The World Today for June 15, 2020

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Dear Readers: Many of you wrote last week to say that you missed seeing the daily percentage increases in our COVID-19 Update, and asked us to bring them back. We heard you and we’re pleased to announce they’re back as of today. You’ll find the update below.  

Your DailyChatter Editorial Team

COVID-19 Global Update

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

  1. US: 2,094,069 (+0.94%)
  2. Brazil: 867,624 (+2.01%)
  3. Russia: 528,267 (+1.70%)
  4. India: 332,424 (+3.58%)
  5. UK: 297,342 (+0.51%)
  6. Spain: 243,928 (+0.13%)
  7. Italy: 236,989 (+0.14%)
  8. Peru: 229,736 (+4.07%)
  9. France: 194,153 (+0.21%)
  10. Germany: 187,518 (+0.13%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours



Mass Impact

Buses, subways and trains have seen ridership plummet amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The London Underground, the Paris Metro and Tokyo’s subway have experienced declines as high as 90 percent, according to the Washington Post.

Many public transportation authorities were already suffering from underfunding and budget gaps. Now, as countries lift their lockdown restrictions, these mass transit systems face potentially catastrophic shortfalls as many passengers – like Israelis interviewed by the Media Line – enter tiny compartments or crowded buses where they might stand cheek-to-cheek with sick riders during their commutes.

It’s a complicated problem. In India, for example, fears of the coronavirus spreading like wildfire led the government to close mass transit for hours after officials announced the country’s lockdown in March, noted Science magazine. Hundreds of millions of low-income workers had to stay in the city rather than go home to their rural villages. After becoming jobless, they’re expected to return home now that mass transit is reopening, threatening a new spike in cases.

Some wondered if more people might opt to ride bikes given how the contagious virus could spread on mass transit. That’s starting to happen in South America, where capitals like Bogota, Lima, Quito, Santiago and Buenos Aires have closed off miles of roads to cars, expanding bike lanes with the express aim of making it easier to social distance on trains and buses, Reuters reported.

Certainly car traffic is down, noted Yale Environment 360. But that is likely temporary.

In fact, on the whole, car ridership has become more popular, threatening to undo years of slowly rising mass transit numbers worldwide as well as the climate gains made when lockdowns helped substantially curb greenhouse gas emissions, the Weather Channel reported.

Sweden is nonetheless pressing ahead with new sleeper trains to Belgium and Germany. The plan faces hurdles. The new trains wouldn’t start until 2022 at the earliest. But the country wants to reduce its dependence on air travel, while Europe ostensibly wants a green revolution that would spur more sustainable travel.

“The coming years will be a test for not only Sweden but the European Union,” Swedish Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth told Politico.

Estonia-based Bolt, a competitor to American ridesharing service Uber, is also raising more money as increasing numbers of Europeans eschew car-ownership in favor of on-demand rides, a trend the coronavirus isn’t likely to change, CNBC wrote.

Predicting this aspect of the future might be even more of a misguided exercise than other prognostications. The pandemic isn’t even over yet.



Of Friendships and Maps

Tensions between Nepal and India escalated over the weekend after Nepalese lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment to alter the country’s map, including territory that is disputed with India, the Financial Times reported.

The new map would include the Lipulekh Pass, a strategic area that links north India to the Tibetan Plateau.

India’s government denounced the move, saying that Nepal was laying claim to “Indian territory” and that it was “not tenable.”

The Indo-Nepal border dispute began in May after Nepal protested the construction of a road in the Lipulekh Pass, which India insists is part of its territory.

Meanwhile, the Indian military is currently in a standoff with the Chinese army along the disputed Sino-Indian border.

Analysts said that the border disputes highlight India’s challenges in maintaining relations with its neighbors, as China vies for influence in the area.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is pushing for closer ties with Nepal, as Nepalese leaders attempt to reduce their dependence on India.


Power Plays

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said Saturday that the opposition will not recognize a new electoral body appointed by the government-friendly Supreme Court, a move seen as an attempt to rig the upcoming parliamentary elections, Reuters reported.

Under the constitution, the National Assembly has the power to appoint members of the National Electoral Council. Even so, Venezuela’s top court appointed its own board Friday after ruling that the opposition-held legislature failed to do so.

President Nicolas Maduro said that the court’s decision was necessary to elect new lawmakers, but opposition lawmakers warned that the move was a ploy to rig the elections in December.

Meanwhile, allies of Guaido pledged to extend the term of the current legislature past the January 2021 deadline, which would allow Guaido to remain president of the National Assembly even if the opposition boycotts the elections.

Venezuela has been in an ongoing political crisis since 2019 when Guaido declared himself interim president and accused Maduro of “usurping” power following a disputed presidential election in 2018, the Associated Press reported.

Guaido is recognized by dozens of countries as the legitimate president.


Upping the Ante

The sister of North Korea’s leader issued a threat of military action against South Korea, forcing the country to put its military on heightened alert Sunday, NBC News reported.

Kim Yo Jong, a trusted aide to her brother, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, said, “I feel it is high time to surely break with the South Korean authorities. We will soon take the next action,” she added without specifying what that would be.

The latest escalation comes nearly a week after North Korea said it was cutting off all lines of communication with South Korea.

Pyongyang said it was angry over defectors in South Korea sending propaganda leaflets over the border via balloons.

Analysts argued that North Korea is using the leaflets as an excuse to pressure the United States into restarting nuclear talks and eliminate economic sanctions.

Negotiations stalled last year following a summit between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader.


Trash’s Treasure

A team of paleontologists recently made grisly discovery about dinosaurs’ dining habits during the Jurassic Period some 150 million years ago.

After analyzing a trove of more than 2,300 dinosaur bones, researchers found evidence that predatory dinosaurs practiced cannibalism, New Scientist reported.

And the practice wasn’t rare among flesh-eating dinosaurs: The mighty T. rex and the Majungatholus were known as “occasional cannibals.”

In a new study, the authors studied bones found in the Mygatt-Moore quarry in Colorado, including damaged ones – which usually get ignored.

They reported that nearly 30 percent of the bones found had bite marks on them, a high number considering that usually, less than five percent have those marks.

The team believes that the markings were caused by allosaurs, a common predator at the site. They also noted that a lot of the bite marks were found in the remains of other allosaurs.

The chomped bones suggest that predators in that area would scavenge and cannibalize to survive. Scientists speculate that harsh environmental conditions led to these practices.

The study adds new insight into the feeding habits of the giant lizards, but it also shows that it’s worth examining damaged bones to paint a more complete picture of the beasts that once roamed the Earth.

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