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Beginning of life in United Kingdom #5 :: Dr Mohendra Irengbam

Beginning of life in the United Kingdom for one of the pioneers of Manipuri emigrants overseas
– Fifth part of the book: Dr Mohendra’s Memoir to be published –

Dr Mohendra Irengbam *

 My Book [Quest Beyond Religion] Launch at India International Centre, New Delhi. Nov 28 2005.
My Book [Quest Beyond Religion] Launch at India International Centre, New Delhi. Nov 28 2005.

As London soaked up a shiny Spring Sunday I was enjoying the highlights of the city, travelling by bus and the Tube (Underground train) for experience. It was fascinating. Soon fascination tipped over into curiosity. It was extraordinary that there were so many black people driving the famous red double-decker buses of London transport.

In my near defunct memory, London was like Shangri-La in Tibet (“with streets paved in gold”), where everything was pleasant and you could get everything, and where there were white British folks moving about in suit and tie.

It was years after, that I learnt those black people were from the Caribbean and the Bahamas. They were recruited during the late 1940s, after the war, when there was acute shortage of manpower in Britain. This brings me to how so many coloured Immigrants had arrived in Britain, including me, as a legacy of its erstwhile empire.

Britain lost 450,770 (nearly 5 lakh) people during WWII, out of which 383,600 (nearly 4 lakh) died while serving in the military. Half of the civilian deaths were from London because of German bombing. For eight months the German Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London and other strategic cities across Britain, beginning towards the end of 1940. It was known as the “Battle of Britain”.

It was a battle between the Luftwaffe and the British Air Force for air supremacy. The German espionage network was great so that the Luftwaffe selectively bombed that area of Manchester where there was a Jewish settlement.

 London Underground Train
London Underground Train

Following the end of the War in August 1945, as coloured immigrants were pouring for better life into Britain, many British people migrated to countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada for a better life. Australia then, promoted mass migration for the purpose of defence and development.

The total working population in the UK had fallen by 1.38 million. There was a drastic shortage of labour. Britain needed man power to develop its economy. Britain needed immigrants to rebuild the war-damaged country. British Government encouraged migration from Commonwealth countries. There were also immigrants from all over Europe, especially Eastern Europe, and Ireland.

The first black immigrants who were recruited, came from West Indies [Caribbean]. The first 500 immigrants arrived in June 1948 as temporary visitors, by a ship named Windrush. The ship used to be a German troopship. At the end of the war she was taken by the British Government as a prize of war and was renamed Empire Windrush. So, these black people were known as Windrush migrants. The British people in the beginning, were quite alarmed seeing so many black workforce.

These men came well-dressed in suit and tie and wearing felt hats – the dress style they expected English men to have. So did the women folks in two-piece suits and hats. They were trained mostly, to drive London buses and Tube trains, and the women, some of who were already trained nurses, were employed mainly in the National Health Service. The black or West Indians settled mainly in London, mostly in the borough of Notting Hill. Since then they have been having a Notting Hill Carnival every year.

There were great discriminations against the Black (including South Asians) and the Irish. Many landlords would not rent rooms to black and Irish immigrants. They had notices put up like ‘Blacks and Irish are not welcome’. Racism against the Irish was mostly because they were staunch Catholics. The good thing about having an oriental look is that I have never encountered racial profiling in this country while my Indian class fellows did.

Some patients, especially older women would refuse to be treated by black nurses. The word “racism” became very widespread. The Conservative Government (1951-55) prohibited racial discrimination. In practice, it did not mean anything. Racial profiling exists and even now, except that using the word “Negro” or “Nigger” is punishable by law.

By the early 1950s the woollen and textile mills in the North of England, such as Bradford and engineering factories in the Midlands, such as Birmingham, were closing due to lack of workers. That shaped the pattern of immigration from the sub-continent of India (South Asia), Ghana and Nigeria. As a result, British cities became increasingly multicultural.

The word ‘multicultural’ became a bad phrase for the hoi polloi British people. Now, it is accepted as part of the social fabric, as the massive Pakistani Muslim population in Britain, supported by the world Muslim nations, would fight against any blatant discriminatory act.

The term ‘Paki’ has become an insulting and contemptuous word for people of Pakistani descent. Once, I was visiting a patient in a Pakistani family. In front of the flat two girls about 9-10 years were standing. One of them asked me “Are you Chini”? I said “no”. Then, with thinly veiled exasperation, I asked her “Are you Paki”? She retorted, “Don’t call me that”.

In many Secondary schools, dominated by Pakistani Muslim children, Muslim activists have been trying to gradually Islamise the school with things like school uniform covering the girls’ legs, holidays for Eid and the introduction of Halal meat for school lunches. When I was Chairman of the governing board of a secondary school in Bradford, as I represented local Muslim and Indian communities, I argued in favour of Muslim girls wearing trousers and later, for head scarf. I won. I also helped to introduce Diwali holiday for a tiny few of Indian pupils.

