June 24, 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: 2,347,102 (+1.50%)
  2. Brazil: 1,145,906 (+3.56%)
  3. Russia: 598,878 (+1.25%)
  4. India: 456,183 (+3.63%)
  5. UK: 307,682 (+0.30%)
  6. Peru: 260,810 (+1.31%)\
  7. Chile: 250,767 (+1.54%)
  8. Spain: 246,752 (+0.10%)
  9. Italy: 238,833 (+0.05%)
  10. Iran: 209,970 (+1.18%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

NEED TO KNOW

MONGOLIA

Genghis’ Children

The US president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., recently went on a hunting trip to shoot sheep in Mongolia, meeting with Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, wrote Vanity Fair.

That trip underscored how Mongolia is becoming a destination, a nation to court, and a place where the democratic process has been broadening ahead of parliamentary elections on June 24, the Diplomat reported.

Observers are watching the vote closely because the contenders are folks who have been in power for decades as well as a host of newcomers who have harnessed social media to develop their support bases.

A University of British Columbia blog post described how a plethora of political parties have emerged as public discontent over slow growth and other issues have gripped the imaginations of voters.

The leader of Mongolia’s ruling People’s Party, Ukhnaa Khurelsukh, called on voters to “synergize their efforts” and support the government’s economic program, Chinese news service Xinhua wrote.

Meanwhile, the election, takes place as the country remains on lockdown due to the coronavirus, according to Agence France-Presse.

Situated astride fast-growing China and resource-rich Russia, Mongolia was growing economically prior to the pandemic erupting. But the coronavirus brought growth to an abrupt halt, the country claimed in a filing with the International Monetary Fund. Mongolia expects to lose 1 percentage point in gross domestic product due to the virus. That might not seem so bad. But the country has high debt, zero foreign reserves and a lot of bills to pay.

Mongolia still behaves like a nomadic society, though of course, the exigencies of modern life mean that many Mongolians live in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, sometimes in yurts, or portable tents, in fairly fixed lifestyles. Their example is prompting some interesting debates about architecture, the Guardian wrote. It’s also leading experts to question why sexual violence is high in the country where traditional values are still strong.

President Battulga Khaltmaa is a populist who plays up Mongolia’s connection to Genghis Khan, one of the greatest warriors of all time, Bloomberg reported. He grew up when Mongolia was an economically backward Soviet client state. Technically he’s apolitical but undoubtedly, he wants his former Democratic Party to win. How he will address the country’s economic challenges has yet to be spelled out.

During the last parliamentary elections four years ago, it became clear that Mongolian voters had developed doubts about the establishment parties, the Diplomat wrote, pointing out how more than 8 percent of voters submitted a blank ballot.

Maybe this time around, these voters will take a chance on something new.

WANT TO KNOW

AUSTRIA

No Art, No Deal

The United States and Russia ended a round of nuclear arms control talks in Vienna Tuesday aimed at replacing the 2010 New Strategic Arms Treaty (New START) before it expires next year, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

The current treaty limits the number of long-range nuclear warheads each nation can have and has been considered as “last remaining nuclear arms control agreement,” according to RFE/RL.

The United States has pulled out or allowed the expiration of numerous international treaties, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and the Iran nuclear deal. It has complained that its bilateral arms control deals with Russia are outdated, adding that China must be included in future agreements.

Russian diplomats agreed that arms control talks must be multilateral but cautioned that Washington’s insistence on including China was “unrealistic.” Meanwhile, China has been developing its nuclear arsenal and has rejected requests to join the talks.

INDIA

Making Up, Slowly

China and India agreed to reduce tensions along their disputed border following a deadly scuffle last week considered the deadliest clash in decades, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday.

Chinese officials said Tuesday that military leaders from both sides “agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation.”

Troops from both sides have been engaged in a standoff in the disputed Galwan Valley along the 2,200-mile border since May.

This is the second time this month that Chinese and Indian commanders have attempted to defuse the tense situation in the disputed Himalayan region, the Wall Street Journal reported.

India reported that 20 of its soldiers were killed during the melee, adding that about 40 Chinese troops also died in the clash. China has yet to confirm any casualties.

Analysts told the Journal that the latest talks were a positive sign to reduce the tension and mistrust caused by the recent violence.

Since their 1962 border war, Indian and Chinese troops have frequently engaged in skirmishes involving yelling, pushing and throwing punches. But deaths have been rare – the last fatalities occurred in 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed by Chinese troops.

KIRIBATI

Bribery Gets You Everywhere

Kiribati’s incumbent President Taneti Maamau secured a second term earlier this week in a closely watched presidential run-off that could foster closer relations with China, Reuters reported.

Maamau campaigned on a pro-China platform and the results dashed any hopes that the central Pacific nation might reestablish diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Last year, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands were the latest nations to cut ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and says it has no right to bilateral ties.

Despite the victory, opposition politicians believe the government will approach opposition lawmakers to form a majority in parliament. That’s because Maamau’s party failed to win the majority of seats in April’s parliamentary elections, the Guardian reported.

Former President Anote Tong told Reuters that the next big challenge of the government is to also deliver on the promise of lavish Chinese investment.

DISCOVERIES

Tools for Survival

Wherever they went, early humans were able to adapt to any harsh environment and incorporate tools for their survival.

In fact, archaeologists recently discovered that ancient Homo sapiens developed bows and arrows to survive in the tropical rainforests of modern-day Sri Lanka around 48,000 years ago, Forbes reported.

In their study, the authors uncovered more than 130 bone tools from the Fa-Hien Lena cave, many of which had sharpened points – such as arrowheads or dart tips.

The researchers believe that some of these pointy tools were used for ranged hunting, suggesting that this is the oldest evidence of ancient archery found outside of Africa.

The team also came across other bone fragments that were likely used for fishing or sewing, as well as beads and other ancient pieces of jewelry.

The primitive jewelry suggests that they were used for personal decoration and to symbolize social status.

The discovery of ancient tools outside of Africa could mean that early humans developed these technologies many times over and created specialized tools based on their unique environment.

“Personal ornaments, bows and arrows, and social networks… were all part of this toolkit that allowed our species to inhabit this unique diversity of environments – and colonize basically all of the world’s continents,” said co-author Patrick Roberts.