The World Today for November 15, 2021

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The Vanishing Villages


The bodies of Romanians who perished in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have been placed in black plastic bags and lined up in a hallway in a hospital in Bucharest, the capital of this eastern European country. Hundreds of people die every day in the formerly communist nation, one of the highest rates in the European Union. Only 40 percent of the population is vaccinated. The average vaccination rate in the European Union, in contrast, is 75 percent.

“A village vanishes daily in Romania!” said Catalin Cirstoiu, a doctor who runs Bucharest University Emergency Hospital, during an interview with the Associated Press. “What about in a week or a month? A larger village? Or a city? Where do we stop?”

A Romanian dies of the virus every five minutes, wrote EU Observer. A medical examiner told CNN about an entire family, unvaccinated, who died from Covid-19. He was exhausted, overworked and emotionally traumatized from the procession of suffering he has witnessed over the past 18 months.

The situation in Romania represents a new stage of the pandemic in Europe that started in early 2020, explained Bloomberg. Vaccines allowed many in the wealthier Western European countries to return to a semblance of normal even as they are now suffering from complacency – Germany is witnessing 50,000 cases a day and worrying about hospital capacities again while Austria and the Netherlands are considering lockdowns for the unvaccinated, France24 reported. Meanwhile, in poorer Eastern Europe, anti-vaccination campaigns have undermined efforts to stop the spread.

Romanian anti-vaxxers have been instrumental in slowing vaccination rates, Radio Free Europe wrote. Parliamentarian Diana Sosoaca, a lawyer, is among the most visible critics of vaccination. In an Oct. 27 Facebook post, she lambasted her fellow citizens who received jabs, writing, “You went to the vaccination centers like lambs to the slaughter.”

Meanwhile, the virus has been tearing through unvaccinated elderly folks, reported Reuters. One doctor told the wire service that many older Romanians have religious and cultural beliefs that lead to passivity about Covid-19: They will live as long as they are meant to live regardless of vaccines or other measures, they say. Many also live alone, value their independence and don’t take kindly to interventions.

Bishop Ambrose of Giurgiu of the country’s Orthodox Church recently told believers: “Don’t be fooled by what you see on TV – don’t be scared of Covid…don’t rush to get vaccinated,” the New York Times reported. Authorities opened a criminal investigation into the bishop for disseminating misinformation.

Covid-19 is not the only plague that the world is facing. And, unfortunately, the consequences are deadly.


Going in Circles


Nearly 200 nations reached an agreement at the COP26 climate summit in Scotland over the weekend to increase efforts to fight climate change even as leaders struggled to reach a consensus on major issues, such as fossil fuels and financial support for developing nations, CNBC reported.

The United Nations conference ended this weekend after two weeks of intense negotiations as world leaders tried to strengthen commitments to fulfill the climate targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement: Keep global warming under two degrees Celsius and close to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, compared with preindustrial-era temperatures.

Under the agreement, world leaders agreed to “phase down” coal and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, a watered-down version of previous pledges to “phase out.” It also set new rules for trading carbon credits between countries, which would allow governments to achieve their emissions goals by funding greenhouse-reduction projects in other nations, the Wall Street Journal noted.

The deal, however, remains non-binding and it is unclear how countries will implement their pledges. Many of the higher-income economies fell short of setting up a fund to compensate developing countries for the damages and losses caused by climate change.

Analysts also wondered if big emitters, such as the United States and China, will support sharper emission cuts.

Still, supporters of the deal hailed it as underscoring a new determination among world leaders to move away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, developing nations expressed “extreme disappointment” over the agreement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise” but added that “the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”

Splits and Spanners


World leaders from 30 nations meeting in Paris over the weekend agreed on a plan to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in Libya next month in an effort to end a civil war raging since the death of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, France24 reported.

The North African country is slated for elections on Dec. 24, following a United Nations-backed roadmap adopted last year. The roadmap also established the creation of a unity interim government to replace the two warring administrations in the country’s east and west.

However, the upcoming polls remain in doubt over lingering disputes between rival factions and political bodies, including rules underpinning the electoral schedule and candidate eligibility. The disputes also threaten to unravel the peace process, which includes attempts to unify state institutions and force the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries.

World leaders including those from the US, Germany and France also pledged to impose sanctions on those who attempt to derail Libya’s electoral process and political transition. They also demanded the removal of foreign forces, including Turkish – which support the western government – and mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, which support the eastern administration.

Turkey and Russia only sent low-level representatives to the talks, with some diplomats suggesting that Turkey is unwilling to remove its troops anytime soon.

Despite Western support for a vote in the war-torn nation, human rights organizations warned that Libya does not meet the conditions for free and fair elections, the Guardian noted.

Meanwhile, the election situation became even more complicated after Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, registered as a presidential candidate over the weekend, according to Al Jazeera.

The autocrat’s son has kept a low profile since the 2011 uprising and is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Analysts say Saif al-Islam has some support among “former regime loyalists” and “certain tribal leaders.” Even so, they opine that he doesn’t have a chance of winning but instead wants to send a message, “that he’s back on the political scene and part of the game,” and intends to ignore the ICC.

Closing In


Austria ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people over the weekend in an attempt to slow the surge of Covid-19 infections in the Alpine country, the Associated Press reported.

The drastic move will prevent unvaccinated individuals older than 12 from leaving their homes, except for basic activities including grocery shopping or going for a walk. It will affect about two million people in a country of 8.9 million.

The lockdown will initially last for 10 days and police have been ordered to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated. Unvaccinated people that violate the lockdown will face fines up to $1,660.

The decision came as authorities have raised the alarm over rising infections in the country: Austria’s seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 – much higher than neighboring Germany, which comes in at 289.

Officials fear that hospital staff will not be able to handle the new influx of Covid-19 patients.

Currently, Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: About 65 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.


What’s That?

Most of us are familiar with a canine’s beseeching look and especially its inquiring head tilt. Now a new study has figured out why some dogs do the latter, USA Today reported.

Scientists recently looked at the reaction of 40 dogs – mostly Border collies – during object-label knowledge tests and analyzed their head tilts when owners asked their pooches to pick up a familiar toy.

In their three-month-long research study, the team discovered that the behavior is a reaction to words or objects that spark memories in the dog’s brain – such as the name of their favorite toy.

Researchers noted, however, that not all dogs are able to learn the name of objects: Typical dogs weren’t always successful but “gifted word learner” (GWL) dogs could memorize names rapidly.

When they tried to teach both types of dogs to name of two toys, GWL dogs tilted their heads much more frequently than their typical counterparts – respectively, 43 percent to two percent.

The authors explained that this movement suggests that the GWL are showing increased attention – or their memory flared up when they heard the name of the object.

Studies on head-tilting in dogs are scarce and previous results suggested different explanations such as a motion to aid hearing or an attempt to see past their snouts.

Even so, the team said that more research needs to be conducted on other dog breeds.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 253,352,791

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,101,198

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,467,654,265

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

  1. US: 47,074,080 (+0.05%)
  2. India: 34,447,536 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 21,957,967 (+0.02%)
  4. UK: 9,609,344 (+0.39%)
  5. Russia: 8,918,926 (+0.00%)
  6. Turkey: 8,410,136 (+0.26%)
  7. France: 7,389,989 (+0.17%)
  8. Iran: 6,037,718 (+0.10%)
  9. Argentina: 5,305,742 (+0.01%)
  10. Germany: 5,056,243 (+0.38%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

Correction: Due to a technical issue involving Friday’s WORLD WEEKLY QUIZ, a question from a prior quiz appeared. We apologize for the error. Stay tuned for the new question on Friday.

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