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‘Have a little empathy’: Bali tires of badly behaved foreign influencers | Bali

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A Russian Instagrammer who launched his motorbike off a dock, crashing into the sea. Two YouTube pranksters who fooled a supermarket guard with drawn-on face masks, violating the island’s health rules. A couple allegedly filming porn on a sacred mountain.

Bali has hosted a range of badly behaved influencers during the pandemic. And now it’s had enough.

While some countries sent foreign travellers home as Covid began to spread, Indonesia allowed visitors to remain. Yet, one year on since the start of the pandemic, police say many foreign tourists still show flagrant disregard for the local health protocols.

“Yes, the foreigner brings income for us. But their action will risk the local who works to serve them as well. Can they have a little empathy?” said Balinese politician and designer Niluh Djelantik, who fears their behaviour is jeopardising Bali’s chances of restarting its tourism industry.

Social media influencers – who are drawn to the island’s photo-perfect, emerald-green paddy fields, its scenic temples and beaches – have proved a particular problem. “The key for Bali recovery (from the pandemic) is the low number of (Covid-19) cases. But the foreigner who has (online) followers creates content about violating the health protocol, leaving an impression that Bali is not safe,” Niluh said.

Over the past few months, reports of disrespectful, brash stunts, careless partying and even insulting behaviour by social media influencers have angered the public.

Some high profile cases have been deported, including, most recently, Russian influencer Leia Se, whose supermarket mask prank went viral. In a video statement filmed with co-star Josh Paler Lin, a Taiwanese YouTuber, she apologised for the stunt. Josh Paler Lin said he did not set out to be disrespectful, or to encourage rule breaking. “I made this video to entertain people because I’m a content creator and it is my job to entertain people,” he said.

Leia Se have had her passport seized following a prank in which she painted on a face mask in a Bali supermarket.
Leia Se have had her passport seized following a prank in which she painted on a face mask in a Bali supermarket. Photograph: YouTube

It isn’t just foreign social media stars flouting the rules, but tourists more generally, said Robby Septiadi, chief of police in Badung Regency. “The foreigners have a low level of compliance towards the health protocol regulation compared to the locals. It is very low.”

So far this year, about 346 foreign tourists violated the health protocols, while 60 were deported from the island according to local media. Foreigners are charged Rp 1,000,000 ($70 USD) for not obeying health guidelines, 10 times more than locals, because officials say they are more likely to misbehave and a tougher deterrent is needed. Police have even made foreigners do push ups as punishment.

One foreign photographer was so frustrated by others who ignore mask requirements that they created a sign with a photo montage of tourists spotted without one, and displayed it in Ubud’s traditional market. “Many internationals here in Bali do not wear masks. They do so because they have different ideas about masks,” the accompanying text reads. “It does not matter what those ideas are. The law in Bali is to wear a mask in public.”

‘Shame on all these people’

Balinese writer, Ni Made Purnama Sari, said that such tourist behaviour is a legacy of the Dutch colonial treatment of the island. After the Puputan war in the early 20th century the Dutch promoted it as a commodity only: an exotic island, escaped heaven, and the virgin island. “This is a lasting colonial legacy. They only see Balinese as tools for the tourism industry,” she said.

Recent incidents have provoked anger online: “Covid is not a joke at all, shame on these people,” wrote one commenter. But some Balinese are reluctant to call out bad behaviour, Ni Made said, because they have been encouraged to welcome visitors: “Balinese are very tolerant to these foreigners rather than domestic visitors.”

The image of Bali that is promoted worldwide – a beautiful island with generous people where it is also cheap to live – has exacerbated the situation. A recent report from International Living, featured by Forbes, described Bali as such good value that foreigners could move there and live without working – though, it went on to note that it would cost US$1,900 a month to live well in most towns.

“They invited those who had power, those from developed countries, to come to the Third World countries to fulfil their dream: a cheap place,” Ni Made said.

The local economy, which relies heavily on tourism, has been devastated by the pandemic. According to Indonesia’s statistics agency, the islands’s economy slumped by 9.3% in 2020. Many hotels and restaurants are closed. Balinese are losing jobs, prompting some to return to farming and fishing.

Sang Ayu, 38, who works as a villa housekeeper in Tegallalang, said that she makes Rp 1.7m per month (US$118). “We are grateful for the salary,” said Sang Ayu. The provincial minimum wage is around US$174.

