The World Today for April 27, 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 965,933 (+2.78%)
  2. Spain 226,629 (+1.28%)
  3. Italy 197,675 (+1.19%)
  4. France 162,220 (+0.34%)
  5. Germany 157,770 (+0.80%)
  6. UK 154,037 (+2.99%)
  7. Turkey 110,130 (+2.19%)
  8. Iran 90,481 (+1.29%)
  9. China 83,912 (0.00%)
  10. Russia 80,949 (0.00%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Percentage change over 24 hours



Tough Medicine

Some doctors think Americans and others might need to become even more aggressive in combating the coronavirus.

Singaporeans screen and quarantine travelers, Indiana University School of Medicine Professor Aaron Carroll wrote. They trace everyone whom infected folks might have contacted. They commit to figuring out the origin of new infections within two hours. Recently, they also put the entire city-state on hard lockdown, punishing those who go outside for anything other than exercise or purchasing food or medicine with prison and $7,000 fines.

New Zealand was similarly tough, banning the beach and even going hunting, the Washington Post reported. Both Singapore and New Zealand have been extremely successful in containing their outbreaks.

Such draconian measures might appall some freedom-loving Americans, Brazilians and others who have seen protests against current lockdowns in their countries. But drawing lessons from successes abroad is prudent, many believe.

Germany, for example, like the US, has a strong tradition of federalism that makes local and regional authorities responsible for public health, the Guardian reported. Yet Germany is testing as many as 500,000 people a week, a pace that outstrips the US on a per capita basis, Vox explained.

South Korea’s testing was also impressive, as National Public Radio reported.

Skeptics might counter that those are wealthy countries and enjoy high levels of social trust and cohesion.

But impoverished and broken Liberia, where civil war raged in the 1990s and early 2000s, capitalized on the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015 to write a playbook that officials are implementing now for the coronavirus battle, so far with hopeful results. Officials immediately imposed a 60-day state of emergency when cases of COVID-19 were discovered, reported Radio France Internationale. They ordered everyone to wear masks in public, instituted quarantines in affected counties and launched economic relief measures – including loan forgiveness. Frequent handwashing was already a habit from the days of Ebola.

In 2014, Liberian leaders quickly realized that information was a key weapon in their battle to keep people alive from an unseen threat, wrote Foreign Policy magazine. Officials appealed to religious groups to consider altering their behavior, including Muslims who traditionally wash the dead, potentially spreading infection. They commissioned pop stars to release songs with titles like “Ebola is Real” to make sure citizens took the crisis seriously.

They’re already learning the value of good communications. Some Liberians went out and clashed with police in part because of misinformation about the lockdown, Reuters wrote. Police said they understood people were scared but added they wouldn’t let anybody flout stay-at-home orders.

To fight the pandemic, it seems, one must give up some freedoms to truly regain them. At least, for some, that in itself is a free choice.



Going Solo

Yemeni separatists said on Sunday they intend to govern the southern territories of the country, a move that effectively pulls them out of a power-sharing agreement with their erstwhile allies in the internationally recognized government, Al Jazeera reported.

The Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by the United Arab Emirates, declared a state of emergency and said it would “self-govern” the port city of Aden and other southern provinces.

The group also accused the internationally recognized government of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of corruption and mismanagement.

Hadi’s government – backed by Saudi Arabia – said the move will have “catastrophic consequences” and equated it to a withdrawal from a power-sharing agreement signed between the STC and the Saudi-backed government in November. That deal intended to bring both entities into a new national cabinet.

Both groups have fought together in the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Now, analysts fear the STC’s move could slide Yemen into further chaos as it grapples with the beginnings of a novel coronavirus outbreak.


A Crime of Popularity

Brazil’s top prosecutor asked the Supreme Court over the weekend to investigate allegations of political interference by President Jair Bolsonaro, the BBC reported.

The request followed the resignation of Justice Minister Sergio Moro last week. Moro accused Bolsonaro of wanting to install a new federal police chief that would provide him with intelligence reports directly.

Moro said that Bolsonaro sacked federal police chief Mauricio Valeixo – an ally of Moro – without providing a reason. He added that Valeixo was fired because the president became “worried” over certain ongoing investigations.

Bolsonaro replaced Valeixo with Alexandre Ramagem, chief of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency. He has denied Moro’s accusations.

Moro was the judge who oversaw Brazil’s biggest corruption investigation known as “Operation Car Wash” and remains a highly popular figure among Brazilians.

His resignation is a serious blow for Bolsonaro’s administration and comes a few days after the president sacked popular health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, for his advocacy of strict lockdown measures.



Hong Kong riot police clashed with hundreds of protesters Sunday, the first demonstration in China’s semi-autonomous territory since the government imposed a ban on public gatherings to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, Reuters reported.

Protesters chanted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” while also demanding the release of pro-democracy activists, arrested earlier this month, in the biggest crackdown on the movement to date.

Demonstrators say they fear that the Chinese government is trying to tighten its grip on the special administrative territory.

China has denied meddling into Hong Kong’s affairs. Even so, there’s concern that the mainland is flexing its muscle in the financial hub, a move that risks reviving the months-long anti-governmental protests that began last year.


20,000 Leagues…

Space might be the final frontier but more than 80 percent of the Earth’s oceans remain uncharted territory, full of discoveries waiting to happen.

Recently, one did. Marine researcher Nerida Wilson and her team came across the longest creature ever found in an ocean, off the coast of Western Australia, the New York Times reported.

She described the swirly, string-like organism as “an incredible UFO”: About 150 feet long – topping the massive blue whale which clocks in at about 100 feet in length.

Her team said that the long creature was a siphonophore, an organism made from clusters of cells that clone themselves thousands of times to give it its peculiar form.

Wilson’s team made the find using a remotely piloted deep-sea robot to explore the fauna living in the depths off Australia’s western coast.

Apart from the siphonophore, they also identified 30 new species of marine life after collecting and analyzing samples of environmental DNA, including a large community of glass sponges.

The findings were made in cooperation with the US-based Schmidt Ocean Institute to help marine rangers become familiar with the fauna they are protecting.

And with most of the unexplored ocean, researchers say it’s an entirely different world down there.

“It is like being on a new planet,” said Executive Director Jyotika Virmani of the institute.

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