The World Today for July 07, 2021
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NEED TO KNOW
Cats and Dogs
The experiences of our cats and dogs are windows into how humans suffered and endured during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cats had taken over an island near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after their owners abandoned them due to coronavirus-related deaths or impoverishment, the Washington Post reported. Local officials are trying to figure out what to do with all the felines, who exist meagerly without a reliable freshwater source, yet have produced generations of feral offspring.
In India, shelters have reported a massive number of calls from people looking to find new homes for animals whose owners have died or are recovering and can’t care for their furry friends, wrote the Hindustan Times. The process of finding them new homes is traumatic for the owners and the animals, who must adapt to shelters and new owners as they’re processing their separation from their old homes.
For street animals, the situation is even more complicated. In a city like Istanbul, Turkey, where as many as an estimated 600,000 stray cats and dogs live, the disappearance of tourists has been a disaster, explained National Geographic. Without garbage, handouts and other opportunities to scavenge, they go hungry.
As some people were throwing their animals away and some animals were eagerly awaiting the return of people, others were clamoring for so-called “pandemic pets” to help them weather hour after hour of tedious lockdowns in their homes. A Canadian writer living in Britain discovered that while she couldn’t fly home, she could import a corgi that a package handler could bring to her, for instance.
“Yes, it was possible to send a puppy across international borders, in the cargo hold of one of a now sparse number of transatlantic flights during a global pandemic that had restricted human movement,” she wrote in Fortune.
As the New York Times added, a cynically expected surge in animals being returned to shelters as the pandemic waned has so far not occurred, suggesting people would keep their new four-legged family members in times both good and bad. Veterinarians who spoke to the Philadelphia Inquirer said they were exhausted because, to them, it felt like the pet population has doubled in the US.
Unfortunately, if the coronavirus resurges around the world, these new owners and their pets might need to self-isolate from each other. As the Guardian noted, experts are suggesting that owners avoid their pets if they are infected with the coronavirus if they want to avoid spreading it to their animals.
The cats on the island might be the lucky ones.
WANT TO KNOW
No Harm, No Foul
Two trials of a four-day workweek in Iceland were hailed as a success, with researchers describing the study as a “blueprint” for future trials in other countries, according to CBS News.
The Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland and the UK-based think tank, Autonomy, published a report of two large-scale trials that took place from 2015 to 2019.
The trials included 2,500 workers – roughly one percent of Iceland’s working-age population – and were run by the government and one of the country’s major trade union confederations, Euronews reported.
Workers that participated worked 35 to 36 hours per week and were paid the same in spite of working fewer hours, the study noted.
Researchers explained that that the trials were “an overwhelming success,” noting that a four-day workweek reduced the levels of stress and burnout among workers. They added that “productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces.”
The authors suggested that the Iceland trials prove that it is possible to work less in modern times.
“Our roadmap to a shorter working week in the public sector should be of interest to anyone who wishes to see working hours reduced,” said Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, a researcher at Alda.
The four-day working week has become a salient topic for many nations in recent years, particularly following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, Spain is planning on conducting its own three-year trial later this year. The project will use €50 million from the EU’s coronavirus recovery fund to compensate 200 mid-size companies taking part.
The Value of Children
Unknown gunmen kidnapped about 150 students from a boarding school in Nigeria’s Kaduna state this week, the latest in a string of kidnappings that have plagued the country’s northwest for the past year, Reuters reported.
Authorities said that armed bandits seeking ransom payments raided the Bethel Baptist High School on Monday night and overpowered the school’s security guards.
Police said that 26 people including one teacher had been rescued, adding that they are in pursuit of the missing.
The attack marks the 10th mass kidnapping in northwestern Nigeria, with the state of Kaduna being hit particularly hard.
Armed groups, locally known as bandits, have created a lucrative business kidnapping students for ransom: Since December, nearly 1,000 people have been abducted from schools and more than 150 remain missing.
The issue has put intense pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari. The president has urged state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles,” warning that the policy might backfire disastrously.
The Eighth in Line
A Honduran court found the executive of a hydroelectric company guilty in the assassination of award-winning Indigenous and environmental advocate Berta Cáceres, the Guardian reported.
The country’s highest court in Tegucigalpa ruled that Roberto David Castillo coordinated, planned and procured the money to pay for the activist’s assassination in 2016.
It said that Cáceres was murdered for leading the campaign to stop the construction of the 22-megawatt Agua Zarca dam, an effort that led to delays and financial losses for Castillo’s company, Desarrollos Energéticos.
Castillo – a US-trained former army officer – denied wrongdoing, saying that evidence had been manipulated by expert witnesses. The court will sentence Castillo in early August, and the defendant could face up to 30 years in jail, according to the Associated Press.
Castillo is the eighth person convicted in the activist’s murder: Seven men were found guilty in December 2018.
Cáceres’ family and friends welcomed the verdict as an important step in holding to account all those responsible for ordering, financing and enabling the murder – as well as in the attempted cover-up that followed.
Cáceres, a winner of the Goldman prize for environmental defenders, was a renowned human rights activist and political analyst in Honduras. She was able to unite disparate sectors in the fight against corruption, causing frustration among the country’s economic and political elite.
The discovery of a new hominid skull in China has set off a debate among scientists about the course of human evolution, CNET reported.
Chinese researchers recently studied the cranial fossil of an unrecognized human species dubbed Homo longi, or “Dragon Man,” which they believe to be one of the closest relatives to Homo sapiens – the current human species.
The story goes that a worker found the cranium during the construction of a bridge in the city of Harbin in 1933. He later hid the skull in a well to prevent the invading Japanese forces from taking it. In recent years, the worker’s family donated the skull to the Hebei Geo University for study.
In a series of studies, researchers wrote that Dragon Man had a large dome with room for a modern human brain but had bigger eye sockets and brows as well as a wide mouth.
They believe the man lived to be 50 years old. He is also believed to have lived 146,000 years ago – an era when human species moved around the world with other now-extinct creatures such as the woolly mammoth.
It’s possible the extinct relative also met with H. sapiens at one point.
Co-author Qiang Ji said that the findings provide “critical” details “for understanding the evolution of the Homo genus and the origin of Homo sapiens.”
Even so, not all scientists – including some in the research team – agree that Dragon Man is actually a new species.
Some suggest that he could be a Denisovan, an extinct human species that roamed the area around the same period.
Nevertheless, many agree that the find is adding a “remarkable new piece in the jigsaw of human evolution.”
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*:
- US: 33,747,198 (+0.07%)
- India: 30,663,665 (+0.14%)
- Brazil: 18,855,015 (+0.33%)
- France: 5,852,599 (+0.06%)
- Russia: 5,591,030 (+0.41%)
- Turkey: 5,454,763 (+0.26%)
- UK: 4,975,903 (+0.58%)
- Argentina: 4,574,340 (+0.47%)
- Colombia: 4,402,582 (+0.61%)
- Italy: 4,264,704 (+0.02%)
*Numbers change over 24 hours