The Indonesian government is aiming to create “green zones”, where vaccination rates are high, to encourage domestic, and eventually foreign tourism, to the country’s key destinations.

Niluh hopes that, in the meantime, foreigners – including social media influencers – will support local people to keep Bali safe. “To the foreigners who have followers, let’s hold hands together with Balinese. Have a little empathy. You may avoid posting (controversial posts), and (have) concern for the people where you stay,” she said.

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EU to propose universal phone-charger law

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The EU plans to propose laws harmonising mobile-phone, tablet, and headphone chargers and ports on Thursday in a bid to make life easier for consumers, Reuters reports. But Apple, whose iPhones use a special ‘Lightning cable’ has said the move will lead to piles of waste and deter innovation. Rival Android-based devices use so-called ‘USB-C’ connectors, but ‘USB micro-B’ and Lightning connectors account for about a third each of market-share.

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Brexit: British Embassy launches survey on key issues affecting UK nationals in Spain | Brexit | International

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The British Embassy in Madrid has launched a survey aimed at finding out how UK nationals in Spain have been affected by key issues, in particular, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, a process commonly known as Brexit.

The poll is for Britons who are full-time residents in Spain (not those with second homes) and are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, i.e. they were officially registered in the country before December 31, 2020, when the so-called Transition Period came to an end.

Questions in the survey address issues such as access to healthcare and the uptake of the TIE residency cards, which were introduced as a replacement for green residency cards (either the credit-card size or the A4 sheet version, officially known as the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).

As we approach a year since the end of the Transition Period, we really want to hear from you about the key issues…

Posted by Brits in Spain on Friday, September 17, 2021

The aim of the poll is to gather vital information on the experience of UK nationals living in Spain that will help the British Embassy provide feedback to Spanish authorities. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete, and all answers are confidential.

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.



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‘The challenge for us now is drought, not war’: livelihoods of millions of Afghans at risk | Global development

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The war in Afghanistan might be over but farmers in Kandahar’s Arghandab valley face a new enemy: drought.

It has hardly rained for two years, a drought so severe that some farmers are questioning how much longer they can live off the land.

Mohammed Rahim, 30, grew up working on a farm along with his father and grandfather in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s southern province. Famous for its fruit and vegetables, the area is known as the bread basket of Kandahar.

Like most in the valley, Rahim’s family relies solely on farming. “The fighting has just stopped. Peace has returned,” Rahim says. “But now we face another war: drought.

“Now we have to dig deep to pump water out of the land. It has been two years, there has been little rain and we have a drought here. I don’t know if our coming generations can rely on farming the way our ancestors used to do.”

Pir Mohammed, 60, has been a farmer for more than four decades. “Not long ago, there were water channels flowing into the farm and we were providing the remaining water to other farmers,” says Mohammed. “Before, the water was running after us, flowing everywhere – but now we are running after water.”

The water used to come free from the river but now the daily diesel cost for the water pump is at least 2,500 Afghani (£21).

“We don’t make any profit. We are in loss, rather. Instead, we are using our savings. But we don’t have any other option as we do it for survival,” says Mohammed. “However, the scarcity of water has affected the quality of crops as well.”

About 70% of Afghans live in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought.

Last week, Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said severe drought was affecting 7.3 million people in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces.

He warned: “If agriculture collapses further, it will drive up malnutrition, increase displacement and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Arghandab has been a favourite destination for farming because of the abundance of water and fertile lands. Neikh Mohammed, 40, left the Dand district of Kandahar to work in Arghandab in 2005. When he arrived he was amazed to see the greenery and pomegranate farms.

A dam affected by drought in Kandahar.
A dried up dam in Kandahar. A majority of Afghans are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought, as they live in rural areas. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“It used to rain a lot here and we could not cross the river and come into our farms. We had a life with abundant water. But the past is another country now,” he says.

According to a report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, many local farmers were caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces. The Taliban carried out attacks from thick foliage on the farms, which provided a hiding place, ideal for an ambush.

“For the past 20 years, we did not have peace and could not work after dark in our farms. But now we can stay as long as we want without any fear,” says Neikh Mohammed. “Now the challenge is not just restoring peace but the drought and escalating cost of essential commodities.”

Farmers say they want support from international aid agencies and assistance from the new government headed by the Taliban to help them survive.

Pir Mohammed says: “The real challenge for us now is drought, not war. We need food, water, dams and infrastructure in our country. The world should invest in us and save us.”

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