The World Today for January 26, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

The Covid Orphans

PERU

More than 204,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Peru, the highest rate per capita on Earth. Tragically, many of those lost were parents. More tragically, the virus in the South American country often claimed both parents or all caregivers in a family. As a result, nearly 100,000 Peruvian children are now orphans. The British medical journal the Lancet called the development a “hidden pandemic.”

The Peruvian government has passed a bill to provide a monthly stipend of $50 for each child left without a guardian, reported i24 News, an Israeli broadcaster. That sum only helps so much, however. With a gross per capita income of around $6,000, Peru is a poor country. Poor school attendance, mental health issues and other problems are now growing among the young people who are its future.

“Even before you take into account that more than 1,000 children have died from Covid-19 in Peru, they have been extremely affected by depression and anxiety,” Roxana Pingo, Covid response program coordinator for Save the Children Peru, told the Guardian.

Gabriela Zarate lives with her husband, their four children and her deceased sister’s four children in a small house outside the Peruvian capital of Lima, the BBC reported. She was already struggling to feed her family. Under lockdowns, she and her husband couldn’t work as drivers or street vendors. They violated curfew to earn cash, but then her husband contracted Covid-19. Eventually, they flew a white flag outside their house, a sign that they needed help, and neighbors gave them some food.

As National Public Radio explained, inadequate health care infrastructure, a dependence on imports of medicine and supplies to combat the pandemic, informal jobs that make lockdowns difficult for millions and endemic poverty are some of the reasons why the pandemic has hit the country so hard.

There are reasons to be optimistic that the virus may soon lose steam, however. Around 80 percent of Peruvians ages 12 and older have received jabs, Agence France-Presse reported.

Amid the crisis, leftist President Pedro Castillo, who won office last year on a pledge to use the country’s mining wealth to lift its citizens out of poverty, has sought to calm international investors to prop up the economy, Bloomberg noted. As Reuters explained, Castillo faced charges related to alleged collusion and influence peddling for public works contracts. But, denying the charges, he avoided impeachment, further bringing stability to the country.

Castillo has said the state has an obligation to Peru’s orphans. Even with all the money and power in the world, however, he could not give them what their hearts most desire.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Public Enemy No. 1

RUSSIA

Russia added prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and five of his top aides to the country’s “terrorist and extremists” register Tuesday in the latest effort by the government to crack down on civil society, the Moscow Times reported.

The names of Navalny and his associates appeared on the online database of people the Russian authorities claim are involved in activities that support “terrorist or extremist” organizations.

The designation puts the opposition leader on the same level as foreign terrorist organizations, such as the Taliban and Islamic State, Radio Free Europe noted.

It will also prevent Navalny and his supporters from accessing Russia’s banking system, because financial institutions are prohibited from providing services to individuals and organizations on the list.

The move comes more than a year after authorities arrested Navalny following his return to Russia from Germany, where he was being treated for a poisoning attack. He is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year jail term for violating the terms of an earlier parole.

The government critic has decried his imprisonment as politically motivated and accused President Vladimir Putin of trying to poison him with the Novichok nerve agent in 2020.

The government has denied the allegations.

Last year, a court declared all organizations linked to Navalny as “extremist,” which would prevent anyone associated with him and his network from seeking public office. The ruling also carries lengthy jail terms for activists who have cooperated with Navalny’s organizations.

Path To Justice

GUATEMALA

A Guatemalan court found five former paramilitary members guilty of raping and sexually abusing Indigenous women during the decades-long civil war in the Central American country, a ruling that could encourage many of the survivors to seek justice, Al Jazeera reported Tuesday.

The court found that the five defendants – who were former members of the so-called “Civil Self-Defense Patrols” – had subjected 36 Indigenous Maya Achi women to slavery, sexual violence and rape in the early 1980s. The events occurred in the villages around the municipality of Rabinal in Baja Verapaz department, about 109 miles from the capital, Guatemala City.

