new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of prominent accounts on those seven platforms had previously been banished from others like Twitter and Facebook.

F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago thrust his latest pronouncements into the eye of the political storm once again.

study of Truth Social by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, examined how the platform had become a home for some of the most fringe conspiracy theories. Mr. Trump, who began posting on the platform in April, has increasingly amplified content from QAnon, the online conspiracy theory.

He has shared posts from QAnon accounts more than 130 times. QAnon believers promote a vast and complex conspiracy that centers on Mr. Trump as a leader battling a cabal of Democratic Party pedophiles. Echoes of such views reverberated through Republican election campaigns across the country during this year’s primaries.

Ms. Jankowicz, the disinformation expert, said the nation’s social and political divisions had churned the waves of disinformation.

The controversies over how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic deepened distrust of government and medical experts, especially among conservatives. Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election led to, but did not end with, the Capitol Hill violence.

“They should have brought us together,” Ms. Jankowicz said, referring to the pandemic and the riots. “I thought perhaps they could be kind of this convening power, but they were not.”

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Ukraine receives U.S. air defence system

Sept 25 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that Ukraine had received sophisticated air defence systems from the United States.

It was the first acknowledgment that Ukraine had received the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), long sought by Kyiv and whose shipment was approved by Washington late last month.

“We absolutely need the United States to show leadership and give Ukraine the air defence systems. I want to thank President (Joe) Biden for a positive decision that has been already made,” Zelenskiy said, according to an English-language transcript of the interview.

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“But believe me, it’s not even nearly enough to cover the civilian infrastructure, schools, hospitals, universities, homes of Ukrainians.”

Zelenskiy also thanked the United States for HIMARS and other multiple rocket-launching systems enabling Ukraine to advance against Russian occupying forces.

Ukraine has staged counter-offensives this month to free from occupation large swathes of territory in northeastern Kharkiv region. It has also made advances in the south.

Russia describes its seven-month-old incursion into Ukraine as a “special military operation” and denies it targets civilian sites.

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Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Why Is There New Interest In Fusion Energy?

A company by the name of Zap Energy is trying to find a way to develop more energy output from fusion reactions.

Temperatures hotter than the center of the sun, the highest-energy lasers in the world, magnets the size of a basketball court — and the promise of virtually unlimited energy on Earth. 

Dozens of universities and governments around the world are pursuing fusion energy, hoping to obtain a limitless energy source that produces no carbon emissions. 

At Zap Energy outside Seattle, researchers are among the 35 private companies racing to crack the puzzle.  

Ben Levitt is the director of research and development at Zap Energy. 

“I run a team here of physicists and engineers at this lab. We do the development on the fusion core reactor right here,” said Levitt. “Where we need to get to is getting more energy output from these fusion reactions than is required as input. In other words, to light the candle, you need a certain amount of energy.” 

No one here is wearing radiation protection. Scientists say nuclear fusion is very different than nuclear fission, which powers hundreds of power plants across the world. 

“Fission, which is commercially available and has been so since, you know, right after World War II, is the breaking apart of large nuclei. Think of uranium and plutonium, those things, when you take a large nucleus and split it apart, you get a bunch of energy coming out and that’s great,” Levitt said. 

But fission reactors also produce thousands of tons of radioactive waste each year.  

“Fusion, on the other hand, is quite different and is not yet commercially available. This is the process that exists in all the stars in all the galaxies in the universe. So the challenge for us is how do you create a star on Earth? Our sun is made up predominantly of hydrogen and helium. What the sun also has is a lot of gravitational force. So it can compress all this hot gas, hot enough and dense enough that these nuclei of hydrogen come so close together they actually fuse and they’re pushed together to create another nucleus, a heavier nucleus, which is helium. And you get even more energy than in the fission reaction,” said Levitt. 

To “create that star on Earth,” says Levitt, researchers must contain a mysterious substance called plasma.

“In order of increasing temperature, you can start at a solid, increase the temperature you get to a liquid, then to a gas,” he said.  “What happens when you go even hotter than a gas? That’s a plasma.”

Plasma’s charged particles repel one another.  

“The trick is to force them together, long enough that they’ll fuse,” he continued. 

