The Changing Face of Sport

Nelson Mandela knew the power sports have to bring change and used it to build the foundations of South Africa’s post-apartheid Rainbow Nation. “Sport can create hope where once there was only despair,” the Nobel laureate once said.

Today, just a glance at the biggest stars of the most popular sports is enough to see that change is coming faster than ever. Racism and machismo have long been a bitter reality in top-tier sports.

But a new generation of athletes — from rodeo athletes to refugees and hoopsters to hitters — is fundamentally changing the way our favorite sports look. In today’s Daily Dose, we share some of the most stunning changes transforming the world of sports.

AMERICAN EVOLUTION

Immigrants Are Baseball’s Backbone

America’s game has for decades relied on imported talent to field the best teams. Nearly 30% of Major League Baseball players are born overseas. At the small-town level, their presence is even more critical. Of the eight teams in a 2019 Minor League Baseball grouping based in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, immigrants made up 34% of the playing roster. It’s a telling figure when you consider those states have an average per-capita immigrant population of just 5%. That’s not all. Baseball plays a major role in building bridges between rural communities that are overwhelmingly white and people from other cultures.

Native American Millennials at the Rodeo

The rodeo world is the sole preserve of the white, male rancher, right? Not so fast, cowboy. Increasingly, young Native American bull and bronc riders are making it to the big time. In 2018, Keyshawn Whitehorse, a member of the Navajo Nation, won the elite Professional Bull Riders “Rookie of the Year” title, beating out rivals from the U.S. and four other countries. The Utah native currently sits in the top 10 rankings for the Professional Bull Riders’ 2021 season and is joined in the PBR rankings by the likes of Cody Jesus (also Navajo) and Colten Jesse (Potawatomi). But it’s not only the boys making waves. Watch out for teenager Najiah Knight of the Paiute and Klamath tribes, who has been taking the junior bull riding world by storm.

Inequality in the Classroom

That college athletes can now get paid for the first time puts the ball firmly in their court. But what about schools that now find themselves forced to pony up for new incentives in order to attract student athletes? “The risk,” writes The Athletic, “is that institutions with small endowments and money-losing athletics programs may divert resources from financial aid and student services” to sports in order to keep attracting students. That means that colleges may find themselves spending most of their cash on attracting top sports talent and less on scholarships, clubs and societies that traditionally benefit first-generation college-goers and those from poor backgrounds the most.

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CHANGES OVERSEAS

Immigrants Reshaping Gaelic Games

In Ireland, hurling and Gaelic football are king. But rural regions have been suffering from falling population numbers. As young people headed to Dublin and Belfast in search of better-paying jobs, following the 2008 economic crisis, the number of people playing these sports was at risk of falling. In recent years, a new cohort of immigrants and refugees have not only helped keep these team sports alive, but they are taking center stage on the national level. Take Wexford’s Lee Chin, the midfield powerhouse and former hurling captain whose father is from Malaysia. Chin is regarded as one of the best hurlers in Ireland today. Other foreign-born athletes, such as Pakistan-born Shairoze Akram and Congo-born Israel Ilunga, have helped bring success to communities far from Ireland’s larger cities.

Rugby Is Big in Japan

New Zealanders take their rugby very seriously. So why have many of their most decorated players been leaving in droves for Japan, hardly a rugby powerhouse itself? From ex-All Black captain and legend Kieran Read to world record points scorer Dan Carter, New Zealand’s top talent has found its way north, especially as they’ve neared retirement. What’s the attraction? Unsurprisingly, it’s cold, hard cash. A number of Japanese rugby clubs are financially backed by major corporations and are thus able to pay higher salaries for top rugby talent. What’s more, it’s not only decorated international players who are heading to Japan, but young and hungry Kiwi players too. Experts say the consequences for the local game in New Zealand could be very bad indeed.

Women’s Cricket Imperiled in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s cricket fairy tale is one of the only pieces of good news to come from the country in decades. In 2015, its men’s team made the Cricket World Cup, held in Australia, for the first time. By May 2020, the men’s national team had reached a ranking of ninth in the world and cricket had become Afghanistan’s national sport. But the events of the last several weeks have upended the women’s cricket game in particular. Many of the sport’s administrative leaders have fled the country fearing reprisals from the Taliban. Other team members are in hiding in part because of threats the Taliban have made against female cricket players over a period of years. With the Women’s Cricket World Cup set to take place next spring, the chances that many Afghan women will be practicing on their local fields before then look very poor indeed.