Over the years, as a few Asian immigrants who became economically solvent, were able to afford to live in the poor working class white neighbourhood in the cities and towns, as a family moved out of the small terraced houses, the next door white family would move out. Another Pakistani family would move in and the next white neighbour would move out, in a domino effect. Eventually streets and localities became solely Asian.

It those days, British people could not stand the smell of Asian spice-flavoured cooking, and habits such as spitting outside and loud conversations, to name a couple of malpractices. They were abhorrent to the local people.

As the UK economy picked up and boomed in the late 1950s and mid-1960s many coloured immigrants faced racist backlash, sometimes violent. There was a serious race riot in Notting Hill in West London, over the death of a black man in 1959.

About this time, the economic boom due to migrant labour, led to an increase in the disposable income among the British working class youth. A sub-culture of youth developed across these young men. Many of them were in low-paying jobs or, on the dole (on state benefits for the unemployed). They embraced working class fashion with T-shirt and worn-Levis. They cropped their hair short (Skinheads) and wore heavy working class boots.

They began frequent street-fighting and they became racists. They formed violent gangs and would attack Asians, blaming them for taking their jobs and sending money back home. They played the traditional nationalistic ideas of the working class. They turned against the Asian immigrant neighbours. Much later, many of them joined the far right nationalist organisations like the National Front and other Neo-Nazi groups in England.

Things began to simmer down a bit in the open anti-racism after the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act, which restricted immigrant number, by setting up a voucher system. This is that voucher with which I came to London. There was no problem with doctors. The needed a lot of doctors to run their National Health Service on the cheap. It was a hell of a lot cheaper to employ already trained doctors from abroad, rather than spending money to train their own doctors.

However, the average immigrant workers, who were working here at that time with the intention to return to their families back home in the long run had other ideas. They realised that once they had gone home, they might not be readmitted. So they brought their families to join them and decided to settle here permanently. The new law backfired. There were more immigrants rather than less. So another law, the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed by the Parliament. That restricted entry only to those with a father or grandfather born in the UK. For the doctors, the voucher was for indefinite stay in the UK and automatic right to British citizenship.

 Fellow doctors from India at Annual Dinner of Overseas Doctors' Association, 4 of these are my class fellows.
Fellow doctors from India at Annual Dinner of Overseas Doctors’ Association, 4 of these are my class fellows.

The majority of doctors from the Indian subcontinent came to settle here. There were quite a few like me, who came to do post-graduation and return home. Many did. Many stayed here even after getting their degree. Some would return and come back as they could not find employment in their own country.

Most doctors got jobs in General Practice (Primary Health Care Service under the National Health Service). Hospital doctor specialists (Consultants) are known as Secondary care doctors. All the consultant posts, especially in popular specialities like Medicine and Surgery were filled by British doctors.

Even the results of the British post-graduate degrees such as MRCP and FRCS every year, depended on the possible vacancies of the existing Senior Registrar posts (training to be consultants after post-graduate qualifications) under the supervision of a consultant in the speciality, in general Hospitals. The idea was that no qualified post graduate doctor or graduate doctor would remain unemployed.
Most British doctors chose to go to General Practice.

Most Asian doctors also settled in General Practice as there were many vacancies, while only a few lucky ones became consultants in specialities like Geriatrics, which were not popular among the British doctors. By 1980s, there was a vast number of overseas doctors, mostly from South Asia, enough to form Overseas Doctors’ Association (ODA) to parallel British Medical Association (BMA).

The life of junior doctors in those days in England was at small hospitals in the provinces where the consultants had no interest in teaching the juniors to qualify for advanced studies. We were just a pair of hands. It was all work and self-learning. It took me a couple of years even to pass the first part of the MRCP examination as I had to begin relearning the basics of medicine all over again.

A junior or trainee doctor was allowed to stay for only six months in that speciality at one hospital. We had to apply for a job every six months at different hospitals all over the country, looking up in the BMJ that advertised vacant posts. At that time, my SHO [Senior House Officer] pay was £70 per month, with free food and lodging.

After 3 months I bought a small used (second hand) car, an Anglia for £90 from an Indian doctor who was leaving UK to go back to India after he had his MRCP. As I was driving at home in Imphal, I believed I could drive a car here, with my Indian Licence. I did know anything about the country’s Highway Code – a vital part of driving. It has many signs with various shapes and colours that meant different things. I did not know any of them. Nor did I know what dual carriageway meant.

 During my late brother Gokulchandra's visit, in my back garden in 1985
During my late brother Gokulchandra’s visit, in my back garden in 1985

Everybody can drive a car, but driving according to the Highway Code is quite difficult to learn. The code sees that you can drive safely by following certain rules. To begin with, I did not know they have such rules printed in a booklet. Since they drive according to rules nobody ever uses the car horn except to warn off a driver of another vehicle in case of his wrong manoeuvre. I was lucky I was not stopped by a policeman.

