The World Today for March 26, 2020

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 170 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest number as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. China 81,736 (+0.18%)
  2. Italy 74,386 (+7.53%)
  3. US 69,197 (+25.30%)
  4. Spain 49,515 (+17.73%)
  5. Germany 37,323 (+13.13%)
  6. Iran 27,017 (+8.89%)
  7. France 25,600 (+13.10%)
  8. Switzerland 10,897 (+10.33%)
  9. UK 9,640 (+18.08%)
  10. South Korea 9,241 (+1.14%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Percentages change over 24 hours



Small Waves

Epic tsunamis may strike the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean every million years or so, according to British researchers who discussed their findings with the BBC. Cautioning folks not to worry too much about when the next tidal wave might occur, they noted that sediment samples unearthed in oil explorations helped them make their discoveries.

That twin sense of living on the edge of oblivion and the promise of energy riches among people pulling together might describe life on the rugged, remote British overseas territory.

Argentina’s invasion of the archipelago 38 years ago might have been the last time the islanders were in any real danger. This fascinating story in the National Interest recalls some of the extraordinary naval fighting in that brief but bloody war.

A new war isn’t likely to flare up. But bad feelings still linger from that period.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez recently announced a raft of new measures to reassert Argentina’s sovereignty over the islands, including expanding its claims on the continental shelf for energy exploration and sanctioning fishing vessels that it considers as having illegally trawled in this new zone, reported MercoPress. Fernandez disapproved of his predecessor’s cooperation with Britain on issues like air traffic, fishing, and identifying the remains of Argentine soldiers.

“Our common home has a bleeding wound in the deepest of our sovereignty feeling, the usurpation of the Malvinas,” he said, referring to the Argentine term for the islands.

That speech was a boon for editors at the Express, a British tabloid that covered the issue with a characteristic lack of restraint, running with the headline: “Falklands chaos: Argentina’s extraordinary plot to seize back control – ‘Bleeding wound!’”

Real life is often more interesting than the hype. Argentine sporting officials, for example, have demanded that Falklands-based badminton teams use the name “Malvinas” or else not play in South American tournaments, wrote Sky News.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also recently cited the Falkland Islands as a territory that might someday want to govern itself, arguably providing grist for Argentina’s claims.

But Britain responded to those assertions with a statement noting that Falkland Islanders have repeatedly voted to remain associated with the United Kingdom.

A proposal to reform local government via a March 26 referendum that has been postponed for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that the islands’ politics remain robust. Local government is also active, recently approving a new port, for example. As Global Construction Review explained, the new port will likely expand business and open the Falklands up for tourism.

As leaders pontificate, life moves on.



Delay, Delay, Delay

Israel’s parliamentary speaker resigned Wednesday after refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to hold a vote that could possibly replace him, further deepening the political turmoil in the country, Bloomberg reported.

The decision by speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, could further stall Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, from forming a governing coalition following the March 2 elections.

The High Court, in response, ruled early Thursday that Amir Peretz, chairman of the Labor Party, will be assigned as interim speaker, Haaretz reported.

The new verdict will allow Gantz, who has the support of a slim majority, to install a new speaker and implement new legislation, including a bill that would prohibit lawmakers facing criminal charges from serving as prime minister.

Netanyahu has been indicted in three corruption cases and his trial was postponed last week due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Following three back-to-back elections within a year, Israel remains stuck in a political deadlock.

Netanyahu has previously called for the formation of an emergency unity government with Gantz’s Blue and White party, but Gantz has rejected the offer.


Fighting for Life

Zimbabwean nurses and doctors went on strike on Wednesday to protest the lack of protective equipment as the novel coronavirus begins spreading in the country, Reuters reported.

The health workers were later joined by airport customs officials, who criticized the government’s lack of measures to prevent the virus’ spread.

Zimbabwe has three confirmed cases, including one death. The opposition and critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa believe there are more cases and the government has been under-reporting them.

The government denies the accusation and has set aside resources to purchase protective equipment for its health workers. So far, it has only received a small quantity of protective and medical gear donated to African countries by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.

Mnangagwa ordered all restaurants and pubs to close earlier this week, but most businesses and informal markets continue to operate.

Apart from the virus, the south African country is also facing its worst economic crisis in a decade which threatens the health sector with collapse.


A ‘Monstrous’ Act

Turkish prosecutors charged 20 suspects with involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two years ago, the BBC reported.

Prosecutors accused Saudi Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad Asiri and former royal aide Saud al-Qahtani with instigating the murder. They added that the other 18 people charged were also responsible for carrying out the “deliberate and monstrous killing.”

The charges were based on witness statements, an analysis of Khashoggi’s digital devices and records of people entering and leaving Turkey.

Khashoggi was in exile in the United States in 2017 and became a fierce critic of the Saudi government.

He was murdered in October 2018 after entering the consulate to get the necessary paperwork in order to marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

The Saudi government blamed a “rogue operation” for his death. In December, a Saudi court sentenced five unidentified people to death and jailed three more for involvement in the murder.

Western intelligence services, however, believe that the murder was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which he denies.


The Martian Mystery

Mars is a barren wasteland now, but once upon a time it had the conditions to host life, according to a recent study.

A team of researchers discovered through several experiments that the Red Planet once had an environment that could have permitted the formation of RNA molecules, Science Alert reported.

Molecules of RNA – or ribonucleic acid – are single-stranded and are capable of self-replicating, storing genetic information and catalyzing cellular chemical reactions.

Scientists based their Mars study on the “RNA world” hypothesis, a widely accepted theory that suggests that RNA came before the double-stranded DNA, where genetic information is predominantly stored.

RNA can form if a planet fulfills certain geochemical conditions, such as having waters with metals and the right acidity level.

Because the team couldn’t physically study Mars, they replicated the geochemical conditions of the planet four billion years ago.

Researchers created solutions of several metals seen in Martian soil – iron, magnesium and manganese – and various acidities seen on Mars. They then soaked RNA molecules in the solutions to see how long it took them to degrade.

The results showed that RNA was most stable in slightly acidic solutions with high concentrations of magnesium ions, conditions that could have existed in Martian volcanic basalts.

While the study doesn’t conclusively prove that RNA developed on Mars, it’s certainly an interesting hypothesis about the planet’s evolutionary path.

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