.
staggering costs of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the white-knuckle chaos of preparations for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
blue skies. High-speed railways have slashed the trip from Beijing to the most distant venues from four hours to one.
In an area perennially short of water, China built a network of pipelines to feed a phalanx of snow-making machines to dust barren slopes in white. Officials this week even claimed the entire Games would be “fully carbon neutral.”
Christophe Dubi, executive director of the upcoming Games, said in an interview that China proved to be a partner willing and able to do whatever it took to pull off the event, regardless of the challenges.
“Organizing the Games,” Mr. Dubi said, “was easy.”
The committee has deflected questions about human rights and other controversies overshadowing the Games. While the committee’s own charter calls for “improving the promotion and respect of human rights,” officials have said that it was not for them to judge the host country’s political system.
Instead, what matters most to the committee is pulling off the Games. By selecting Beijing, the committee had alighted on a “safe choice,” said Thomas Bach, the committee’s president.
unseasonably warm weather. Sochi 2014 — intended as a valedictory of Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in Russia — cost a staggering $51 billion.
Growing wariness of organizing the quadrennial event gave China an unexpected advantage. Beijing — no one’s idea of a winter sports capital — could reuse sites from the 2008 Games, including the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the opening ceremony. The Water Cube, which held the swimming and diving events 14 years ago, was rebranded as the Ice Cube.
Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, once a republic of the Soviet Union.
The final tally was 44 to 40 for Beijing, with one abstention. Almaty’s supporters were left to fume over a glitch in the electronic voting system that prompted a manual recount to “protect the integrity of the vote.” That Kazakhstan has plunged into political turmoil on the eve of the Games seems now, in hindsight, further validation of the choice to pick Beijing.
Xinhua, compared to 480,000 three years before.
ceremonial scepter popular in the Qing dynasty, complete with a 6,000-seat stadium at the bottom that is supposed to hold soccer matches after the Olympics.
military preparations for the Games, including the installation of 44 antiaircraft batteries around Beijing, even though the likelihood of an aerial attack on the city seemed far-fetched.
“A safe Olympics is the biggest symbol of a successful Beijing Olympic Games, and is the most important symbol of the country’s international image,” he said then.
accusation of sexual harassment rocked the sports world last fall, the committee found itself caught in the furor.
fumed in private. Without the protective cover of the international committee, they feared reprisals if they spoke out individually.
The 2008 Olympics also faced harsh criticism. A campaign led by the actress Mia Farrow called the event the “genocide games” because of China’s support for Sudan despite its brutal crackdown in the Darfur region. The traditional torch relay was hounded by protests in cities on multiple continents, including Paris, London, San Francisco and Seoul.
The accusations against China today are, arguably, even more serious. The United States and other countries have declared that China’s crackdown against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang amounts to genocide. Ms. Farrow’s biting sobriquet has resurfaced for 2022, with a Twitter hashtag.
only screened spectators of its own choosing. It will mostly be a performance for Chinese and international television audiences, offering a choreographed view of the country, the one Mr. Xi’s government has of itself.
If the coronavirus can be kept under control, Beijing could weather the Olympics with fewer problems than seemed likely when it won the rights to the Games seven years ago. Mr. Xi’s government has already effectively declared it a success. A dozen other Chinese cities are already angling for the 2036 Summer Olympics.
“The world looks forward to China,” Mr. Xi said in an New Year’s address, “and China is ready.”
Chris Buckley contributed reporting. Claire Fu, Liu Yi and Li You contributed research.
ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Atlanta-based EcoVest Capital and Place Properties announce the formation of Impact Housing Group. Impact Housing is the country’s first fully integrated, volumetric modular company. Its mission is to provide a solution for affordable homes for America’s working families.
Among the most pressing social needs in the country is to provide attainable housing close to where people work and want to live. As a critical step toward that goal, Impact Housing has acquired a facility in Baxley, Georgia. This facility will be able to assemble 50+ affordable single-family homes per month. At that level of production, the plant will generate 170 new, living-wage jobs. The location of the facility allows Impact Housing to serve the southeastern market. In addition, Impact Housing is under contract to build another volumetric modular plant in Oconee, South Carolina, with plans to build a third plant, beginning in Q4 of 2022.
Cecil Phillips, former executive assistant to the governor of Georgia and past chair of Atlanta Housing, has been named president and CEO of Impact Housing. Phillips has a highly successful track record providing affordable housing for students, armed forces, and working families. According to Phillips, “Beginning in the Southeast and expanding throughout the country, Impact Housing will provide top-rated, quality-engineered and designed housing to serve communities which are frustrated by the deficit of affordable housing for working families. We will provide affordable housing to these markets by developing communities, as well as by selling homes to third-party owners and developers.”
