October 06, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

End of the Beginning

More people have died from the coronavirus since late last year than HIV, malaria, influenza and cholera combined. Covid-19 might have supplanted tuberculosis and hepatitis as the world’s most lethal infection. The major difference between the new plague and those of old is that the former is still spreading – and quickly.

More than 1 million people have died from the virus worldwide.

“Like nothing seen in more than a century, the coronavirus has infiltrated every populated patch of the globe, sowing terror and poverty, infecting millions of people in some nations and paralyzing entire economies,” wrote the New York Times.

Ironically, in a sense, it has united the whole world.

Italy perhaps has been the most uplifting case study in the pandemic so far. Struck hard by the virus early this year, innovative and widespread testing and other measures have recently pushed rates in the country to among the lowest in Europe, the BBC reported. This Euronews broadcast provided more insight into Italy’s success, citing widespread public acceptance of safety measures among the most important factors.

Still, infections are up, meanwhile, in neighboring France, where officials recently instituted a ban on gyms, bars and parties in hard-hit areas such as Paris but are still allowing restaurants to stay open, for now, TheLocal wrote. Businesses in Paris and elsewhere portrayed the measure as yet another imposition that would hasten their demise. They’ve launched a campaign, “Let’s Stay Open” to push for help.

Germany, Iceland and other European countries are tightening restrictions on gatherings as cases also rise, fearing the need for a second lockdown.

Israel, meanwhile, was forced to revive a lockdown to stem rising cases there.

China, where the virus originated, is sending 240 million children back to school, NBC’s Today reported. The video detailed how kids undergo temperature checks, hand sanitizing and three tests per day. By law, parents must sign declarations that their children are well. There are no after-school activities and no team sports.

But Chinese leaders have also embraced the arguments of French bartenders who want to keep the country’s economy humming, wrote the Guardian. Those leaders have encouraged citizens to travel during Golden Week, when families traditionally go on vacation, knowing that consumer spending is crucial to the Chinese economy rebounding after lockdowns. Signs that those travelers might have spread the virus have already been reported in the South China Morning Post.

The virus has ravaged Latin America. The extent of the spread in the region might have led to the world’s first case of herd immunity in Manaus, a city in the Brazilian Amazon region, MIT Technology Review explained. Still, as Reuters reported, the virus is far from done. In Mexico, for example, the working class cannot easily social distance if they expect to make a living. As a result, the virus is still claiming lives at an increasing pace.

The world might have reached the end of the beginning of the pandemic, which is at least a step forward.

WANT TO KNOW

KYRGYZSTAN

Dégage!

Kyrgyzstan’s Central Election Commission annulled the results of the Oct. 4 parliamentary elections after thousands of protesters stormed state buildings and took over government institutions, saying the election was rigged, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

Protesters broke into the building housing the parliament and presidential offices in the capital, Bishkek, as well as television and security buildings. They set free Almazbek Atambayev, a former president jailed on corruption charges. Meanwhile, the protests left one person dead and 590 injured.

President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said through a spokesperson that he remained “in control” of the country but his whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, he urged his opponents to end the unrest saying he had ordered security forces not to open fire. Even so, police used water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

On Monday, protesters chanted “President Jeenbekov, Must Go Away!” as popular singers joined politicians in addressing the crowd. Protests also broke out in other towns and cities, including the northern city of Talas and the central region of Naryn.

That followed an announcement by election officials also Monday that parties associated with the president won a majority of the seats, and only one opposition party gained enough votes to clear the seven percent threshold to enter the 120-seat Supreme Council.

Opposition parties and their supporters called the vote “the dirtiest elections” in the country’s history: They allege the vote was rigged with vote-buying and marred by other irregularities. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe backed the protesters’ claims, saying that the polls were tarnished by “credible allegations of vote-buying.”

The election was seen as a test for the country’s close ties with Russia: Jeenbekov and many pro-government parties want to reinforce the country’s relationship with Moscow.  Now, as the opposition claims control over the Supreme Council, it has become a test for the long-time ruler of the country and his cronies, say analysts.

VENEZUELA

Gold Rush

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro came closer to gaining control of $1 billion in disputed gold held by the Bank of England, after a British appeals court questioned whether the United Kingdom recognized Maduro or opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader, the Financial Times reported.

On Monday, the court overturned a July ruling that said the UK had “unequivocally” recognized only the Guaido government.

The judges found that while the Foreign Office accepted Guaido as the legitimate president, it dealt implicitly with Maduro’s administration in practice.

The case centers on Venezuela’s gold reserves and Maduro’s government attempts to obtain them. Venezuela is currently cash-strapped after US economic sanctions crippled its oil exports.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized by most Western powers as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, has fought hard to keep the reserves in the bank. Maduro, meanwhile, said the gold would be sold to buy medicine and humanitarian aid to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

NICARAGUA

Hitting the Mute Button

Nicaraguan lawmakers are planning to introduce new legislation that could gut independent journalism in the Central American nation, the latest move by President Daniel Ortega to silence dissent following nationwide protests in 2018, the Washington Post reported.

The proposed bills would require journalists who work for foreign outlets to register with the government as foreign agents and refrain from “intervening in questions, activities or matters of internal politics.” They would also set jail terms of up to four years for spreading “false and/or misrepresented information which causes alarm.”

Ortega’s Sandinista party, which controls most of the seats in the legislature, supported the bills, which are expected to pass later this week.

Free press advocates said that the proposed laws are new attempts by Ortega to silence independent journalism and prevent coverage of the crisis. During the 2018 protests, authorities cracked down on protesters, raided news outlets and blocked imports of newsprint for the country’s leading daily, La Prensa, for 18 months.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials and members of Ortega’s family over the brutal crackdown that left more than 300 dead.

DISCOVERIES

From Zero to Hero

Rats get zero love because of their bad rap but that’s about to change thanks to the heroic work of one little rodent.

Magawa the rat recently received a gold medal for his work sniffing out unexploded landmines and saving countless lives in Cambodia, NBC News reported. The African Giant-Pouched Rat was awarded the decoration from the British veterinary charity, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.

Magawa became the first rat in the organization’s 77-year history to receive the medal – previous winners included police dogs, horses and cats.

The “hero rat” was trained by the Belgium-based charity APOPO to quickly spot mines: Thanks to its impeccable smell and memory, Magawa could search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes. By comparison, it would take a human with a metal detector up to four days to explore an area of that size.

So far, the rodent has discovered 39 landmines and 28 unexploded ordnances. Still, that’s only a fraction of what is left: About 5 million landmines were laid in Cambodia during the turbulent period between 1975 and 1998, which has left a lot of agricultural land unsafe to farm.

“This not only saves lives but returns much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible,” said APOPO Chief Executive Christophe Cox.

Click here to see Magawa’s work.

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: 7,458,549 (+0.55%)
  2. India: 6,685,082 (+0.92%)
  3. Brazil: 4,927,235 (+0.24%)
  4. Russia: 1,219,796 (+0.89%)
  5. Colombia: 862,158 (+0.83%)
  6. Peru: 828,169 (+0.00%)**
  7. Spain: 813,412 (+2.97%)
  8. Argentina: 809,728 (+1.41%)
  9. Mexico: 789,780 (+3.69%)
  10. South Africa: 682,215 (+0.14%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country