Smushing charged plasma to achieve fusion takes incredible force. A massive machine called the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California uses 192 giant lasers to push the plasma together.   

A facility under construction in France called Iter will use huge magnets to try to achieve fusion. 

Zap, meanwhile, is working to make smaller scale reactors. Their name reflects their strategy: By hitting the plasma with a zap of lightning, they create magnetic fields that they believe can eventually keep the plasma together. 

“If we can create this actually confined plasma with its own magnetic field, it will self confine without the need for any other confinement technology,” said Levitt. 

But big hurdles loom. Tritium gas is a rare isotope of hydrogen that serves as a key ingredient for fusion.  

Recent reports, including an article in Science Magazine, suggest a shortage of the gas could derail efforts to achieve fusion. 

The bigger problem is that despite billions of dollars of funding and decades of research into fusion, no experiment has ever produced a sustained fusion burn. 

“We’ve been making fusion reactions for more than a decade now. The issue is producing more energy output from fusion reactions than is required to start. These fusion reactions are what’s called this energy break-even demonstration. We believe we’re right around the corner from doing so,” said Levitt. 

That achievement could make Zap Energy a household name and transform the world energy system for centuries. 

Source: newsy.com

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Dutch students devise carbon-eating electric vehicle

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Sept 14 (Reuters) – The sporty all-electric car from the Netherlands resembles a BMW coupe, but is unique: It captures more carbon than it emits.

“Our end goal is to create a more sustainable future,” said Jens Lahaije, finance manager for TU/ecomotive, the Eindhoven University of Technology student team that created the car.

Called ZEM, for zero emission mobility, the two-seater houses a Cleantron lithium-ion battery pack, and most of its parts are 3D-printed from recycled plastics, Lahaije said.

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The target is to minimize carbon dioxide emitted during the car’s full lifespan, from manufacturing to recycling, he added.

Battery electric vehicles emit virtually no CO2 during operation compared with combustion-engine vehicles, but battery cell production can create so much pollution that it can take EVs tens of thousands of miles to achieve “carbon parity” with comparable fossil-fueled models. read more

ZEM uses two filters that can capture up to 2 kilograms (4.41 lb) of CO2 over 20,000 miles of driving, the Eindhoven team estimated. They imagine a future when filters can be emptied at charging stations.

The students are showing their vehicle on a U.S. promotional tour to universities and companies from the East Coast to Silicon Valley.

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Reporting by Dan Fastenberg and Hussein al Waaile in New York; Writing by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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In Parts Of The Mideast, Power Generators Spew Toxic Fumes 24/7

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East.

They literally run the country. In parking lots, on flatbed trucks, hospital courtyards and rooftops, private generators are ubiquitous in parts of the Middle East, spewing hazardous fumes into homes and businesses 24 hours a day.

As the world looks for renewable energy to tackle climate change, millions of people around the region depend almost completely on diesel-powered private generators to keep the lights on because war or mismanagement have gutted electricity infrastructure.

Experts call it national suicide from an environmental and health perspective.

“Air pollution from diesel generators contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including many known or suspected cancer-causing substances,” said Samy Kayed, managing director and co-founder of the Environment Academy at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Greater exposure to these pollutants likely increases respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease, he said. It also causes acid rain that harms plant growth and increases eutrophication — the excess build-up of nutrients in water that ultimately kills aquatic plants.

Since they usually use diesel, generators also produce far more climate change-inducing emissions than, for example, a natural gas power plant does, he said.

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East, which is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change. The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even without the growing impact of global warming.

The reliance on generators results from state failure. In Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, governments can’t maintain a functioning central power network, whether because of war, conflict or mismanagement and corruption.

Lebanon, for example, has not built a new power plant in decades. Multiple plans for new ones have run aground on politicians’ factionalism and conflicting patronage interests. The country’s few aging, heavy-fuel oil plants long ago became unable to meet demand.

Iraq, meanwhile, sits on some of the world’s biggest oil reserves. Yet scorching summer-time heat is always accompanied by the roar of neighborhood generators, as residents blast ACs around the clock to keep cool.

