FOLHA DE S. PAULO
Founded in 1921, the "Sao Paulo Gazzette" became Brazil's leading daily in the 1980s by applying standards of openness and objectivity to its coverage of the country and Latin America as a whole.
Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Lula To Sarkozy To Trump: The Toxic Mix Of Justice And Politics

-Analysis-

It was quite a statement about Brazil's justice system: "I have been the victim of the biggest judicial lie in 500 years," Luiz Inácio da Silva declared last week. But the hyperbole from the former president, better known as Lula, was also very much about politics — considered by many to be the opening salvo in his election campaign next year to return to the presidency.

The 75-year-old onetime labor leader, who went on to serve as Brazil"s president between 2003 and 2010, maintains widespread popularity because of his big words and big personality, but also for having introduced far-reaching social programs that are credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty. After having seen his protégé and successor Dilma Rousseff impeached, Lula tried to run in the 2018 presidential election but was disqualified after being implicated and convicted (and ultimately, jailed) in a corruption scandal.

But last week, Brazil's Supreme Court cleared Lula, setting up a likely run against current president Jair Bolsonaro in 2022. The O Globo daily featured a front-page cartoon of Lula as an angrily impatient Superman, while Folha de S. Paulo headlined its coverage of his speech: "As in the plot of a Greek play, Lula returns to save democracy."

But whether used for Lula or against him, it's already clear that playing the judicial card will be a big part of Brazil's next election. Lula's supporters will blame "politicized" judges who barred him in 2018 from standing in the way of the public will, and clearing the path for four years of Bolsonaro. His detractors will blame other ‘politicized" judges who might now allow him to run despite his alleged implication in corruption scandals.

It's a dynamic seen at play around the world — walking the fine line between respecting democracy's necessary separation of powers and stoking populist anger amid painstaking judicial proceedings.

Lula in Sao Paulo on March 10 — Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA

We've seen similar scenes play out in recent years in Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi used his time in office to lash out at judges who prosecuted him and passed laws designed to make him immune from prosecution. More recently in France, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, still the most popular figure among center-right voters, was convicted of trying to bribe a judge. Le Figaro noted that Sarkozy didn't go as far as Lula, prefering not to call his conviction "politicized justice," but rather a "profound injustice." He added that he has "gotten used to facing this kind of harrassment for 10 years."

And the next theater of such political-judicial drama? Keep your eye on the world's most powerful democracy, where Donald Trump is eyeing another run for the White House in four years — and prosecutors are investigating the former president for a variety of alleged misdeeds. If you think Lula didn't hold back in attacking the judicial system, just wait for the Donald.

Coronavirus

COVID Death Toll At 1.5 Million: A World United By Those We Lost

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the planet, and we remember those we lost from more than 20 different countries.

PARIS — It's a staggering number, one that in the early days of the pandemic, few would have even dared to imagine. And yet, here we are: The worldwide COVID-19 death toll is now set to pass 1.5 million.

Those we've lost include some of the biggest and most advanced countries, including the United States, which has registered the most deaths (271,000+), followed by Brazil (174,000+) and India (138,000+). But this pandemic, the first of this amplitude in the era of airline travel and full-throttle globalization has reached virtually every corner of the world. That means 27 have also died in Iceland and 29 in Singapore, alongside the more than 39,000 in Argentina, 57,000 in Italy and 49,000 in Iran. And so on ... sadly.

Even with a vaccine on its way, current forecasting models say it is likely that the final toll will include an additional one million lives taken by the coronavirus.

The impact of all of this death — on nations, cities and neighborhoods, on governments and economies — is immeasurable. But nowhere, of course, is the absence of all those lost lives felt more acutely than among the families and friends of those we've lost. National and local media have spent the past nine months chronicling their departed citizens and neighbors. Now, as a reminder of how this pandemic has connected the whole world in grief, here is just a small sample of COVID-19 victims from different countries and different backgrounds, from an aging bodybuilder in China to a Brazilian mother who died while seven months pregnant to a Congolese-born star student in Quebec.

CANADA (12,000+ deaths)

Don Béni Kabangu Nsapu, 19

Montreal

Don Béni Kabangu Nsapu, just 19, became Quebec's youngest coronavirus victim when he died on Aug. 16 from complications due to COVID-19. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he lived in the Montreal area where he received last year's award for the high school student who demonstrated the most academic and athletic perseverance.

He was first brought to hospital when he contracted a fever. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent home to quarantine.

Three weeks later, his state of health deteriorated, explained his father, Alain Lukinda Nsapu: "It was at the end of the third week that it got worse," he said. "We took him to the hospital. Nine days later he died."

This young death shocked the local community. Stéphane Kalonga, the teenager's former soccer coach at École secondaire de la Pointe-Aux-Trembles, described him as "an exemplary boy, very polite and very courteous. He had a lot of dreams and then it was all over just like that."

U.S.A (274,000+ deaths)

Bethany Nesbitt, 20

Winona Lake, Indiana

Image

Bethany Nesbitt had hoped to pursue a career as a child health specialist, "helping children and families navigate the process of illness, injury, disability, trauma, or hospitalization," according to the Grace College website in Winona Lake, Indiana. The youngest of nine siblings, Nesbitt was expected to graduate next spring.