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THE BREAKTHROUGH FACES

Giannis Antetokounmpo

He’s the face of the NBA . . . and of basketball’s transformation. In July, the 26-year-old forward led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in a half-century, emerging as the NBA Finals MVP. But the “Greek Freak,” as he is known, is more than a star hoopster. Within the NBA, he’s showcasing the rise of a new generation of foreign-born players who are rising to the very top. Washington Wizards’ Rui Hachimura — born to a Japanese mother and a Beninese father — and Dallas Mavericks’ Slovenian point guard/shooter Luka Dončić are already following in his footsteps. Yet Antetokounmpo might have made the biggest impact back home in Greece, where the stunning rise of this son of Nigerian parents is giving young athletes of color confidence in a nation with a history of racism in sports.

Shohei Ohtani

They call him “Sho Time.” And he puts on a show like few ever have. The Japanese baseball superstar has drawn comparisons with Babe Ruth after he became the first ever player to be selected as both a pitcher and hitter in the All-Star Game in July. Some experts even believe he’s better than Ruth. And the poster boy of modern baseball has done it while battling racism — such as suggestions that his English isn’t good enough to make him attractive to American audiences. In fact, the once-in-a-century phenomenon is helping expand the sport’s global reach, paving a path that others like Roki Sasaki — a Japanese teenager who threw a 101-mph ball while in high school — will look to follow.

Quinn

Sport is in this soccer player’s genes. But this child of college athletes, whose father played rugby and mother played basketball, has broken barriers like no one has. The Canadian national soccer player is the first openly transgender athlete to win an Olympic gold medal after Canada triumphed over Sweden in the women’s football final in Tokyo in August. But they know the battle has just started, with persistent — and in some cases, growing — discrimination against trans athletes. “The fight isn’t close to over . . . and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here,” Quinn says.

lemelo

WHAT’S NEXT?

Foreign NBA Pipelines

College basketball has long served as the primary funnel through which generations of elite athletes have made it to the NBA. Now overseas sources of talent are opening up like never before. This year, 13 players from the National Basketball League in Australia and New Zealand — including LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton and Josh Giddey — were picked for the summer league rosters. Spain’s Liga ACB was home to names such as Dončić and Argentine Luis Scola — who retired last week — before they moved to the NBA. And the newly formed Basketball Africa League, which counts former President Barack Obama as a strategic partner, appears primed to train a new generation of African-origin superstars who could rule the NBA in years to come.

Women in Charge

In 2008, Becky Hammon was accused by the U.S. national women’s basketball coach of betraying America after she played for Russia at the Beijing Olympics. In reality, the U.S. national team hadn’t expressed interest in her — and Russia did. Today, she’s broken through generations of gender barriers, becoming the first woman to act as head coach for an NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, in December. As the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA, she’s part of a wave of women who are taking charge of top-flight men’s sports clubs. Last November, Faiza Haider became the first woman to become head coach of an Egyptian men’s soccer team. And Nita Ambani, philanthropist, businesswoman and wife of Indian multibillionaire Mukesh Ambani, has turned a once-struggling team — the Mumbai Indians — into Indian cricket’s most successful franchise.

Yes to ‘24’ in Brazil?

It’s a number pejoratively associated with homosexuality in Brazilian culture. That, in turn, has meant that in a country where machismo is the norm, soccer clubs and players have shunned jerseys with the number 24. But over the past two years, a slow but definite movement has taken root within the sport, aiming to fight homophobia by embracing the number. It took off after Kobe Bryant — who wore a number 24 shirt — died in 2020, with Brazilian soccer club Bahia and the sports magazine Corner driving the campaign. Since then, a number of rising Brazilian soccer players such as Víctor Cantillo of Cornithians, Flávio Medeiros of Bahia and Gabriel Barbosa of Flamengo have worn number 24 shirts. And in July this year, a judge asked the country’s governing body for soccer why no member of Brazil’s Copa América team had that number.

Your City Needs to Smarten Up

It’s here. On our streets and in our neighborhoods. From traffic control to CCTVs to water-monitoring systems, artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies are already among us. But, as the song goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. 

Many argue that smart technology is making our cities safer, with facial detection able to spot and locate wanted criminals or people who violate public health restrictions. Others believe the presence of near ubiquitous CCTV cameras on the streets of many modern cities, from London to Beijing, amounts to intrusion on a massive scale.

