Journalist Peter de Vries was assassinated on the streets of Amsterdam.

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It’s the third episode of Reading the Globe, a new original weekly podcast produced by AudioHopper. Host Michael Washburn summarizes, synthesizes and criticizes the week’s most important and fascinating stories. This week, Reading the Globe considers:

The European Union is pushing hard to gain the legal clearances necessary to slap sanctions on Lebanon’s ruling elite. Lebanon is in a state of crisis following the explosion at a Beirut port last August that killed more 200 people. As Reuters reported, the country is on the verge of financial ruin and daily life is a nightmare with rampant blackouts and shortages of food and fuel.

The E.U.’s leaders intend the sanctions, which look set to go into effect by the end of this month, to put pressure on Lebanese politicians to get their act together and lift the nation out of crisis. Reuters cites an unattributed diplomatic note listing corruption, human rights abuses, and the failure to form a new government as triggers that would incur travel bans and freezes of the assets of Lebanese officials.

My own story in Book and Film Globe about the shooting of fearless Dutch journalist Peter de Vries unfortunately turned from an attempted assassination to a successful assassination. Right after the Dutch author and crime reporter exited a TV studio in Amsterdam on July 6, an attacker opened fire on a busy street, hitting de Vries in the head. Police swiftly made three arrests, but then released one detainee. De Vries died of his injuries on July 15.

The 64-year-old de Vries became what so many others in the journalistic profession rarely dare to try to be: a writer producing articles and commentary important and influential enough for certain people to want him dead. Matt Taibbi has famously complained about the inability or unwillingness of journalists these days to put themselves or their livelihoods at risk in pursuit of the truth, and said that “All journalists are cowards,” but at least one reporter gives the lie to that generalization.

In the race to vaccinate as many people as possible against Covid-19, few countries feature a more admirable record than Portugal. A July 3 report in The Portugal News, the English-language newspaper of Portugal, indicates that by the first week of July, the Directorate General of Health had released figures showing that 5,335,683 Portuguese had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 3,295,132 had gotten full vaccinations. Among the most vulnerable segments of the population, 666,831 people over 80 years old, a full 98 percent of men and women in that age bracket, had gotten at least one dose and 634,488, or 93 percent, were fully vaccinated.

Given the country’s success in vaccinating millions of people, the front-page story in the same edition of The Portugal News contains some rather jarring news about the hasty forcing of new rules on U.K. citizens visiting Portugal. On June 27, the government in Lisbon decreed that starting the very next day, people traveling from the U.K. to Portugal who had not undergone vaccination would have to submit to 14 days of quarantine. That may seem to some like a sensible precaution, but unclear and inconsistent stipulations compounded the abruptness of its announcement. Initially, the government said that children under the age of twelve would not have to have had a full vaccination to avoid the quarantine but the rule did apply to those aged 13 to 18. But U.K. children up to 18 have not had the opportunity to receive vaccinations.

With 48 hours of this announcement, Portugal’s government rolled out some highly confusing new guidance on the Visit Portugal website. It appeared to exempt kids up to 18 years of age if accompanying adults had proof of complete vaccination, but it gave mixed signals, stating: “Children under 12 years old are exempt of testing requirements. Young people from 12 to 18 years old must comply with testing requirements.” The suddenness of the announcements and the hazy, inconsistent nature of the patchwork of rules and requirements wreaked havoc for U.K. travelers, especially those with families including kids of different ages. Some may have abruptly decided to cancel their plans to visit Portugal at all, even after having bought tickets and having looked forward to a vacation in a beautiful, charming country with a fascinating history and culture. When these announcements came out, Lisbon itself was already chafing under some of the strictest Covid measures ever put in place, with cafés, bars, and restaurants required to close no later than 11:00 p.m. on weeknights and 3:30 p.m. on weekends.

Covid-19 is of course a public health issue. Some may wonder why the issue of Covid restrictions has grown so politicized. Perhaps the reason is not that far to seek. The issue has things in common with the furor around cancel culture. Just as having a woke sensibility these days increasingly gives people with a conspicuous lack of intellectual or creative talent a club with which to bully others, and to decide what speech is permissible and what people will read and listen to, the singular ineptitude of Covid guidance in certain parts of the world reminds us that people with no discernible aptitude for other vocations can always become bureaucrats and use the power of the state to push others around.

By Michael Washburn

Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist. He is the author of the short story collections Scenes from the Catastrophe (2016), The Uprooted and Other Stories (2018), When We're Grownups (2019), and Stranger, Stranger (2020). Michael's story "Confessions of a Spook" won Causeway Lit's 2018 fiction contest.