The World Today for July 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: 4,352,084 (+1.33%)
  2. Brazil: 2,483,191 (+1.67%)
  3. India: 1,531,669 (+3.49%)
  4. Russia: 822,060 (0.00%)**
  5. South Africa: 459,761 (+1.60%)
  6. Mexico: 402,761 (+1.84%)
  7. Peru: 395,005 (+1.36%)
  8. Chile: 349,800 (+0.54%)
  9. UK: 302,295 (+0.19%)
  10. Iran: 296,273 (+0.91%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country



Oh, the Places You’ll (Not) Go!

The Irish are complaining about American tourists who thoughtlessly flout self-quarantining rules for visitors to the Emerald Isle.

They aren’t reconsidering their tough stance just because Americans are the largest source of tourism revenue in Ireland. “The first thing I want to see is American guests return,” hotelier Simon Haden of County Clare in western Ireland told the New York Times. “But not if it’s going to put the health and safety of our guests, our staff, the community under threat after the sacrifices we’ve made.”

Citizens of the United States have long enjoyed what frequent international travelers called “passport privilege.”  The coronavirus pandemic is now precipitating a reversal in fortunes.

Canadian authorities fined Americans for flouting entry restrictions. While some Canadian businesses are hurting due to a slowdown of traffic, most Canadian citizens don’t want a more open border with the US right now, blaming the US for bringing Covid-19 into Canada according to the Washington Post.

“Canadians look at what’s happening with the spread of Covid in the United States and their comparatively better performance at getting it under control,” said Edward Alden, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And they have no interest at all in Americans coming to Canada.”

People like Eric Brown in Ontario are torn. He runs fishing lodges and Americans are 95 percent of his business. Travel restrictions on the U.S.-Canada border, he said, have “absolutely devastated us,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s just heartbreaking to watch it all dissolve – 42 years of my legacy disappear in one season.”

Meanwhile, Mexican governors are calling for tighter restrictions on Americans entering the Latin American country due to the US’ high Covid-19 infection rate. In the Mexican town of Sonoyta on the Arizona border, residents used their cars and trucks to block the road to Puerto Peñasco, a beach town on the Sea of Cortés popular among American tourists whom the locals feared might spread the virus, the Guardian wrote.

Mexico is one of the few countries in the world that now accepts American visitors with few restrictions. Most nations have barred Americans owing to the rapid spread of the virus within the country.

The European Union recently extended its travel ban on Americans as the infection rate in the US continues to mount, USA Today wrote. Australians and South Koreans were recently readmitted. EU officials had a key requirement – to only admit individuals from countries with the same or better track record as the 27-member bloc regarding new infections.

The ban on Americans isn’t a joke. Sardinian authorities recently turned away five American tourists who arrived on the Mediterranean island in a private jet due to virus concerns, CNN reported.

“Americans are the dangerous, disease-carrying foreigners now,” was the headline of an op-ed in the Washington Post.

Some countries have banned all foreign entries. Expatriates in Japan are banned from returning to the country if they leave, wrote the Japan Times. The rule puts an enormous pressure on folks who can’t plan much of a future in the country if they can never leave for family, business or pleasure.

Before the pandemic, global travel was a way of life for folks in rich countries, almost seen as a right. Now it is becoming a privilege.



The Fit Bit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled new national health plans this week aimed at boosting public fitness to counter the coronavirus pandemic, saying his bout with the illness had inspired him to shed pounds and get into shape.

On Tuesday, Johnson announced plans for a “cycling and walking revolution” that would recalibrate the way people move around towns and cities, CNBC reported. The initiative will include cycling training for children and adults and creating “low-traffic neighborhoods.”

A day earlier, he unveiled a new anti-obesity program that would limit the advertising of junk food and require eateries to post calories for food and drinks, according to the Washington Post.

“I was too fat,” Johnson says in a video released with the program about his physique back in April when he was sick with Covid-19. Johnson said that he had struggled with weight problems in the past and that he decided to get in better shape following his illness.

The fitness plan received mixed reviews in the country. “I wouldn’t see it as a major revolution to beat obesity but it’s certainly a positive step,” said Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London.


Wheels Cranking, Slowly…

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power for his involvement in the 1MDB fund scandal, considered one of the world’s biggest embezzlement cases, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A Malaysian court sentenced the former leader to 12 years in prison and ordered him to pay $50 million.

The ruling marks the first in a string of cases against Najib over allegations that he and other government officials embezzled more than $4.5 billion from the state investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd. – or 1MDB – launched in 2009 to boost Malaysia’s economy.

United States officials said that some of the money taken from the fund was used to finance Hollywood movies, such as the “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dumb and Dumber To.”

Najib has denied any wrongdoing and will appeal the verdict.

The outrage over the scandal cost Najib the election in 2018, marking the first time his party was out of power since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. Political instability this year allowed the return of his party, which joined in a coalition led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The trial was seen as a test for Muhyiddin: Many wondered if he would uphold the rule of law or defend the former leader.


A Blaze of Destruction

Nearly three billion animals were displaced or killed during Australia’s devastating bushfire season of 2019 and 2020, according to a new report commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Researchers wrote that nearly 143 million mammals, 180 million birds, 51 million frogs and 2.5 billion reptiles were impacted by the fires that raged in the continent.

“This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” WWF-Australia’s Chief Executive Dermot O’Gorman told the Guardian.

The study covered a torched zone of 11.46 million hectares – roughly the size of England – and was the first to attempt a continent-wide analysis of the impact of the bushfires on animals.

Scientists pointed out that the study showed the extent to which the large fires could negatively impact the continent’s biodiversity. They emphasized the need to tackle the climate crisis and halt the clearing of land for agriculture and development.

The new WWF-backed report is the latest in a string of papers aimed at analyzing the devastation caused by the fires. This month, another report discovered that 49 native species not currently listed as threatened could now be at risk.


A Cat on the Steppe

Ancient Egyptians and Romans liked having cats as pets and a new study has found that other ancient peoples did as well.

Archaeologists found the skeleton of a cat along the Silk Road in southern Kazakhstan believed to have been a pet for the nomadic tribes in the area, CNN reported. Researchers found the cat remains near the ancient city of Dhzankent, which was once the capital of the nomadic Oghuz people that lived on the Central Asian steppes.

Analysis of the bones revealed that the cat suffered a lot of trauma during its life: It had multiple fractures and lacked a full set of teeth. However, the researchers noted that the cat was well-cared for and well-fed. They added that the animal was given a diet consisting of high-protein, higher than the dogs and other animals on the same archaeological site.

The authors say that it’s uncommon to find domesticated cats in the old city since the Oghuz only had animals that served a purpose. But cats were the exception.

“The people at the city of Dhzankent not only kept this cat but kept him alive and cared for him,” said lead author Ashleigh Haruda.

Haruda hopes to learn more about the life of other animals that traveled the ancient Silk Road trade route for centuries with their humans.

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