Over 2,700 Killed after Two Major Earthquakes Rock Syria and Turkey

Over 2,700 people were killed, and thousands more were injured when two major earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on Monday. Hundreds of buildings collapsed and buried residents under their wreckage.

Impeachment Trial

Marie Yovanovitch Testifies as Impeachment Hearings Continue

Congressional hearings aren’t exactly known for being entertaining or dramatic spectacles. Nevertheless, one of the major criticisms of the first round of public impeachment hearings was that it was boring, and not exciting enough to capture the attention of the American public. This opinion was offered both by Republicans in an attempt to discredit the hearings as well as certain members of the press, who judged the event as if it were a television spectacle rather than a serious, sober government proceeding. Predictably, these comments were mocked on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet, with Jonathan Allen’s complaint that the witnesses called on Wednesday lacked “pizazz” drawing significant attention.

It’s harder to make this criticism of today’s hearing, during which lawmakers questioned former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted from her position in Ukraine despite 33 years of highly celebrated public service during which she received numerous awards and being told she had done nothing wrong. Yovanovitch testified that she believed the reason for her ouster was to establish a shadow foreign policy, separate from the official channels of international diplomacy, to allow the president to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation that would hurt Joe Biden and help Trump’s reelection campaign. Yovanovitch’s testimony corroborates Wednesday’s testimonies from Bill Taylor and George Kent, two government officials with experience in similar matters.

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During his opening remarks, Adam Schiff explained Yovanovitch’s relevance to the impeachment hearings in an attempt to make the case that Trump removed Yovanovitch in order to facilitate his bribery attempt of Ukraine. Representative Devin Nunes spent much of his opening statement reciting a transcript released today by the Trump administration of a phone call between Trump and the newly-elected president of Ukraine, which was largely congratulatory and included an invitation from Ukrainian President Zelensky for Trump to attend his inauguration. This recitation bore little relevance to the matter at hand, and was likely performed in order to distract from the substance of the hearing, as the presence of a non-incriminating preliminary conversation does not negate a later, incriminating one.

Despite Trump’s attack on Yovanovitch, Republicans in the House of Representatives were careful not to deride Yovanovitch’s character, instead thanking her for her decades of service and praising the importance of her work.

Donald Trump, despite saying repeatedly that he would not be watching the hearings, was nonetheless active on Twitter throughout, providing commentary and denigrating Yovanovitch’s character. This gave chairman Adam Schiff a rare opportunity to respond to the president in real-time; during his questioning, Schiff mentioned the tweet, posted just minutes prior, which claimed that Yovanovitch’s conduct led to disastrous outcomes in Ukraine and Somalia, and asked Yovanovitch whether those accusations were accurate. She replied that they were not. Schiff suggested comments like these were destructive to the impeachment process, as they would discourage other witnesses from coming forward, and took the opportunity to assure Yovanovitch that the Committee takes witness intimidation very seriously. Notably, Trump’s tweet may form the basis for an additional article of impeachment, as witness intimidation is a crime and facilitates obstruction of justice.

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Despite Trump’s attack on Yovanovitch, Republicans in the House of Representatives were careful not to deride Yovanovitch’s character, instead thanking her for her decades of service and praising the importance of her work. This discrepancy is just one example of the rift between Republicans in Congress, who are doing everything in their power to defend the president throughout the impeachment hearings, and the president himself, who frequently undermines these attempts by publicly contradicting them. As the president is quick to deride anyone who displays the slightest bit of disloyalty to him, even members of his own party who attempt to defend him but don’t do so strongly enough for the president’s liking, this rift has the potential to lead to further isolation of the president even from his allies.

Coincidentally, the trial of Roger Stone, a former advisor to the president, concluded today, and Stone was found guilty of lying to the FBI among other charges. In an obvious display of his anger and frustration, the president took to Twitter to complain about this outcome, and called for the jailing of his political opponents, including Adam Schiff and former special counsel Robert Mueller. Lately, it seems that news breaks every day that damages Trump’s presidency, and today is certainly no exception.


Growing Tourism Market Means An Increase In Tourist Misconduct

Tourism is beginning to become a bad word in many parts of the world. Headlines regarding tourists complete disregard and disrespect for local values have only increased within the past years and a big part of the blame is to be placed on social media. 

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there was a record of 1.4 billion tourists visiting various places around the globe in 2018, making the tourism market a $1.7 trillion industry. While many places around the world are highly dependent on the high grossing tourism market, many popular destinations are trying to restrict the market. Venice, Italy, for example, is affected every year by the population spikes during the vacation season, causing the water levels to continue to rise at astronomical rates. Places such as Ibiza and Barcelona have even implemented tourism taxes to make up for the amount of water and food waste they go through yearly, according to CNN

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One of the biggest reasons behind an increase in tourism over the years is social media and influencer culture. Trendy tourist destinations see a major increase in their normal tourism rates when highly followed influencers visit them. In addition, the mending of cultures between traditional and sacred locations and social media stars just looking for a quick photo-op is causing a lot of the worlds “anti-tourism” attitude. 

“Currently, there are no statistics to suggest that misconduct by tourists is increasing. However, in this digital era, things can go viral easily, giving the impression that inappropriate conducts are increasing in number. This is actually an important reminder for the security forces and tourism industries to continue to educate tourists on respecting local culture and rituals. It’s possible that recent misconduct by tourists in Bali may relate to the individual’s lack of awareness and understanding of local wisdom and values of the Balinese people. The trend for sharing these types of videos on social media only serves to worsen the relationship between tourists and locals,” Michael O’Regan, a former assistant professor at the Institute for Tourism Studies Macao, said to CNN Travel

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Tourists in general are becoming less socially aware of foreign policies and using the fact that they’re a tourist as an excuse to behave recklessly. According to CNN, so much so that places like Italy have taken action with its tourism laws. Italy has banned street drinking, any public fountain swimming, and pub crawls. Different areas of Europe have also banned any sort of food products in areas of historic value. Drinking is one of the main reasons behind so many tourist horror stories. Individuals, especially in Europe, assume that the alcohol is always flowing, and therefore you can act as such 24/7.

The best way to combat the increasing levels of disconnect between a culture’s values and tourists rule breaking naive way of thinking is through education. Not the type of education that they receive on a tour bus, but preliminary research instead. It’s the tourists responsibility to be fully aware and educated on the are that they will be travelling too, especially if it’s a completely different culture. 

“Usually these incidents are related to abuse of alcohol and ensuing behavior related to drunk and disorderly conduct. At the national level we would say that the best way to deal with this is to work on public awareness and education about respecting the destination one is visiting, there’s no evidence to suggest codes of conduct actually work, pointing out that many tourists won’t even be aware of them in the first instance. Tourism is meant to educate. Travelers should go to a different destination, adapt to different cultures and come back somewhat changed. Educational outreach about expectations before tourists even arrive can help reduce tensions. We can’t expect ready made, perfect tourists as soon as they land at a destination. It’s a learning process,” says Ina Rodin, director of North America at the Croatian National Tourist Office to CNN.