The defendants were each sentenced to 30 years in jail. The plaintiffs, who had spent years demanding justice for crimes committed during the conflict, welcomed the verdict.

The decision came 11 years after the women first organized to seek justice: The court initially did not accept the case and released the accused individuals in 2019 after the judge ruled that they “did not believe” the testimonies. The case nevertheless moved forward after an appeal.

The trial is connected to the Guatemalan civil conflict that pitted government and paramilitary troops against leftist fighters from 1960 to 1996. More than 200,000 people died and more than a million were displaced before a peace deal between the government and leftist forces ended the fighting in 1996.

Monday’s verdict marks the second time that former military or paramilitary members have been tried for sexual violence against women during the conflict. Meanwhile, former security forces and paramilitaries have also faced various charges, including crimes against humanity.

Though the ruling offers hope to survivors seeking justice, some lawmakers have proposed an amnesty bill to absolve all former soldiers and paramilitary members accused or convicted of crimes committed during the conflict.

Following the civil conflict, a United Nations-backed truth commission found that the Guatemalan military was responsible for 93 percent of all human rights violations during the war. More than 80 percent of the victims were Indigenous Mayans, according to the commission.

Public Domain

AUSTRALIA

The Australian government struck a $14 million deal to buy the copyright to the Aboriginal flag this week, a purchase that ends a long-running debate about who can use the famous symbol, Agence France-Presse reported.

The agreement came following negotiations between the government and Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, who designed the flag in 1971. Since its creation, the flag had become an important protest symbol for the country’s Aboriginal people.

However, Thomas had licensed various companies to use the flag on their products, sparking debates over its proper use. One of these firms, WAM Clothing, had sent cease and desist letters to many organizations – including the Australian Football League – for using the Aboriginal flag on clothing.

Aboriginal activists and others lamented that the flag was being “held hostage,” according to the Independent.

Following the purchase, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the flag now “belongs to everyone, and no one can take it away.”

Officials added that the Aboriginal flag can be used on sports jerseys, sporting grounds “and in any other medium without having to ask for permission or pay a fee.”

The government will also establish an annual scholarship of about $71,000 for Indigenous students in Thomas’s honor.

DISCOVERIES

Running Cold

In the science-fiction movie “The Core,” Earth’s core stopped rotating and scientists need to restart it in order to save humanity.

Now, a research team came across some ominous findings about the state of the Earth’s core, Newsweek reported.

In their paper, lead author Motohiko Murakami and his colleagues analyzed the conductivity of bridgmanite, a material found in great quantities between the planet’s core and mantle – an area known as the Core-Mantle-Boundary (CMB).

The team found that bridgmanite is about 1.5 times more conductive of heat than previously thought, which has some important implications for the planet’s future.

Murakami explained that it means the high temperatures at the center of the world are quickly transferring to the outer areas, suggesting that the Earth’s core is cooling “more rapidly than expected.”

He explained that this phenomenon could impact convection currents of the mantle that drive the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Eventually, the cooling could cause the currents to slow down, decreasing tectonic activity and reducing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Consequently, Earth could become a geologically dead planet akin to Mars: The red planet’s core became inactive a long time ago and ended many key processes, including the activity of the magnetic field.

Murakami posited that this could happen on Earth, but it could take “millions or even billions of years.”

“How long the Earth would remain dynamically active would be definitely one of the biggest issues that we have to tackle,” he cautioned.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 358,642,757

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,616,046

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 9,850,294,423

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

  1. US: 72,177,153 (+0.65%)
  2. India: 40,085,116 (+0.72%)
  3. Brazil: 24,342,322 (+0.83%)
  4. France: 17,419,697 (+2.97%)
  5. UK: 16,158,455 (+0.59%)
  6. Turkey: 11,090,493 (+0.69%)
  7. Russia: 11,055,246 (+0.61%)
  8. Italy: 10,212,621 (+2.11%)
  9. Spain: 9,395,767 (+1.24%)
  10. Germany: 9,088,675 (+2.01%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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