Either way, the role played by AI in shaping our urban environments is only going to grow and spread. In today’s Daily Dose, we look at global cities that are offering us an early glimpse of what the future might look like.

dubai and abu dhabi: safer streets

Put on Your Mask!

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, if you’re not wearing a mask and hear a low buzzing noise above your head, chances are you’re in trouble with the law. Police in the city have been using drones equipped with facial recognition capabilities and loudspeakers to dissuade locals from congregating in large numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The drones reportedly detected 4,400 criminal violations, including 518 instances of people not wearing a mask, in the first three months of 2021. Among the other criminal activities recorded were sales of contraband goods, allowing law enforcement officers to make arrests without having to spend too much time patrolling some of the world’s hottest streets.

‘Emotion Recognition’

As a global crossroads for travel and trade of both legal and illicit stripes, border police in Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s neighboring city, face huge challenges in finding and stopping drug traffickers. But in November, three men were arrested for trafficking 100 pounds of heroin using Minority Report levels of AI. While details of the exact technologies used appear to be under wraps, “The dealers were caught using advanced policing techniques, including crime prediction and emotion recognition,” reports The National. The police force’s so-called Ghost AI system is also being deployed across the city in an attempt to predict what types of crimes will take place when and where. 

Police Cars With Facial Recognition

Last year, Abu Dhabi equipped its already outlandish fleet of law enforcement vehicles with live biometric facial recognition systems, according to news reports. How does it work? A “smart bar” attached to the roof of a police car can identify the faces of known criminals, then interact with the city’s central police command system to check for outstanding warrants. But will the mass-tracing campaign impinge on the civil liberties of citizens? The UAE already has a questionable human rights record. Deploying AI in the law enforcement sphere could add to those concerns.

Dubai Skyline

shenzhen: predicting pollution

The Cost of Air Pollution

It kills 7 million people around the globe every year. An estimated 1.24 million of those deaths occur in China, mainly in major cities. The huge growth in urban development across swaths of eastern and southern China has contributed enormously to the ill health not just of its residents, but also to the residents of other Asian countries. While air-monitoring systems have been around for years, China has been accused of misreporting air quality.

Predicting Bad Air

So what’s the solution? At the U.K.’s Loughborough University, researchers have built a program that can predict unhealthy levels of particulate smog in the air within hours by forecasting pollution events and their expected severity. Such advance notice is an urgent matter for vulnerable populations, with research showing that everything from coughs to cancer could begin with the ingestion of particulate matter. With the global urban population set to grow from 55% to 68% by 2030, this technology could well be the canary in our planet’s coal mine.

To Shenzhen

Scientists who initially used air pollution levels in Beijing to “train” smog-monitoring AI are now looking at another Chinese city 1,300 miles to the south — Shenzhen — to see if it can be rolled out on a major scale. A coastal city of 13 million people, Shenzhen has suffered bad air for decades, though in recent years the city has tried to clean up its act. As the city that spearheaded China’s economic drive four decades ago, Shenzhen is set to lead the country again.

Potholes

markham, ontario: spot that hole

Pothole Predicaments

As a suburb of Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America, Markham’s roads see their fair share of vehicular traffic on top of winter wear and tear. The local climate — a freeze-thaw swing that occurs dozens of times each winter — is particularly damaging to roads and fuels a major pothole problem. Across the country, subpar road infrastructure costs motorists an estimated $2.4 billion every year in vehicle repairs and maintenance. Markham, with 343,000 people and with 684 miles of roads, has deployed artificial intelligence to locate potholes before they get bigger — and costlier to repair.

The Solution

The City of Markham created an AI-driven fix called ROVER. Cameras are attached to municipal vehicles. Potholes are identified and mapped using GPS. Not having to stop and mark each missing chunk of road or pavement by hand saves time, the City of Markham’s Alice Lam tells the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, adding, “It also eliminates human error.” 

The Result

The technology, now developed as an app, has increased pothole detection rates by 200% to 400%. After the succes of the pilot project, ROVER is now being used in five vehicles. With it gaining recognition among North America’s more clever infrastructure advances, you can expect to see similar efforts on your own streets in the near future. And that, for car and driver alike, can’t come soon enough.