After another three months I left the Hospital where I met Margaret and moved to another hospital about 20 miles away. One evening I was driving back to the former hospital to see Margaret. I have never driven alone. Somewhere on the way, I was driving up a road, which I later knew to be called ‘Dual Carriageway’. I did not know I was driving on the wrong side of the road until some people driving the opposite way, waved me to go back.

I looked around. I saw nobody driving my way, either In front of me or at the back. Then I realised the mistake. I turned off a slip road, came around and drove on the right road.

In another two months I took the driving test after taking 4 lessons from professional driving instructors and memorising the road signs. I failed the first time on a technicality. It was that when I was asked to turn right to another road with stop road markings, I was not doing it at a right angle. It meant, if a car was parking behind the stop line to exit, I would be cutting into the right front end of the car. I studied the Highway Code more seriously, and took a couple of lessons more from another driver. Hurrah! I passed the next time.

After I had moved to another hospital and having saved up some money, I went on a package holiday to Italy for two weeks with Margaret. She organised it. I had no knowledge that such a facility existed. We stayed at the seaside town of Sorrento, opposite the Isle of Capri that was the haunt of Hollywood celebrities, and made famous by the American song, which I used to sing quite a lot in Darjeeling:
‘Twas on the Isle of Capri that he found her
Beneath the shade of an old walnut tree
Oh, I can still see the flowers blooming ’round her
Where they met on the Isle of Capri.

We visited Capri, Rome, Pompeii and Naples. They were breath-taking experiences.

Author in Pompeii 1967
Author in Pompeii 1967

After two months I left the hospital for Edinburgh University to attend a course in advanced medicine for 8 weeks. My little car became very handy. At weekends, ie on Friday evenings, with high octane love, I would drive from Edinburgh to Newcastle, a distance of about 100 miles or 160 km [Imphal to Dimapur is 204 km) in 3 hours, and back on Sunday evenings, starting about 8 pm, across vast wastelands and without a hint of anxiety.

After finishing my study in Edinburgh I got another job as a SHO in Medicine at a hospital. Having trained enough, I came to work at a hospital in Bradford as a Specialist Registrar in Medicine, my salary was about £110 per month with free lodging and boarding. The job was then enjoyable. Four SHOs worked with me. I had only to attend to cases which they could not handle, and do a ward round with them once a week, in preparation for the Consultant’s ward round next day. I had plenty of time to study.

At that time, the City of Bradford remained decadent, with dilapidated buildings and many woollen mills having been closed due to lack of man power. The surviving mills were run by immigrants mainly from Pakistan, and India.

The city of Bradford soon became known as the capital for Pakistanis in Great Britain, as more and more Pakistani men with their families as well as a number of illegal immigrants had settled there. These illegal immigrants would marry English prostitutes to be allowed to stay in the country. Once legalised, they would leave these women and bring their wives and family from back home. As the weddings in Pakistan were not registered the men could not be prosecuted for polygamy.

The large number of Pakistani emigrants are almost all from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir. It was Bradford where the Pakistanis burnt Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, which started a worldwide Muslim agitation. A fatwa on Rushdie’s life was eventually, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini from Iran. Since then, Rushdie, who now lives in America, has been married four times, and he is now a multimillionaire.

When the Asians came to Britain in the 1950s, they were wearing suit and tie. Muslims as well as Sikhs shed their long hair and beards. Muslim women discarded their burqas and hijabs. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, emboldened by Ayatollah Khomeini, and fortified by the Fatwa imbroglio with Salman Rushdie, Muslim men began to grow beards and do away with suit and tie. They were back to pyjama and long kurta, while women restored themselves to wearing burqa and hijab. The Sikhs followed suit and began to grow beards and wear turbans, but were not back to wearing salwar and kurtas.

Indian Hindus in Bradford are very few. It took years to organise a small temple and that also in a gable-end terrace house. Sikhs although very few, being hardworking and ingenious, had a biggish Gurdwara. For Muslims, financed by Saudi Arabia, they began to build large mosques all over the city. Most Indians, about 2.6 lakhs live in London.

These immigrants from Pakistan and India were mostly employed in textile industries in Bradford, Manchester, Lancashire and Birmingham. They worked in night shifts in the factories which the British people shunned, after all the hardships of WWII. They enjoyed going to the pub every evening. Going to the pub, drinking draught beer and socialising has always been the nucleus of British way of life.

Pub culture is an integral part of British life. They are the places to socialise and relax. There are peak times in the pubs, such as on the way back home after work, or in the evenings after their supper. Normal outings for young people start about 8 pm and go on till closing times at 11 pm. Once I had settled, I became ‘accepted’ as a local man in the local pub, partly because I was a doctor and partly because I knew their custom and etiquette. I became part of the community. I went to pub every night about 10 pm and met 3 or 4 close friends. We had just enough time to drink 2 or 3 pints.

 Author at World Conference on AIDS virus, Yokahoma, Japan 1993
Author at World Conference on AIDS virus, Yokahoma, Japan 1993

While Bradford became a main city for Pakistanis, the Sikhs settled in Southall in Greater London, Glasgow and Birmingham. Leicester became the Gujarati City, especially after the influx of about 80,000 Gujaratis, who were thrown out by Idi Amin from Uganda in 1972.

