Denník N
Slovak daily and online news site.
Geopolitics

The Latest: Global Mob Sting, Internet Crash, Canadian Hate Crime

Welcome to Tuesday, where an encrypted messaging app leads to a major global organized crime bust, many of the world's biggest websites were hit by global internet outages and there's a new basketball-court-long dinosaur in town. Jeune Afrique also dives into the Rastafari ital diet, a precursor to some current food trends.

• Report: Intelligence breakdown prior to U.S. Capitol insurrection: A bipartisan Senate investigation has outlined how thousands of protestors were able to breach the Capitol building in January. New revelations show that intelligence agencies, including Capitol police, had greater prior knowledge than previously thought that violence could erupt.

• Global internet outage downs leading websites: A number of major websites such as Amazon, Target, CNN, Reddit and Twitch have been affected by global internet outages. Many of the impacted websites are displaying the error code: "Error 503 Service Unavailable." Early reports link the issue with the Cloud service, Fastly.

• Hundreds arrested in organized crime sting after cops enter encrypted app: More than 800 organized crime suspects have been arrested after communicating using ANOM, a messaging app infiltrated by the FBI. Law enforcement in the U.S., Europe and Australia were able to monitor encrypted messages on the app, many of which were related to organized crime.

• Killing of Canadian Muslim family premeditated, hate crime: A driver struck five people in Ontario, Canada, killing four of them on Monday. Police believe the attack was planned, and the victims are thought to have been targeted due to their Islamic faith.

• "Butcher of Bosnia" faces verdict: Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb warlord who took part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 after being found guilty of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. A final decision on Mladic's fate will be made today when the Hague announces its verdict on his appeal against genocide charges.

• U.S. recovers most of ransom paid to hackers: After the Colonial Pipeline hacking last month which severely impacted oil and gas production, particularly for the U.S. east coast, authorities have been able to recover 63.7 Bitcoin ($2.3 million). The ransom had been paid to the hackers from the eastern European based group, DarkSide, with the seizure being viewed as a potential message to dissuade future cyber criminals.

• Basketball-court length dinosaur discovered in Australia: Palaeontologists in Australia have discovered a new species of dinosaur: the Australotitan cooperensis. The dinosaur is among the top five largest to ever be discovered, measuring two stories in height and 82-98 feet in length — the equivalent of a basketball court.

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Coronavirus
Rozena Crossman

Me, My Bubbie And A Cruel Idea From Texas

Ageism at its most inhumane.

She got me into Sex and the City when I was 12. Lately, she's been badgering me to read George Eliot's 800-page opus Middlemarch. She exercises every damn day and loves checking out men in the mall almost as much as she loves the shopping. She follows the stock exchange religiously, is a decorated veteran of the dance floor and pumps her own gas. In one month, my grandmother, who we all call Bubbie, will turn 94.

You can bet I was thinking of her when I read this back in March from Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick: "As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?... If that is the exchange, I'm all in."

Sitting in my Paris apartment, rage and sadness stirred together in my Boston-bred blood. But it's not just about me and my Bubbie, and it's not just an American calculation. The oh-whatever-this-virus-only-kills-old-people song has been sung all over the world, a tune that's both factually incorrect and a smash hit on age-bias radio. The Spanish army discovered a nursing home with residents dead in their beds, completely abandoned by their personnel and society. A survey by the Agewell Foundation found that 59% of seniors in India felt loneliness even when confined with their family, with 23% feeling ignored by younger generations addicted to screens.

Ageism was a global epidemic long before COVID — a World Health Organisation article from 2018 reported that 1 in 6 people worldwide over the age of 60 suffered abuse at the hands of their community. Even if you live in a place that respects its elders, the way other nations treat their most vulnerable members during this pandemic will affect yours, as the indiscriminate, contagious nature of the virus means no one is safe until everyone is safe.

Death is final, and thus make Dan Patrick's demographic-economic calculations meaningless — and inhumane. The idea that the lives of the elderly are disposable should simply be a non-starter, even if you don't have a grandmother around like mine.

Every Thursday, I call Bubbie. At the end of each call she tells me, "Be good." It's a joke, because neither of us have ever been very well behaved. I sign off to you, however, without any humor. As a 30-year-old, I know it may be hard to empathize with aging and illness when you feel like your life is in front of you. But for the love of the people who made us all, be good.

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Geopolitics

Fortunate Nations: Six Coronavirus Success Stories

Vietnam and Slovakia are among those that have stood out in the response, though the apparent reasons vary.

With much of the world still overrun by the pandemic, we can look to a handful of countries that have either largely avoided or quickly recovered from COVID-19. A handful of countries (16 at recent tally), mostly small and remote, have had no cases at all. But there are others that have been more exposed, but have done well to limit the spread, as well as the death toll. Looking at these cases, there's apparently not one perfect solution — rather a variety of steps, strategies and most probably also luck, that have shown to be the most effective to claim a kind of victory of the coronavirus. And just as importantly, there are some lessons for the rest of us:

VIETNAM: has an impressive coronavirus record for a country of 93 million people: 268 cases and zero deaths, reports Les Échos. What did Vietnam do differently? The government opted for a low-cost strategy: instead of mass testing, the country relied on rapid identification and isolation of infected individuals and tracking of their contacts via a mobile app. As a result, nearly 75,000 Vietnamese went through a 14-day quarantine in military camps and state-run hotels. Six townships and neighborhoods were cut off from the world. Above all, Vietnam was one of the first countries to close its border with China, even though its economy is highly dependent on its larger neighbor.