Dubai Skyline

barcelona: artificial intelligence for all

The Ethical Way

In a place where AI and la bona vida are set to collide, city authorities in Barcelona are putting together a plan for machine learning that supports their own management needs while simultaneously respecting citizens’ digital rights. Spain’s second city is constructing an open source, public access AI system that makes available all algorithms that impact or involve its 1.6 million residents. To monitor beach occupancy amid the COVID-19 pandemic last summer, for instance, the city deployed thermal imaging systems instead of using controversial facial recognition systems. And instead of counting the number of people hitting the beaches, it estimates the total area of sand that is absent of people.

Learning to Be Diverse

You might not be surprised to hear that AI as a field lacks diversity. Women make up just 15% of AI researchers at Facebook and 10% at Google. Barcelona’s leading the way in trying to make the field more representative by making machine-learning tools available to anyone through an initiative called Saturdays.AI. Barcelona-based developer Jan Carbonell co-founded the company, which now offers educational programs in dozens of cities around the globe.

Heavy Hitters Are Taking Note

If you’re a country trying to level up in the AI playing field, it helps if you can pique the interest of giants. After Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez traveled to the West Coast of the United States and met with Apple CEO Tim Cook in July, it looks like the one-on-one time has paid off. Apple is set to expand its existing AI investment in Barcelona. The tech conglomerate has reportedly acquired a Barcelona-based AI company, Vilynx, which has created technology that could potentially be applied to Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. Vilynx has made major advances in analyzing the audio, text and visual components of videos to identify their content.

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the global city: racist?

Profiling

For all its advantages, AI has a credibility problem and for good reason: It’s been shown to misidentify people of color. According to a 2019 study by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, a plethora of top facial recognition algorithms suffer major inaccuracies when attempting to identify people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity and age. Some systems deployed in the U.S. report a rate of misidentifying Black people five to 10 times more often than white people. In July, a Black teen in suburban Detroit was barred from a roller-skating rink after being misidentified by facial recognition software. And in January 2020 in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Robert Julian-Borchak Williams was incorrectly flagged by facial recognition technology as a shoplifting suspect and detained for 30 hours. 

ShotSpotter: Nothing to See Here, Folks

ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system that uses microphones in public spaces to locate and notify law enforcement officers of gunfire, has recently drawn its own fire. The system, used in dozens of cities across the U.S., has become known for frequent inaccuracies. In Chicago, 86% of ShotSpotter-prompted “gunfire” deployments turned out to be wild goose chases. More than 40,000 “dead-end deployments” to shooting alerts were registered between July 2019 and mid-April of this year. Activists argue that such tech tools are ineffective shortcuts rather than long-term changes that will reduce gun violence.

The Answer Is Inclusion

There’s a reason AI-based surveillance tech is often racially biased: It’s built on data drawn from discriminatory systems. It’s replete with systemic racism, even when it comes to something as simple as soap and hand sanitizer dispensers that darker-skinned hands don’t activate. Yet there are potential solutions. One is to establish inclusive AI design in which algorithms are actually tested on people from various races, cultures and genders. And another is to be aware of implicit bias that could be creeping into the algorithm. 

How to Save the Structures We Love Most

The unfolding tragedy in Miami has laid bare just how badly infrastructure needs upgrading in America. The doomed building in Surfside, constructed in 1981, was due for inspection before it collapsed in the early hours last Thursday. What’s more, engineers in 2018 found “major structural damage” to the site’s pool deck in addition to cracking and spalling of columns and beams in the building’s parking lot. Now all buildings aged 40 years and older in Miami are to be audited. At-risk infrastructure has been on the minds of U.S. politicians for some time, and last week, a deal reached by Republican and Democratic lawmakers to invest $1.2 trillion in the country’s infrastructure highlighted the acute need to invest in roads, bridges and housing nationwide.

grand designs at risk

Rockin’ the Casbah

It’s a bit of a maze. For many Middle Eastern metropolitan areas, historic city-center souks, or markets, are the beating heart of the community and local economy. But not the Casbah of Algiers district. About half of the more than 1,800 buildings and structures in the area, some of which date back a thousand years and are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have been in disrepair for years. One-third of those were built in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Other reports suggest 1,200 buildings are in ruins, with many simply abandoned. The Algerian military, in power for decades, stubbornly refuses to allow much in the way of independent or outside help to restore the Casbah to life.