The large immigrants from Bangladesh came in the 1970s, mostly from Sylhet. They started restaurants known as Indian restaurants at various places. The settled mostly in East London, which had previously been the home to Jewish migrants. In 1968, there was only one Indian restaurant in London, one in Glasgow and one in Newcastle. British people were not used to curry flavour. Now there are thousands. Indian curry dishes have become second national British cuisine.

British eating habits and etiquettes of dining are now quite relaxed. During the early years of my settlement in this country, they were quite formal. If you were invited to dinner at somebody’s home you had to be dressed in your best suit and tie and women in their best outfits.

A dinner party in the UK is almost always an alcohol party. Alcohol is the celebratory symbol of choice, especially Champagne. Not that everyone drinks alcohol. Many women just partake soft drinks. After a few drinks and snippets of conversation exchanging pleasantries in the lounge, guests would repair to the dining room and sit at the table laid with cutlery, napkins and wine glasses for small parties. For large parties it would be a buffet.

 A buffet party at home
A buffet party at home

Having asked for preference, wine, either red or white would be served. Just shy of 2/3 (150ml) or 1/2 of the wineglass was poured into each glass. The idea was to allow the wine to ‘breathe’ a few minutes to release its aromas. Wines are served chilled [in an ice bucket] for white wines, and at room temperature for red wines. Wine is served with a meal to stimulate your appetite and make the food more enjoyable.

A starter is followed by a savoury main dish (entrée), usually meat or fish, followed by Pudding, now called Dessert. This is followed by coffee, served with Cheese (Stilton, Cheddar, Camembert etc) and biscuit (sugar-free) such as cream crackers, with butter in a dish and with a smaller butter knife.

The final drink is normally Brandy (Cognac), but may be any other liqueurs (such as Tia Maria, Baileys). The brandy is served in single measures and at room temperature, in a bowl-like short stemmed glass. The glass is so designed as to give the aroma of the spirit plenty of room to waft off, often by swirling. After this, everybody is merry but not ‘drunk’ as alcohol has been consumed mixed with solid food. Now it is time to go home with a dose of euphoria.

In general, most working class people drink beer and the upper class people drink shorts (spirits), at least in public. Women sip alcohol while men gulp it, especially beer. Only the cowboys quaff it. The alcoholic content of a pint of beer is equivalent to a large (double) peg (60ml). Alcohol in excess, will make you drunk and give you hangover the next morning (due to dehydration).Long-time excesses are injurious to health, which we all know.

Though the UN rates Australia as the second best country in the world to live in after Denmark, the UK remains the most popular country for migrants, and has a high number of migrants in comparison to other European countries. It is mainly because of economy and labour market.

Work and study are the most common reasons, making 71% of the main factors that encourage people to migrate to the UK. Apart from the English language, established networks, such as having people in their community, who can provide information on the migration process and help to finance the cost of migrations and so on, encourage migration.

Life here in the UK, has indeed been worth living in, particularly for me with a tipple in the evenings, which has determinedly, kept up the jolly banter.

Author’s website: drimsingh.com


* Dr Mohendra Irengbam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 10 2021 .


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This post originally posted here United Kingdom News

Bulgarian elections: The ‘beginning of the end’ for Borisov?

On Sunday, Bulgarians will head to the polls for a second parliamentary election in three months.

An early vote was called after the April 4 vote resulted in a hung parliament, with the governing GERB party of conservative former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov failing to secure enough support to form a new cabinet.

In May, Borisov, who has served as premier for three terms since 2009, had to step down and hand over power to a caretaker government.

Since then, several political scandals have rocked the country of seven million, as the interim cabinet sought to uncover what it says are corrupt practices by government officials linked to GERB.

Pre-election polls show GERB almost tied with There is Such a People, the party that came second in the April vote and is headed by popular talk show host Slavi Trifonov.

The far-right parties which were GERB’s coalition partners in the previous government may not pass the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament.

The analysts Al Jazeera spoke to said in the July 11 elections, Borisov’s party may again fail to win enough votes to form a coalition, which would effectively end the ex-premier’s nearly 10-year stint in power.

Some say that this may even mark the end of his political career.

‘Trumpisation of the electoral campaign’

Since it took power on May 12, the interim government has regularly released information to the public about corrupt practices, embezzlement and other legal violations it says it has uncovered in government ministries and state institutions.

The administration has launched investigations into deals with state funds, scrutinised infrastructure projects, began inquiries into malpractices at government hospitals, replaced police and customs chiefs across the country, and thoroughly documented citizens’ reports of alleged corrupt practices.

Accusations from the business sector against the previous government have also been publicised, with one businessman claiming in front of a parliamentary commission that Borisov personally threatened him.

In a separate allegation, Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said another businessman confided in him that Borisov had suggested he may be killed and his body fed to his family.