This Grace College student died on October 29 in her dormitory room. She had been isolating there for ten days after her COVID-19 diagnoses, said her brother, Stephen Nesbitt, a journalist with The Atlantic.

He tweeted that "the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism—the result of a blood clot—widely recognized as a common cause of death in COVID-19 patients."

She began showing symptoms and was tested for the virus. She also monitored her oxygen saturation levels, as she was asthmatic. When her oxygen levels dropped, she went to the emergency room, but doctors said she did not have a severe case of the virus and seemed to be recovering, so they sent her back to her dorm. Her oxygen levels stabilised and she was fever-free on October 28. She felt the worst was past. On October 29, she watched Netflix and went to bed. She was found dead the next morning.

"Bethany was a selfless and loving friend, a source of constant encouragement to all those around her," said her family in a statement. "She had a passion for helping others, especially children, and her sassy sense of humor and wonderful laugh put them at ease."

MEXICO (107,000+ deaths)

Jesús Ricardo Ríos Rivera, 50

Atizapán

By the time Jesús Ricardo Ríos Rivera finally got his test results, on April 8, it was too late. The 50-year-old pediatrician in Atizapán, just outside of Mexico City, had been feverish and struggling to breathe. Just two days after being admitted to hospital, the father of two was gone.

His widow, Ivonne Santana Olguín, never had a chance to say goodbye. She only saw his corpse from a distance as he was taken in a body bag to be cremated, Mexican daily La Silla Rota reported.

To date, the pandemic has taken more than 100,000 lives in Mexico. Ríos Rivera was one of the early victims. At the time, the protective gear provided to health workers was minimal, and there weren't many testing kits on hand at the hospital where he worked.

Even though the pediatrician hadn't been treating COVID-19 patients, all practicing doctors are at higher risk than most. And back in March, when Ríos Rivera was feeling sick and suspected that he'd been in contact with an infected person, colleagues twice declined his request to be tested because of a shortage of tests. "Unfortunately, my husband's isn't the only such case," Santana Olguín later said. "A lot of people complain that they're not given the test because they don't have all the symptoms, and that's not good."

BRAZIL (174,000+ deaths)

Celma Castro, 39

Venda Nova do Imigrante

foto de Celma Castro

Celma Castro had always dreamed of having two children. After giving birth a year earlier to a boy, the native of the coastal Brazilian town of Venda Nova do Imigrante got the good news from the doctors: "She was ecstatic about the arrival of the girl," Rosi Cruz, a longtime friend told Folha de S. Paulo daily.

On May 18, seven months into her pregnancy, Castro tested positive for COVID-19. Three days later, with her condition deteriorating, she was taken to the hospital and intubated.

Marcela was born the day after by caesarean section. The mother of two died on June 7, having never recovered consciousness, unable to say goodbye to her loved ones — or meet her newborn daughter, who tested negative for COVID.

ECUADOR (13,000 deaths)

Giovanni José Coppiano Campoverde, 54

Guayaquil

Giovanni José Coppiano Campoverde was an Ecuadorian radiologist, a serious job. But it was as Copito the clown that most people remember him.

A pioneer in children's entertainment nationwide, Coppiano studied radiology and later earned a master's in Management of Health Services After beginning to work in a children's hospital in Guayaquil in the 1990s, he wanted to entertain sick children and, more importantly, lift their spirits — so he started doing small gags and telling jokes. In doing so, he discovered his calling. Coppiano became famous across Ecuador as the "payaso Copito," a chubby clown who wore bright-colored suits, white gloves, and a painted face.

Copito organized shows with assistants, magicians and animated birthdays, children's parties and other celebrations. People who knew him say he was very proud of his work as a clown. "Every child is unique, every family different and every party special," he wrote about his passion on his website.

Coppiano contracted COVID-19 right as the illness began to overwhelm Ecuador's fragile health system. He died on April 5, aged 54, one of too many people for the hospital to handle all at once.

U.K. (60,000+ deaths)

Rachael Yates, 33

Monmouthshire, Wales

Image

Rachael Yates worked as a prison officer at Usk prison in Monmouthshire when she passed away, this past April. Before taking her role at the category C prison, she had worked at the town's post office. She is the fourth prison employee known to have died in the UK after falling ill with COVID-19.

A Facebook post from from the Usk town council said: "Many of you will remember Rachael and her cheery nature working alongside Jane behind the counter at the old post office in Bridge Street — often in Victorian costume — and some of you may have seen her recently around Usk, where she had been working at Usk prison."

A prison service spokeswoman said: "An officer at HMP Usk sadly passed away on 21 April and our deepest sympathies are with her loved ones and colleagues at this difficult time."

Like so with so many victims of the virus, Yates's family never had a chance to say goodbye. That was "the worst thing of all," said her mother, Julie Jacques.

"I just want people to be aware that this can happen to anybody, and they must remember social distancing. We should never be having these problems in our world in 2020," she said.

IRELAND

Helen Dillon, 87, and Brendan Dillon, 91

Dublin

Helen and Brendan Dillon lived all their married life in Clontarf.

Helen and Brendan Dillon grew up less than a mile from each other in Dublin's north inner city. They were married for 61 years and died within two weeks of each other. They now lie together in Glasnevin Cemetery. She was 87 and he was just three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday.

