Weekly Passport: New National Monuments, Paid Leave in the US, & the EU’s Hezbollah Problem

1. Meet Ida B. Wells

Image: Doodler Matt Cruickshank
Image: Doodler Matt Cruickshank

Last week, Google’s doodle was dedicated to activist and writer Ida B. Wells, an early champion of civil rights. Although she is lesser known, Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi and she stood up to a train conductor when she refused to move from her seat in 1884. This fierce woman went on to become editor of Memphis newspaper Free Speech and Headlight, and she later took over Chicago’s Daily Inter Ocean and the Chicago Conservator. She actively campaigned against lynching for forty years, calling attention to the heinous act in her works Southern Horrors and the Red Record.

The moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth in the back of his hand,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I had braced my feet against the seat in front and was holding to the back, and as he had already been badly bitten he didn’t try it again by himself. He went forward and got the baggageman and another man to help him and of course they succeeded in dragging me out.”

2. New National Monuments


In a move that will protect over one million aces of land, Obama has designated three new national monuments. Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Waco Mammoth in Texas, and Basin and Range province in Nevada are the newest members of the National Monument family. So far, President Obama has protected over 260 million acres of public land, more than any other president.

Native Americans have inhabited the Berryessa Snow Mountain area for at least the last 11,000 years, leaving behind their cultural influences and artifacts, such as seasonal hunting camps and earth-covered round buildings. The Basin and Range National Monument tells the story of a rich cultural tradition from petroglyph and prehistoric rock art panels, to the earliest human inhabitants 13,000 years ago, to miners and ranchers in the past century. The unique cultural and historic City installation by artist Michael Heizer captures the natural beauty of the Basin and Range, and is one of the most ambitious examples of the distinctively American land-art movement.

3. No Paid Leave

Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The US is the only developed nation that does not require mandatory paid maternity leave. While our European counterparts offer anywhere from 15-40 days of paid leave for new mothers, the US falls short at just 0-5 days off. NPR analyzes three reasons why this lack of paid leave may exist in the United States.

You could write an entire book about the complicated forces at work here, but a mix of a few big factors has helped set this scene: The aftermath of World War II, business lobbying, a diminished American labor movement, and the American love of individualism and bootstrap-pulling all have combined to help keep the U.S. alone in not giving its workers paid leave.

4. Give Blood, Get A Discount


Romania has one way to solve their blood donation problem – swap blood for music festival tickets. The Untold Festival has done just that, instating an entrance fee of blood in order to increase the number of donations they regularly see. Only about 1.7% of the adult population of Romania donates blood, one of the lowest in donation rates in all of Europe.

Up until July 24, blood donors at Romanian transfusion centers will receive 30 percent discounted subscriptions to Untold if they complete a donor form on untoldfestival.com, The Guardian reported. By noon on the first day of the campaign, 45 donors, many first-timers, had given blood.

“It’s a positive campaign, but I hope people continue giving blood afterwards, when there is no reward for them,” Krisztina Fejer, a photographer from Cluj-Napoca, told the news outlet.

5. Celebrating “No Face Day”

HANDAN, CHINA - JULY 14:  (CHINA OUT) Staff wear No-Face masks during working hours at a service company on July 14, 2015 in Handan, Hebei Province of China. As a service company, its staffs must smile to customers everyday. On "No-Face Day", the staffs wore No-Face masks to reduce pressure and relax themselves. No-Face is a silent masked creature who has no facial expressions in Japanese animated fantasy film "Spirited Away".  (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Photograph:ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

China faces a high number of deaths related to being “overworked,” about 600,000 to be precise. While numbers reported by the state run news agency can be suspicious, the fact that death from overworking has been mentioned shows that it is a growing concern in the country.

On Tuesday, a handful of service companies in Handan, a city in China’s Hebei province, encouraged workers to wear masks to work so that they could relax their faces instead of smiling all day.

6. “Screwed” by Ashley Madison

Image: Lee Jin-Man/ File/Associated Press
Image: Lee Jin-Man/ File/Associated Press

A recent data breach has comprised the user names, profiles, emails, and more of people using the reportedly “secure” site known as AshleyMadison.com. Ashley Madison allows those in relationships to seek discreet affairs with other taken people looking to do the same. The company, one that was about to go public, made its name on touting its secure practices, a detail very important to a site based on arranging affairs.