The former prime minister has rejected these accusations as a political campaign against him, predicting he may be arrested soon.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m the one in the crosshairs,” Borisov told a rally of young GERB members in May. “What is going now as a coup is not legal at all.”

He has also cast doubt on the mandatory use of voting machines in Sunday’s election, accusing opposition parties of “tampering” with them.

According to Anna Krasteva, professor of political science at the New Bulgarian University, Borisov’s campaign rhetoric shows he has run out of strategic moves.

“He has only tactical moves left and they are ridiculous. He is going for Trumpisation of the electoral campaign,” she told Al Jazeera. “This is categorically the beginning of the end of Borisov. In the eyes of the Bulgarian people, he stands for corruption.”

Magnitsky Act sanctions

However, according to Petar Cholakov, associate professor of sociology at the Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, it is too early to declare the end of Borisov and his party.

“The situation is quite dynamic … If the so-called protest parties are unable to form a government after the elections, this could work in favour of GERB,” he said, referring to the three parties that backed protests against GERB in the summer of 2020 – There is Such a People, Democratic Bulgaria, and Stand up! Thugs out!.

And despite the alleged corruption scandals, some of Borisov’s allies abroad maintain their support for him.

“I follow what is happening in Bulgaria and, Boyko, you have a lot of work to do. The EPP supports you, we stand firmly behind you. Rely on us,” Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said in June.

Оn July 3, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Borisov in Istanbul and praised the migration policies of his “true friend and brother”.

Supporters wearing T-shirts with pictures of former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wait before an election rally in Kardzhali, July 5, 2021 [File: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP]

But American President Joe Biden’s administration seems to be sending a different signal.

Shortly after the interim government took over in May, US Ambassador Hero Mustafa met Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and several of his ministers – and paid an unusual visit to the National Revenue Agency.

Then, оn June 2, the Biden administration announced sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against several Bulgarian political and business figures, including former MP Delyan Peevski from the Movement for Rights and Liberties (MRL).

According to some, Borisov has close links to the sanctioned media mogul.

Cholakov said Peevski’s alleged trade in Bulgarian passports and links to Russian energy projects may have been perceived by Washington as a threat to the US interests.

But the sanctions are also a sign of disapproval.

“The United States is signalling that it is not happy with this model of governance [of GERB-MLR],” he said.

А third election

GERB and There is Such a People are both polling at about 20 percent.

The other two parties that could enter a possible anti-GERB coalition – Democratic Bulgaria and Stand up! Thugs out! – are at about 12 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party is at 15 percent and the MRL at 11 percent.

But according to political consultant Vesislava Tancheva, there may be some surprises due to machine voting, which would limit vote-buying and could discourage some minority communities that do not read Bulgarian.

This may affect MRL’s results, in particular, as the party is traditionally backed by minorities.

Some of GERB’s big business supporters may also withdraw their support, shrinking the so-called “controlled vote”, where large employers instruct employees to vote for a specific party that favours their interests.

These trends might not bring enough votes to an anti-GERB coalition, however.

“It is quite possible that we may go for a third election this year. And that is a possibility that all parties, except GERB, are internally discussing,” Tancheva said.

In her view, a third election might pressure GERB and result in another interim government investigating its dealings and pushing forward with judiciary reform, which may accelerate prosecution in corruption cases.

Author: Mariya Petkova
Read more here >>> Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

Children and COVID: Vaccination Trends Beginning to Diverge

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The proportion of children aged 12-15 years who have completed their COVID-19 vaccine regimen jumped by over 50% in just 1 week, but there has been a slowdown in first vaccinations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As more adolescents became eligible for a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine since it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in mid-May, the share of 12- to 15-year-olds considered fully vaccinated rose from 11.4% on June 14 to 17.8% on June 28, an increase of 56%, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker indicated June 22

For children aged 16-17 years, who have been receiving the vaccine since early April, full vaccination rose by 9.6% in that same week, going from 29.1% on June 14 to 31.9% on June 21. The cumulative numbers for first vaccinations are higher, of course, but are rising more slowly in both age groups: 41.5% of those aged 16-17 had received at least one dose by June 21 (up by 4.3%), with the 12- to 15-year-olds at 28.3% (up by 10.5%), based on the CDC data.

Limiting the time frame to just the last 2 weeks, however, shows the opposite of rising among the younger children. During the 2 weeks ending June 7, 17.9% of those initiating a first dose were 12-15 years old, but that 2-week figure slipped to 17.1% as of June 14 and was down to 16.0% on June 21. The older group was slow but steady over that time: 4.8%, 4.7%, and 4.8%, the CDC said. To give those figures some context, those aged 25-39 years represented 23.7% of past-2-week initiations on June 7 and 24.3% on June 21.

Although no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children under 12 years, about 0.4% of that age group – just over 167,000 children – have received a first dose and almost 91,000 are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

Author:
This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines

Tree of Life Synagogue Plans a New Beginning, Years After Deadly Shooting

PITTSBURGH — For more than two years the Tree of Life — Or L’Simcha synagogue, on a hilltop corner in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, has sat heavy with memory but empty of worshipers.