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Knock on Teak, and Who’s Knocking Back

Across central Myanmar’s lowland villages, stunning traditional teak farmhouses are disappearing as farmers and young people alike choose to live in more contemporary housing with modern conveniences such as air conditioning. Half of the world’s wild-growing teak is in Myanmar, which has banned its export since 2014 to protect against illegal logging (plantation-grown teak was permitted for international sale in 2019). The survival of these farmhouses is so concerning that the World Monuments Fund has placed them on its watch list, while helping to raise funds for renovations, advocacy and owner support.

Toronto’s Modernist Icon Could Be Lost

When it debuted 50 years ago, Ontario Place helped Torontonians appreciate that the untouched part of their urban landscape included a full 70 miles of shoreline. Since then, urbanites who can’t afford to rent cottages further north have been able to experience the great outdoors in their own downtown. However, last year, the modernist icon found itself on the World Monuments Fund’s 2020 watch list owing to a call for redevelopment proposals. The provincial government is seeking to lease out the underused public site for private development, stirring concern and controversy, in part because the move was made without consulting the city and none of the proposals received thus far have been released.

Much Ado About New Machu Picchu Airport

The ancient Inca citadel nestled 8,000 feet up in the Peruvian Andes used to attract more than 4,000 backpackers a day until restrictions to protect the 15th-century site were put in place a decade ago (with more issued this year). But that hasn’t dampened the Peruvian government’s appetite for cashing in on one of the world’s most famous ancient sites. In 2025, a new international airport will open, and with it access to travelers who aren’t strictly backpacking aficionados. Locals, according to Smithsonian Magazine, are divided about the airport. Héctor Cusicuna, the mayor of Chinchero, where the airport will be located, says the region has few other options. “We don’t have factories or mines,” he says. “We used to have agriculture, but it is not profitable.”

renovation, renovation, renovation

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Kabul’s Urban Gardens Offer Oasis of Calm

In a country where ecological and architectural concerns have for decades been low on the list of priorities, the Afghan capital is now leaning on its past to make the crowded city of around 4.4 million a little more inhabitable. Dating back to the 16th century, Bagh-e Babur, or the Gardens of Babur, is now a 30-acre oasis, providing essential green space used by more than a million Kabul residents annually. Having cleared unexploded ordnance and restored the Garden Pavilion and the Queen’s Palace at the edge of the park, the space has served as the setting for cultural events and an essential meeting place for women in the city. “The security situation in Kabul is not so good, and many places are not safe. But it is peaceful and secure here, and we can be ourselves,” one young female student, speaking of the city’s Chihilsitoon Garden, told Reuters.

Taking Office Corridors Outside

The fear of a major earthquake shaped the approach taken for the $93.3 million rehabilitation of the century-old Pasadena City Hall in Los Angeles. But that wasn’t the only consideration: Instead of building a new network of indoor corridors, the architects, in a nod to its original ventilation design, decided that staff could simply use the existing outdoor arcades to move between offices. The result? The consumption of almost 25% less energy.

It’s Greek to Us: The Wrong Approach to Historic Renovation

The Acropolis of Athens is a marvel of the ancient world, and renovations have been undertaken on the citadel for decades. And yet, after all that time, the builders completing the restoration work are still making major mistakes. A recently installed concrete path has resulted in a wheelchair user falling and getting injured, while flooding has also occurred, likely as a result of . . . you guessed it . . . the new concrete paving. What’s more, many of the structures were originally painted in a variety of colors, counter to both popular understanding and the ongoing renovation work itself. That’s caused an outcry. Plans to renovate the western entrance have so riled academics they issued an open letter urging that the project be canceled for fear it will lead to the “devaluation, concealment and degradation of the greatest archaeological and artistic treasure that has been bequeathed to modern Greece.”

will it hold us?

Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon's Glass-bottom Bridge Opens To Tourists

A Bridge Too Far. No, Seriously.

London Bridge may not be falling, but 1 in 3 American bridges are in need of replacement or repair. You read that right. That adds up to 171.5 million daily crossings on over 45,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S. (and a whole lotta lives put at risk), according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Some, such as Idaho’s Interstate 35 over the Teton River, which sees just 16,000 daily crossings, are relatively minor transportation routes. Others pose a bigger risk, such as the I-95 over Comly Street in northeast Philadelphia, which sees more than 200,000 daily journeys.

