July 09, 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: 3,055,101 (+1.97%)
  2. Brazil: 1,713,160 (+2.67%)
  3. India: 767,296 (+3.35%)
  4. Russia: 699,749 (0.00%)**
  5. Peru: 312,911 (+1.17%)
  6. Chile: 303,083 (+0.69%)
  7. UK: 288,511 (+0.22%)
  8. Mexico: 275,003 (+2.61%)
  9. Spain: 252,513 (+0.15%)
  10. Iran: 248,379 (+1.10%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

NEED TO KNOW

CHINA

Genocide By IUD

China is sterilizing hundreds of thousands of Uighur women to reduce its Muslim population even as it is encouraging women of the Han majority to bear more children, an Associated Press investigation found.

Officials have subjected hundreds of thousands of these women to pregnancy checks, forced use of intrauterine devices, birth control pills, shots to prevent pregnancy, sterilization and abortion over the past four years.

“Performance targets…Target 1: target population for intrauterine contraception device placement 524 people…Target 2: [target] population for sterilizations 14,872 people.”

Those quotes come from official Chinese documents that detailed plans to sterilize as much as a third of women from Uighur and other minority groups between the ages of 18 and 49 in the far-western province of Xinjiang, where a large Uighur community resides, according to Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, writing in Foreign Policy. He said China was perpetrating demographic genocide, a cultural extermination combined with a campaign of “ethno-racial supremacy.”

It began in 2017, when there was an unprecedented crackdown on the minority group, with hundreds of thousands thrown into prisons and camps for “signs of religious extremism” such as traveling abroad, praying or using foreign social media, the AP wrote in previous articles. Authorities launched “dragnet-style” investigations to root out parents with too many children, even those who gave birth decades ago.

One former teacher drafted to work as an instructor at a detention camp told the AP: It started with flag-raising assemblies at her compound at the beginning of 2017, where officials made Uighur residents recite “anti-terror” lessons. They chanted, “If we have too many children, we’re religious extremists…That means we have to go to the training centers.”

In some areas, women were ordered to take gynecology exams after the ceremonies, they told the news outlet. In others, officials outfitted special rooms with ultrasound scanners for pregnancy tests.

Fast-forward three years: Currently, the Chinese government is using the mass detention in internment camps both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply, the AP wrote. “Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines. Police raid homes, terrifying parents as they search for hidden children.”

The campaign is working: Birth rates in the mostly Uighur regions of Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018, the latest figures available, the AP wrote. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates continue to plummet, falling nearly 24 percent last year – compared to just 4.2 percent nationwide. In some Uighur counties, 2018 saw more deaths than births. In others, they have either leveled off to almost zero or the data is being withheld, Foreign Policy wrote.

Meanwhile, state-sponsored hackers have been secretly implanting malware into the Uighur population’s smartphones, collecting location data as well as DNA, voiceprints, facial scans and other personal data to transform Xinjiang into a virtual police state, the New York Times wrote. And China didn’t stop collecting or using the data at its borders: It followed the Uighurs into exile in 15 other countries.

The communist authorities also arrested and imprisoned hundreds of imams over the past few years, robbing the community of its leaders as the Chinese state prepared stricter measures, Voice of America reported.

In response to the allegations by the AP, the New York Times, Foreign Policy and other outlets, China said they are “fabricated” and “fake news”: They stress that the government treats all ethnicities equally and protects the legal rights of minorities. Chinese officials have said in the past that the new measures are merely meant to be fair, allowing both Han Chinese and ethnic minorities the same number of children, the AP wrote.

President Donald Trump recently signed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which would punish violations of human rights with sanctions, CNN explained. American officials have also cautioned US companies against working with Chinese businesses that might rely on Uighur forced labor or other abuses, reported Politico.

Even so, writing in the Guardian, Uighur expert Sean Roberts of George Washington University argued that the US has always tacitly – or possibly even explicitly – sanctioned China’s persecution of the Uighurs. China’s ongoing campaign against the Uighurs, Roberts wrote, “has never been a response to a terrorist threat, real or imagined – but a narrative of Islamist terrorism founded in the US-led ‘war on terror’ that has always served as its convenient justification.”