Helan and Brendan met in their 20s when both worked for then State agency the Land Commission. They married in 1958 and Brendan moved to the department of social welfare. Helen, because of the traditional ban on women working after marriage, had to give up her job. She stayed home to mind their five children but got involved in business again when her husband started a company creating form sheets for horse racing.

Always active, Helen and Brendan had different but complementary interests. Brendan played a bit of cricket in his younger days and greatly enjoyed pitch and putt. But his favourite pastime was classical music, about which he was a true expert.

Brendan was always a walker who up to the age of 89 walked 10-12 miles a day. Helen's favourite pastime was watching westerns.

One evening Brendan went for his usual walk, came home for dinner and enjoyed a glass of wine. The next day he was in the Mater hospital where he died five days later, on April 21.

Helen could not attend the funeral and her last sight of her husband was looking out the window and waving at his coffin as the hearse passed their Castle Grove home where so many of their neighbors stood and applauded in tribute.

Some days later Helen began to display symptoms and was admitted to hospital, where she died on May 3, five hours before the birth of her great-granddaughter Ruby.

SWEDEN (7,000+ deaths)

Hanna Altinsu, 81

Södertälje

Image may contain: 1 person, phone

In the Altinsu family home north of Stockholm, Hanna spent all of his later days caring for his sick wife Fehime, starting long before the pandemic struck. So when Fehime's condition deteriorated in March, and she suddenly stopped eating, the family had no idea it was COVID-19.

When Hanna soon fell ill too, the customary Sunday dinners with the couple's two sons, Gabriel and Daniel, turned into hospital visits. Three weeks after Fehime died from complications connected with the virus, Hanna followed her on April 9.

"Their fate was to never part, they were always together," their son Gabriel said.

ITALY (57,000+ deaths)

Federico Castellin, 34

Milan

When he died last March, Federico Castellin claimed two grim titles: he became Italy's 10,000th COVID-19 victim, but also, at the age of just 34, the country's youngest.

Castellin was particularly well known in the town of Cinisello Balsamo, located about 10 kilometers northeast of Milan, in Lombardy, the Italian region hit hardest by the pandemic.

Castellin started life helping behind the counter of his father's tobacco shop in the Borgomisto district. He took over the running of the Zen bar in Piazza Gramsci a year and a half ago, with the aim of restoring the town's most historic bar to its former glory. But then, with frightening speed, he succumbed to the coronavirus, dying on March 27.

Castellin left behind his wife, Anna, and a one-year-old son.

"A sunny and kind young man." That's how Paolo Tamborini, president of the Cinisello town council, remembers him. "He was a beautiful person. Always ready to give himself generously to others."

GREECE (2,600+ deaths)

Bishop Ioannis, 62

Lagadas

Serbia Mourns Aged Patriarch

Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, a senior clergyman in Greek's Orthodox Church, was an outspoken advocate of maintaining communion during the pandemic. He argued that there's no risk of transmission in the ceremony, in which worshippers are personally handed bread and wine with a shared spoon.

He died on Nov. 15 after contracting the coronavirus and was buried a day later.

Critics were quick to highlight the bishop's stance on the communion issue. But the church's governing body, the Holy Synod, continues to defend him.

"Certain aspiring leaders of public opinion are insisting in a neurotic manner on concentrating exclusively on Holy Communion," a statement from the Synod said. "They cite unscientific correlations with the spread of the coronavirus, in defiance of epidemiological evidence."

Greek health experts have mostly avoided commenting on church practices but have noted that World Health Organization guidelines list saliva droplets as a leading means of contamination. The town of Lagadas, outside Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki, is a northern region experiencing the highest rate of infection in the country.

GERMANY (17,700+ deaths)

Metin Aslan, 63

Braunschweig

BTEU / Avrupalı-Türk İşadamları/kadınları Birliği - Posts | Facebook

When Metin Aslan arrived in Germany from Turkey with his father at age 15, he spoke hardly any German and struggled to integrate. He was a hard worker, however, and after finding his first job as a kitchen assistant, he juggled several jobs and changed paths frequently.

In his life, he was a glassblower, a steel cooker, a boxer, a locksmith and a truck driver. But it was only when he opened a Turkish-Kurdish restaurant in Braunschweig, near Hanover, that he finally landed on his life project.

The former dishwasher made a name for himself as Braunschweig's cult restaurateur. Even with the success of his restaurant, he was a man without airs, someone who sweated in the kitchen and still delivered food himself to the local junior hockey teams.

When Aslan died on April 5, aged 63, local media reported that the entire city mourned. The soccer club Eintracht Braunschweig wrote that they had lost a friend. "He was a Braunschweig man, body and soul," the mayor said.

Aslan leaves behind a widow and their children. They still run his restaurant, which continues to do well despite the restrictions. Local media says they haven't forgotten how to smile.

RUSSIA (41,000+ deaths)

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, 57

Moscow

UFC

Nicknamed the "Father of Dagestan MMA", Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov was a former wrestler and specialist in the Soviet martial art of sambo. After retiring, he earned a reputation as a maker of champions in southern Russia and even helped his son Khabib to become UFC champion and one of the greatest ever mixed martial arts fighters in history, having yet to be defeated in the spring.

In April, Abdulmanap was treated at home in Kirovaul for a suspected case of pneumonia. He tested negative for COVID-19, but shortly after his condition worsened and he was rushed to a hospital in Moscow.

