The World Today for June 17, 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 numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 2,137,731 (+1.12%)
  2. Brazil: 923,189 (+3.93%)
  3. Russia: 544,725 (0.00%)**
  4. India: 354,065 (+3.20%)
  5. UK: 299,600 (+0.43%)
  6. Spain: 244,328 (+0.09%)
  7. Italy: 237,500 (+0.09%)
  8. Peru: 237,156 (+1.79%)
  9. France: 194,347 (+0.02%)
  10. Iran: 192,439 (+1.35%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country



A Lingering Wave

Surfers are hitting the surf in Peru.

“It was about time, no?” Alessandro Currarino told the Associated Press. “Peru has some of the best waves in the world and we need to take advantage of them.”

The fun comes after the beaches of the South American country were empty for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Don’t think the return to normal means the danger has gone away, however. Peru recently confirmed more than 200,000 cases of the deadly virus, the second-most on the continent after Brazil.

Indeed, like its northern neighbor, Ecuador, the coronavirus has ravaged Peru even as surfers and others struggle to return to a semblance of normal. Gross domestic product contracted by 3.4 percent after President Martin Vizcarra ordered a 12-week lockdown in February, Agence France-Presse wrote. Recently, restrictions on non-contact sports like surfing were lifted.

The country is still tallying record death tolls, in part because, as Time magazine noted, Peruvians live and work in close contact with each other. A combination of economic and cultural factors makes it nearly impossible to social distance.

Outside the capital of Lima, anguished families wail and mourn in the Virgen de Lourdes cemetery, one of the biggest burial grounds in the world with more than one million tombs, reported Al Jazeera. Thousands of new plots have been created since the pandemic started to claim lives. Stray dogs roam the place.

At least 20 journalists who have been covering the spread and effects of the virus have died. Many didn’t have personal protective equipment as they visited hard-hit regions like Iquitos on the Amazon River in remote eastern Peru, the Guardian explained. Indigenous communities have been especially susceptible to the virus, reported the Chinese state-owned CGTN. At least 150 police officers have died, too, attempting to maintain public order.

Like in many other countries, the coronavirus has exposed the lack of adequate medical care in Peru as much as it has the frailties of the human body and spirit. Oxygen has become a symbol of the crisis. There is not enough of it. A black market in oxygen has thrived as desperate Peruvians pay exorbitant prices to save loved ones.

“People collapsed in the street, others dragging desperately ill relatives to the door of hospitals that won’t admit them, and distraught children asking why their parents were left to die,” wrote CNN.

The rate of increase in infections might be down now. And surfers might be back looking for the next great wave. But the trauma caused by a new virus will certainly linger here long after the sick become well.



Tit for Tat

In the face of planned troop reductions, NATO officials on Tuesday stressed the importance of US troops’ presence in Germany for security on both sides of the Atlantic, Agence France-Presse reported.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said he will redeploy 9,000 troops, leaving 25,000 in place. He said Germany was “delinquent” in its NATO contributions and has treated the United States “badly” on trade.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany has not received any details about the redeployment.

NATO defense ministers plan to discuss the issue this week.

The plan has been criticized as weakening America’s commitment to its European allies and its ability to maintain influence in the Middle East and Africa.

American troops have been stationed in Germany since the end of World War II. They were seen as an important line of defense against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Central and Eastern European nations have been pushing for a stronger US presence following a resurgence of Russia’s military ambitions on the continent. The Polish leader is set to visit the White House “soon,” with speculation rife that some of the troops could be moved to Poland, Politico reported.


Dangerous Maps

India said Tuesday that at least 20 of its soldiers died during a scuffle with Chinese troops in the border region, a major escalation in the on-going border dispute, CBS News reported.

The soldiers were killed during a fight that involved stones and batons but no gunfire. The Chinese army reported casualties on its side but Indian news agencies said that “a total of 43 were killed and injured.”

The incident marks the first time since 1975 that the long-simmering border dispute between the nations turned deadly.

The standoff has intensified over the past six weeks while efforts to deescalate the situation have failed.

The two nuclear powers share a 2,100-mile border, much of which lacks official demarcation and remains disputed.

India and China fought a brief war over the border in 1962. Since then, there have been numerous standoffs and scuffles in the region.


Authoritarian Playbook

Hungarian lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday to request the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban ends the state of emergency imposed earlier this year to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.

The proposal would end the almost limitless emergency powers granted to Orban’s government, without an expiration date.

Lawmakers have been criticized by civil rights activists over the state of emergency due to fears of increasing authoritarianism. Orban rejected such claims.

The government is expected to end the state of emergency later this week.

Even so, lawmakers passed another bill Tuesday which will allow the government to declare a “public health emergency” on the recommendation of Hungary’s chief medical officer.

The new bill will allow Orban again to have almost limitless powers – without the need for parliamentary approval – for up to six months, with the possibility of extension if the public health crisis continues.

Hungary currently has more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the virus. More than 560 people have died.


In Plain Sight

Glass frogs get their name for their transparent underbelly which makes their hearts and intestines visible to the naked eye.

While their backs are vivid green which helps them blend in, in the South and Central American jungles, new research has found that their glass-like underbelly helps the tiny amphibian avoid predators, too, the Guardian reported.

Researchers found that the frogs are not transparent but translucent – or semi-transparent – which helps them to camouflage themselves: The animal’s green back will not change against dark or light foliage, but its translucent legs will shift in brightness and make them less recognizable to predators.

The team conducted three separate experiments to determine how this camouflage mechanism works against different backgrounds and how effective it is in fooling predators – and humans.

“We found that the color of the frogs’ bodies did not change much between backgrounds, but the legs did change significantly,” explained lead author James Barnett, who added that the change was due to a shift in brightness, not hue.

Barnett noted that experiments also showed that the amphibians’ natural pattern of translucency was able to deceive the human eye, and that the translucent frogs were less likely to be attacked by birds.

“Our study shows that being translucent does help glass frogs camouflage themselves from predators, but not necessarily in the way expected by comparison to fully transparent species,” said Barnett.

Click here to see a BBC video on these amazing frogs.

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