July 22, 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: 3,902,135 (+1.86%)
  2. Brazil: 2,159,654 (+1.94%)
  3. India: 1,193,078 (+3.27%)
  4. Russia: 787,846 (+1.50%)
  5. South Africa: 381,798 (+2.19%)
  6. Peru: 362,087 (+2.40%)
  7. Mexico: 356,255 (+1.96%)
  8. Chile: 334,683 (+1.13%)
  9. UK: 297,389 (+0.15%)
  10. Iran: 278,827 (+0.95%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

NEED TO KNOW

MALI

What Color is Your Revolution?

As violent protests rocked the West African country, the son of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned his position as chairman of the powerful defense committee in parliament.

“I no longer wish to be an argument for people in need of a program, nor to be an obstacle to dialogue between Malians to achieve a calming of the socio-political situation of our country,” said Karim Keita, according to CNN.

It was a remarkable concession at a time when protesters are fed up with their leaders in the capital, Bamako.

At least 11 demonstrators have died in protests that started earlier this month after a coalition of religious leaders, civil rights groups and political dissidents demanded the president’s resignation, Al Jazeera wrote. Protesters have ransacked parliament, besieged the public broadcaster and raided an office belonging to Keita’s political party, the Associated Press reported.

The protesters in the so-called June 5 Movement are angry over lingering economic woes, government corruption, contested elections earlier this year as well as Keita’s handling of an armed rebellion by Tuaregs that erupted in the former French colony in 2012 and has since spread to Burkina Faso and Niger after becoming co-opted by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic state. Thousands have perished in the fighting and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

A leader of that long-running Islamist insurgency, Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoude, is accused of perpetrating a “reign of terror” that included torture and sexual slavery when he controlled the police in Timbuktu before Malian and French forces liberated the city, wrote the BBC. His trial on charges of sexual slavery, genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands began this month, reported Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, human rights violations continue in areas where the insurgency still smolders.

Keita, 75, took office in 2013 after the last democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup in 2012. He has three years before his term expires.

Regional leaders are concerned that instability will spread from Mali unless Keita or someone else can regain control. The Economic Community of West African States has dispatched former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and others to mediate between the two sides, Africa News reported. So far, there has been little progress, Reuters said.

Keita has promised reforms to the constitutional court, whose justices certified election results that opposition leaders said didn’t match tallies at polling stations. Earlier this month, he dissolved the court, France 24 reported. Meanwhile, he also released jailed political opponents in a bid to calm tensions. Even so, protesters died because the Antiterrorist Special Forces were deployed against protesters, who continue to complain about the jailing of government opponents, the Africa Report noted.

Meanwhile, protest leader Mahmoud Dicko, a Muslim cleric who has been critical of homosexuality, alcohol and women’s rights in the past, has not displayed clear goals for the protests, the Financial Times reported, though analysts doubt the imam wants to be in charge.

The problem is, no one is sure who is in charge right now.

WANT TO KNOW

EUROPEAN UNION

Moving On

European Union leaders agreed to a €750 billion ($861.8 billion) plan to help the bloc recover from the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, a landmark decision that has tested the EU’s ability to overcome internal political divisions, the Financial Times reported.

After four days of intense talks, leaders created a package of €390 billion in grants and €360 billion in loans to shore up the bloc’s economies after shutdowns led to a steep decline in growth.

The new deal is a scaled-down version – due to opposition from more fiscally sound member states – of what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed in May, which recommended €500 billion in grants.

The recovery fund is part of the EU’s upcoming €1.074 trillion seven-year budget.

The fund will be distributed to EU states based on the level of economic harm suffered. It comes with a condition: Funds can be blocked if a country fails to abide by the bloc’s democratic values and rule-of-law principles – a condition opposed by Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who the bloc’s leaders deem illiberal.

The new plan marks a giant leap in fiscal integration and has been labeled a symbolic demonstration of solidarity in response to the pandemic, according to Politico.

SUDAN

The Reckoning

The trial against ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir began in the capital Tuesday over his role in the 1989 military coup that brought him to power, the BBC reported.

Bashir and 20 other former officials, including former vice presidents Ali Osman Taha and Bakri Hassan Saleh, are accused of plotting the coup that brought down the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadek al-Mahdi.

Bashir was convicted of corruption earlier this year, and could face the death penalty if found guilty in the current trial. His lawyers say Bashir and the other defendants are facing “a political trial” being held “in a hostile environment.”

The deposed autocrat is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide in the Darfur region.

The longtime leader was deposed from power last year, following popular protests against his regime. A new transitional government was formed in August made up of top military officials and civilians.

BANGLADESH

The Real Fakes

Bangladeshi authorities began a massive drive to stamp out a scheme that provided fake coronavirus clearance certificates following the recent arrest of high-profile medical officials, including the chairman of a hospital, involved in the scam, Arab News reported.

The officials are accused of creating fake Covid-19 certificates – attesting to the holder’s negative status – sold to migrant workers from Bangladesh eager to return to work overseas. Law enforcement officials said that more than 20 people have been arrested for involvement in the scheme since the fake documents first came to light last month.

Bangladesh’s elite force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), has arrested officials and doctors from different health facilities who were charging exorbitant prices for Covid-19 tests and treatment.

“The hospital was also conducting COVID-19 tests using unauthorized kits and charging people $125 for each report,” RAB Executive Magistrate Sarwar Alam told Arab News. The government has set the test rates at $2.5 for public hospitals and $43 for private ones.

Officials from RAB fear that health facilities have issued more than 20,000 fake certificates, even as some with the documents ended up hospitalized with the illness. Meanwhile, the country’s anti-corruption commission is conducting three probes against health ministry officials for their involvement in the scheme.

There are currently more than 210,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bangladesh and more than 2,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

DISCOVERIES

Protection Is Profitable

Environmental policies generally translate into higher costs for the average consumer but a new report has found that there are big economic payoffs to conservation efforts.

The Campaign for Nature charity said recently that protecting at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans would generate increased economic output of up to $454 billion a year, the Guardian reported.

“There is a large financial return…,” said co-author Thomas Lovejoy. “Protecting the goose does indeed produce golden eggs.”

The report said it would require $140 billion a year by 2030 to set aside 30 percent of the world’s land and marine space for protection. Currently, about 15 percent of the Earth’s land and seven percent of marine space is conserved.

The findings suggested that nature conservation would generate economic growth of four to six percent per year, compared with one percent per year currently for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Meanwhile, the report adds that conservation efforts would help to mitigate the impact of climate change, reducing natural disasters such as floods, storms and droughts.

“The benefits to humanity are incalculable and the cost of inaction is unthinkable,” said Jamison Ervin of the United Nations Development Program. “This report unequivocally tells us that the time to finance nature, for people and for the planet, is now.”