The World Today for March 20, 2023
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Three years ago, people around the world began lockdowns that shuttered businesses, schools, government offices, and other institutions that had been the hallmarks of everyone’s lives. Now, after Covid vaccines and other measures have reduced – but not eliminated – fears surrounding the virus, the question is, what has the world learned from the pandemic?
Scientists believe Covid-19 first appeared at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. While there are theories as to the origins of the virus, including zoonotic transmission and a lab leak, Chinese authorities have not shared much information beyond this point, however, reported Al Jazeera.
As Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently complained to the Australian Broadcasting Company, conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin are legion. But American authorities and others have contended that the virus was likely leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The murkiness surrounding the history of a public health and humanitarian disaster that unfolded before the world’s eyes – nearly seven million people have died from the virus worldwide, according to the World Health Organization – is one reason why global leaders need to assume another such crisis will occur again, argued International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva.
“What COVID and the (Russian-Ukraine) war taught us is we live in a more shock-prone world,” warned Georgieva at a CNBC event. “What the earthquake in Turkey and Syria taught us – think of the unthinkable.”
With that pessimism in mind, advocates including Nobel laureates, former heads of state, top scientists and others recently called for the world’s most affluent countries to make sure they can help the world’s poorest countries obtain sufficient quality vaccines to dispel the virus from their countries, Deutsche Welle reported.
Vaccine inequities resulted in 1.3 million preventable deaths worldwide, they said. “Nationalism and profiteering around vaccines resulted in a catastrophic moral and public health failure which denied equitable access to all,” New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, in China, where officials lifted their draconian zero-Covid policies late last year, the government is devoting $25 billion for “prevention and control” activities at the local level, wrote the South China Morning Post. The country seems to have put the pandemic behind it. Also, the US and China have loosened restrictions on traveling between the two countries, added CNN.
But nobody knows exactly how many Chinese people have died since the stop-the-spread restrictions were repealed, the Atlantic magazine explained.
Indian officials don’t have that luxury. They are seeing an uptick in virus cases, raising questions about whether another populous country might now need to institute stricter measures to protect public health, noted the Economic Times.
Despite India and other hot spots for Covid, many believe the pandemic is behind us. What’s in front, meanwhile, are the lessons.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Avec Moi, Le Déluge
Paris and other cities saw violent clashes between protesters and police over the weekend after French President Emmanuel Macron used executive privilege to adopt a deeply controversial pension reform, France 24 reported Sunday.
Police arrested more than 300 people over the weekend, mostly in Paris where on Saturday night police closed the Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées to protesters, who had been hitting the streets since Thursday when the parliament’s upper house adopted a bill increasing the retirement age for a state pension.
The draft law, which would raise the minimum retirement age by two years to 64, still needed to go through the lower house for another vote, but Macron used an article in the constitution to force the bill through, Euronews added.
On Monday, Macron faces a vote of no-confidence that could bring down his administration, though analysts say that is unlikely.
The contentious law had already ignited weeks of protests and strikes across France, with critics saying the changes are unfair to those who start working at a young age in physically challenging jobs, and to women who interrupt their careers to raise children.
The government counters that the reform is necessary to ensure France’s pension system does not go bust.
Macron made the reform a centerpiece of his successful re-election campaign last year, but he lost his parliamentary majority in subsequent polls, owing in part to opposition to his pension plans.
Opinion polls show that more than two-thirds of French people oppose the bill.
The Golden Shackles
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another official over alleged war crimes during the Ukraine war, the first decision by the Netherlands-based court since the conflict began last year, USA Today reported.
The international tribunal accused Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova – the presidential commissioner for children’s rights – of unlawfully deporting tens of thousands of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
The ICC did not provide any details about the number of cases or children but noted that the public announcement of the warrants is important because they could prevent the “further commission of crimes.”
The move came amid international pressure to prosecute the Russian president and other officials over alleged war crimes in the conflict that began just over a year ago. Russia denies the allegations.
Western and Ukrainian officials hailed the move but analysts said the decision is largely symbolic because Russia – and the United States – do not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, according to the Washington Post.
The court cannot try someone in absentia and does not have any enforcement mechanisms to detain sitting leaders. It must rely on ICC signatory countries to make arrests.
Still, others noted the warrants would make it difficult for Putin and Lvova-Belova to travel to countries that cooperate with the ICC. It also deals a major reputational blow to Putin – the first head of state of a permanent member of the UN Security Council to be indicted by the ICC – as his war in Ukraine continues into its second year with no end in sight.
