August 04, 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: 4,717,568 (+1.06%)
  2. Brazil: 2,750,318 (+0.61%)
  3. India: 1,855,745 (+2.89%)
  4. Russia: 854,641 (+0.63%)
  5. South Africa: 516,862 (+1.05%)
  6. Mexico: 443,813 (+1.09%)
  7. Peru: 433,100 (+0.99%)
  8. Chile: 361,493 (+0.49%)
  9. Colombia: 327,850 (+3.21%)
  10. Iran: 312,035 (+0.84%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

Dear Readers,

Since we first introduced maps to DailyChatter more than a year ago, many of you have asked us when we would expand the map feature to cover all news items. We’re very pleased to take that step today. Thank you for your support.

Your DailyChatter Team

NEED TO KNOW

KENYA

No Easy Fix

Kenya has extended a nightly curfew for another month and banned alcohol sales to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures reflected a need to curb reckless behavior, especially among young people, that has led to a surge in virus cases, officials said. “The harsh reality my friends is that we are at war. At war with an invisible enemy who is relentless,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta in an address covered by Al Jazeera.

He stopped short of fully closing down the country, however, noted Reuters. “We cannot have a policeman at every street and in every village to enforce the rules,” Kenyatta said. “We need, as citizens, to hold ourselves and one another accountable.”

But some critics are wondering who is going to hold the government accountable as it curtails freedom of movement and civil rights to manage the public health emergency.

Citizens have submitted a flood of complaints about brutality among police enforcing the curfew, the New York Review of Books wrote. One death that arose from the curfew involved a young woman who slipped down a ravine as she sought to elude police. She fell into a river and drowned. Another was the shooting of a 13-year-old boy, Yassin Moyo, who was on the balcony of his house watching police enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew, one of at least 95 cases of killings they say were linked to police this year since the pandemic broke out, the Washington Post reported.

Pregnant women, meanwhile, can’t find functioning public transportation during curfew hours to get to hospitals even as they brave exposure to police on the streets, the Associated Press reported. Many opt to have their children at home with midwives but many fear needing more medical attention if something goes wrong during birth as well as hygiene conditions: They worry the midwife might be unwittingly spreading Covid-19.

Many Kenyans feel as if the government has abandoned them in a time of need, the Washington Post explained. Pessimism has set in. Kenyatta unveiled a coronavirus plan to run from February through April. Officials appeared to have abandoned it once the first case was registered in March.

Now, the education system, which includes private schools that operate on fees, is threatening to collapse, CGTN reported. Two million children are likely to shift into already overcrowded public schools as a result. Years of underfunding the health system are also taking a toll as hospitals struggle to care for patients without sufficient equipment, added the Conversation. Clean water is difficult to come by for the poor.

Kenyatta loosened restrictions he imposed in the early days of the pandemic because they caused the economy to shrink. A locust infestation didn’t help, either. Meanwhile, the country is considering waiving the two-week quarantine rule for tourists in a bid to revive commerce and bring in more foreign cash.

The money might help, but the world is still in the early days of a crisis that is going to take more than tourism to fix.

WANT TO KNOW

IRAN

Do The Math

The number of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic in Iran is nearly three times higher than what the government claims, according to the BBC citing leaked governmental documents.

The new data showed that almost 42,000 people died with symptoms of Covid-19 as of July 20, versus the 14,405 reported by the health ministry. The leaked information also noted that the number of confirmed cases is more than 450,000, as opposed to 278,827 as reported officially.

Among many other revelations, the documents showed that the first coronavirus death was recorded on Jan. 22, nearly one month before the government officially acknowledged the viral outbreak – by then more than 50 people had died.

International observers and health officials have expressed doubts at Iran’s official numbers since the start of the pandemic.

Analysts believe Iran began covering up the true toll because of several important events and crises in the weeks before and after the start of the pandemic, the BBC wrote. The outbreak coincided with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and parliamentary elections in February – which had a very low turnout.

Iran was also dealing with the aftermath of the US assassination of top general Qassim Soleimani and the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner taking off from Tehran by the military.

BRAZIL

Fighting Fires

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said that fires in the Amazon have increased by a whopping 28 percent from a year ago, despite government pledges to reduce deforestation in the rainforest, the Independent reported Monday.

The agency recorded a total of 6,803 fires last month compared to 5,318 in the same month in 2019.

The huge increase has sparked concern that another wave of devastating fires might occur as it did in August 2019, when 30,900 fires were recorded by the institute – marking a 12-year high.

Environmentalists and the international community have voiced concern over the policies of rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for opening up the Amazon to farming, logging and mining to boost Brazil’s economy, according to the New York Times.

Bolsonaro has changed his stance following international pressure: In May, he deployed the military to protect the rainforest and last month he ordered a ban on forest fires for four months.

Despite the measures, analysts believe that these actions amount to little more than damage control.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s worsening reputation has thrown up roadblocks to its two main foreign policy goals – a trade deal with the European Union and membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

AFGHANISTAN

A Peace With No Peace

Afghan forces retook control of the Jalalabad prison in eastern Afghanistan Monday following a 20-hour siege against Islamic State militants that resulted in at least 29 dead and 300 escaped inmates, Bloomberg reported.

The attack began Sunday night as militants attempted to free hundreds of its members from the prison.

Analyst Jawid Kohistani said the siege was one of the group’s “major and rare attacks on a government facility,” and warned that (Islamic State) could become the top insurgent group in Afghanistan, potentially “replacing the Taliban.”

The Taliban, meanwhile, declared a three-day ceasefire with the government during the Eid al-Adha festival. It has denied involvement in Sunday’s prison break.

The attack comes as the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan are preparing to withdraw from the war-torn nation, following a peace deal between Washington and the Taliban in February.

The deal includes negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end the 19-year war.

Despite peace efforts, violence continues: The United Nations reported that nearly 1,300 were killed in the first half of 2020, with the Taliban and Islamic State making up 58 percent of the casualties.

DISCOVERIES

Dr. Frankenstein’s Caviar

The Russian sturgeon is known for its fine caviar but overfishing and a loss of habitat have made it critically endangered.

To alleviate this situation, Hungarian scientists attempted to breed the large, slow-growing fish in captivity but ended up creating something that hadn’t been thought possible: They accidentally bred a new hybrid species they called “sturddlefish,” Live Science reported.

In their study, researchers combined the eggs of the sturgeon with the sperm of American paddlefish – another large, slow-growing fish – using gynogenesis, a type of asexual reproduction.

Gynogenesis allows the sperm to trigger an egg’s development without fusing to its nucleus, which means that the offspring will only have maternal DNA.

But in this case, the sperm and the eggs of the two fish fused together and produced the odd descendants.

“We never wanted to play around with hybridization. It was absolutely unintentional,” co-author Attila Mozsár told the New York Times.

Mozsár’s team created about a hundred hybrids which are a mix between both species. They don’t plan to release them in nature, as the hybrids might outcompete native sturgeons.

The team believes the sturddlefish are sterile, similar to other hybrids, such as the liger – a lion-tiger hybrid.