The pneumonia led to a heart attack, an emergency bypass surgery, then to induced coma. While in the ICU, Abdulmanap eventually tested positive to COVID-19, and the virus began to alter the functioning of his heart, brain and kidneys. He died in Moscow on July 3.

His son Khabib stepped back into the octagon to pay tribute to his father and won the match — before shocking the UFC world by announcing his retirement. Coached by his father, Khabib Nurmagomedov has fought 29 matches in his career. He remains undefeated.

ZIMBABWE (277 deaths)

Zororo Makamba, 30

Harare

TV with Thinus: Coronavirus: TV presenter Zororo Makamba (30) dead as  Zimbabwe

Cooped up in an isolation ward, a young Zimbabwean man who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, pleaded with his family to get him more help. Zororo Makamba, 30, was "alone and scared," his older brother told Zimbabwe's privately owned Daily News newspaper.

Makamba was being treated in the Wilkins Hospital, designated as the main isolation facility for coronavirus patients in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Shortly after he talked to his family, he was dead. The death of Makamba, a well-known journalist, came swiftly — less than three days after his diagnosis on March 23.

Famous for his online social and political commentary, Makamba wrote under the banner "State of the Nation." His death marked an unwanted milestone: He was the country's first coronavirus casualty and it shocked Zimbabwe. The fact that Makamba came from a wealthy, high-profile family was not enough to save him, and family members have argued that his death has exposed the inadequacies of the country's medical response to the threat of coronavirus.

Makamba had undergone surgery last November to remove a tumour from under his lung and was in recovery. While his family admit that his immune system was compromised, they insist that his death could have been avoided.

SOUTH AFRICA (21,000+ deaths)

Gita Ramjee, 45

Umhlanga

Gita Ramjee spent her life looking for solutions to prevent HIV, focusing on women in South Africa. Born in Kampala, Uganda, she became an internationally recognized expert in the field of microbicide research, and was notably at the forefront of attempts to find an effective HIV vaccine.

Ramjee's pioneering career — during which she worked in close relationship with UNAIDS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust — led to her receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for HIV Prevention in 2012. She was also awarded the "Outstanding Female Scientist" award from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership in 2018.

Gita Ramjee fell ill after returning to South Africa in mid-March from a work-related trip to London.

Shortly after landing back in South Africa, she was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. She died from COVID-19 complications on March 31 in a hospital in Umhlanga, near the coastal city of Durban.Deputy President of South Africa David Mabuza mourned Ramjee's passing by saying, "In her, we have indeed lost a champion in the fight against the HIV epidemic, ironically at the hands of another global pandemic".

ALGERIA (2,000+ deaths)

Moussa Benhamadi, 67

Algiers

Algérie : L

Former Algerian Minister of Telecommunications Moussa Benhamadi, close to the family of deposed president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, died on July 17 of coronavirus in Algiers. He had contracted the virus in prison, where he was being held on corruption charges.

"Moussa Benhamadi contracted the virus on July 4, but he was only brought to hospital nine days later, where he died," his brother Hocine Benhamadi said.

Born on Jan. 4, 1953 in Ras El Oued, in eastern Algeria, Moussa Benhamadi started his career as a computer engineer before he was elected in 2002 as a deputy of the National Liberation Front, an allied party in power.

He had been held in pre-trial detention at El Harrach prison since September 2019 as part of an investigation into corruption involving the Algerian high-tech firm Condor Electronics headed by his brother Abderahmane.

Abderahmane, also suspected of corruption, was released from detention in April. Another brother, Omar, Condor's managing director, is still behind bars.

IRAN (49,000+ deaths)

Parviz Purhosseini, 79

Tehran

Actor Parviz Pourhosseini dies at 79

Iranian actor Mohsen Tanabandeh recently wrote on his Instagram account about the daily "dread of turning on the mobile phone" to discover that another friend or relative had died. On Nov. 27, the name was Parviz Purhosseini, a noted screen and stage actor who died of the coronavirus after spending two weeks in hospital, the Tehran daily Hamshahri reported.

Purhosseini's son, Purang, published pictures of his father on his Instagram account, saying he had "fought to the end" and praised doctors and nurses for striving "day and night" to save his life. "They were truly extraordinary," he said in gratitude to staff at the Firuzgar hospital in Tehran.

Purhosseini was a graduate of Tehran University's fine arts faculty. He had played in Iranian television series and plays including local versions of productions by Britain's Peter Brook. He also had parts in vintage films from the 1980s and 90s, including Kamal ol-Molk, on the life of a prominent artist of the 19th century.

ISRAEL (2,000+ deaths)

Yehuda Barkan, 75

Jerusalem

Yehuda Barkan, l

Actor Yehuda Barkan not only helped define Israeli comedy in films like Hagiga B'Snooker but was also a lifelong practical joker. Barkan, who was from the coastal city of Netanya, died last month of COVID-19.

Born to Yiddish-speaking parents from Czechoslovakia and Poland, he began acting after his military service, but was expelled from the Beit Zvi School of Performing Arts. He instead developed his passion for humor, pranking people on an Israeli radio show.

He gained fame in the 1970s starring in "bourekas' movies. These eventual cult classics explored ethical tensions between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews. In the film Lupo!, Barkan — then aged 25 — starred as a middle-aged secondhand furniture dealer.

