The World Today for June 05, 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 1,872,660 (+1.14%)
  2. Brazil 614,941 (+5.30%)
  3. Russia 440,538 (+2.04%)
  4. UK 283,079 (+0.64%)
  5. Spain 240,660 (+0.14%)
  6. Italy 234,013 (+0.08%)
  7. India 227,029 (+4.53%)
  8. France 189,569 (+0.41%)
  9. Germany 184,924 (+0.44%)
  10. Peru 183,198 (+2.39%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Percentage change over 24 hours



A Falling Star

The US sanctioned Ramzan Kadyrov for human rights abuses under his violent, oppressive rule in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Kadyrov, meanwhile, was horrified at the police reaction to protests that erupted in the US after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.

“I’m watching with horror the situation in the United States, where the authorities are maliciously violating ordinary citizens’ rights,” he said, according to the Moscow Times.

Kadyrov was one of many authoritarian leaders who have decried police tactics in the US, reversing the usual stream of criticism of human rights violations from West to East. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for example, called the police “racist and fascist,” Politico reported.

Russia, Iran and China have joined the chorus, accusing the US of “double standards” while state television in those countries plays an endless loop of coverage on the protests to depict the US as “brutal” and “unstable.”

Whether earnest or not, the sentiments behind Kadyrov and others’ views were representative of the globe’s reaction to the teargas, rubber bullets, truncheons and vehicles that American police have deployed against protesters.

Thousands attended demonstrations from the UK to Australia and New Zealand that aimed to show solidarity with American protesters, reported CGTN, a Chinese state-owned new outlet. Demonstrators carried signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “White Silence = Complicity.” The PBS News Hour detailed a host of other events throughout the world that also echoed the protesters’ calls for change.

Newspapers around the globe ran front-page stories with headlines like “Trump declares war on America,” (Germany), “Trump inflames American injustice” (UK), “Trump on the warpath,” (Pakistan) and “The US on the edge of an abyss” (Mexico).

In some places like Belgium and France, some called attention to their own issues with police brutality, wondering why protests such as those in the US – while occurring in their home countries – don’t grow to the level of mass outrage. Some wish they would.

Some leaders usually reluctant to criticize their ally such as Boris Johnson of the UK and Justin Trudeau of Canada felt pressure to speak out. Australia was outraged by the violence against its news crews and demanded an explanation.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe called the American ambassador to explain why US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien described that African country and China as “foreign adversaries” and said they were using the civil unrest to “sow discord” on social media, added Al Jazeera.

Some felt sympathy, with a dash of schadenfreude (the delight in the misfortune of others).

“It’s the American intifada,” American University in Beirut Journalism Professor Rami Khouri told the Los Angeles Times, referring to Palestinians’ uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “In the Arab world, there’s an inability to address the structural oppression of most citizens by an elite that has become very wealthy but is totally detached from their people. You’re seeing the same thing in the US – there’s an inability to address its structural racism.”

Experts might agree with that assessment. The Washington Post interviewed former CIA analysts who said the protests, the administration and law enforcement’s reaction to them, and other developments, are the exact kinds of phenomena that have heralded the collapse of regimes in other countries in recent history – essentially the types of phenomena they report back as causes of concern.

Meanwhile, US credibility to point out human rights abuses elsewhere has been diminished while handing rivals and adversaries a weapon, say analysts.

For example, China responded to US criticism over its crackdown on Hong Kong with three words: “I can’t breathe.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted a US press statement on Iran marked up in red to point out racism in the US and proclaim the country’s hypocrisy.

There’s obviously no comparison to a country that rigs elections, bans free expression, violently suppresses popular protests and murders those that commit adultery.

Even so, the international reaction to police conduct shows how far the US’ reputation as a trusted values-back nation has fallen around the world, wrote Foreign Policy magazine. Folks still fear the US military. The US dollar still reigns supreme. But the country’s soft power is tapped out, one European diplomat said.

When stars fall, they don’t easily rise again.

And for many around the globe, who look to the US to provide guidance, inspiration and hope, that’s a tragedy.



Winners and Losers

Libya’s internationally recognized government regained full control over the capital, Tripoli, Thursday, putting an end to an offensive launched by forces loyal to eastern-based commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, Al Jazeera reported.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) announced that its forces captured all of the administrative areas surrounding the city.

Sources from Haftar’s Libyan National Army confirmed they were retreating from the city, which they had laid siege to for more than a year.

Haftar’s retreat comes after the GNA made gains against his forces thanks to Turkish airpower, which helped turn the tide in the conflict.

Turkey has been providing military support to the GNA since November after signing a military cooperation agreement and maritime demarcation deal with Prime Minister Fayez Serraj.

Meanwhile, the GNA and Haftar agreed to resume ceasefire talks, the United Nations announced earlier this week.

Libya has lacked a central government since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In 2014, the country split between the UN-backed GNA and Haftar’s forces which control the east of the country, including most of the oil facilities.


The Defiant Ones

Thousands poured onto the streets of Hong Kong Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, defying a ban on mass gatherings and China’s tightening grip on the territory, the New York Times reported.

Hong Kong authorities imposed a ban on the annual event – the first time in 30 years – citing fears of the novel coronavirus.

The gathering also marks a public display of anger against China’s attempts to curb freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.

Meanwhile the legislature – dominated by pro-China lawmakers – passed a bill Thursday that would criminalize “disrespect” for China’s national anthem.

Recently, Beijing announced it would impose new security measures in Hong Kong, following last year’s pro-democracy protests.

Pro-democracy activists and other nations, including the United States, have criticized China’s encroachment of the territory’s autonomy.

Critics argue that Beijing is violating the “one country, two systems” framework which was implemented when Britain returned the territory to China in 1997.


Thawing a Cold Case

German prosecutors said Thursday they are launching a murder investigation over the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann in 2007, adding that the missing girl is likely dead, Euronews reported.

Officials said the suspect, a 43-year old German man, is currently serving a prison sentence for an unrelated sex crime.

McCann went missing on May 3, 2007, in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz. Her parents left McCann and her twin siblings in their holiday apartment to go to dinner and found her missing upon their return.

British police said that the suspect had been at the resort or in its vicinity between 1995 and 2007, and operated two vehicles during the time of the three-year-old’s disappearance.

Authorities in Britain, Germany and Portugal issued a joint call for information regarding the two vehicles and also two phone numbers – one belonging to the suspect – that shared a call on the day McCann went missing.


The New Hobbyists

The pandemic lockdowns have forced people to stay at home and find ways to pass the time.

Some have picked up new hobbies, something psychologist Ann Futterman Collier says has psychological benefits, Discover magazine reported.

Collier explained that creative pursuits help individuals reach a state of “mindfulness,” which she describes as the ability to be “fully aware of the moment and suspending judgment for the time being.”

Mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and improve emotional regulation skills.

In her study, Collier observed that textile artists engrossed in their work would emerge as more rejuvenated once they ended their project.

“I think that when you get immersed in something completely, afterward you feel like you’ve gotten away from your problems or what was bothering you,” she said.

But before a person picks up a new hobby, Collier noted that there should be a “balance between not being boring and not being so complex that you can’t do it.”

So, instead of starting something big during this lockdown, she suggests something less-ambitious to feel a sense of gratification.

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