June 29, 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: 2,549,028 (+1.54%)
  2. Brazil: 1,344,143 (+2.32%)
  3. Russia: 633,563 (+1.08%)
  4. India: 548,318 (+3.68%)
  5. UK: 312,640 (+0.29%)
  6. Peru: 279,419 (+1.24%)
  7. Chile: 271,982 (+1.57%)
  8. Spain: 248,770 (+0.12%)
  9. Italy: 240,310 (+0.07%)
  10. Iran: 222,669 (+1.13%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

NEED TO KNOW

ITALY

The Healing Power of Light

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the 1990s. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States established after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Britain’s Iraq Inquiry, also known as the Chilcot Inquiry after the panel’s chairman, Sir John Chilcot.

These probes cast light on national traumas that sometimes highlighted the incompetence, misrepresentations and evils of governments, analysts said. Sometimes they gave voice to victims who otherwise might never have received a chance to tell their stories. Sometimes critics painted them as well-intended but ultimately inadequate attempts to reveal the truth.

A comparable process is now occurring in Italy as investigators try to determine why the novel coronavirus ravaged the southern European country.

Prosecutors in Bergamo, a northern Italian province hard hit by the virus, questioned Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently, the Washington Post reported. They wanted to know why lockdowns and other measures occurred only after the country had already descended into disaster. The questioning was not open to the public.

But the cases of interest are well-known.

Investigators want to know why the first case of the virus in Italy in Pesenti Fenaroli hospital led to an emergency room shutdown that lasted only a few hours, wrote Crux. They are also asking why a Feb. 19 soccer match in Milan was allowed to happen, attracting 45,000 fans even though a public health emergency had been declared three weeks earlier. The match likely sparked the outbreak in Lombardy.

Such incidents are why the relatives of COVID-19 victims formed a community group called Noi Denunceremo (We Will Report) and filed 50 legal complaints against officials who they say didn’t do enough to protect people, the BBC reported.

“Calls are growing louder daily for leaders and officials to explain their actions – and inaction,” the Los Angeles Times wrote.

Italy has some unique circumstances, like the role of the mafia in the pandemic. But Italians aren’t the only ones who are angry.

Spaniards sued Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for “homicide due to grave negligence.” Tourists including Americans have filed a lawsuit against Austrian officials, saying they should have shut down ski resorts earlier but got greedy. Investigators, courts and others have launched probes in France and Sweden, reported Foreign Policy magazine. In Britain, opposition politicians are hammering Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his response to the pandemic.

Nursing homes are already becoming a focus of anger and grief. As CNN explained, half of the COVID-19 deaths in Belgium, France, Ireland, Canada and Norway were in nursing homes. CBS News featured a tragic story about one facility in Milan. In Spain, the government has vowed to pursue those who left sick patients in nursing homes to die after the virus was detected: The military found the bodies of victims when it went to the homes to offer assistance, NPR reported.

“We will be completely relentless,” Spanish defense minister, Margarita Robles, vowed.

She understands. Trauma doesn’t dissipate in the darkness.

WANT TO KNOW

RUSSIA

Of Killings, Bounties and Denials

Russia and the Taliban denied reports that a Russian military intelligence unit paid Taliban-linked militants to assassinate US and other coalition troops fighting in Afghanistan, the BBC reported over the weekend.

Unnamed US officials told the New York Times in a story published late last week that a unit of the GRU offered bounties last year in an attempt to destabilize coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The officials said that the US intelligence agencies had reached this conclusion months ago and had informed the White House in March.

US President Donald Trump denied he was informed on the matter. Meanwhile, Russia said that the Times was promoting “fake news,” using an expression initially coined by Trump.

The Taliban, meanwhile, argued that the “target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources.”

Twenty American soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2019, but it remains unclear which deaths have been attributed to the bounties.

United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban earlier this year to bring the 19-year war to an end.

EUROPEAN UNION

The Exclusive List

European Union diplomats said the bloc is close to finalizing the list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter Europe following border closures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus – a list likely to exclude Americans, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

Envoys have narrowed down most of the criteria for the list, which includes how a country has managed containment measures and the infection rate per 100,000 people. The list will be updated every 14 days with countries added or removed from the list as the situation develops.

Americans are expected to be left off of the list due to the surge in cases in recent weeks. The EU is also expected to bar citizens from other countries with high infection rates such as Brazil and Russia.

The EU said it is not trying to target any specific country or to politicize the issue. Instead, it is trying to balance public health concerns with reviving the EU’s coronavirus-battered economy: It wants the bloc to open its external borders to begin to revive tourism, an extremely important source of revenue.

More than 15 million Americans travel to Europe annually, and around 10 million Europeans visit the US each year.

MALAWI

Do-Overs and Make-Overs

Malawi’s new president, opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, was sworn in Sunday after a landmark win in last week’s presidential election do-over, Voice of America reported.

The rerun vote followed the nullification by Malawi’s Constitution Court of last year’s election: It ruled that the vote was marred by irregularities.

It was the first time a court-overturned vote in Africa has led to the defeat of an incumbent leader.

In the do-over, Chakwera won 58.8 percent of the vote, defeating two candidates, including incumbent President Peter Mutharika, who had been previously declared the winner of the election – last year – before it was declared invalid, Bloomberg reported.

Malawi is one of the world’s least developed nations and relies primarily on tourism and international aid to survive economically. The country also exports tea and burley tobacco – a low-quality variety of tobacco leaf.

Now, Chakwera’s multi-party coalition has promised to create one million jobs within the first year, reduce the price of fertilizer and curb corruption in the government.

DISCOVERIES

Pinker, Angrier and Healthier

In flamingo colonies, the pinkest birds are not very nice, according to a new study.

Lead researcher Paul Rose found that flamingos with bright plumage were the most aggressive when fighting over food, PA Media reported.

Rose and his colleague studied captive lesser flamingo species at the WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Britain, where they observed three feeding arrangements for the birds – an indoor feeding bowl, a large indoor feeding pool and a wide-open outdoor feeding pool.

They noted that flamingos pushed each other when feeding indoors with the brighter-colored birds displaying more aggression than the rest – regardless of gender.

However, this rough behavior was seen less when the birds ate in the outdoor pool.

Rose suggested that pinker feathers and rowdy behavior are indicators of good health in the flamboyant avian.

“A healthy flamingo that is an efficient feeder – demonstrated by its colorful feathers – will have more time and energy to be aggressive and dominant when feeding,” he explained.

He also argued that lesser flamingos need more space when they feed which can “encourage natural foraging patterns and reduce excess aggression.”

The authors advised the officials at the captivity center to implement some changes in bird welfare, such as more outdoor space.

After the changes were implemented, Rose quipped that the results revealed “pinker, more relaxed flamingos.”