The World Today for June 03, 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 1,831,821 (+1.13%)
  2. Brazil 555,383 (+5.50%)
  3. Russia 423,186 (+2.14%)
  4. UK 279,392 (+0.60%)
  5. Spain 239,932 (+0.12%)
  6. Italy 233,515 (+0.14%)
  7. India 207,615 (+4.15%)
  8. France 188,450 (-0.47%)**
  9. Germany 184,097 (+0.18%)
  10. Peru 170,039 (0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Percentage change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

NEED TO KNOW

HONG KONG

An Ace Short

The tense relationship between the US and China never devolved into the military standoff that marked American relations with the Soviet Union in the last century. But could that be changing?

“Some political forces in the US are hijacking China-US relations and pushing our two countries toward a ‘new Cold War,'” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said recently, according to CBS News. “This dangerous attempt to turn back the wheel of history will undo the fruits of decades of long cooperation between the two peoples.”

At issue are American concerns about new national security laws that could ban treason, secession and subversion, allowing mainland Chinese authorities to operate for the first time in the semi-autonomous city that was a British colony until 1997.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong protested the proposals. CNN wrote that police cracked down on the demonstrators with batons, tear gas and water cannons.

American National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned that Hong Kong could lose its preferential trading status under the new law, reported Agence France-Presse. Chinese leaders said they would retaliate against any American move related to the city.

The US was already suspicious of China’s economic policies toward the US. The coronavirus, which reportedly originated in China, further damaged relations between the world’s two superpowers. Now Western companies are going to lose their foothold in the most politically open city in the country, the Diplomat wrote, which provides China with its most reliable source of foreign capital.

Supporters of the new measures say they would help curb terrorism, say analysts. The critics are fearmongers, wrote Ronny Tong, a pro-Beijing member of the Hong Kong Executive Council, in an op-ed in the South China Morning Post.

The proposed laws are one example of China flexing its muscles on the international stage amid withering criticism over the coronavirus, the New York Times wrote. But having managed the outbreak, the country’s communist bosses feel emboldened, especially as criticism of their actions has mostly turned out to be just talk, the newspaper added, pointing to Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Even so, maybe the gambit has flopped. If the goal was to tame Hong Kong and quiet the protesters, it failed. “For all its superpower pretensions, the Chinese state has proved completely unable to manage the people of a sophisticated and free global city that is also a major world financial center,” wrote the Australian Financial Review in an editorial.

Decisive action during a crisis is the mark of a strong, confident government, say observers. Decisive action that elicits a global backlash with a new Cold War as a consequence is the overplaying of one’s hand.

WANT TO KNOW

WORLD

On the Outside

The European Union firmly rejected US President Donald Trump’s plan to invite Russia to the upcoming G-7 summit, saying it doesn’t share the group’s common values, Politico reported Tuesday.

Over the weekend, Trump said he would postpone the annual meeting to September and invite four non-member nations, including Russia.

Trump argued that the current G-7 grouping does not “properly (represent) what’s going on in the world – it’s a very outdated group of countries.”

Following his announcement, Britain and Canada outright opposed inviting Russia, which was expelled from the group in 2014 following its invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea.

“Its continued disrespect and flaunting of international rules and norms is why it remains outside of the G-7 and it will continue to remain out,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Russian diplomats, meanwhile, condemned the British and Canadian opposition as a show of “their pathologic Russophobia.”

Current G-7 members are the US, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Canada and Japan.

PHILIPPINES

U-Turn

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walked back his decision to scrap a pivotal troop deployment agreement with the United States Tuesday due to political and other developments in the region, Reuters reported.

The termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would have been Duterte’s biggest move to date to downgrade the Southeast Asian nation’s relationship with Washington.

The agreement provides a legal framework that allows US troops to operate on a rotational basis in the Philippines.

In February, Duterte withdrew from the VFA after Washington revoked a US visa held by a former police chief-turned-senator who led the president’s war on drugs. Duterte said the move was to allow his nation to diversify its foreign relations.

The strongman has clashed with its most important ally over numerous issues, while trying to foster stronger relations with China.

Critics say his pro-China stance threatens the nation’s sovereignty, and that his withdrawal from the VFA could weaken the Philippine military.

PUERTO RICO

Why the Rush?

Puerto Rico overhauled more than 130 amendments in its 1930 civil code without public hearings on the new rules which govern issues such as marriage and abortion in the US territory, the Associated Press reported.

Governor Wanda Vazquez signed the bill Monday night, adding that there would be room for improvement and alterations.

Activists expressed support for the new law, but criticized the lack of hearings and said the quick implementation could result in confusion and also loopholes in the law.

One of the main issues relates to abortion rights: The new code upholds the right to have an abortion, but adds a clause that recognizes the rights of a fetus.

Puerto Rico’s Bar Association President Edgardo Roman said that this clause could be exploited to question the legality of abortion or hinder the procedure in cases where the mother is in a coma or incapacitated in some way.

The LGBTQ community also criticized the code’s contradictory language regarding the right to change one’s gender on a birth certificate.

The new law is set to take effect in 180 days.

DISCOVERIES

The Architects

A recent study of an 11,500-year-old temple found that hunter-gatherer societies had good architects.

Archaeologists recently analyzed the Göbekli Tepe complex in southeastern Turkey, the earliest known temple in human history – it predates Stonehenge in Britain by thousands of years, CNN reported.

Using a computer algorithm to study three of the temple’s monumental round structures, researchers found that the Neolithic builders intentionally placed the pillars holding up the structure.

The discovery is a major breakthrough because it proves that hunter-gatherer societies had well-developed architectural planning methods earlier than previously thought.

“Our findings suggest that major architectural transformations during this period, such as the transition to rectangular architecture, were knowledge-based, top-down processes carried out by specialists,” said lead author Gil Haklay.

Scientists had believed that architectural methods such as geometry and floor-planning emerged 10,500 years ago when humans started transitioning to agricultural societies.

“It opens the door to new interpretations of this site in general,” said co-author Avi Gopher.

The team hopes to use the same methodology to study other structures from the same period.

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