Since the morning in October 2018 when a gunman showed up at Shabbat services and killed 11 worshipers, the somber building complex has been by turns a crime scene, a place of mourning and the subject of long, emotional discussions about its future. Slowly, over months of deliberation, the Tree of Life congregation came to decide that the building would be both its home for worship again as well as a commemorative site, a center for communal events and a place for people from all over the world to learn about confronting hatred.

By Tuesday morning, the leadership of the congregation was ready to announce the person chosen to help turn that vision into structure: Daniel Libeskind, the architect known for memorializing historical trauma and a son of Holocaust survivors.

“To me, in the end, the most critical thing is not that people stand there with their jaws literally hanging on the ground as they look at it,” Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life said. “But that they can be able to say, ‘Well look what the Tree of Life has accomplished. In the wake of what happened to them, that they could be at this incredible moment.’ And we think Daniel Libeskind’s the one to be able to deliver that.”

There has been no shortage in recent years of places that once snugly fit into the patchwork of local communities — schools, churches, synagogues, grocery stores — but suddenly became internationally recognized sites of gun violence.

As the acute trauma receded in those places and life in the community mostly resumed, charged conversations have followed about how or even whether to mark what had happened there. Sanctuaries and classrooms have been replaced, but questions linger about how to do justice to memory.

These questions can take years to answer, if they are answered at all. In Newtown, Conn., where 20 first graders and six educators were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, residents voted by a narrow margin to build a memorial only last week.

At some places, like Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine Black worshipers were killed in 2015, the planned commemorations have tied individual tragedy to a greater struggle against violence and hatred.

The vision at Tree of Life is similar, recognizing there are many overlapping circles of people who feel a stake in the site: the families of those who were killed, the members of the three congregations that worshiped at the synagogue, the Pittsburgh Jewish community, the city at large, the country as a whole and people, Jewish and non-Jewish, all over the world.

Mr. Libeskind, who in 2003 won the competition to design the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks, said strong but often conflicting motivations were familiar in undertakings like these.

“The same range, spectrum of emotions, ran through that project,” he said of the World Trade Center design process. “Many groups, competing groups with different emotions. You know, ‘Raze everything.’ ‘Rebuild even bigger, even taller.’ ‘Rebuild exactly the Twin Towers.’ ‘Don’t build anything for the next 30 years.’”

“That is the range that you get,” he continued. “There are different aspects that people want to remember and to delay and also to confront.”

Mr. Libeskind had been in New York when the attack at Tree of Life occurred. He has designed museums and memorials that commemorate the evils of the Holocaust, but it rattled him deeply, he said, that such an eruption of violent anti-Semitism could take place in America — the country his family had come to seeking freedom as Jews.

He would soon learn that the suspect had apparently chosen Tree of Life because one of the three congregations that worshiped there, Dor Hadash, had participated in a program for refugees with HIAS. Under its original name as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the same group had given Mr. Libeskind’s family members financial assistance and helped them rent a home in Bronx public housing when they arrived as immigrants in 1959.

“That struck in my heart,” he said.

In Pittsburgh, the months that followed the attack were filled with grief, condolence and recitations of the mourner’s Kaddish. The wounded began to recover and some worshipers poured their anguish into activism. The gears of the judicial process began to turn, if slowly; the man charged with attacking the synagogue has yet to go to trial. But in those first few weeks were also the beginnings of a delicate conversation about the building itself.

In December 2018, a Pittsburgh urban design firm, Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, began holding a series of listening sessions with members of the three congregations at the synagogue, which had been gathering for worship in the smaller chapels of other synagogues in Pittsburgh. Opinions about the future of the Tree of Life building ranged widely, from demolishing it to rebuilding it exactly as it had been to creating something new.

Two of the congregations, Dor Hadash and New Light, decided not to return. But, Rabbi Myers said, a consensus began to form among members of Tree of Life that they wanted to come back.

“As time went on, it became clearer through all of these conversations,” he said, “that the predominance was: We must return. If we don’t, we give the message that evil won, because it chased us out of our building.”

They would refurbish the 58-year-old sanctuary, keeping the tall stained-glass windows that are the synagogue’s most striking feature. But they would rebuild the rest of the campus, creating classrooms, a communal space, a Hall of Memories dedicated to the attack itself and a home for exhibitions and public programs of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.

The process of selecting an architect began this past winter, with requests sent to nearly a dozen firms. What followed were letters and interviews and conversations with various architectural firms, but Paula Garret, who led the selection committee, said it was quickly drawn to Mr. Libeskind, who wrote of his identity as a European Jew and his belief in American freedom.

“Daniel Libeskind wants to design the Tree of Life building in Pittsburgh?” she said of the committee’s initial reaction. “We were blown away. But we were also so impressed with his deliberate and sensitive answers. He really, really got the understanding of this vision.”