Problema Numero Uno

The world looked on in horror when 26 people were killed last month by the collapse of a subway system overpass in Mexico City. The tragedy fueled protests, but it was just one symptom of a more serious ailment afflicting public facilities in the largest metropolis in the Americas. Of the city metro system’s 467 escalators, 22 are inoperable at any given time. Why? Seems that commuters keep peeing on them, and the resulting corrosion causes them to break down. It may seem comical, but it also highlights the fact that one of the largest subway systems in the world has almost no bathrooms. Even worse, Mexico City has no sanitary code for building public bathrooms, leading to a stinky mess.

Will China’s Glass Bridge Craze Finally Crack?

If you’re afraid of heights, look away. Thanks largely to a wealthy middle class seeking new forms of entertainment, glass-bottom bridges and skywalks have become part of the recreational fabric of parks and wilderness areas across China. The Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, the world’s tallest and longest, is located in Hunan province. But these tourist traps are also becoming points of danger: People are falling or jumping from them, plunging to their deaths. In October 2019, the Chinese government temporarily closed the country’s 32 major glass bridges and skywalks following a series of deaths and close calls. With an estimated 2,300 such structures dotted across the country, some question whether they’re disasters waiting to happen. Last month, 93 mph winds shattered the glass floor of a structure in Longjing, capturing global headlines and renewing questions around safety.

Genoa’s New Tech-Savvy Bridge

When a section of the Morandi viaduct in Genoa collapsed in August 2018, it claimed 43 lives and severed a vital trade route between northern Italy and France. And yet, in just 18 months, the entire structure has been replaced. Why do engineers believe the new San Giorgio Bridge will last a thousand years? Sure, it’s equipped with photovoltaic and dehumidification systems, but it’s the cutting-edge monitoring tech — “accelerometers, extensometers, velocimeters, inclinometers and detectors for joint expansion” — that have designers resting easy.

rising star designers

Who You Callin’ Old?

China’s getting older. America’s getting older. Japan’s already old. So how do we rethink our urban landscapes to better suit elderly and differently abled residents? Poland-born Joanna Asia Grzybowska is the founder of London’s Mycelium Studio, which runs an “empathy tour and workshop.” Participants don so-called senior suits to feel what it’s like to age and can try out other items to allow them to experience London from varying points of view, whether from a wheelchair or stroller, or as a blind person or pregnant woman. Named a rising star in 2019 by architecture’s RIBA Journal, Grzybowska is “working in areas frequently overlooked by architecture,” noted competition judge Louise Wyman.

A Medical Job for Shipping Containers

Future pandemics are just a sneeze away, experts say. And that means an infrastructure to quickly immunize people will become an essential feature of 21st-century life. With schools and other public spaces reopening, we can’t rely on them as vaccination centers for thousands of people. Enter Andrew Waugh of London-based Waugh Thistleton Architects. His company’s idea? To deploy shipping containers as mobile vaccination units. “Shipping containers are the perfect structure for this use. We have a stockpile of them in this country,” the firm says. “Their linear form suits the through-put nature of the (vaccination) process.”

Where the Sidewalk School Begins

It’s a learning experience. Felicia Rangel-Samponaro of Brownsville, Texas, tells OZY she’s been using her own money and a GoFundMe campaign to buy more than 300 tablets for dozens of school-aged students as part of The Sidewalk School for child asylum-seekers. Set up in August 2019, the group has hired 20 teachers, all asylum-seekers themselves, to operate in Mexican border cities such as Matamoros, Reynosa and Ciudad Juárez. Rangel-Samponaro says demand is so high that she has teamed up with nonprofits to open a satellite campus in a refugee encampment in Malawi by the end of the year. “The unique thing about The Sidewalk School is that it’s all via Zoom and that’s how we’re able to be in so many cities at one time,” Rangel-Samponaro tells OZY. “All the kids go to class at the same time, with the same teacher.”

Reimagining Kathmandu

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake shattered Nepal in April 2015, claiming almost 9,000 lives and causing enormous damage to the Kathmandu Valley’s majestic Hindu temples and shrines and Buddhist stupas. But Rohit Ranjitkar of the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust, a conservation organization involved in rebuilding several significant sites, has taken an open approach to the renovation effort by allowing the public to see what’s going on. “In all our projects we have transparent fencing so that people can see from outside,” he says. Groups overseeing restoration work in Patan Durbar Square, another group of temples and shrines 30 minutes south of Kathmandu city center, are even allowing the public to walk near the craftsmen as they go about their work.

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