Repeated wars over the decades have wrecked Iraq’s electricity networks. Corruption has siphoned away billions of dollars meant to repair and upgrade it. Some 17 billion cubic meters of gas from Iraq’s wells are burned every year as waste, because it hasn’t built the infrastructure to capture it and convert it to electricity to power Iraqi homes.

In Libya, a country prized for its light and sweet crude oil, electricity networks have buckled under years of civil war and the lack of a central government.

“The power cuts last the greater part of the day, when electricity is mostly needed,” said Muataz Shobaik, the owner of a butcher shop in the city of Benghazi, in Libya’s east, who uses a noisy generator to keep his coolers running.

“Every business has to have a backup off-grid solution now,” he said. Diesel fumes from his and neighboring shops’ machines hung thick in the air amid the oppressive heat.

The Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people rely on around 700 neighborhood generators across the territory for their homes. Thousands of private generators keep businesses, government institutions, universities and health centers running. Running on diesel, they churn black smoke in the air, tarring walls around them.

Since Israel bombed the only power plant in the Hamas-ruled territory in 2014, the station has never reached full capacity. Gaza only gets about half the power it needs from the plant and directly from Israel. Cutoffs can last up to 16 hours a day.

WAY OF LIFE

Perhaps nowhere do generators rule people’s lives as much as in Lebanon, where the system is so entrenched and institutionalized that private generator owners have their own business association.

They are crammed into tight streets, parking lots, on roofs and balconies and in garages. Some are as large as storage containers, others small and blaring noise.

Lebanon’s 5 million people have long depended on them. The word “moteur,” French for generator, is one of the most often spoken words among Lebanese.

Reliance has only increased since Lebanon’s economy unraveled in late 2019 and central power cutoffs began lasting longer. At the same time, generator owners have had to ration use because of soaring diesel prices and high temperatures, turning them off several times a day for breaks.

So residents plan their lives around the gaps in electricity.

Those who can’t start the day without coffee set an alarm to make a cup before the generator turns off. The frail or elderly in apartment towers wait for the generator to switch on before leaving home so they don’t have to climb stairs. Hospitals must keep generators humming so life-saving machines can operate without disruption.

“We understand people’s frustration, but if it wasn’t for us, people would be living in darkness,” said Ihab, the Egyptian operator of a generator station north of Beirut.

“They say we are more powerful than the state, but it is the absence of the state that led us to exist,” he said, giving only his first name to avoid trouble with the authorities.

Siham Hanna, a 58-year-old translator in Beirut, said generator fumes exacerbate her elderly father’s lung condition. She wipes soot off her balcony and other surfaces several times a day.

“It’s the 21st century, but we live like in the stone ages. Who lives like this?” said Hanna, who does not recall her country ever having stable electricity in her life.

Some in Lebanon and elsewhere have begun to install solar power systems in their homes. But most use it only to fill in when the generator is off. Cost and space issues in urban areas have also limited solar use.

In Iraq, the typical middle-income household uses generator power for 10 hours a day on average and pays $240 per Megawatt/hour, among the highest rates in the region, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The need for generators has become ingrained in people’s minds. At a recent concert in the capital, famed singer Umm Ali al-Malla made sure to thank not only the audience but also the venue’s technical director “for keeping the generator going” while her admirers danced.

TOXIC CONTAMINANTS

As opposed to power plants outside urban areas, generators are in the heart of neighborhoods, pumping toxins directly to residents.

This is catastrophic, said Najat Saliba, a chemist at the American University of Beirut who recently won a seat in Parliament.

“This is extremely taxing on the environment, especially the amount of black carbon and particles that they emit,” she said. There are almost no regulations and no filtering of particles, she added.

Researchers at AUB found that the level of toxic emissions may have quadrupled since Lebanon’s financial crisis began because of increased reliance on generators.

In Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, miles of wires crisscross streets connecting thousands of private generators. Each produces 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per 8 hours working time, according to Mohammed al Hazem, an environmental activist.

Similarly, a 2020 study on the environmental impact of using large generators in the University of Technology in Baghdad found very high concentrations of pollutants exceeding limits set by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

That was particularly because Iraqi diesel fuel has a high sulphur content — “one of the worst in the world,” the study said. The emissions include “sulphate, nitrate materials, atoms of soot carbon, ash” and pollutants that are considered carcinogens, it warned.