Mr. Libeskind, who will collaborate on the remodeling with Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, said he planned to visit the site, for the first time, this month. The project will undoubtedly take time, but the congregation is eager for a permanent home, having been exiled from their building by the shooting and then kept from any physical gatherings at all by the coronavirus.

In an emailed statement, Andrea Wedner, who was shot in the arm that October morning and whose mother, 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, was killed, described the news about Mr. Libeskind as “an exciting next step in this long process of rebuilding.”

“I am looking forward to entering a new Tree of Life building,” Ms. Wedner wrote, “without fear or hesitation.”

Michele Rosenthal’s brothers Cecil, 59, and David, 54, both men with developmental disabilities, met worshipers at the door before services every week.

“They welcomed everyone who came through their doors to share their beloved building,” she said in a statement on Monday. “We are hopeful that this new chapter for the building will be an opportunity to remember those who were taken and welcome more people in.”

Author: Campbell Robertson
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Spain holidays: 'June' to spark beginning of tourism 'recovery' with Britons welcomed back

Author:
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Travel Feed

Spain is keen to welcome Britons back to its shores, with the nation’s tourism minister eyeing June as its month for tourism “recovery”. Fernando Valdes Verelst, Spain’s tourism minister, said he is pushing for the UK and Spain’s digital vaccination certifications to be “mutually recognised”.

“Hopefully we will be seeing this summer the restart of holidays.”

However, it is not yet clear whether or not Spain will make it onto the UK’s quarantine-free “green list”.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said he would be revealing more about the list “within the next few weeks.”

He said: “The earliest possible unlock is May 17. We won’t have international travel before that.

“So far the data does continue to look good from a UK perspective, notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to and making sure you’re protected from the disease being reimported.

“But specifically on when I’ll be able to say more about it, I haven’t been able to do it a long time advance because the situation changes the whole time with this pandemic, but it will be towards the beginning of May when I will set out which countries fall into the various different countries.”

According to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) Spain recorded a rate of 247.25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days cumulative.

By comparison, according to Gov.uk, the UK recorded 25.3 per 100,000 of the population in the previous seven days cumulative.

Though the Government has not yet given any indication as to which nations are on the table for “green” list status, experts have been using available data to predict which countries could make the cut.

Analysis carried out by Robert Boyle, former strategy chief at BA and its owner IAG, looked at the Government’s four “risk” criteria for travel.

This includes vaccination rates, Covid prevalence, the extent of variants and the capacity for genome sequencing of the virus.

Under this modelling, Mr Boyle predicted the USA, Gibraltar, Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Australia and New Zealand could be on the list.

However, he noted economic and political factors could see Spain also being included.

The report said: “Last year, the Spanish and Greek islands were given a lower-risk rating than the mainland and that could happen again this year.”

90% of Austin's palm trees are dead after winter storm, city beginning massive clean up

Author Billy Gates
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

City of Austin photo
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting next week, the City of Austin will undergo a massive clean up effort to remove the dead trees and vegetation from the historic winter freeze from streets, sidewalks, alleys and other public land.

The Public Works Department estimates an astounding 90% of the cities palm trees are dead.

In order to ensure safety, the forestry department will begin proactively removing dead trees from high traffic areas, a job that must be completed sooner rather than later. Experts say the longer rotting palms are left standing, the heavier they become and the more likely to snap on unsuspecting pedestrians and drivers.

If trees are believed to pose an immediate threat to public safety, residents and businesses nearby will be notified with a door hanger that provides information and contact numbers in case questions arise.

Residents are responsible for caring for plants on their own properties or extend into the right of way. The city, however, will remove vegetation on private property if it extends into the right of way and is deemed a potential risk to the public.

Other trees hit particularly hard by the deep freeze were Arizona ash and Chinese tallow trees, along with non-native palms and species of pine trees, the City says.

The City of Austin wants you to follow these guidelines to hep clear the public right of way:

  • Sidewalks: Limbs and vegetation must be trimmed back from the edge of and at least eight feet above.
  • Streets/Alleys: Limbs and vegetation must be trimmed back from the curb and at least 14 feet above.
  • Grass and Weeds: Maintain grass and weeds at a maximum height of 12 inches throughout property and to the edge of the street or alley.
  • Corners: Vegetation within ten feet from the curb should be kept at a height of two feet.
  • Fire Hydrants: Remove trees or plants within five feet.
  • General: Trim or remove vegetation blocking signal lights, traffic, and pedestrian signs.

Residents are asked to call Austin 3-1-1 to report any dead or damaged trees on public property.

When the endgame is just the beginning: PETER HOSKIN reviews Marvel’s Avengers and Gnosia 

Marvel’s Avengers (PlayStation[1], Xbox, PC, £59.99)

Verdict: For ever? Never!

Rating:

Let’s start at the end — because that, in a way, is where Marvel’s Avengers wants us to begin.

This is what the marketeers call a ‘game as a service’. The idea is that you bash away at a controller, mastering the combos and upgrading your characters, until you enter an expanse known as the ‘endgame’, where you might just remain playing extra missions for weeks, months, or even . . . years.

