July 07, 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: 2,938,624 (+1.73%)
  2. Brazil: 1,623,284 (+1.26%)
  3. India: 719,664 (+3.19%)
  4. Russia: 686,852 (+0.01%)
  5. Peru: 305,703 (+0.99%)
  6. Chile: 298,557 (+1.02%)
  7. UK: 287,291 (+0.13%)
  8. Mexico: 261,750 (+1.91%)
  9. Spain: 251,789 (+0.50%)
  10. Iran: 243,051 (+1.09%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

NEED TO KNOW

SINGAPORE

Lee Versus Lee

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s chances for reelection on July 10 improved considerably once his brother decided not to run against him.

As Nikkei Asian Review reported, the prime minister and his estranged younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, are the scions of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister and co-founder of the People’s Action Party, which has ruled the Southeast Asian nation since independence in 1965.

The Lee siblings have been fighting over their father’s estate and legacy in the four years since he died. Among other disputes, Reuters wrote, one side alleges that their late father wanted his house demolished while the prime minister believes it should become a historic landmark.

The younger Lee dropped a bombshell recently when he announced he would become a member of the opposition Progress Singapore Party, a breakaway group of the People’s Action Party. The move fueled speculation that he would seek to run against his brother in a bid to overturn the established order in the former British colony, the Press Association reported.

Ultimately, he opted not to run for prime minister but promised to remain a critic of the government. “We need new ideas to reinvigorate Singapore,” he said. “We must have genuine discussions and rigorous debate involving a diversity of Singaporean voices as we seek to navigate the challenging waters ahead.”

The coronavirus and the pandemic’s economic damage have been dominating the campaign trail, Bloomberg wrote. The government is taking credit for handling a disaster while critics are scoring points by highlighting the higher cost of living. “You Deserve Better” is the Progress Singapore Party’s campaign slogan.

Meanwhile, Singapore ranks among the worst-hit countries in the world for the coronavirus. The country earned international plaudits for its handling of the early stages of the public health emergency but later surges in infections gave way to a sense that the virus had overwhelmed officials.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s democracy is hardly robust. Writing in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, civil rights activists noted that the coronavirus has given the Singaporean government an opportunity to ramp up surveillance, invade privacy and compromise civil rights.

The Workers’ Party’s six lawmakers are currently the only opposition party in parliament. They fear a “wipeout” that could result in one-party rule, the South China Morning Post added.

As the prime minister’s family heals, so might the nation. Or maybe not.

WANT TO KNOW

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Fresh Start

Opposition candidate Luis Rodolfo Abinader declared victory in Sunday’s presidential elections, abruptly ending the ruling party’s 16-year grip on power, Reuters reported Monday.

Early returns showed that Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party won more than 53 percent of the vote, while the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) candidate, Gonzalo Castillo, secured around 37 percent.

Abinader will replace outgoing President Danilo Medina, who was ineligible to run for a third term.

The vote took place as the Caribbean nation continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic: There are more than 37,000 confirmed cases and 794 deaths as of Monday in the country of around 11 million.

Meanwhile, the economy is cratering – the pandemic dealt a major blow to tourism, a key industry in the country.

Analysts said voters opted for a fresh start because even though the PLD has a strong economic record, its achievements are overshadowed by its mismanagement of the outbreak, rising inequality and allegations of corruption.

INDIA

Line in the Sand

China began pulling back its troops along the contested border with India Monday, a few weeks after Indian and Chinese soldiers engaged in the deadliest clash between the world’s two most populous nations in nearly 50 years, Al Jazeera reported.

Indian government officials said that Chinese troops were seen dismantling tents and structures in the Galwan Valley near the site where a scuffle last month led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said that both nations were “taking effective measures to disengage and ease the situation on the border.”

The pullback ends a months-long standoff between the two nuclear powers over thousands of square miles of disputed borderland.

Analysts said the dispute has to do with Chinese resistance to India’s construction of military infrastructure at the de facto border over the past few years. Others believe the dispute arose after India repealed Article 370 of its constitution, which had guaranteed partial autonomy to Indian-administered Kashmir, including disputed areas of the Ladakh region – where the clashes occurred.

CROATIA

Winners and Kingmakers

Croatia’s ruling rightwing party won Sunday’s parliamentary elections but failed to secure a majority needed to form a government, Euronews reported Monday.

The governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 66 seats in the country’s 151-member parliament, while the Restart Coalition alliance – led by the Social Democratic Party – secured 41 seats, results showed.

Turnout was a low 46 percent, which analysts said could undermine the future government’s legitimacy.

Now, analysts say the HDZ will need to form a coalition government with other rightwing parties, worrying that it might unite with the far-right Homeland Movement of folk singer Miroslav Skoro.

Skoro’s party won 16 seats, and his presence in a future government could make him a kingmaker.

A key issue during the election is the growing economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic: It has devastated the country’s tourism sector, which contributes more than 20 percent to Croatia’s gross domestic product.

DISCOVERIES

It’s Raining Gems, Hallelujah!

Scientists know very little about Neptune and Uranus, the remote ice giants of our solar system. But one big mystery they have been dying to solve is how chemical reactions inside both planets cause diamonds to rain down on their cores, according to Popular Mechanics.

In a recent study, scientists have finally figured out how this sparkly rain occurs by recreating Neptune’s conditions in a lab.

Co-author Dominic Kraus and his colleagues used hydrocarbon polystyrene – better known as Styrofoam – to replace the methane found inside Neptune.

They applied heat and pressure to the polystyrene and then blasted it with an optical laser to create shockwaves that generated temperatures of up to 8,540 degrees Fahrenheit as well as immense pressure. The team then applied an X-ray laser – known as Linac Coherent Light Source – to measure how the light bounced off of electrons inside the material.

The results showed that the hydrocarbons started breaking apart: The carbon became diamonds and sank, while the hydrogen escaped.

The authors explained that the experiment may explain why Neptune’s core produces a lot of heat. They also suggested that the diamonds produce gravitational and subsequently heat energy as they rain down.

Kraus said ultimately the study can help solve more mysteries of our solar system and help us to learn more about other distant planets in the Milky Way galaxy.