July 14, 2021

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly

NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

Alphabet Pandemic

Just when the world thought it was safe to go inside without a mask again, the delta variant of the coronavirus showed up.

Luckily, many vaccines protect against the delta, which CNBC predicted would cause high infection rates in the US in the fall among those who have not received jabs.

As the Conversation explained recently, vaccinated attendees at a so-called “superspreader” event in New South Wales in Australia didn’t contract Covid-19. But, of course, not everyone is vaccinated, and people can still contract new variants even when they take precautions.

Spain now has the highest rate of infection in Europe due to the delta variant, which has surged among unvaccinated young people, the Financial Times reported. The number of infected people in a seven-day period went from less than 60 cases to almost 160 per 100,000 people recently. The hard-hit Catalonia region was instituting new curbs on nightlife.

The Australian city of Sydney mandated a new lockdown in late June, including “strict stay-at-home orders” that were recently extended until mid-July. Some people were annoyed. “Let’s lock down the people that are vulnerable, you don’t lock down healthy people because a few are sick,” Sydney resident Paul Coleman told Reuters.

Leaders in Africa, meanwhile, are screaming for help and vaccines in order to avoid a disaster due to fears of a looming delta pandemic.

“Not one vial has left a European factory for Africa,” declared Zimbabwean business magnate Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union’s special envoy for vaccine procurement, in the Washington Post. “They have vaccinated so many of their own people they can now watch football without masks. Our people have not been vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned of a potentially devastating third Covid-19 wave in India due to the delta variant. The country is still bouncing back from a second pandemic wave in April and May that claimed at least 150,000 lives – a number that is considered lower than the true toll, Sky News reported. India spends 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product on a healthcare system that has not been able to handle the crisis, the British news agency added.

Modi and his colleagues in China are also worried that the Chinese Sinovac vaccine might not prevent delta infections well enough, think tank Stratfor wrote. Officials in China were locking down cities where the variant has been discovered, added China-based Caixin.

In South America, officials are waiting to see whether the new lambda variant of the coronavirus is more dangerous than its cousin, the delta, the New York Times reported.

When will masks be unnecessary? No one is sure. After all, there are a lot of letters left in the alphabet.

WANT TO KNOW

NEPAL

Whiplash

Veteran politician Sher Bahadur Deuba became Nepal’s prime minister Tuesday, a day after the country’s top court reinstated parliament, which was dissolved in May by his predecessor, Khadga Prasad Oli, the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, Nepal’s Supreme Court also ordered the replacement of Oli, who had been Nepal’s prime minister since 2018.

Deuba still needs a vote of support from more than half of all lawmakers. If approved, he will lead the Himalayan nation through intense political divisions and the coronavirus pandemic until the 2022 parliamentary elections.

It is the fifth term for Deuba, who has previously served in 1995, 2001, 2004 and 2017. Even so, he has never served a full term.

His appointment follows months of political crisis in Nepal: In December, Oli made his first attempt to dissolve parliament and called for snap polls in April.

In February, the Supreme Court rejected Oli’s move and reinstated parliament, prompting the embattled leader to dissolve the legislature in May.

The move came after the former leader refused to honor an agreement to hand over power to his Communist Party’s co-leader, which resulted in a political schism and weakened Oli’s hold on power.

CANADA

Scalded

An estimated one billion small marine creatures died during the unprecedented heatwave that hit North America’s western coastal region last week, an event that has raised concerns over the devastating impact of climate change, CNN reported.

Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia said that heatwave resulted in the massive die-off of clams, mussels, sea stars and other marine life in Western Canada.

He described the situation as a “catastrophe.”

Western parts of Canada and the United States have been experiencing a heatwave over the past two weeks, which has resulted in scalding temperatures and the deaths of more than 700 people.

On June 30, the village of Lytton in British Columbia broke Canada’s historical records when temperatures reached a whopping 121 degrees. The town was all but destroyed in a deadly wildfire.

Harley warned that marine life, such as mussels, cannot survive temperatures above 100 degrees and fears that these types of events seem to be happening more often.

A recent study underscored that heatwave “would have been virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change.”

MOLDOVA

New Lease

The pro-European party of President Maia Sandu won Moldova’s parliamentary elections this week in a victory that Moldovans consider a turning point in the poor post-Soviet nation, Radio Free Europe reported Tuesday.

Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) secured nearly 53 percent of the vote and is projected to get 63 seats in the 101-seat parliament.

The election came less than a year after Sandu defeated pro-Russian President Igor Dodon during Moldova’s presidential polls in November. The former World Bank economist campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption, implementing systemic reforms and European integration.

Analysts said the election is the first time a pro-European party won in the country and marks an end to Moldova’s “coalition nightmare.” They noted that the previous governments, including Dodon’s coalition, were unable to enact reforms and became embroiled in major corruption scandals, according to Al Jazeera.

Observers added that the expectations for a PAS government are high and the new administration must act swiftly.

Even so, Sandu’s new government still needs to delicately handle the issue of Russia, which has a strong influence on Moldova.

DISCOVERIES

Ironic Twist

The solution to the global plastic problem lies in the guts of one of the world’s polluters: cows.

A new study found that the enzymes produced in bovine stomachs can break down certain common plastics, New Scientists reported.

Cows have stomachs with four compartments and the bacteria in the main one – known as the rumen – can produce many types of enzymes, including cutinases.

Researcher Georg Guebitz and his team collected liquid samples from the rumen of a young Alpine ox and tested them on three types of widely used polyesters.

These include polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyethylene furanoate (PEF), which are often used to make products including bottles, textiles and bags.

The team wrote that the enzymes in the liquid took one to three days to fully break down the plastics.

Guebitz said that the diet of cows contains foods that have a “shell that is similar to polyesters,” which explains why the microbes produce a substance that can degrade plastics.

He noted, however, that the enzymes need to be kept at a temperature of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit – the temperature in the cow’s stomach – in order to achieve a speedy result.

Researchers believe that rumen liquid could soon become a cheaper alternative to resolving the global plastic problem.

It’s an ironic twist considering that cows are one of the contributors to global warming because of the methane – a major greenhouse gas – they produce via burps and flatulence.

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: 33,914,884 (+0.08%)
  2. India: 30,946,147 (+0.23%)
  3. Brazil: 19,151,993 (+0.24%)
  4. France: 5,882,945 (+0.12%)
  5. Russia: 5,762,211 (+0.42%)
  6. Turkey: 5,493,244 (+0.52%)
  7. UK: 5,210,611 (+0.71%)
  8. Argentina: 4,682,960 (+0.43%)
  9. Colombia: 4,530,610 (+0.00%)**
  10. Italy: 4,273,693 (+0.04%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country