The World Today for November 03, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

Fed Up

SWEDEN

A gunman shot and killed Swedish rapper Einar recently in Stockholm. The 19-year-old, award-winning entertainer was the most streamed artist in Sweden on Spotify in 2019, Agence France-Presse reported. Einar’s songs feature drugs, crime and violence. He had public feuds with other rappers, including one who kidnapped and beat him last year.

The murder sparked outrage over gang violence in the Scandinavian country, Forbes wrote. Life among disadvantaged immigrant communities in Sweden often contradicts Sweden’s reputation of social order and harmony.

Crime was one of many reasons why Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven opted not to run for reelection when voters elect a new parliament in September 2022, according to Reuters. He is expected to step down this month when his political party, the Social Democrats, holds an annual meeting.

Lofven has run Sweden since 2014. But the coalition governments he has headed have never won a majority in parliament, requiring him to engage in “endless back-room deal-making,” wrote Politico. He is hoping that his successor can tackle the crime issue, reinforce the welfare state that Social Democrats want to support, calm Swedes concerned about high migration levels and improve an economy that is flagging amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The far-right Sweden Democrats have grown to become the third-largest political party in the country over migrations concerns. Their worries have become the center of political debates in the country, a London School of Economics blog said. As Haaretz noted, for instance, the new Israeli ambassador to Sweden stirred controversy and garnered headlines recently when he said he wouldn’t deal with the party due to its Nazi roots.

At the same time, Covid-19 caused more than 15,000 deaths in Sweden, which took a hands-off approach to public health safety measures in a bid to develop herd immunity, the Associated Press reported. That’s not high compared to worldwide rates but it is much higher than other Nordic countries. Denmark had more than 2,700 deaths. Finland’s rate was more than 1,170, and Norway’s was less than 1,000.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, a Social Democrat who has held her job since 2014, is slated to become Sweden’s first female prime minister when Lofven steps down, Euronews explained. She has promised to leave “no stone unturned” regarding crime. Her main rival, meanwhile, the leader of the center-right Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, has called on the government to ramp up punishments and use anti-terror legislation against gangs, the Financial times added.

As she hits the ground running but keeps an eye toward elections next year, Andersson may not have much of a choice but to embrace Kristersson’s idea.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Save The Trees

SCOTLAND

More than 100 world leaders pledged to reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030, one of the first commitments to emerge from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Scotland, which began this week, Axios reported.

Leaders representing more than 85 percent of the planet’s forests agreed on an alliance that would include governments, investors, businesses and communities.

Twelve countries, including the United States, said they will provide $12 billion in public funds from 2021 to 2025 to protect forests, fight wildfires and support Indigenous rights. Governments will also commit to delivering sustainable trade, support small farms and offer more transparency in supply chains.

Meanwhile, more than 30 financial institutions vowed to eradicate investment in activities linked to deforestation.

The ambitious plan is aimed at protecting forests, which are considered integral to alleviating climate change – more than 30 percent of global carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by forests every year.

Analysts and environmentalists welcomed the pledges, saying they also aim to support the Indigenous communities that live and protect forested areas.

“For a long-term solution the international community must also help ensure the socio-economic needs and aspirations of the people who live in and around the forests are met,” said Ana Yang of the Chatham House Sustainability Accelerator.

A Wanted Man

PHILIPPINES

Philippine armed forces killed communist rebel commander Jorge Madlos this week, a key leader of one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, the Associated Press reported.

Government officials said Madlos was killed in the southern Bukidnon province over the weekend following a military operation that involved airstrikes and gun battles. However, guerrilla members said that Madlos and a rebel medic were gunned down as they were traveling to seek medical treatment for the ailing communist leader.

Madlos – who used the nom de guerre Ka Oris – was a leading figure and spokesman for the New People’s Army in the country’s southern mountainous regions. The Philippine government has blamed him for multiple attacks on security forces, mining companies and plantations.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described his death as a major blow for the guerrilla group, which currently has about 3,500 to 4,000 fighters.

Even so, military officials suggested that Madlos’ widow may succeed the late leader because of her influence in the rebel organization, according to Rappler, a Philippine-based news website.

The Tyranny of Dress Codes

WORLD

The International Handball Federation (IHF) amended its rules requiring female players to wear bikini bottoms following accusations of sexism, Sky News reported.

Under the new rules, females will have to wear “short tight pants with a close fit” and “close-fitting” sleeveless tank tops. Previously, they were required to wear crop tops and bikini bottoms, which ignited criticism from players and women’s rights activists.

The changes came after the global governing body penalized the Norwegian women’s beach handball team with a fine of about $1,700 fine for wearing shorts during a European championship match in Bulgaria this summer.

The decision caused a furor on social media and prompted ministers from five Scandinavian countries, including Norway, to ask the IHF to review its guidelines “in accordance with gender equality.”

Norwegian Sports Minister Abid Raja described the situation as “completely ridiculous” and said that attitudes need to change.

Many female athletes have taken a stand against rules requiring them to wear revealing clothing in various sports, including track and field, tennis and volleyball.

DISCOVERIES

Vantage Points

Scientists developed a new artificial intelligence algorithm that can turn simple photos into explorable three-dimensional worlds, New Scientist reported.

The novel neural network distinguishes itself from previous algorithms because it is capable of extracting physical properties from 2D images, explained lead author Darius Rückert.

In their study, Rückert and his team wrote that the neural network requires a selection of images of a scene and a rough 3D model of that scene to generate a world that can be explored from any viewpoint.

In a few instances, they used between 300 and 350 images captured from different angles to produce the perfect 3D worlds. Rückert noted that three-dimensional scenery can also be created with only two images but it wouldn’t be accurate.

“The more images you have, the better the quality,” he said. “The model cannot create stuff it hasn’t seen.”

He is now working to improve the system by having it simulate how light bounces off objects in the scene to reach the camera. The update would require fewer images to create an accurate 3D rendering.

Tim Field, a founder of New York-based company Abound Labs, said the new algorithm is “proof that automated photorealism is possible.”

He suggested that the neural network can be used for generating visual effects in movies and virtual reality walkthroughs of various locations.

Click here to see photos from various vantage points.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 247,621,893

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,013,970

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,109,602,517

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 46,171,230 (+0.17%)
  2. India: 34,308,140 (+0.07%)
  3. Brazil: 21,821,124 (+0.03%)
  4. UK: 9,174,153 (+0.37%)
  5. Russia: 8,455,232 (+0.45%)
  6. Turkey: 8,091,432 (+0.37%)
  7. France: 7,272,516 (+0.03%)
  8. Iran: 5,944,599 (+0.17%)
  9. Argentina: 5,291,283 (+0.03%)
  10. Spain: 5,016,968 (+0.12%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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