The World Today for October 29, 2020

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Round Two

Ireland recently became the first European country to reimpose a hard lockdown in the face of surging coronavirus infections.

Schools remained open under the new rule. But Irish officials are asking citizens to remain within three miles of their homes until Dec. 1. Non-essential retail stores must close. Restaurants can only sell takeout and deliveries. Funerals may have no more than 10 mourners, the Washington Post reported.

The Irish move – which is being followed by other European countries – will be a body blow for Europe’s already sputtering economy, especially in the most challenged member states like Greece, Italy and Spain that are heavily dependent on tourism, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In Paris and some other large French cities, residents have had to be indoors by 9 pm, the Associated Press wrote. On Wednesday, French officials announced a new lockdown starting on Friday, with all non-essential businesses closed, movement restricted and marriages forbidden. Germany on Wednesday announced it would do similarly in a “lockdown lite,” shutting down all leisure activities such as concerts and bars.

Meanwhile, Londoners must limit their gatherings indoors while the north of the country has far more restrictions on bars, restaurants and shops. In the Netherland, bars and restaurants closed. Schools closed in the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland. Poland cut the hours that restaurants, gyms and pools could remain open.

Leaders are taking action because, after the European countries were among those hardest hit when the pandemic first struck – Italy lost nearly 40,000 people in the pandemic – they now face another war against Covid-19. The reversal of fortunes is especially stark in Germany, which has been heralded as a model in the pandemic, NBC News wrote. It was recently seeing as many as 10,000 new cases daily.

These charts on Euronews show how cases have been surging for nearly every European country compared to earlier this year. The news service noted that increased testing was undoubtedly a reason why so many more cases have been reported. Another set of charts show how deaths are going down.

Fewer deaths – that’s the good news. But the virus is clearly not going anywhere. Rather, it is continuing to spread. Hospitals in hotspots like northern France are transferring patients to other facilities as they become overwhelmed with the sick, the Financial Times reported.

In Spain, the government has imposed curfews and other restrictions to stop the virus. “The situation is grave,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez after the country tallied a new daily record of 21,000 infections.

A scientific adviser to the French government, Arnaud Fontanet, told Sky News that the second wave was traveling much faster than the first. He foresaw a difficult November as officials compelled people to remain socially distanced to prevent infections.

Those measures are already facing pushback. Many Europeans want to get back to their lives. The economic slowdown has taken its toll on folks. As Reuters explained, “coronavirus fatigue” is widespread in Europe, as evidenced by protests against restrictions in London, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan and elsewhere.

The pandemic appears to have gone from a long Sunday run to a marathon.



Nothing to See Here

Satellite images released Wednesday show that Iran has kicked off construction at the Natanz nuclear facility following newly imposed United States sanctions and the upcoming US presidential elections, CNBC reported.

Analysts said the images show a road under construction leading to the enrichment facility, as well as excavation work and a potential tunnel into the surrounding mountains.

The Natanz facility had a fire in July, with officials saying it was an attack to slow the development of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran is building an “underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant.”

It added that Tehran had informed the nuclear watchdog’s inspectors of the construction, suggesting that it does not violate the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran maintains that its nuclear development program is solely for peaceful purposes but the US government and some of its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions against the country, prompting Iran to gradually breach the deal’s limits, including surpassing the agreed-upon limit for its enriched uranium stockpile.


Lysistrata’s Daughters

Polish women took part in a nationwide strike Wednesday in protest of a court ruling last week that introduced a near-total ban on abortions in the predominately Catholic nation, the BBC reported.

Organizers said that many companies had agreed to allow their female employees to participate in the mass rallies across the country, which were inspired by a women’s strike in Iceland in 1975 and another in Poland in 2016.

Local media reported that tens of thousands of people participated in the seventh day of protests against the controversial ruling.

Poland’s constitutional court ruled that abortions in cases of fetal defects were unconstitutional, adding that only terminations in cases of rape, incest or to protect the mother’s life are allowed.

Officials of the governing Law and Justice party (PiS) said that the ruling is meant to protect unborn children from discrimination on the grounds of health defects, such as those with Down’s syndrome. They added that the decision could not be reversed and accused protesters of trying to “destroy” the country.

Opponents, however, said that the ruling will force women to go abroad or undergo illicit abortions, which are expensive and dangerous. They accuse the PiS of pushing the change without parliamentary debate or public consultation.

More than 1,000 legal abortions take place in Poland annually, with the majority performed due to severe fetal defects. However, women’s groups say that the number of abortions performed illegally or abroad numbers between 80,000 and 120,000.


Mugabe’s Best Student

Zimbabwe’s cabinet approved a bill Wednesday that would criminalize anti-government protests and claims of human rights abuses, a move that critics say “is meant to entrench authoritarianism,” the Associated Press reported.

The proposed amendments will also forbid individuals to make “unauthorized communication or negotiation” with foreign governments among other provisions.

The legislation is the latest attempt by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to stifle dissent amid a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

Mnangagwa is also amending a measure concerning non-governmental organizations, which he has accused of working with opposition politicians and foreign governments to topple his government, saying they are “out of sync” with his administration.

NGOs, however, have accused the leader of reneging on his promises to reform the country when he came to power in 2017, following the ouster of longtime president – and his mentor – the late Robert Mugabe.

The country of 15 million is currently suffering a deep financial crisis with an inflation rate of more than 650 percent and sky-high unemployment that has pushed more than two-thirds of the population to survive on informal trade.


A Slimy Solution

Overfishing is a serious threat to the marine ecosystem but there is a solution: Eat jellyfish.

That’s because as marine biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin told the BBC, eating more jellyfish might help humanity move toward more sustainable fishing.

Gershwin described that jellyfish are a “renewable resource,” explaining that their genetic identity continues to live on even when they get removed from the ecosystem.

“It’s kind of like taking an apple from a tree,” she said. “When we pluck an apple from a tree… there are other apples that are genetically identical to that apple, and even if you take every apple the tree will produce more.”

She noted that numerous species of jellyfish can be considered as viable food, such as the blue blubber – a common jellyfish in Australia.

Gershwin said they tasted “like a cross between cucumbers and rubber bands,” but the marine creature is considered a delicacy in Asian countries. In fact, jellyfish are considered “diet foods” with only 36 calories per three-ounce serving – which is basically iceberg lettuce with protein. It’s as common a snack in parts of Asia as potato chips are in the West.

It’s critical, regardless to do something: A new study has found that more than 90 endangered fish species are caught legally by industrial fisheries globally, prompting scientists to hunt for solutions.

Still, overfishing jellyfish could threaten ecosystems. Still, Gershwin sees no reason not to catch them.

“I think it’s a great idea as long as it is well managed,” she said.

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: 8,858,088 (+0.89%)
  2. India: 8,040,203 (+0.62%)
  3. Brazil: 5,468,270 (+0.53%)
  4. Russia: 1,553,028 (+0.00%)**
  5. France: 1,280,215 (+2.89%)
  6. Spain: 1,136,503 (+1.77%)
  7. Argentina: 1,130,533 (+1.25%)
  8. Colombia: 1,041,936 (+0.84%)
  9. UK: 945,378 (+2.68%)
  10. Mexico: 906,863 (+0.62%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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