In the New Republic, the urgency of the group’s plight led editors to use the headline, “Uighur Lives Matter.” The conservative National Review thought more than sanctions were necessary to stop what was going on in concentration camps deep in China’s interior.

“Never again” used to mean something. Maybe it will again.

WANT TO KNOW

VENEZUELA

A Kill Shot

Venezuela’s government-controlled Supreme Court ordered the takeover of opposition leader Juan Guaido’s party, an attempt to hobble the opposition ahead of December’s parliamentary elections, Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The court removed the board of the Popular Will party and installed Jose Gregorio Noriega as its leader. Noriega was once a member of Popular Will but was expelled following accusations that he had colluded with President Nicolas Maduro’s allies.

The ruling follows another by the court a few weeks ago that ordered the takeover of two other opposition parties.

The action against the opposition parties is intended to help Maduro seize control of the National Assembly. Currently, the legislature, led by Guaido, remains the country’s only independent institution.

Guaido declared himself interim president in 2019 and has been recognized by more than 50 nations, including the United States, as the country’s legitimate leader.

Analysts say that if Maduro manages to seize the National Assembly, Guaido’s claim as Venezuela’s legitimate leader could be undermined.

Maduro has presided over the near-collapse of Venezuela’s economy with the population suffering from widespread food and fuel shortages despite the country’s vast oil resources.

SYRIA

When Food Becomes a Weapon

United Nations Security Council members are scrambling to create a resolution that would allow cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria after China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution earlier this week, the Guardian reported.

The draft resolution would have renewed a UN cross-border aid delivery mechanism, which was first set up in 2014.

The veto comes after months of negotiations between Security Council members over the number of cross-border points open for aid deliveries from Turkey to Syria.

Russia, which supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, objected to more than a six-month renewal and said it will only allow one border crossing – instead of the current two.

Its new proposal to further reduce crossing-points, however, was rejected Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported.

Moscow vetoed a similar resolution in January, which reduced the number crossing points from four to two and extended the aid mechanism to six months instead of a year.

China supported both vetoes and blamed US and European Union sanctions against Syria for the country’s dire situation.

The UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, told the Security Council last month that approximately 2.8 million people in northwestern Syria – 70 percent of the region’s population – need humanitarian assistance.

PUERTO RICO

Crisis After Crisis

Puerto Rico is bracing for political upheaval following new allegations that Governor Wanda Vazquez had obstructed justice in connection with the firing of the island’s justice secretary, NBC News reported.

Vazquez denied the allegations, saying she has “nothing to fear,” the outlet reported Tuesday.

Last week, Vazquez requested the resignation of Justice Secretary Dennise Longo Quinones “for improperly intervening in a federal investigation” looking into possible Medicaid fraud between 2014 and 2019. The governor said Tuesday that at the time of the possible fraud, Longo Quiñones’ mother was one of the people in charge of the Health Department.

But critics say Vazquez requested the resignation of Longo Quinones after the latter launched an investigation into the governor’s cabinet for mismanagement of emergency supplies in the wake of Puerto Rico’s powerful earthquakes in January. The allegations prompted the opposition to call for an investigation against Vazquez for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, while also hinting at a possible impeachment.

Meanwhile, the island’s Justice Department has launched high-profile probes including malfeasance in hiring and contracting in relation to the coronavirus pandemic response as well as the Telegram chat that led to the ouster of Gov. Ricardo Rossello last summer amid mass protests.

Vazquez, who is unelected, said she will run in next month’s primary for governor.

DISCOVERIES

When Reality Imitates Art

While the pandemic has left many with a bleak perspective on the future, scientists recently discovered that fans of movies and series like “Contagion” or “The Walking Dead” are having an easier time coping with the new realities, New York Post reported.

In a new study, lead author Coltan Scrivner and his team surveyed more than 300 people about the types of movies they like to watch. They then asked them about their experiences during the pandemic and how they coped.

Their findings showed that people who occasionally saw a horror film or an end-of-the-world movie were less upset about the current crisis, while those who enjoyed “prepper movies” – movies in which society crumbles – were more resilient during a calamity.

Scrivner told the Guardian that movies about pandemics – like “Contagion” – make people more familiar with quarantines, supply shortages and dubious information about miracle cures.

“You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies, so it doesn’t catch you off-guard so much,” said Scrivner.