Meanwhile, in an act of defiance, the Russian president visited Crimea over the weekend to mark the ninth anniversary of its annexation. He also visited the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops put up fierce resistance in the early months of the war, CNN reported.
Pakistan’s police have filed terrorism and other charges against Imran Khan and scores of his aides and supporters following clashes Sunday outside the court in Islamabad where he was already due to face charges of selling state gifts and hiding assets, Sky News reported.
Former and current politicians and ministers are among those alongside Khan now facing charges that include attacks on police, obstructing officers, and threatening their lives in the confrontation. The embattled ex-prime minister did not even enter the court, later blaming the police’s use of tear gas against his convoy and supporters, while the judge presiding over the corruption case was compelled to reschedule it to March 30.
The showdown paralleled a similar riot at Khan’s residence in the north-eastern city of Lahore which Pakistani authorities stormed on Saturday while he was already en route to the capital, the Associated Press reported.
Police clashed with Khan’s supporters, many of whom were carrying batons, as well as throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the officers, police said, with one man on the roof of Khan’s home reportedly opening fire at the police. The raid was the culmination of a days-long stand-off between police, seeking to arrest Khan for failing to attend an earlier hearing relating to the corruption charges, and his followers seeking to prevent his arrest.
Officials said at least 50 officers were injured and 61 protesters were arrested. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah added that authorities are conducting a thorough search of Khan’s home, where they have found bunkers, weapons, and ammunition.
The cricket star-turned-politician was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last year. He has alleged that his removal was part of a conspiracy by his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and the United States. Khan also claimed that his opponents are bent on either putting him behind bars or killing him, and condemned the raid on his home in Lahore as “shameful tactics, conspiracies and plans”.
Washington and Islamabad have denied the allegations.
A new archaeological study on skeletal remains in eastern Europe found evidence that humans began riding horses some 5,000 years ago, Science News reported.
Early humans began domesticating horses for their meat and milk around 3500 BCE, while the oldest known depictions of horseback riding date about 2000 BCE.
But scientists have not been able to properly establish when equestrianism flourished because the equipment used by early riders was made of materials that decomposed and so meant very little remains were ever left.
Recently, archaeologists analyzed more than 200 human skeletons excavated from various countries including Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Some bones – dating between 3000 to 2500 BCE – carried distinct traits commonly found in individuals who ride horses, a condition dubbed “horsemanship syndrome.”
To determine who was a rider, the researchers assessed all the skeletons for the presence of six physical signs of the syndrome, including pelvic and femur marks that could have come from the biomechanical stress of sitting with spread legs while holding onto a horse.
Their findings showed that five male individuals showed four or more signs of horseback riding. The team explained that the remains belonged to the ancient Yamnaya people, a semi-nomadic culture that migrated extensively 5,000 years ago.
Their movement helped spread Indo-European languages and change the human gene pool in Europe and Asia.
Because they also used horses, many historians speculate that they also rode them, with the new study providing evidence that the Yamnaya were the earliest equestrians.
Even so, other researchers cautioned that findings should not be interpreted as equestrianism reaching its full bloom within the Yamnaya culture.
Rather, they were probably just experimenting with what else they could do with their equines as part of early domestication.
Covid-19 Global Update
Editor’s Note: Exactly three years ago, we began publishing the COVID-19 Global Update with the goal of tracking the impact of the pandemic. Today, we are pausing the Update given that the week-to-week changes in the pandemic are no longer statistically significant. We assure our readers that the Update will return if the coronavirus surges again, something we all hope will not happen.
Your DailyChatter Team
Total Cases Worldwide: 682,546,389 (+0.88%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,819,835 (-0.90%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,232,904,667 (-0.79%)*
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET
- US: 105,972,038 (+2.09%)
- India: 44,696,388 (+0.01%)
- France: 39,703,279 (-0.41%)***
- Germany: 38,297,037 (+0.13%)
- Brazil: 37,145,514 (+0.16%)
- Japan: 33,374,303 (+0.13%)
- South Korea: 30,702,960 (+0.29%)
- Italy: 25,651,205 (+0.19%)
- UK: 24,423,396 (-0.95%)***
- Russia: 22,506,199 (+1.90%)
*Numbers were taken from the World Health Organization as of March 14th, 2023.
**Johns Hopkins University stopped publishing the Covid-19 update on March 10th, 2023.
***Numbers have been adjusted by affected country.
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