In a 1971 New York Times review, critic Vincent Canby wrote, "Under all those layers of make-up and charm, Mr. Barkan is, I suspect, an actor of real talent."

He became religious and left the entertainment industry, but returned to acting in the 2010s. In the television series "Yellow Peppers," he played the grandfather of a boy with autism.

He also never lost his sense of humor, taking part in hidden camera shows, including one where unsuspecting couples were set up on blind dates. For his last role, he starred as the romantic lead in the 2019 movie "Love in Suspenders." Upon his passing, Prime Minister Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Barkan, "brought joy to generations of Israelis."

CHINA (4,000+ deaths)

Qiu Jun, 72

Wuhan

Coronavirus: The noted victims of the virus in Wuhan - BBC News

Qiu Jun was in his early 40s when his life took an entirely different direction. That's when the railway maintenance technician started bodybuilding.

Qiu was born in 1948 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, where he studied at a local technical school and then started working in railway maintenance in the Wuchang Vehicle Factory — a line of work he kept at for his whole life.

But in 1990, when Qiu was 42, he found bodybuilding and never looked back. He participated in Hubei Province's first-ever bodybuilding competition, where he finished fifth. And yet, he only began working out seriously after his retirement from the factory in 2003, in the middle of the SARS epidemic.

Qiu survived SARS, but his wife did not. He was known for hitting the gym religiously and for participating in bodybuilding contests, even at age 70. In 2019, he won second place in the elderly category of the international "Olympic World Night" tournament. He became famous on social media after pictures surfaced, showing enviable form for his age.

He was scheduled to take part in another competition in June, but started showing symptoms on Jan. 23 and was taken to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. He died on Feb. 6.

His son is quoted as saying, "The father who never got sick could not escape this disaster."

INDIA (138,000+ deaths)

Jamal Khan, 41

Bijnor

When Jamal Khan, a 41-year-old farmer, developed a fever in August local doctors failed to recognize the risk of COVID, his brother said. It was only when he was transferred to Delhi, 10 days after he first became ill, that he was tested. By then, his lungs were badly damaged, and he died soon after, Asim explained.

"If he would have been diagnosed on time in his own native place, he would have surely survived," the victim's brother said.

India's rudimentary healthcare system has at times struggled to cope with the huge number of coronavirus cases. Many of the victims' relatives have come out to claim there were missed opportunities to cure the infected.

NEW ZEALAND (25 deaths)

Christanthos "Christo" Tzanoudakis, 87

Wellington

Coronavirus: A timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Zealand and  globally | Stuff.co.nz

Christo Tzanoudakis was something of a legend in the Greek community in Wellington. The 87-year-old, originally from Crete, had lived in the New Zealand city for 50 years.

He contracted the coronavirus when he attended his son Manoli's wedding … along with at least 95 other guests. They formed what became known as the Bluff wedding cluster.

Christo had worked on the wharves and owned a fish and chip shop.

One of the founders of the Cretans Association of New Zealand, he served as the president for some years. The group's current president, Stamatis Nikitopoulos, announced Tzanoudakis' death with "a heavy heart" on Facebook.

"He was a very much-loved man by all his family and friends and a well-respected member of the Cretan Associations and the broader Greek Orthodox Community in Wellington."

Christo had planned to move back to Greece after the wedding. But shortly after the event, a first guest tested positive for COVID-19. Then the bride and groom tested positive. On the Thursday after the wedding, Christ got very sick, his son Manoli said.

"He got rushed to hospital. He was going up and down, and then he started deteriorating." Speaking in Greek, Manoli told him to "be strong, and we will get through it."

It was the last thing he said to his father, who died on April 10.

AUSTRALIA (908 deaths)

Maureen Preedy, 70

Perth

Coronavirus Australia: plea for empathy as COVID-19 patients face their  final hours

Maureen Preedy was a mother of two and grandmother of three, an "extroverted" and "vibrant" person, and a keen traveller. She and her husband Barry were due to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary next year, and they loved going on trips around the world with friends every year.

The couple was on a cruise in Italy when news broke that a coronavirus outbreak had flared up on the Costa Victoria cruise ship they were on. Like the other 200 passengers, Maureen and Barry were quarantined in their cabins as the ship docked north of Rome.

Maureen started to feel sick on the ship, and the couple's daughter Simone campaigned for the government to bring them back. When this happened at the end of March, Maureen seemed to be getting worse. After landing, the couple was taken to two different hotel rooms to continue to isolate.

The next day Maureen was rushed to the hospital, where she tested positive for COVID-19 and was put into an induced coma. She never woke up. Barry couldn't see her again — he tested positive but survived, and is devastated by the loss.

"I wish I had said more," daughter Simone told Guardian Australia. "I wish I had pushed on the health stuff. Maybe if she got medical attention sooner things might have been different."

Economy
Alessio Perrone

COVID In Brazil, Cause And Effects Of Wealth Inequality

Rafaela Dutra was working in Rio de Janeiro's tourism industry and studying to become a nurse when the coronavirus arrived. A resident of the sprawling low-income favelas in the city's Zona Norte, she had worked in one of Copacabana's shiny, high-rise hotels, earning up to twice the region's minimum monthly wage of 1,200 reais ($220). But after six years on the job, Dutra told Brazilian daily O Globo, she was laid off in April after the city had dried up of tourists. The only work she could find was selling clothes on the street at a time when most people started working from home or had also lost their jobs. "Some days I sell less than 50 reais ($8.80) worth of stuff," she said.