There is no way, in my mind, that the company or service can survive this attack. Again, it doesn’t matter who uses the service; it doesn’t matter how the breach happened. What matters is that philanderers, the target audience, won’t want to use a service that has a history of being hacked. The company can forget about wanting to go public; it should really start planning to retire the brand.

7. Modern Segregation

Photograph: Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images
Photograph: Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images

In a study conducted by UCLA research, it was revealed that New York state has the biggest problem with segregation in schools, mostly pulled down by schools in New York City, which are largely separated by race and class. Instead of seeking a “citywide shift in policy,” New York is trying change on a smaller scale, tackling schools one by one. Although the city has passed the School Diversity Accountability Act in an attempt to overcome their problem, “the law doesn’t specify any steps, and the city hasn’t yet adopted any.” While nothing in particular has been done on a broad scale, the shift in focus shows changing ideals for the future of New York schools.

The move aligns with a broader societal shift happening in large U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco. For the first time in a nearly century, there’s a significant migration of whites and wealthy Americans back into urban areas, undoing the effects of suburbanization and white flight that reshaped cities like New York over the course of the 20th century…this new generation of parents is placing a higher value on living in multicultural communities and sending their children to [more] diverse schools than previous generations did.

8. Washington & Havana, Back Together

Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Reuters
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Reuters

This week in Washington (or Guashington as we Cubans so lovingly pronounce it), Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez reintegrated the Cuban Embassy 54 years after its closing. This is yet another stop on the long road to normalization. While there are some who resist the impending change in our ties with the island nation, a vast majority of Americans seems to be in favor of reconnecting with Cuba.

…the response at the ceremony on Washington, D.C.’s Embassy Row also gestured at the complexity of the history as well as the issues that remain unresolved between the two nations. “As the flag was slowly raised, there were competing chants from the crowd outside the gates. ‘Cuba si, embargo no!’ shouted one group. ‘Cuba si, Fidel no,’ yelled a much smaller group.”

9. Hezbollah…in Europe?

Photograph: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters
Photograph: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

Three years ago this month, Hezbollah attacked and blew up a tourist bus in Bulgaria, causing the European Union to ban the military wing of the terrorist organization. Despite this attempt to squash out harmful Hezbollah activity within Europe, the group continues to use European operatives within Europe to both watch and attack persons of interests as well as stockpile chemicals and explosives for future attacks.

Four months after the EU ban, in late 2013, two Lebanese passengers at a Brussels airport were caught with nearly 770,000 euros in their possession. At least some of this cash was suspected to be intended for Hezbollah’s coffers, Europol reported. A few months later, Germany raided the offices of the Orphan Children Project Lebanon in Essen, accusing the group of serving as a Hezbollah fundraising front organization. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency recently reported that Hezbollah maintains some 950 active operatives in the country.

10. Girl Up with Michelle

Photograph courtesy of the UN's Girl Up Campaign
Photograph courtesy of the UN’s Girl Up Campaign

The UN’s Girl Up Campaign is a “leading global community of passionate advocates changing policies and raising funds to support United Nations programs that help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl.” The group held a leadership summit and asked Michelle Obama to stop by and speak to the future female leaders. Michelle Obama put her focus on worldwide access to education for young women. Obama encouraged the girls to start working on societal issues when and where they arise, saying “We can approach this issue, one school, one village, one girl at a time…That’s how you make change in this world.”

“I want to tell you I’m passionate about these 62 million girls,” she said in her speech, of the girls who lack access to sufficient education, as a result of poverty or distance from school campuses. “When we give girls around the world that kind of opportunity,” Obama added, “it doesn’t just change their lives, it changes their family’s, their community’s, and their country’s.”

Weekly Passport” is a series curated by Everyday Ambassador writer Victoria Freyre. Every Tuesday, we will post a round-up of meaningful media tidbits and Everyday Ambassador must-reads. To stay current with our latest edition, follow #weeklypassport on our other platforms, and check back for updates.


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