The World Today for April 23, 2020

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest number as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US 842,624 (+2.10%)
  2. Spain 208,389 (+2.06%)
  3. Italy 187,327 (+1.83%)
  4. France 159,877 (+0.36%)
  5. Germany 150,648 (+1.48%)
  6. UK 134,639 (+3.42%)
  7. Turkey 98,674 (+3.23%)
  8. Iran 85,996 (+1.41%)
  9. China 83,876 (+0.01%)
  10. Russia 57,999 (+9.92%)



Into the Great Unknown

Will the coronavirus pandemic spell the end of the global economy as we know it?

Many seem to think so. At a time when social distancing and lockdowns have changed everyone’s lives, leaders around the world will likely seek to restructure their technology sectors, manufacturing capacity and supply chains to reduce dependence on faraway countries, wrote the New York Times.

The transition between the old and new worlds could be painful, however.

The International Monetary Fund is predicting that the Great Lockdown might be worse than the Great Recession that started in 2008 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, Bloomberg reported. Global gross domestic product is on track to shrink 3 percent this year. In January, fund analysts predicted a 3.3 percent expansion. They estimated that the world would lose around $9 trillion in economic activity – an amount equal to the economies of Japan and Germany.

“It’s as if we’ve fallen off a cliff or fallen into a black hole,” said economist Kathy Bostjancic in an interview with the BBC.

Governments around the world are almost certainly going to spend more than the $7 trillion that CNN identified last month as they struggle to prevent global economic meltdown.

The American government appropriated $2.2 trillion, around a tenth of US gross domestic product, to address the shortfall. The Federal Reserve additionally unleashed $2.3 trillion to keep the economy moving. Most observers believe that’s just the beginning.

Germany’s stimulus package, for example, increased federal spending by 50 percent, abandoning the frugality that marked German reluctance to bail out Greece a decade ago. Its package broke the strongest taboo in Germany politics – deficit spending that is equivalent to a quarter of German GDP, the most aggressive action of any country anywhere, Politico reported.

Many analysts worry about countries like Brazil, South Africa, India and the Middle East, where massive populations of impoverished people are vulnerable to the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. Those and other countries have already requested $2.5 trillion from the International Monetary Fund to shore up their economies. Otherwise, the world can expect another, bigger migration crisis that might further spread the virus.

“Trouble travels. It doesn’t stay in one place,” International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the Washington Post. “This pandemic will not be over until it’s over everywhere.”

Under pressure from the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia ended their oil price war, a move designed to prevent a freefall in prices that would cause damage throughout the world economy, the Financial Times explained. But it failed. On Monday, there was a historic crash in oil prices, with the price of crude trading in double-digit negative numbers, Marketplace reported. Producers, with a collapse in demand due to the worldwide economic standstill of the lockdowns, are literally drowning in oil.

What’s coming next is anyone’s guess – there is no precedent or playbook for what is happening right now. The lessons of the past are only somewhat useful, stamping out small fires but not the blaze.

And while economists’ predictions vary, most agree on this: An entirely new approach to the global economy will be needed when the pandemic is over.

When that is, and what the transformation will look like are the great unknowns today.



If At First You Fail…

Iran launched a military satellite into orbit, a move sparking concern over whether the technology can be used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported Wednesday.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said the satellite reached an orbit of more than 260 miles above the earth. Iran used a Ghased (messenger) satellite carrier to put the device into space – a system never seen before.

Iran has attempted several satellite launches over the past year, the latest in February. Until now, none have been successful.

The US State Department and Pentagon have warned that the launches could advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Analysts said the launch also shows Iran’s willingness to take greater risks during the coronavirus pandemic, while the world is distracted.


The Thing About Corners

Cameroonian President Paul Biya admitted Wednesday that the military murdered innocent bystanders including women and children during a raid in the country’s northwestern region in February, the Associated Press reported.

The Feb. 14 massacre occurred in the English-speaking village of Ngarr-buh: Cameroon’s armed forces killed dozens and forced more than 600 to flee.

The government had initially denied the killings, saying the accusation was a ploy by civil rights groups to tarnish the military’s image.

However, the massacre sparked an international outcry prompting the president to act: To date, authorities have arrested three soldiers in connection with the atrocities.

Civil rights groups said that the government should investigate other alleged crimes committed by the military while fighting Boko Haram extremists and in putting down protests in the restive Anglophone regions which has seen violence break out over the past few years.

The government has acknowledged atrocities committed by the military before, most recently in 2018, when a video circulated showing members of the armed forces killing two women near the Nigerian border.


Where’s Kim?

International speculation is growing over the whereabouts of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, 36, leading to questions over his health and possible successor, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Feeding that speculation is the complete absence of the leader in North Korean state media, something analysts and diplomats say is highly unusual.

At the same time, rumors about the leader’s health emerged last week when Kim was absent during the marking of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father – and Kim’s grandfather – Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

A South Korean website cited an unnamed source saying Kim’s health had deteriorated and he had been hospitalized on April 12 for a cardiovascular procedure.

Even so, Chinese and South Korean officials expressed doubt he was seriously sick.

Regardless, analysts say there is serious concern over who may succeed Kim since there’s no one obvious waiting in the wings.


Breaking Bread

At the height of World War Two, Britain’s Ministry of Food created the National Loaf, a nutrient-dense whole wheat bread to ensure public health and fight wartime shortages.

It was not fondly remembered by Brits who lived during that period.

“It wasn’t very nice,” Wright Atha, 92, told NBC News. “It was a bit grainy, a bit mushy. Most things in the war weren’t very nice, mind you.”

However, the National Loaf is making comeback as panicked buyers clear supermarket shelves of flour due to the coronavirus pandemic.

British bakers are beginning to develop their own version of the unappetizing bread to create a healthier and more nutritious product – that is also tastier.

Steven Winter, the owner of Bread Source, aims to produce a loaf that is “a little bit more substantial and sustaining than typical additive-filled supermarket bread.”

Food historian Bryce Evans explained that embracing the country’s culinary past is a good thing because it will encourage people to think “more deeply and critically about the inequalities and unhealthiness inherent in our food system.”

Meanwhile, Atha welcomed the return of the National Loaf, “as long as it’s tastier this time around!”

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