Dutra's story is a case in point: poverty and inequality are on the rise in Brazil, a country of 210 million people, where a massive wealth divide has long plagued society. With COVID-19, the economy has begun to unravel and policymakers are warning of a backslide into entrenched poverty of dangerous proportions after temporary government support winds down.

A poorer Rio: Poverty is rising fast in Rio de Janeiro state, around the iconic coastal city, according to a study by Marcelo Neri of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a research institute:

• In August alone, Neri found that more than 270,000 Rio residents fell into poverty.

• Autonomous and informal workers suffered the most during the country's lockdown and lost their livelihoods from one day to the next.

• Rio de Janeiro is Brazil's second-biggest economy after São Paulo — but more than five million residents are either unemployed or informal workers.

An isolated case? Researchers caution that Rio is performing worse than the rest of Brazil:

• Unemployment is on the rise throughout the country, where more than 14 million people are out of work, reports the Correio Braziliense, as unemployment has risen from 10% to 14.4%.

• But at the same time, many other Brazilians are being lifted out of poverty at a historic rate. Largely due to a government emergency support scheme that hands vulnerable Brazilians 600 reais per month ($106), the number of destitute Brazilians has fallen by more than 20% during the pandemic (from close to 9 million in May to 6.9 million now). This is the best result Brazil has posted in 40 years.

• The policy can help explain Bolsonaro's spike in popularity even though more than 150,000 deaths are blamed on the coronavirus.

Photo: Fabio Teixeira/ZUMA

No reason to be cheerful: "The support scheme shows that social policies are designed badly in Brazil. When the government withdraws the 600-real-scheme, extreme poverty will triple by the beginning of 2021," Daniel Duque of the Brazilian Institute of Economics at the Getulio Vargas Foundation told the Gazeta do Povo. "When you look at income distribution, you can see that inequality has exploded. The rich are making more money during the pandemic, and the poorer have seen money wane in their pockets."

Go deeper: Not long ago, Brazil was hailed as an economic miracle for the rate at which it was lifting its people out of poverty. Now, The pandemic risks jeopardizing the progress the country made.

• Between 2000 and 2015, some 50 million low-income Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, or some one-quarter of the population.

• The results were largely linked with the popular Bolsa Familiascheme introduced by leftist President Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula. The policy gives poorer families a monthly stipend in exchange for sending children to school and complying with health checkups.

• But Brazil experienced the worst recession in its history between 2014 and 2016, causing inequality to rise again. Last year's "Global Inequality Report" ranked the country second in the world (behind Qatar) for having the highest concentration of income in the top 1%, Folha de S. Paulo reported.

Poverty is a risk factor: In Brazil too, the virus has killed the poor and the marginalized in higher proportions:

• A housekeeper was the first death from COVID-19 reported in Rio de Janeiro in March.

• The evolution of the pandemic in Brazil has killed poor and Afro-Brazilian people more than the rest of the population. They are often essential and informal workers, or simply workers who could not afford to stop working during the pandemic.

• One more reminder that "Social inequality has a direct impact on deaths among the poorest and least educated," as Paula Maçaira, a researcher of Industrial Engineering of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, told O Globo. "The more unfavorable the patient's socio-economic situation, the more likely he is to die."

Trump And The World
Alessio Perrone

Italy's Election, A Sign That Trump Could Pay For COVID-19

Italian populist party leader Matteo Salvini's disappointing results in regional elections is being blamed on his erratic handling of the health crisis in one of the worst-hit countries.

In what some are calling the most consequential U.S. presidential election ever, the coronavirus crisis will no doubt play a role in who voters choose. According to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the handling of the pandemic is the top issue for 20% of the American electorate, behind only the economy.

Donald Trump's decidedly haphazard, often anti-science response to the health crisis has included his admitting that he intentionally downplayed its severity, scoffed at the use of masks, and regularly compared COVID-19 to the common flu. And as the U.S. tops 200,000 deaths, many are wondering whether he will pay a price at the polls for his coronavirus response.

Now, one possible indication may have arrived this past week from Italy: Right-wing Lega party leader Matteo Salvini, who has largely followed Trump's playbook on the COVID-19 response, suffered a resounding defeat in regional elections.

Make Italy great again? Salvini rose to prominence in March 2018, when a general election propelled him into a power-sharing government and a place atop the polls of Italy's most popular politician.

• The scruffy 47-year-old shares many traits with Trump, whom he called "one of his models': an emphasis on immigration and nationalism, a reluctance to distance himself from neo fascists and white supremacists, and aggressive, populist tirades against the media and the "establishment."

A quick fall: After a falling out with his coalition partner, Salvini continued to garner headlines opposing the government — including the response to the coronavirus that hit Italy particularly hard.

Salvini on the health crisis often sounds like Trump, flailing and full of U-turns and attempts to focus on other issues, like immigration. He protested against mandatory mask-wearing, then backtracked saying masks should be worn when necessary. He called for Italy's Prime Minister to be arrested for not imposing local lockdowns sooner, then claimed that "migrants are the only problem" and that the coronavirus was not an emergency.

Trump and Salvini in 2016 — Photo: Archives

Paying the price: Salvini's fumbling, freestyle approach to COVID-19 seems to have hurt him in a series of regional elections and a national referendum held this past Sunday and Monday.