Alan Solon is Chairman and CEO of EcoVest Capital, Inc., an Atlanta-based real estate investment management company and serves as chairman of Impact Housing Group. As CEO of EcoVest, Solon is focused on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) pertaining to sound real estate investment and development ventures. “For many working-class families,” says Solon, “inventory is extremely limited for new, affordable, high-quality homes for purchase in the neighborhoods where they work and live. The goal of Impact Housing is to provide an answer to the largest problem in this sector, making attractive, well-constructed homes attainable for these families.”
It’s Phillips’ and Solon’s shared belief that attainable housing can become a reality in the Missing Middle by revolutionizing volumetric modular housing into modern day solutions that families will be proud to live in and call home. Phillips and Solon also believe that you don’t have to sacrifice design and quality for profit. Impact Housing’s manufactured homes are assembled inside the plant then delivered to the site, reducing the time and costs of each home. With no major improvements in efficiency, productivity, or costs in the housing industry in more than 50 years, Phillips and Solon decided to launch Impact Housing where their experience and expertise will yield a viable solution to the housing crisis in the U.S.
MEMPHIS, Tenn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Frontdoor, Inc. (NASDAQ: FTDR), the nation’s leading provider of home service plans, today published its first corporate sustainability report. Frontdoor is committed to developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives that strengthen its value as a service provider, employer and global corporate citizen.
The company’s sustainability journey has been marked by meaningful initiatives and impacts since the company’s inception. This report reflects the company’s dedication to transparency in action and highlights its work in areas such as corporate governance, privacy and information security, employee relations and diversity and inclusion, community relations and environmental sustainability.
“We have made significant progress in our three years as a standalone company, and I’m proud of the meaningful work that our team is doing in this area,” said Rex Tibbens, president and chief executive officer of Frontdoor. “We are in the early stages of our journey but are committed to continuing to strengthen our practices and disclosures and operating in a way that benefits those in the world around us.”
In its 2021 sustainability report, the company shares an overview of its activities in four key areas: strengthening the company, supporting its people, serving communities and sustaining the world.
Highlights of Frontdoor’s 2021 sustainability report include:
Appliance contractors who leveraged Streem technology, which uses augmented reality, computer vision and machine learning, to facilitate more remote service calls reported a 6 to 7 percent reduction in onsite diagnostic service trips from January 1, 2021 through November 30, 2021.
Frontdoor and the economy rely on skilled labor. In 2021, Frontdoor invested in the next generation of contractors in partnership with two trade schools, awarding more than two dozen scholarships to students pursuing a career in the skilled trades.
Creating a vibrant, productive workforce begins with a rewarding pay program. Frontdoor offers competitive compensation, including a $15 minimum wage, which is informed by benchmarking analysis and reviewed for equity.
Frontdoor received over 2 million service requests for appliances, water heaters and HVAC systems for the twelve months ended October 31, 2021, helping to enhance efficient consumption of natural resources and avoid waste through repair and refurbishment.
“The 2021 sustainability report is the first of many and demonstrates our belief that responsibility begins with accountability,” said Tibbens. “As we move forward, each year we will strive to make progress in the areas outlined in the document and ensure that our business practices are impactful, meaningful and sustainable over time.”
Visit frontdoorhome.com to view or download the company’s full sustainability report. The report incorporates disclosures under both the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) frameworks.
Frontdoor is a company that’s obsessed with taking the hassle out of owning a home. With services powered by people and enabled by technology, it is the parent company of four home service plan brands: American Home Shield, HSA, Landmark and OneGuard, as well as ProConnect, an on-demand membership service for home repairs and maintenance, and Streem, a technology company that enables businesses to serve customers through an enhanced augmented reality, computer vision and machine learning platform. Frontdoor serves 2.2 million customers across the U.S. through a network of approximately 17,500 pre-qualified contractor firms that employ an estimated 62,000 technicians. The company’s customizable home service plans help customers protect and maintain their homes from costly and unexpected breakdowns of essential home systems and appliances. With 50 years of home services experience, the company responds to over four million service requests annually. For details, visit frontdoorhome.com.
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At the war’s end, residents of Marja are growing increasingly desperate for any kind of help, a frustration that has turned to anger that the international community has seemingly abandoned them.
MARJA, Afghanistan — Haji Rozi Khan stood outside the gate of the bullet-pocked building that housed the Marja district’s government offices, staring through the slotted steel door into the compound. Taliban guards stared back. They were not who he was looking for.
