Things That Matter

The Vatican Threatened to Fire Employees Who Refuse to Get the Vaccine, But Is Now Walking it Back

Photo via Getty Images

On February 8th Pope Francis signed a health ordinance written by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello. The ordinance threatened to “interrupt employment” of anyone who refuses the vaccine without a valid medical reason.

The decree cited a 2011 law that says employees will face “varying degrees of consequences that could lead to dismissal” if they do not take proper safety precautions.

They also added that those who are unable to get vaccinated for legitimate reasons will be transferred to a position that does not interact with the public as much.

Although many were surprised by the decree, the message is line with Pope Francis’s longtime stance towards vaccines. Last month, Pope Francis told that Italian press that choosing to vaccinate is “an ethical choice”.

“[Without vaccines], you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” he said. Pope Francis received his vaccine in January.

The news quickly caused an uproar on social media, with many finding the decree to be overly harsh.

Many social media users finding the decree to be overly-controlling and contrary to Pope Francis’s general message of grace and mercy, and the right to individual freedom.

Of course, some people became worried about the implications of this requirement, their minds conjuring up images of dystopic futures. “Wait until the next stage, where those who choose not to or can’t have the ‘vaccine’ will be excluded from society,” wrote one frightened Twitter user. “Already happening in Israel, the Vatican and Indonesia.”

Some people, however, seemed to not have paid attention in social studies.

For example, controversial GOP Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina tweeted out that the Pope’s decree “doesn’t sound legal”.

“This doesn’t sound legal…” he tweeted. “One shouldn’t be forced against their will to be vaccinated. The vaccination is there for those who want it, and are in need of it due to medical vulnerabilities.”

While this may be a righteous philosophy, the Pope is, indeed, allowed to do this. As historian John Marshall told Cawthorn: “Sir, you are aware the Vatican is a sovereign city state, governed by an absolute monarch?” Marshall tweeted. “It’s not governed by American law…”

Still, the backlash prompted Vatican officials to amend their stance on mandatory vaccinations.

Cardinal Bertello’s office released a statement on Thursday night saying that “alternative solutions” would be given for those who don’t want a vaccine. Bertello’s office wrote that the decree had been “intended to allow a flexible and proportionate response to the balance between the health protection of the community and the freedom of individual choice”.

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He Gave Away Free Oxygen To Those Who Needed It, Then People Burned Down His Home

Things That Matter

He Gave Away Free Oxygen To Those Who Needed It, Then People Burned Down His Home

CESAR VON BANCELS/AFP via Getty Images

Peru is being ravaged by a deadly second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. Few parts of the country are as badly affected as the remote Amazonian villages in the northeast of the country and cities like Iquitos.

The country has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic. For several months last year, it topped the per capita death charts. Officially, 1.2 million have been infected here while 43,880 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

One man’s effort to help those who have been most impacted, has nearly cost him his life.

As Peru now faces a daily oxygen shortage of 100 tons, Peruvians are becoming desperate for whatever oxygen they can get their hands on. Oxygen mafias are rising up to steal oxygen products and sell them on the black market for obscene prices.

Juan Torres Baldeón is a good samaritan who has, by his own estiamte, donated free oxygen to 8,000 desperate families in the jungle city of Iquitos. With his generosity, he’s likely saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in the process. But his generosity has also come with risks.

It began with crooks infiltrating the long lines outside Baldeón’s warehouse. The problem became so severe that the police and the military had to be called in to maintain order.

“We only give oxygen to those with prescriptions,” Baldeón told VICE News. “Normally, just half a tank, unless the patient is really sick, because we have to ration what we have. But we kept finding people in the queue who didn’t have a prescription, and when you asked them the name of the patient, they didn’t know what to say.”

Then he began receiving threatening phone calls, demanding he surrender his entire lifesaving supply of oxygen or leave his city behind.

That was when the criminals, who Baldeón believes are a local cocaine cartel, made their move.

In late January, Baldeón had left his home to go to the gym but quickly had to return. When he got back home, his office/home and four others alongside it were on fire.

“They probably thought I was inside,” he told VICE. “There’s nothing left now, just ashes. I feel for my neighbors. They didn’t even have anything to do with the oxygen.”

Thanks to Covid-19, oxygen has become a necessity for so many.

From Lima to Mexico City, residents have been forced to stand in line for hours on end and search far-flung neighborhoods to refill their oxygen tanks.

Normally, refilling a 10,000 liter tank of oxygen would cost around 100 Sols ($27). But with Covid-19 forcing so many to seek care at home with supplemental oxygen, some are paying more than $1,000.

Baldeón isn’t the only person to be threatened over oxygen supplies.

In Peru’s capital city of Lima, a district mayor was forced to send his family abroad following death threats that he received after setting up a municipal oxygen plant and distributing the essential gas to needy families, including to those from outside his district.

Yet even outside of Peru, his family remain unsafe, and they have had to change hotels after their whereabouts were discovered by the criminals, who also threw a grenade at his house.

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

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This Teacher Received A Nissan Pickup Truck Decked Out As A Mobile Classroom

Nissan Mexico

Like students around the world, kids in Mexico have been forced to take school online or tune into programming on public TV in order to learn. But that’s just the kids who are lucky enough to have access to Internet or a TV. Many students live in rural areas and lack the adequate resources to continue their studies amid the global pandemic.

But thankfully, there are many good samaritans out there (aka compassionate teachers) who have invented their own ways to bring the classroom to kids wherever they are.

A Mexican teacher was gifted a decked out pickup truck by Nissan.

Since schools were forced to close last year in April, Aguascalientes special education teacher Nallely Esparza Flores, has been driving four hours a day to educate students one-on-one at their homes from her truck bed, outfitted with a small table and chairs.

News of her project spread across social media, eventually reaching the corporate offices of Nissan México. This week, the company surprised Esparza with the gift of a new pickup truck specially outfitted with a small open-air mobile classroom built into the truck’s bed.

“Today I feel like my labors and the help that we give each day to children and their families is unstoppable,” she said on Twitter Wednesday, sharing photos of her new vehicle. “My students no longer have to take classes in the full heat of the sun,” she said.

Nissan representatives said they decided to give Esparza the adapted NP300 model, 4-cylinder truck after hearing her story because she was “an example of perseverance and empathy.”

“When we learned about the incredible work of this teacher, we got together to discuss in what way we could contribute to this noble work,” said Armando Ávila, a vice president of manufacturing.

The mobile classroom is pretty legit and will allow Esparza to continue her good deed.

Esparza inside her new classroom.

The decked out Nissan pickup truck has three walls (the other is a retractable sheeting) and a ceiling made with translucent panels to protect teacher and student from the elements while letting in natural light.

It also has retractable steps for easy access to the classroom, electrical connections, a whiteboard and an easily disinfected acrylic table and benches that are foldable into the wall to provide space. The table also has a built-in plexiglass barrier to allow social distancing.

Access to education in Mexico is highly inequitable.

Esparza, like many teachers across the country, found that not all distance learning was equal. Many of her students in Cavillo were from poor families without internet access. So she used social media networks to keep in touch with such students via cell phones, but even that was not necessarily an available option for all — and not ideal. Finally, she decided to solve the problem by hitting the road in her pickup truck.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 58% of students in Mexico had a home computer – the lowest percentage among all OECD countries. And only about one third (32%) of the school computers in rural schools in Mexico were connected to
the Internet, compared to more than 90% for schools located in urban areas.

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