• Salvini predicted that his party would win all six contended regions, but it took three — and only in coalition with two other major right-wing parties.

• In the contended Veneto region, incumbent governor Luca Zaia, a Lega dissident who openly defies Salvini's leadership, won 75% of the vote on the wings of his measured performance during coronavirus. Veneto saw one of Italy's first coronavirus hotspots, but Zaia heeded scientists and led the region to be among Europe's fastest to defeat the outbreak. Less than 17% of the votes went to Salvini's party.

• A growing number of right-wing Italians have ceased to see Salvini as a leader after the pandemic, preferring another far-right politician, Giorgia Meloni, who provided more leadership during the emergency.

• "Populists haven't been able to capture the need for protection during the COVID-19 emergency," Massimo Giannini, editor-in-chief of La Stampa, commented. "When the pandemic exploded, Salvini got flustered."

Not just Italy: There are indications that COVID-19 could have hit the stock of other populists with unconvincing performances during the pandemic, leaving open the question of whether it will also hurt Donald Trump:

• In the UK, only 30% of Brits approve of the coronavirus management of Boris Johnson, who initially said the UK wanted to achieve herd immunity, waiting to impose a lockdown and making the crisis worse, according to the latest YouGov poll.

• In Germany, the far-right populist party AfD, which embraced conspiracy theories about the virus, has plummeted, according to Die Welt.

• A Brazilian exception: although president Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly sneered at the advice of health professionals and led the country to one of the world's worst death tolls, his approval ratings recently set a new record high, according to Folha de São Paulo.

Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Salvini To Bolsonaro: Risking Lives And Pushing The Limits Of Democracy

Few outside his native Italy had heard of Matteo Salvini before he emerged in 2018 as the new global star of far-right populism. Catapulted by the election success of his League party, the scruffy and sardonic northerner had grown into Italy's most talked-about and incendiary politician, solidifying power in his role as interior minister in a government led by caretaker Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Salvini's favorite topic was immigration, and he made worldwide headlines by ordering authorities to block migrant rescue vessels from docking on Italian shores. It was a radical new policy that put the lives of refugees at risk. His popularity skyrocketed.

But last week, a year after his coalition's patchwork majority disintegrated and Salvini was forced into the opposition, he was the one suddenly exposed to the elements. As reported by the daily La Stampa, a raucous mix of insults and chants in his favor ("Matteo! Matteo!") accompanied the Italian Parliament's vote to strip Salvini's parliamentary immunity. That, in turn, enabled a Palermo prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against him for the very policies that had once made him so beloved by his anti-immigration supporters.

The charges: "kidnapping," on the grounds that as interior minister he'd forced vulnerable refugees to remain stranded at sea in violation of existing laws requiring authorities to save people at risk.

What happens when democratically elected leaders adopt undemocratic policies, and even threaten lives?

It is not yet sure whether Salvini will, in fact, be taken to court for his actions — the judiciary will decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial. For now, he remains a member of Parliament and head of what is still Italy's most popular party.

But the case highlights a growing tension in how Western democracies deal with populists challenging what had seemed basic standards of decency. What happens when democratically elected leaders adopt undemocratic policies, and even threaten lives?

Another theater for this debate is in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has carried out policies during the COVID-19 crisis that defy all scientific logic, even as the death count continues to rise. To date, some 90,000 have died there, more than in any other country outside the United States.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — Photo: Lucio Tavora/Xinhua/ZUMA

In response, Brazilian labor unions representing more than 1 million health professionals recently filed accusations against Bolsonaro for Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide at the International Criminal Court in The Hague "for refusing to protect Brazilian health and the Brazilian population," according to daily Folha de S. Paulo.

Populists rose to power across the world promising disregard for existing rules, international agreements and institutions – "the system" or "the establishment." At the time, many interpreted their rise as a sign that liberal democracies were ailing. Now, after they acted to defy those rules, taking regular whacks at age-old boundaries and testing democracies around the world, these trials could be a sign that our democracies are fighting back.

But it could also be a sign that the crisis is about to go deeper. Suing democratically elected leaders risks testing the resiliency of the very institutions pro-democracy supporters aim to protect. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long leveraged attacks against him in the courts to gain popularity at the polls, and thus weakening the power of the judiciary.

Back in Italy, another populist who has faced magistrates ever since he entered politics is Silvio Berlusconi, who has managed to convince millions of Italians that he was being attacked unfairly by a corrupt system. A force in Italian politics for two decades, his say-anything approach largely paved the way for the rise of Salvini.

But it could also be a sign that the crisis is about to go deeper.

But the country's history always points back to the singular example of someone who was democratically elected but cared little for democracy. Benito Mussolini used his standing as a member of Parliament to launch a coup d'etat, going on to murder political opponents, call off elections, invade weaker countries and eventually forge an alliance with Adolf Hitler — who himself first rose to leadership through the polls.

Leave it to the fascists to remind us that democracy is about much more than just winning elections.

Geopolitics
Anne Sophie Goninet

New Wave Of Face Mask Requirements Around The World

Face mask policy has been a moving target since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With some countries and localities facing shortages, and the World Health Organization itself initially suggesting that masks were not effective in containing the spread of the virus, governments were reluctant to implement rules to force people to wear face coverings.