Mr. Khan had trekked to Marja’s district center in Helmand Province from his village several miles away by motorbike, kicking up powdered dust as he navigated the unpaved roads, long damaged by the war. He was searching for a figure who had been even more elusive since the Taliban took power in August: an aid worker.
“We have nothing to eat,” he said in an interview last month.
Once, Marja was the site of one of the biggest battles of the two-decade war, part of the United States’ counterinsurgency campaign to weaken the Taliban and build up a local government. But today, the grid-like patch of mud-walled hamlets and canals looks much as it did at the outset of the invasion in 2001: barely navigable roads, understaffed and damaged schools and clinics and withered crops, crippled by one of the worst droughts in decades.
humanitarian crisis, Marja’s residents are still caught in the war’s aftershocks. Amid a crashing economy and ruined harvests, in a place where most people barely live above the poverty line, many are just now realizing how dependent they were on foreign aid, their lifeline for 20 years, which was cut off practically overnight. They’re growing increasingly desperate for help, a frustration that has morphed into anger that the international community has seemingly abandoned them.
that crumbled even before the Americans fully withdrew from the country in August. Many in Marja were happy to see the foreign occupation end and the Taliban take power, because it brought stability to the region after years of fighting that took countless civilian lives and wrought widespread destruction.
under control of the Taliban. Across the country, there is widespread anxiety about the future.
This year’s turmoil has been deepened by the arrival of roughly 20 displaced families from central Afghanistan. They were hungry and homeless, he said, so he gave them what little food he could spare before making his way to the district center in hopes of finding someone else who could help.
“We are so tired,” Mr. Khan said, his blue shalwar kameez flapping in the morning breeze.
In recent weeks, the United States and the European Union have pledged to provide $1.29 billion more in aid to Afghanistan. The World Bank’s board moved in late November to free up $280 million in frozen donor funding, but U.S. sanctions against the Taliban continue to make it extremely difficult for aid organizations to get money into the country.
Aside from the sanctions, the Taliban government’s inability to provide for its people also stems from its inexperience in governance, which was clearly illustrated in a visit to the district office in Marja.
Inside the squat government building that was refurbished by the Americans a decade ago and nearly destroyed by fighting in the decade since, sat Mullah Abdul Salam Hussaini, 37, Marja’s district governor. The newly appointed local leader had spent the better part of the last 20 years — essentially his entire adulthood — trying to kill U.S. and NATO forces as a Taliban fighter.
Now he found himself governing a district of around 80,000 people mired in crisis, with little in the way of funds, infrastructure or public-service experience to support his constituents.
People lined up at the compound gates with a litany of complaints and requests: Do something about the displaced refugees; build a new health clinic; help farmers whose crops were destroyed; find more teachers for what may be the only remaining school in Marja.
“Whatever people ask, I am asking that, too, because we are not in a situation to do it ourselves,” Mr. Hussaini said quietly, surrounded by Talibs who looked far more comfortable behind a rifle than a desk. “We need the help of foreigners because they did it before and we’re asking them to do it again.”
Inside the governor’s dimly lit office, walls and window sill adorned with Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons captured from the previous government, sat a representative from a local aid group who had come to survey the district and its food needs for the World Food Program. The organization is still distributing basic food staples, but the rising demand has far exceeded their supplies.
For years, the insurgent group controlled pockets of Afghanistan and fueled a shadow economy by leeching off the previous government’s foreign-filled coffers through taxes on everyone in their territory, including truck drivers and aid workers. But those sorts of activities cannot make up for the loss of outside help.
“The Taliban don’t seem to have had a sense of how dependent the economy was on foreign support, which they benefited from as did everyone else,” said Kate Clark, the co-director of Afghanistan Analysts Network. “Even under the areas under Taliban control they weren’t funding the schools and the clinics.”
Marja, a district long reliant on growing poppy for its own illicit economy that the Taliban also taxed, was built by the United States in the late 1950s and 1960s as an agricultural project that diverted water from the Helmand River into a series of distinct grids.
In 2010, during the height of President Barack Obama’s troop surge, thousands of Western and Afghan troops secured the network of canals and fields in a major military offensive and then made promises of roads, schools and a functioning local government. Considered the last Taliban stronghold in central Helmand, Marja was a strategically important district in the eyes of military planners, who decided a victory there would be crucial to Mr. Obama’s new counterinsurgency strategy.
The Koru Chareh bazaar, a cluster of shoddy low-slung, steel-door shops, was where some of the first American troops arrived in 2010. “They came at night,” recalled Abdul Kabir, a young shopkeeper who was 9 when the first helicopters landed nearby.
As a boy, he watched as the Marines in desert tan uniforms walked by, saying nothing to him.
