The World Today for August 10, 2020

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Dear Readers,

For those of you interested in accessing the Covid-19 update, you can find it at the end of this edition of DailyChatter.

The DailyChatter Team

NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

Waves Ahead

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx recently told CNN that the US was entering a new, dangerous phase of the coronavirus pandemic. She added that Americans should consider wearing a mask inside their homes if they live with someone who has a preexisting condition that might make them more vulnerable to the virus.

The US has failed to control the coronavirus compared to other wealthy nations.

But the rest of the world, like the US, is girding for a resurgence of the virus that has already killed more than 700,000 people worldwide. Many countries whose leaders believed they had brought down Covid-19 cases are now seeing concerning upticks in infections, the Washington Post reported.

Asian countries viewed as models of containment – China, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam –have experienced spikes, wrote Voice of America. Vietnamese leaders had been boasting about 100 days without a new case, a remarkable accomplishment for a country bordering China, where the virus originated, and one where cross-border traffic is high.

Australia, another country that serves as a model, is also seeing new cases.

“On some days the virus wins, on other days we beat it,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an interview with NBC News. “But I think we’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus.”

Iran has detailed a spike in cases in recent weeks, Al Jazeera reported. Latin American countries are setting new records in the rate of infections, Reuters said. The pandemic has not yet struck Africa as hard as other regions but the spread there is accelerating, noted the BBC.

In Europe, France is warning everyone to stay vigilant and many cities are requiring masks to be worn in public, even outside. German officials issued warnings after thousands marched in Berlin to protest measures to stop the spread earlier this month, according to Politico. The protesters didn’t wear masks or social distance, leading the co-leader of the Social Democratic Party, Saskia Esken, to dub them “Covidiots.”

It’s hard not to blame Germans for wanting to slough off safety measures, though. In fact, the World Health Organization warned recently of “pandemic response fatigue” as a major potential factor in more cases, Agence France-Presse wrote.

That fatigue could lead to other worrisome developments. The Islamic State could use the pandemic as a chance to expand its reach in Africa, the Defense Post argued. Chinese officials used the pandemic as an excuse to postpone elections in Hong Kong, the New York Times noted. Covid-19 has forced a fundamental reassessment of the European Union among its members, warned the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It’s hard to tell if the second wave is more dangerous than the many tiny ripples that preceded it and now follow it.

WANT TO KNOW

LEBANON

Enraged

Enraged Lebanese protesters occupied government ministries and clashed violently with police in Beirut over the weekend following a huge explosion last week that ripped through the city and left more than 200 people dead, the Washington Post reported.

Demonstrators paraded gallows and nooses, and demanded the removal of Lebanon’s entire political class. “We hate our politicians. Every single one of them,” said a protester.

Anger was also focused on the powerful Shiite militia Hezbollah: The group is believed to have control over the port where the blast occurred: The area that stored 2,750 metric tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that was left unattended for six years.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Manal Abdel-Samad, Environment Minister Damianos Kattar and several members of parliament stepped down.

The explosion on Tuesday was felt more than 120 miles away in the island nation of Cyprus. It remains unclear as to what caused the explosion, or why so much nitrate was stored in the port. What is clear is that the dangers were known and yet the government did nothing to alleviate the situation, wrote Bloomberg.

Protests have been raging in Lebanon since last fall, over the deteriorating economic situation of the country – it is on the verge of collapse. Protestors are blaming the country’s political elite –saying it is corrupt and incompetent.

In response to the demonstrations, Prime Minister Hassan Diab offered early elections. The proposal was rejected by protesters.

Protest organizer Hussein El Achi said that the demonstrations were different from the earlier protests, explaining that pressure from the street might finally bring reform to the nation once known as the “Switzerland of the Middle East.”

AFGHANISTAN

Teetering and Tottering Toward Peace

Afghanistan’s grand assembly of elders, community leaders and politicians agreed Sunday to release 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the start of peace negotiations between the militant group and government to end nearly 19 years of war, Reuters reported.

The Loya Jirga’s decision fulfills a government pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, a controversial prerequisite set by the militants for them to join the peace talks.

Talks between the government and the Taliban will begin this week. Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani appealed to the insurgents to agree to a complete ceasefire ahead of the peace negotiations.

Meanwhile, civilians and rights groups have expressed concern over the prisoner release: The released prisoners are considered the “hardcore” fighters, accused of carrying out the bloodiest of attacks across the country.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s decision eases the way for the United States to withdraw troops from the war-torn nation.

In February, the US signed a deal with the armed group to reduce the number of foreign troops in return for Taliban security guarantees and a pledge to take part in peace negotiations with the government.

ISRAEL

Beaten Not Broken

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Jerusalem over the weekend in another round of demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli media said that more than 15,000 people – organizers estimated about 32,000 – rallied in front of the prime minister’s residence in what appeared to be the largest demonstration yet of a growing protest movement that began a few weeks ago.

In addition to outrage over his handling of the pandemic, protesters are demanding Netanyahu’s resignation due to his indictment in three corruption cases: He is accused of receiving gifts from billionaire friends and offering favors to media moguls in return for positive coverage.

He denies the charges and has called them part of a witch hunt to force him out of office. He and his supporters have also criticized the demonstrations as being organized by “anarchists.”

Israel, which has seen a resurgence of coronavirus infections, has more than 82,000 confirmed cases and nearly 600 deaths as of Sunday.

DISCOVERIES

Lending a Paw

Chile was struck by the worst wildfire in its history back in 2017: It resulted in the loss of 714,000 acres of land and the destruction of the town of Santa Olga, displacing thousands of residents.

Since the devastating event, sisters Francisca and Constanza Torres have been helping the forests in the Talca region to regrow with the help of their three border collies, the BBC reported. The pooches are equipped with backpacks full of seeds that fall to the ground through holes when the dogs run around.

The sisters explain that they picked border collies because they are smart, fast and energetic. The dogs can travel more than 18 miles in one day and drop more than 20 pounds of seeds. They said that the activity is “more like a field trip than a job” for the pups, adding that they get rewarded with lots of treats and love.

The idea was born because the sisters said they had to do something.

“We have lived here since we were very young and then there were lots of forest…full of animals,” said Constanza. “Now you can see there is nothing left…”

The sisters pay for everything themselves and hope to expand the project. Their work, meanwhile, has received international recognition and both California and Australia, which have suffered devastating wildfires of their own, have reached out to them.

Watch them and the dogs here.

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: 5,044,864 (+0.94%)
  2. Brazil: 3,035,422 (+0.76%)
  3. India: 2,215,074 (+2.88%)
  4. Russia: 890,799 (+0.57%)
  5. South Africa: 559,859 (+1.21%)
  6. Mexico: 480,278 (+0.92%)
  7. Peru: 478,024 (+1.49%)
  8. Colombia: 387,481 (+2.82%)
  9. Chile: 373,056 (+0.55%)
  10. Iran: 326,712 (+0.62%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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