What Marvel\'s Avengers has over its rivals, such as the Destiny series, is, well, the Avengers as playable characters

What Marvel’s Avengers has over its rivals, such as the Destiny series, is, well, the Avengers as playable characters

The idea is that you bash away at a controller, mastering the combos and upgrading your characters, until you enter an expanse known as the \'endgame\', where you might just remain playing extra missions for weeks, months, or even . . . years

The idea is that you bash away at a controller, mastering the combos and upgrading your characters, until you enter an expanse known as the ‘endgame’, where you might just remain playing extra missions for weeks, months, or even . . . years

In these sort of games, the endgame is the point. The service is a form of entrapment

In these sort of games, the endgame is the point. The service is a form of entrapment

To keep things from getting stale \u2014 and to keep you playing alongside others online \u2014 the developers will add new cataclysms and ways of combating them. Sometimes for free. Often at a cost

To keep things from getting stale — and to keep you playing alongside others online — the developers will add new cataclysms and ways of combating them. Sometimes for free. Often at a cost

Patriotic Man, The Green One, Agent Catsuit, Thunder Muscles, and the others in alternative games \u2014 all look close to their movie versions, but not so close for royalties to be paid

Patriotic Man, The Green One, Agent Catsuit, Thunder Muscles, and the others in alternative games — all look close to their movie versions, but not so close for royalties to be paid

What it has not had in the six months since its release, unlike Destiny, is many new additions

What it has not had in the six months since its release, unlike Destiny, is many new additions

None of it is enough to fill out that endgame \u2014 which still just seems like punching more things in the face

None of it is enough to fill out that endgame — which still just seems like punching more things in the face

There is a promise of future updates, but, at this rate, will anyone hang around long enough to experience them?

There is a promise of future updates, but, at this rate, will anyone hang around long enough to experience them?

In these sort of games, the endgame is the point. The service is a form of entrapment. To keep things from getting stale — and to keep you playing alongside others online — the developers will add new cataclysms and ways of combating them. Sometimes for free. Often at a cost.

What Marvel’s Avengers has over its rivals, such as the Destiny series, is, well, the Avengers as playable characters: Patriotic Man, The Green One, Agent Catsuit, Thunder Muscles, and the others — all looking close to their movie versions, but not so close for royalties to be paid.

What it has not had in the six months since its release, unlike Destiny, is many new additions. Another superhero, the bow-slinging Kate Bishop, was drafted in last December. This week sees her mentor, Hawkeye, join the action, as well as a graphical update for the new generation of consoles.

None of it is enough to fill out that endgame — which still just seems like punching more things in the face. There is a promise of future updates, but, at this rate, will anyone hang around long enough to experience them?

But now let’s finish at the beginning. Before the endgame, there is a single-player campaign to enjoy: about ten hours of comic-book story- telling that revolve around the amazingly likeable Kamala Khan — aka Ms Marvel — and her stretchy powers. For that time, Marvel’s Avengers is fun, beautiful and inventive.

The sad thing is, it wants you to stay for ever.

Before the endgame, there is a single-player campaign to enjoy: about ten hours of comic-book story- telling that revolve around the amazingly likeable Kamala Khan \u2014 aka Ms Marvel \u2014 and her stretchy powers

Before the endgame, there is a single-player campaign to enjoy: about ten hours of comic-book story- telling that revolve around the amazingly likeable Kamala Khan — aka Ms Marvel — and her stretchy powers

In a way,\u00A0Marvel\'s Avengers, available on all major consoles, wants us to begin at the end

In a way, Marvel’s Avengers, available on all major consoles, wants us to begin at the end

Marvel\'s Avengers is available to buy on PlayStation, Xbox and PC at a price of \u00A359.99

Marvel’s Avengers is available to buy on PlayStation, Xbox and PC at a price of £59.99

The Incredible Hulk is one of many Marvel favourites who is a playable character in the game

The Incredible Hulk is one of many Marvel favourites who is a playable character in the game

Another superhero, the bow-slinging Kate Bishop, was drafted in last December. This week sees her mentor, Hawkeye, join the action, as well as a graphical update for the new generation of consoles

Another superhero, the bow-slinging Kate Bishop, was drafted in last December. This week sees her mentor, Hawkeye, join the action, as well as a graphical update for the new generation of consoles

Captain America is another of the Marvel favourites available to play as on the game

Captain America is another of the Marvel favourites available to play as on the game

Gnosia (Switch, £22.49) 

Verdict: Suspect everyone!

Rating:

I’ve started looking strangely at my wife, son and cat. Might they be murderous aliens, out to get me? Or is it just Gnosia getting inside my head? This game has you guessing which of your spaceship crewmates are not as they appear.

It’s effectively a single-player version of the multi-player megahit Among Us — but don’t mistake it for a cheap knock-off. It has its own offbeat rhythms and is as moreish as Pringles. Once you sink into full-blown paranoia, you can’t stop.

References

  1. ^ PlayStation (www.dailymail.co.uk)