NEW ZEALAND: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared this week that the country has won the battle against coronavirus as "there is no widespread, undetected community transmission." Throughout the outbreak, the country has reported 19 coronavirus deaths in total – meaning 4 deaths per one million. After nearly five weeks in one of the world's toughest lockdowns – with offices, schools, bars and restaurants closed, including takeaway and delivery services – New Zealand now begins to ease the restrictions, reports SBS News.

SOUTH KOREA: From being Asia's worst-hit country outside China a few months ago, South Korea is now hailed as a role model for successfully containing the outbreak. At the heart of its success lies the strategy of widespread testing and intensive contact tracing.

Lantern decorations in Seoul, South Korea, on April 24 — Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA/ZUMA

In an impressive demonstration of speed, South Korean authorities have made tests freely available and set up drive-in stations for anyone to get tested. Isolating only those who tested positive, the epidemic was swiftly controlled while successfully avoiding a nationwide shut down.

SLOVAKIA: With 20 coronavirus deaths so far, Slovakia has the lowest death rate per capita in Europe. The country enforced one of Europe's harshest and earliest lockdowns, including early bans on international travel as well as all public, religious, cultural and sporting events. Schools and most shops have been closed and people returning from abroad have to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Slovakia was also one of the first places to impose compulsory wearing of face masks in public. But severe restrictions cannot be the only factor explaining such low numbers, since other central and eastern European countries proceeded in a similar way and ended up with significantly higher per capita figures of deaths and infections. In fact, epidemiologists and demographers don't have a clear explanation for how the country, as Slovak daily Dennik N put it, became "an island in the sea of mortality".

OTHER ISLANDS: There are still a handful of countries with zero reported cases of coronavirus, mostly among Pacific Islands in Oceania. Islands like Vanuatu, Samoa, and Micronesia were quick to implement travel restrictions and some of them also enforced lockdowns. At the same time, countries like Tuvalu or the Solomon Islands are some of the least visited countries in the world, which has been a massive help in preventing an outbreak.

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Geopolitics

Worldcrunch Today, Dec. 21: New COVID Strain, Record Relief, Vaccinating Santa

Welcome to Monday, where stocks plummet and borders are blocked after news from Britain about a new faster spreading COVID strain. Mada Masr also takes us to Ethiopia's troubled Tigray region and considers the ramifications of the conflict along the border with Sudan.

SPOTLIGHT: THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED THE MEANING OF WORK AND FREE TIME

Bill Gates is among those predicting that the shift toward remote work will last beyond the COVID-19 crisis. But what if, to compensate, people start making more of an effort to mix and mingle? Beatriz Miranda Cortes, a lecturer at the Externado university in Bogotá, looks ahead in Colombian daily El Espectador.

In a marvelous reflection on the post-modern world and the individual, human condition, the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman cites the example of a young man who aspired to having 500 friends on Facebook.

Bauman observes that at 86, he still hasn't found that many friends, but suggests that the word friend likely means different things to him and to the young Facebook user. Bauman wants authentic human bonds, in a living community. The online community, he says, depends for its existence on two gestures: connecting and disconnecting. And both are just a matter of clicking the right button. Add friend? Click. Remove friend? Click.

The philosopher's reflections focused on the blessings and curses of human ties in the real world versus the virtual, online realm. But now there's an entirely new factor to consider: a painful pandemic that will reshape the world, and our relations.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently tackled the topic of COVID-19, and the lasting impact it may have on the world, in a conference organized by the New York Times. And one of his predictions is that 50% of business trips and 30% of office days will be eliminated.

That's a very different scenario from the one that people envisioned just last year, when things were still "normal." In a piece published Jan. 24, 2019, Spain's El País called business travel a "rising asset" and cited Bogotá, along with London, New York, Sao Paulo and Mexico City, as one of the world's best cities for corporate events.

But then COVID-19 came along, and many executives made their homes an office. Remote work means it won't be easy to justify a business trip now, which will surely reduce the number of flights crossing the skies every day. Bad news for the airlines, but as far as climate change is concerned, it's actually a rather favorable development. Airports, long trips, jet lag, hotels and constant separation from loved ones will no longer be part of the routine of corporate directors.

Also during the pandemic, many people moved to places far removed from city centers. They were looking for quiet places, surrounded by nature and often cheaper. Moving forward, everything indicates that more people will return to the countryside and picturesque villages where the norm is to appreciate the small things in life. This will likely reduce the population density of big cities and in the long term, redistribute the population in many countries.

Gates believes that the shift to remote working will be a lasting one, and that offices will never go back to how they were. He expects that as a result, people will feel more of a need to socialize. In the meantime, though, we're still having to deal with the virus. Vaccines will take time to distribute and apply, meaning that the disruptions to normal life will continue. We can also expect that most people will continue being cautious with elderly parents and relatives.

In 2020, most countries imposed social distancing. Borders were closed. People moved apart. And our houses, in addition to being homes, doubled as offices, classrooms and everything else. The silver lining was that the concept of home recovered its beauty, sense and essence. And yet, it's also clear people want to reach out and touch each other again. After staring at a screen for hours on end, people want to look each other in the eyes, the way they used to.

Gates said he hadn't anticipated facemasks would be so controversial, or that the Trump administration would take such an extremist attitude to the pandemic. He acknowledged that there is strong antipathy in the United States to using facemasks, but said he isn't sure if it's because of the government's political posturing, or due to a vigorous attachment, among American people, to personal freedoms.

Those kinds of unpredictable behaviors — in the name of freedom or under other pretexts — could occur elsewhere in the world too. Only time will tell. Either way, let's hope that whatever happens, whether in relation to Bauman's ideas about human bonds or Gates's post-pandemic predictions, we'll be ready to see and experience the changes — in person.

— Beatriz Miranda Cortes / El Espectador

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