“The pollutants emitted from these generators exert a remarkable impact on the overall health of students and university staff, it said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Biden To Tell Ohioans His Policies Will Revive Manufacturing

Intel had delayed groundbreaking on the $20 billion plant until Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act.

President Joe Biden wants to put the spotlight on a rare bipartisan down payment on U.S. manufacturing when he visits Ohio on Friday for the groundbreaking of a new Intel computer chip facility.

President Biden heads to suburban Columbus to take a victory lap just as voters in the state are starting to tune in to a closely contested Senate race between Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican author and venture capital executive JD Vance. They’re competing in a former swing state that has trended Republican over the last decade.

Intel had delayed groundbreaking on the $20 billion plant until Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act. Both Ryan and Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who is facing Democrat Nan Whaley in his reelection bid, plan to be at Friday’s groundbreaking.

In his State of the Union address last March, President Biden said he envisioned the Intel plant as a model for a U.S. economy that revolves around technology, factories and the middle class. The plant speaks to how the president is trying to revive American manufacturing nationwide, including in states that are solidly Republican or political toss-ups.

Chipmaker Micron committed $15 billion for a factory in Idaho, Corning will build an optical fiber facility in Arizona and First Solar plans to construct its fourth solar panel plant in the Southeast, all announcements that stemmed from President Biden administration initiatives.

As part of President Biden’s visit, Intel will announce that it’s providing $17.7 million to Ohio colleges and universities to develop education programs focused on the computer chips sector.

Factory work is one of the few issues going into November’s midterm elections that has crossover appeal at a time when issues such as abortion, inflation and the nature of democracy have dominated the contest to control Congress.

Ryan had largely been hesitant to share a stage with President Biden, as appearing with the country’s top Democrat could hurt his chances in a state that backed Republican Donald Trump by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.

Ryan skipped the president’s July 6 visit to Cleveland to plug his administration’s efforts to shore up troubled pension programs for blue-collar workers. President Biden nonetheless referred to him as the “future Senator Tim Ryan” and thanked him for his “incredible work” on the legislation.

The Youngstown-area congressman committed to appearing with President Biden this week because of the importance of the Intel facility in a state that has long defined itself through its factories, mills and working-class sensibilities.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Ryan told CNN on Sunday. “The CHIPS Act that we passed is all about reshoring high-end manufacturing jobs.”

Yet in a Thursday TV interview with Youngstown’s WFMJ on the eve of President Biden’s visit, Ryan said he is “campaigning as an independent.” When asked if President Biden should seek a second term, Ryan said, “My hunch is that we need new leadership across the board, Democrats, Republicans, I think it’s time for like a generational move.”

The open Senate seat in Ohio, currently held by the retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, is one of several hotly contested races that could determine whether Democrats can hold their slim majority in the chamber for the second half of President Biden’s term.

Several Democrats in competitive races have at moments sought to maintain some distance from President Biden, whose public approval ratings have ticked up in recent weeks but remain underwater.

A spokesman said DeWine also plans to attend the groundbreaking, making him among the few Republicans on the ballot this year who are willing to share a stage with the president. President Biden has in recent weeks said that extremist Republican lawmakers who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election are a threat to democracy, a charge that has only intensified partisan tensions with control of the House and the Senate on the line.

Vance, the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, hailed the Intel plant in a statement at as “a great bipartisan victory” for the state. He specifically applauded the “hard work” of GOP lawmakers including DeWine and Portman, but Vance pointedly made no mention of President Biden.

The shortage of semiconductors has plagued the U.S. and global economies. It cut into production of autos, household appliances and other goods in ways that fueled high inflation, while creating national security risks as the U.S. recognized its dependence on Asia for chip production.

The mix of high prices and long waits for basic goods has left many Americans feeling disgruntled about President Biden’s economic leadership, a political weakness that has lessened somewhat as gasoline prices have fallen and many voters have grown concerned about the loss of abortion protections after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The new law would provide $28 billion in incentives for semiconductor production, $10 billion for new manufacturing of chips and $11 billion for research and development. The funding follows similar efforts by Europe and China to accelerate chip production, which political leaders see as essential for competing economically and militarily.