But this November, the only visible signs of the Americans’ occupation was a “Trump 2020 Keep America Great” flag draped from a shopkeeper’s peanut stand and a Confederate battle flag hanging from a shed nearby. A paved road that bisects Marja from north to south is arguably the most prominent American piece of infrastructure in the district, built as part of the more than $4 billion in stabilization funds that the United States poured into the country.
“It’s good the fighting is over,” Mr. Kabir said, standing next to his money exchange stand, where he focused on changing afghanis into Pakistani rupees. Few people ambled by. He had lived in Marja his whole life, an arc that followed the entire U.S. occupation.
Mr. Kabir was one of several residents who praised the security situation but lamented the economic downturn. “There is no money and everything is expensive,” he added.
With fluctuating border restrictions, higher import costs and a cash shortage, basic products in the bazaar, such as cooking oil, are three times as expensive as they once were.
To the vendors, who have distinct memories of fighting outside their homes, and explosions and gunshots that killed their friends, the economic crunch and the United States’ unwillingness to recognize the Taliban feel like punishments against them, not the new government.
Ali Mohammed, 27, who runs a chicken stand at the main intersection of the bazaar, has carried the weight of the war for years. He watched as a friend was gunned down by the Americans in a field just a few hundred yards from where he now sells his underfed birds. To him, his country’s situation was simply a new phase of the conflict.
“The foreigners say they are not here anymore,” he said. “But they didn’t finish the war against us.”
NEW DELHI — The mob rampaged for days, burning homes, breaking into temples and clashing with police, leaving several dead.
The victims were minority Hindus living in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim nation grappling with increasing extremism, and the violence drew an outcry from politicians in neighboring India. As the region’s traditional center of gravity, India has a history of promoting tolerance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also positioned himself as the champion of Hindus against a history of victimhood.
But the erosion of human rights in India has weakened its moral high ground in a region where ethnic and sectarian tensions are worsening. Sheikh Hasina — Bangladesh’s prime minister and a close ally, who had just sent Mr. Modi 71 red roses on his birthday — had pointed words for India, even as she promised to hunt the culprits.
“We expect that nothing happens there,” Ms. Hasina said, “which could influence any situation in Bangladesh affecting our Hindu community here.”
into a Hindu state. In marginalizing and maligning its minority Muslims at home, Mr. Modi’s government has weakened India’s traditional leadership role of encouraging harmony in a region of many fault lines.
The shift could also open opportunities for China, which has used the promise of investment and access to its hard-charging economy to cultivate stronger relations with its rival’s neighbors.
“The openly partisan approach to communal issues has created a very peculiar situation for us as far as that moral high ground in neighborhood policy is concerned,” said Yashwant Sinha, who was India’s foreign minister when Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was last in power in the early 2000s. “We can’t say ‘you stop it, this should not happen,’ because we ourselves are guilty of it.”
prosperity to the neighborhood.”
seen as discriminating against Muslims.
But such violence and the abuse of minorities is nothing new in South Asia, a region of deep ethnic and religious fault lines that is home to a quarter of the world’s population.
The traumatic partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the later war-driven split of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, left sizable ethnic and religious minorities in each country. The domestic policies of one nation inevitably affect the population of another.
Hindutva politics, and they are trying to exploit it,” said Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, referring to the B.J.P.’s Hindu nationalist ideology. “And at the same time, the Hindutva politics of India is empowering the B.J.P.-type politics in Bangladesh.”
The violence last month in Bangladesh was set off by rumors that a Quran, the Muslim holy book, had been disrespected in a Hindu temple. Seven people have been killed, the police said.
That violence has further deepened sectarian tension in India. In recent weeks, a right-wing Hindu group has been organizing large protests in the Indian state of Tripura, just over the border from Bangladesh, against the anti-Hindu violence there. Police have had to deploy heavy security to protect mosques, after members of the group vandalized at least one mosque and burned shops. A group of lawyers and activists who went to Tripura to document the damage found themselves charged with violating a draconian antiterror law.
While some B.J.P. officials criticized the violence, Mr. Modi himself has been largely silent. In contrast to Pakistan, where tensions with India sometimes break out into open conflict, Mr. Modi has cultivated good relations with Bangladesh, and harsh words could sour diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Dhaka.
Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
some of the deadliest communal violence in India in 2002 in Gujarat, where Mr. Modi was the state’s chief minister. He said such violence did not affect India’s standing because the country’s prime minister at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, made clear that the episodes were both unacceptable and isolated.
These days, Mr. Sinha said: “The interlocutor can turn back and say ‘Why don’t you practice at home what you preach to us?’”
Saif Hasnat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Zia ur-Rehman in Karachi, Pakistan, and Aanya Wipulasena in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed reporting.