July 03, 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: 2,739,879 (+1.99%)
  2. Brazil: 1,496,858 (+3.32%)
  3. Russia: 660,231 (+1.03%)
  4. India: 625,544 (+3.46%)
  5. Peru: 292,004 (+1.22%)
  6. UK: 285,268 (-9.44%)**
  7. Chile: 284,541 (+0.89%)
  8. Spain: 250,103 (+0.18%)
  9. Italy: 240,961 (+0.08%)
  10. Mexico: 238,511 (+2.91%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

NEED TO KNOW

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Pot-and-Pan Democracy

The Dominican Republic began welcoming tourists on July 1, the Points Guy explained.

That’s good news for a country that depends heavily on tourism. But it won’t necessarily help ruling party presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo, who is trailing in the polls behind opposition politician Luis Abinader ahead of the upcoming elections, reported Dominican Today, an English-language newspaper based in the capital of Santo Domingo. Abinader now has a projected 55 percent of the vote versus Castillo’s 36 percent.

Castillo is the minister of public works and communications in the cabinet of incumbent President Danilo Medina, who has served two terms and can’t run for reelection again under the law. Elections are slated for July 5.

The last few months have been hard for Medina.

Last month, protesters took to the streets in the name of George Floyd, the African American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis in late May. Their demonstrations were uniquely Dominican, though, as the protesters called for better treatment of ethnic Haitians who say they face discrimination in the Spanish-speaking country.

Ultranationalists organized counter-protests, however, saying they wanted to “defend against the Haitian invasion,” the Guardian reported.

The civil unrest was likely worse because leaders suspended municipal elections in February after they discovered that something was wrong with their voting machines. As the New York Times explained, people weren’t happy that officials had found a technical flaw. They were suspicious because Medina and Castillo’s Dominican Liberation Party has run the government for 24 years, evoking memories of the dictators who ran the country in the last century.

Local elections were subsequently held on March 15. Abinader’s Modern Revolutionary Party won handily, wrote National Public Radio. But officials decided to postpone the presidential elections slated for two days later in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Since then, folks have taken to banging pots and pans to celebrate the expected ouster of the Dominican Liberation Party.

Some wonder if the July 5 elections will happen if a second surge of the coronavirus occurs as the country’s economy ramps up for tourists, wrote the National Law Journal. The country is the hardest-hit nation in the Caribbean with almost 33,000 confirmed cases and about 750 deaths as of July 1.

Even so, voters like Edwin Disla say COVID-19 won’t stop them from casting a ballot. “I have no doubt. I’m going to vote. I don’t have any fear over it. I’ll probably go and vote at dawn! I’ve always voted,” Disla told Agence-France Presse.

But Abinader and his wife have admitted that they have the virus, wrote Prensa Latina, a Cuban state-owned news agency. The announcement has raised questions about whether the new president might be too ill – or worse – to take the helm of the country.

Call it the summer of uncertainty.

WANT TO KNOW

BOTSWANA

A Silent Killer

Botswanan wildlife officials said Thursday that hundreds of elephants have mysteriously died in the country’s famed Okavango Delta, ruling out poachers as responsible.

“We have had a report of 356 dead elephants in the area north of the Okavango Delta and we have confirmed 275 so far,” Cyril Taolo, the acting director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, told Agence France-Presse.

Taolo said that poachers aren’t likely responsible because the tusks remained intact on the dead elephants – poachers kill elephants to sell their tusks.

Conservation charity Elephants Without Borders released a report last month saying similar deaths were first reported in May in the northwest of the country.

The charity suspects that elephants have been dying in the region for about three months, adding that a few live elephants were spotted showing signs of weakness and disorientation, or limping.

Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated to be around 130,000.

VENEZUELA

Shut Out

The British High Court rejected Venezuela’s demand to access $1 billion of its gold reserves stored at the Bank of England Thursday, dealing a blow to the embattled government of President Nicolas Maduro, the BBC reported.

The court ruled that Britain doesn’t recognize Maduro as the country’s president therefore Maduro cannot access the assets on the country’s behalf. Britain recognizes his rival, Juan Guaido, who declared himself Venezuela’s acting president last year.

Cash-strapped Venezuela had demanded the release of the gold reserves after the British and American governments imposed sanctions on Maduro’s government. Venezuela says it needs the gold to fund the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Guaido, however, told the bank to deny access, saying it would fuel corruption.

Guaido is recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s president but Maduro still controls the country’s security forces and most institutions.

Despite its vast oil reserves, Venezuela is suffering a deep economic crisis following years of government mismanagement, corruption and international sanctions. Its foreign currency reserves are nearly depleted.

The country needs to import most of its necessities from abroad, prompting the government to sell off its gold reserves to allies, namely Russia and Iran.

MONTENEGRO

Love and Equality

Montenegro became the first European country outside the European Union to legalize same-sex civil partnership, a milestone for the Balkan nation seeking to join the bloc, Euronews reported Thursday.

Forty-two lawmakers voted in favor of the bill earlier this week, which will give same-sex couples rights equal to heterosexual ones, except the right to adoption.

The bill was initially rejected last year after strong resistance from the Serbian Orthodox Church, the largest religious community in the small Balkan nation.

LGBT rights activists have praised the bill. Prime Minister Dusko Markovic called it “a great step” for Montenegro.

The country hopes that the new law will help its efforts to join the EU: It has been trying to improve minority rights – a necessary step to join the bloc.

Montenegro is a conservative society and the LGBT community has often faced harassment, the news outlet said.

DISCOVERIES

The Big Softies

Over the years, paleontologists have had more luck finding dinosaur bones than eggs: They recently discovered why.

Two recently published studies suggest that some dinosaur eggs weren’t hard-shelled but softer and squishier, CNET reported.

In the first study, lead author Mark Norell said that most egg fossils found come from late in the dinosaur timeline – closer to the mass extinction event about 66 million years ago.

He and his team discovered that some species of giant lizards such as Protoceratops and Mussaurus produced soft-shelled eggs which they buried and incubated in moist soils – like some reptiles do nowadays.

Norell explained that soft eggs disintegrate before fossilizing.

While Norell wasn’t able to find the remains of a preserved egg, another group of scientists came across the first fossilized egg found in Antarctica.

That team reported that it might have belonged to a Mosasaur, a large marine dinosaur that swam the Earth’s oceans nearly 66 million years ago.

Both papers suggest that dinosaur eggs might have been more similar to soft reptilian eggs than the calcified eggs seen in their chicken descendants.

Still, more research is needed to determine how the big softies evolved to become hardened eggs.