President Biden has pitched the legislation as a “once-in-a-generation investment in America” that could reduce U.S. dependence on Taiwan and South Korea at a time when China is seeking to expand its presence across Asia and its shipping lanes.

Lawmakers crafted the semiconductor investments to favor areas outside the wealthier coastal cities where tech dominates. That means change will be coming to the Ohio city of New Albany, where the Intel plant is being constructed, as well as nearby Johnstown.

Don Harvey, a sporting goods store owner and longtime Johnstown resident, likes the idea of a company making things again in the United States, and also providing potentially high-paying jobs for his five grandchildren down the road. Intel has said pay will average $135,000 for its 3,000 Ohio workers.

“What an opportunity in my eyes for Ohio and the United States as a whole,” said the 63-year-old Harvey.

Elyse Priest lives in a subdivision just up the road from the plant, and received a firsthand taste of the construction recently as she watched a huge cloud of dust roll up from the 1,000-acre site currently being leveled. Priest, 38, also knows the road-widening and added traffic will affect her commute to downtown Columbus where she works as a legal assistant.

“I’m concerned about losing the small town feel I’ve always had and loved about Johnstown,” Priest said. “But I know it’s going to be a greater good for the whole state.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Children, College Students Diagnosed With Monkeypox Raise Alarm

School-age children diagnosed with monkeypox are raising concern before the return to school, but officials say the spread of risk is still small.

Three children in Georgia elementary schools have been diagnosed with monkeypox, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Nationwide, the CDC reports 17 children ages 15 and under have been diagnosed with monkeypox in the U.S. However, health officials say the risk of monkeypox spreading in school-age children is small.

In New York City, health officials say parents and schools should be prepared with information about the virus, but they don’t think schools are a center of major transmission risk.

“I am taking precautions myself such as sanitizing, trying to stay out of large groups of people,” said Willa Coleman, freshman at the University of Kentucky.

Universities are also on alert against the spread of the virus.

“I think it’s important for college students to realize that the risk is low but not zero, and it’s largely dependent on your behavior and activities,” said Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo.

At least five universities have confirmed cases of the virus among students: Washington, D.C. schools Georgetown University and George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Bucknell and West Chester Universities in Pennsylvania.

Monkeypox spreads through close, physical contact between people.

“You should be very suspicious of any fever, flu-like illness or rashes that you develop anywhere on your body, and get those investigated,” said Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global heath for Northwell Health.

Health experts hope to end the stigma in the gay community by emphasizing anyone can get infected.

“There’s nothing about monkeypox that makes it more likely to occur in men who have sex with men,” Cioe-Pena said. “It just happens to be circulating right now in a social circle of men who have sex with men because that’s where the index case started, and that’s just bad luck. So, there really is nothing about the lifestyles or habits of that community that make them more at risk.”

Overall though, the World Health Organization says the number of monkeypox cases globally has dropped by 21% in the last week, reversing a month-long trend of rising infections.

Source: newsy.com

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Is A College Education Still Worth It?

By Veronica De La Cruz
August 25, 2022

Collegiate experts agree that a college degree is still generally worth the time and money.

College enrollment is falling.  

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment dropped nearly 5% from 2021 to 2022. Some experts say the decline suggests students are questioning whether college is worth the cost.   

Data from the College Board shows college costs jumped 25% from 2009 to 2019. So, how much should students expect to pay now? Experts say it depends. 

“If you’re going to a public university in your state, they tend to be around $10-15,000 per year for tuition, but it’s not uncommon for private universities to be $30,000 or $40,000 a year,” said Steve McLaughlin, Provost and executive VP for academic affairs at Georgia Tech. “And some of the schools are even more expensive.” 

Those numbers, even on the smaller end, can be daunting to consider, especially for someone who’s just 17 or 18 years old.  

So back to the question: Is college worth the cost? 

