The World Today for March 11, 2021

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Need a Ride?

In November, voters in California passed Proposition 22 by a landslide. The referendum measure exempted gig workers from rules that would compel their employers to treat them as if they were full-time employees. As the Guardian reported, ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft bitterly opposed the proposal, which would have forced them to pay a minimum wage, unemployment and health benefits and other expenses.

The rationale against Proposition 22, opponents say, is that the ballot initiative would force companies to treat gig workers more like employees when many don’t want that. Instead, hundreds of thousands of workers in California depend on the gig economy because conventional employment has failed these workers by not being flexible enough regarding work schedules and for other reasons, according to a blog post on the website of the Pay Up campaign, an initiative by Instacart workers to push for better working conditions.

Britain has gone in the opposite direction. Recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers are full-time employees, not self-employed workers. The decision ended the San Francisco-based company’s appeals on the question, Politico wrote. Lower courts had already ruled against the company on the same grounds numerous times.

The court found that Uber sets the conditions for its drivers’ workdays, restricts communication between drivers and passengers and dictates whether drivers can accept rides or not, the BBC explained. The justices also determined that drivers are not only working when they are driving, but when they are logged into the app and waiting for a ride request.

“This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery,” said App Drivers & Couriers Union General Secretary James Farrar in a statement to CNBC.

In Al Jazeera, Georgetown University Fellow Jason Moyer-Lee, who specializes in issues related to labor and the working poor, argued that the court decision was an important victory for workers in the battle against large tech companies like Uber. From Uruguay to France, activists have gone to court to enforce laws that stop employers from siphoning off too much value for their workers’ efforts. Europe is now the main front in their battle, noted Reuters.

Even the editorial board of the Financial Times, a publication inclined to adopt the perspective of entrepreneurs, commended the decision as an example of justice. Too many Silicon Valley companies operate in gray legal territory. Now the playing field in Britain, at least, is black and white.

Uber has admitted that the gig economy is unsustainable for many workers. Shortly before the UK Supreme Court’s decision, the company published a white paper that aimed to promote the flexible work opportunities of the gig economy while attempting to increase the economic security of gig workers in Europe. The European Union is working on pan-continental rules, too, TechCrunch added.

To be an employee or not aside, one thing is clear: Some are fed up with disruptive innovations.



Out of Two, One

Libyan lawmakers approved the newly appointed government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah on Wednesday in the hopes of unifying the war-torn country and ushering it through elections at the end of the year, the Associated Press reported.

The Dbeibah administration will replace the two rival governments – one based in the country’s west and another in the east – that have ruled Libya following the ouster of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The confirmation follows months of United Nations-brokered talks and internal horse-trading between Libya’s stakeholders to set a political roadmap leading to parliamentary and presidential elections on Dec. 24.

The approval came despite allegations of corruption at meetings of an UN-selected 75-member political dialogue forum that had previously appointed Dbeibah and the three-member Presidential Council. The prime minister has denied the allegations.

The interim government will face tough challenges ahead of the poll including the key task of disarming numerous local militias and dealing with at least 20,000 mercenaries and other foreign fighters.


Vaccines and Niceties

Frustrated by vaccine production delays, European Union nations are becoming more open toward Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and Italy could become the first country in the bloc to produce it, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

The warm reception toward Sputnik V follows months of criticism over Russia’s controversial approval of the inoculation: Last summer, Russian officials gave the green light to its widespread use after less than two months of tests involving humans. Critics feared that the Kremlin was rushing to the finish line to be able to use the jab as a soft power tool.

However, a study published in February in the Lancet journal found that the vaccine was safe and would offer around 92 percent protection against Covid-19.

On Wednesday, Thomas Mertens, the head of Germany’s Standing Commission on Vaccination, praised the vaccine and said that it “will presumably also be approved in the EU at some point.”

Meanwhile, the Italian-Swiss pharmaceutical company, Adienne, struck a deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to start producing the vaccine in July – a move that still needs the approval of Italian regulators.

The Russian vaccine cannot be made available for use in Italy and other EU nations without the approval of the European Medicines Agency but some eastern European nations have broken ranks.

Hungary administered the first Sputnik V shot in February while Slovakia ordered two million doses in a secret deal orchestrated by the country’s prime minister, Igor Matovič.


The Need To Scream

Protests against femicide and other forms of gender-based violence in Mexico City this week ended with a crackdown on the demonstrations resulting in dozens of injuries, the Washington Post reported.

On Monday, women’s rights activists clashed with riot police stationed outside the presidential palace leading to at least 19 civilians and 62 officers injured.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, meanwhile, dismissed the demonstrations that coincided with International Women’s Day as incited by his conservative opponents to undermine him. Feminists, however, accused the president of failing to act on the issue even though 10 women a day are murdered in the country.

The president has long had a tense relationship with feminist groups but recently angered many women because of his support for a gubernatorial candidate accused of sexual assault.

Meanwhile, the high rate of gender-based violence continues.

Nearly 1,000 Mexican women were victims of femicide in 2020, with some of the cases being particularly brutal, the Guardian reported.

Protests against femicide have become common in Mexico because activists say it is the only way to get the government’s attention.


No Heavy Lifting

Patients with osteoarthritis are advised to do exercises that strengthen muscles around the knee to make the movement of the joint easier and less painful.

But a new study discovered that strength training – which usually involves heavy lifting and weights – does not help a lot with knee pain, the New York Times reported.

Lead researcher Stephen Messier and his team conducted a thorough study on more than 370 participants in an 18-month clinical trial.

The participants were divided into three groups: one group was tasked with lifting heavy weights, while another tried moderate strength training. The third group was counseled on “healthy living” and how to take care of their diet, feet and medications.

Although he was a proponent of intense strength training, Messier was shocked to find that all the patients only reported slightly less pain, including those who only received counseling.

Messier suggested that a placebo effect might explain why the third group felt better but other researchers suggested that it might be a case of regression.

Osteoarthritis patients typically tend to seek out treatments when the pain reaches its peak, but arthritis symptoms tend to surge and subside over time. And when the pain declines, patients attribute the improvement to the treatment.

Messier and other medical professionals still recommend that training plays an important role in dealing with arthritis.

However, instead of herculean weights, patients ought to follow a moderate-intensity routine with more repetitions and lighter weights.

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 29,152,716 (+0.19%)
  2. India: 11,262,707 (+0.00%)**
  3. Brazil: 11,202,305 (+0.72%)
  4. Russia: 4,302,726 (+0.21%)
  5. UK: 4,247,879 (+0.14%)
  6. France: 4,022,400 (+0.74%)
  7. Spain: 3,178,442 (+0.43%)
  8. Italy: 3,123,368 (+0.72%)
  9. Turkey: 2,821,943 (+0.52%)
  10. Germany: 2,541,781 (+0.82%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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