“Return on investment is really really important,” McLaughlin said. “A lot of our students earn degrees in engineering, in computer science and in business, where the starting salaries are quite high. Our average starting salary is — for students who graduate — $75,000 a year. That’s our average. And some majors are even significantly larger than that.” Universities are experiencing some challenges showing potential students the value of a degree or certificate.  “When a high school student can graduate today and walk out of high school and potentially earn $20 an hour or more and then they wonder why they have to pay us $10,000 a year to get an education, that’s a reasonable question that we ought to be ready to answer,” said Sonny Perdue, Chancellor at the University System of Georgia. “And the answer is yes you might do that today, but when you continue to do that job at some point your employer is going to say ‘well, let’s see your diploma — I think I’d like to move you into management.’”The good news? There are options to reduce the cost of higher education. And it’s not just scholarships.“There are so many schools that are so generous,” said Anna Pless Peel, director of college counseling at The New School. “Especially the more expensive they are. Sometimes they have more money, and they give more money. There are websites like FASFA and KPEX. You can go on there and look for scholarships. There are stories where kids have applied to so many and gotten enough to go, but it’s a very very small percentage. And that’s why when you’re looking at colleges, especially if you want to go out of state and not to a state school, you want to see do they have a large endowment. Do they have enough money to help you pay for college?”So, all in all, is a college degree still worth it? These collegiate experts all agreed that the short answer is yes.  From networking to advancing more quickly in your career goals, the return on Investment is there.  

Source: newsy.com

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Afghan Girls Face Uncertain Future After 1 Year Of No School

The question of girls’ education appears to have been tangled in behind-the-scenes differences among the Taliban.

For most teenage girls in Afghanistan, it’s been a year since they set foot in a classroom. With no sign the ruling Taliban will allow them back to school, some are trying to find ways to keep education from stalling for a generation of young women.

At a house in Kabul, dozens gathered on a recent day for classes in an informal school set up by Sodaba Nazhand. She and her sister teach English, science and math to girls who should be in secondary school.

“When the Taliban wanted to take away the rights of education and the rights of work from women, I wanted to stand against their decision by teaching these girls,” Nazhand told The Associated Press.

Hers is one of a number of underground schools in operation since the Taliban took over the country a year ago and banned girls from continuing their education past the sixth grade. While the Taliban have permitted women to continue attending universities, this exception will become irrelevant when there are no more girls graduating from high schools.

“There is no way to fill this gap, and this situation is very sad and concerning,” Nazhand said.

The relief agency Save the Children interviewed nearly 1,700 boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 17 in seven provinces to assess the impact of the education restrictions.

The survey, conducted in May and June and released Wednesday, found that more than 45% of girls are not going to school, compared with 20% of boys. It also found that 26% of girls are showing signs of depression, compared with 16% of boys.

Nearly the entire population of Afghanistan was thrown into poverty and millions were left unable to feed their families when the world cut off financing in response to the Taliban takeover.

Teachers, parents and experts all warn that the country’s multiple crises, including the devastating collapse of the economy, are proving especially damaging to girls. The Taliban have restricted women’s work, encouraged them to stay at home and issued dress codes requiring them to cover their faces, except for their eyes, though the codes are not always enforced.

The international community is demanding that the Taliban open schools for all girls, and the U.S. and EU have created plans to pay salaries directly to Afghanistan’s teachers, keeping the sector going without putting the funds through the Taliban.

But the question of girls’ education appears to have been tangled in behind-the-scenes differences among the Taliban. Some in the movement support returning girls to school — whether because they see no religious objection to it or because they want to improve ties with the world. Others, especially rural, tribal elders who make up the backbone of the movement, staunchly oppose it.

During their first time ruling Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban imposed much stricter restrictions on women, banning school for all girls, barring women from work and requiring them to wear an all-encompassing burqa if they went outside.

In the 20 years after the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, an entire generation of women returned to school and work, particularly in urban areas. Seemingly acknowledging those changes, the Taliban reassured Afghans when they seized control again last year that they would not return to the heavy hand of the past.

Officials have publicly insisted that they will allow teen girls back into school, but say time is needed to set up logistics for strict gender segregation to ensure an “Islamic framework.”

Hopes were raised in March: Just before the new school year was to begin, the Taliban Education Ministry proclaimed everyone would be allowed back. But on March 23, the day of the reopening, the decision was suddenly reversed, surprising even ministry officials. It appeared that at the last minute, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, bowed to the opposition.

Shekiba Qaderi, a 16-year-old, recalled how she showed up that day, ready to start the 10th grade. She and all her classmates were laughing and excited, until a teacher came in and told them to go home. The girls broke into tears, she said. “That was the worst moment in our lives.”

Since then, she’s been trying to keep up with studies at home, reading her textbooks, novels and history books. She’s studying English through movies and YouTube videos.

The unequal access to education cuts through families. Shekiba and a younger sister can’t go to her school, but her two brothers can. Her older sister is at a private university studying law. But that is little comfort, said their father, Mohammad Shah Qaderi. Most of the professors have left the country, bringing down the quality of the education.

Even if the young woman gets a university degree, “what is the benefit?” asked Qaderi, a 58-year-old retired government employee.

“She won’t have a job. The Taliban won’t allow her to work,” he said.

Qaderi said he has always wanted his children to get a higher education. Now that may be impossible, so he’s thinking of leaving Afghanistan for the first time after riding out years of war.

“I can’t see them growing in front of my eyes with no education; it is just not acceptable to me,” he said.

Underground schools present another alternative, though with limitations.

A month after the Taliban takeover, Nazhand started teaching street children to read with informal outdoor classes in a park in her neighborhood. Women who couldn’t read or write joined them, she said. Some time later, a benefactor who saw her in the park rented a house for her to hold classes in, and bought tables and chairs. Once she was operating inside, Nazhand included teen girls who were no longer allowed to go to public school.

Now there are about 250 students, including 50 or 60 schoolgirls above sixth grade.

“I am not only teaching them school subjects, but also trying to teach them how to fight and stand for their rights,” Nazhand said. The Taliban haven’t changed from their first time in power in the late 1990s, she said. “These are the same Taliban, but we shouldn’t be the same women of those years. We must struggle: by writing, by raising our voice, by any way possible.”

Nazhand’s school, and others like it, are technically illegal under the Taliban’s current restrictions, but so far they haven’t shut hers down. At least one other person operating a school declined to speak to reporters, however, fearing possible repercussions.

Despite her unwavering commitment, Nazhand worries about her school’s future. Her benefactor paid for six months’ rent on the house, but he died recently, and she doesn’t have any way to keep paying for rent or supplies.

For students, the underground schools are a lifeline.

“It is so hard when you can’t go to school,” said one of them, Dunya Arbabzada. “Whenever I pass by my school and see the closed door … it’s so upsetting for me.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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California appeals court rules no arbitration in Cisco caste bias case

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The logo of networking gear maker Cisco Systems Inc is seen during GSMA’s 2022 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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OAKLAND, Calif., Aug 5 (Reuters) – Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) on Friday lost a court appeal to move to private arbitration a case over alleged caste discrimination in its Silicon Valley offices, where managers of Indian descent are accused of bias against a fellow employee from India.

The networking gear and business software company has denied the allegations. It had argued to a California appeals court that the state’s Civil Rights Department, which had brought the case on behalf of a worker identified under the pseudonym John Doe, should be subjected to an employment arbitration agreement signed by Doe.

“As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered,” the appellate panel wrote.

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In a separate order Friday, it told a lower-court judge to reconsider a ruling that would have required the state to identify Doe. The lower court had said the law prevented it from considering whether Doe’s family members in India could be harmed by naming him.

The higher court wrote that “harm to family members anywhere is a legitimate consideration in determining whether a party should be granted anonymity.”

Cisco and the state agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ancient socioreligious concept of caste has led to centuries of oppression against some families born into the lowest groupings in India. California has alleged that those biases had traveled to the U.S. tech industry, where Indians are the largest pool of immigrant workers.

The state sued Cisco in 2020 after Doe complained to it about company human resources staff not finding merit in his concerns that two higher-caste managers had allegedly denied him work and disparaged him.

The lawsuit has ignited advocacy at U.S. companies, universities and other institutions calling for more guidelines and training related to the potential for caste prejudice.

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Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio & Shri Navaratnam

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Paresh Dave

Thomson Reuters

San Francisco Bay Area-based tech reporter covering Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. Joined Reuters in 2017 after four years at the Los Angeles Times focused on the local tech industry.

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