But since, attitudes have evolved. Masks4All, a group of researchers and scientists, found that only around 10 countries recommended wearing masks in mid-March, whereas as of mid-May, around 100 countries require or recommend them.

More recent studies have now shown that the virus could spread by particles suspended in the air and that masks, if worn properly, could serve as a barrier against droplets expelled into the air. If some experts are concerned that masks might give a false sense of security, there is a least a consensus that they can reduce the risk of an infected person passing on the virus.

So now, governments see new rules about masks as one possible way to avoid a second wave of infections without reimposing strict lockdowns that could further damage their economies.

France: The French government first advised people to wear masks only if they were sick or were health workers, before encouraging all citizens to wear protective equipment in public. Now with all restrictions and lockdown measures lifted, Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced that it would be compulsory to wear masks in all enclosed public spaces beginning next week, Franceinfo reports.

  • This comes as concern grows amongst experts who warn that people are "abandoning" barrier gestures, including a concert in the southern city of Nice that drew some 5,000 people packed closely together and almost all without masks.

  • So far masks were only compulsory in public transport, while shops and businesses had the right to require their customers to wear such protective equipment.

Hong Kong: The island has recently imposed its strictest social distancing restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic, following a surge in new coronavirus cases.

  • The rules include mandatory face masks for people using public transport — a first in Hong Kong which had not yet imposed the wearing of masks for its citizens. So far the city had only recommended using such protective equipment in crowded places.

  • Failing to comply with this rule may attract a fine of HK$5,000 ($645) and entry may be refused, Hong Kong Free Press reports.

In Hong Kong on July 14 — Photo: Chan Long Hei/SOPA/ZUMA

Brazil: As cases continue to soar in Brazil, the second-worst hit country in the world with more than 1.9 million infections, the Chamber of Deputies approved a new law to make the use of masks obligatory in public. Several states already made face coverings mandatory, but this was the first law on a national level.

  • However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed their use in shops, schools and churches as well as the enforcement of fines for those violating the rules. He also vetoed articles requiring public authorities to distribute masks to "economically vulnerable people."The law is now in the hands of the Congress, which will decide whether to maintain or reverse these vetoes.

  • Jair Bolsonaro, who has been downplaying the severity of the pandemic since it started and refused to wear a mask in public, was seen wearing one when he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus. But it doesn't mean that the political leader has come round: he allegedly used homophobic language to mock the use of face masks, Folha de São Paulo reports, and took off his mask in a televised interview, exposing journalists who filed a criminal complaint to the Supreme Court.

Spain: In Andalusia, a ruling was approved this week making masks mandatory in all public spaces. Failing to abide will bring fines.

  • The decision comes as local outbreaks of COVID-19 have been registered in the last few weeks.

  • Similar measures have already been taken by other regional governments in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Extremadura, reports El Pais.

The United States: President Donald Trump finally reversed his position this month, urging Americans to wear masks although he himself had refused to do so before and even mocked Joe Biden who had worn one during a ceremony. The president was seen last week wearing a mask for the first time in public. So far there has been no national mask mandate issued, but states have taken the matter in their own hands.

  • Alabama's governor announced this week that people will have to wear masks when leaving the house. According to the Washington Post, nearly half of all states are now requiring their citizens to wear the protective equipment.

  • The country's largest retailer Walmart Inc. has just issued the same rule for its customers in its 5,000 stores across the country beginning next week. Other national chains have made similar moves, as cases continue to climb us in the U.S. with more than 3.3 million infections.

Geopolitics

So Bolsonaro Caught COVID-19, Is That Good News?

-Analysis-

You could almost hear a collective "Ha!" from around the world. The news yesterday that Jair Bolsonaro had been infected with the coronavirus comes after the Brazilian president's response to the epidemic over the past four months that mixed arrogant dismissiveness with outright lies:

The 65-year-old hardline right-wing leader first baselessly suggested Brazilians were immune; then shrugged off thousands of deaths, calling the epidemic a "little flu". As Brazil's death toll ballooned to more than 66,000 — the world's highest outside of the United States — Bolsonaro criticized local lockdowns introduced by some Brazilian states and refused to wear masks during official visits where he regularly hugged supporters.

He summed up his approach to prevention in late March: "We'll all die one day."

Thus many inside and outside Brazil took his contagion as poetic justice. Some celebrated; others went further.

"I'm rooting that his condition worsens and he dies. Nothing personal," columnist Hélio Schwartsman writes in a provocative piece for Folha de São Paulo.

His rather extreme reasoning in the leading Brazilian newspaper: Like any death, Bolsonaro's would be regrettable — yet it could save the lives of others. "Brazil would no longer have a president downplaying the epidemic and undermining containment measures." It would also be "a global cautionary tale" for other irresponsible politicians, and prevent further loss of life the world over. In other words, "Bolsonaro would render in death the service he was unable to offer in life," Schwartsman concludes.

The argument is tempting.

Anger is understandable, and the argument is tempting. After all, the news that he was infected doesn't seem to have changed Bolsonaro's attitude: Shortly after telling reporters he had tested positive, he stepped back, removed his mask and smiled, saying, "You can see from my face that I'm well" — playing down the epidemic again, and potentially infecting others around him.

Comprehensible as our anger and frustration may be, Thiago Amparo, a Brazilian lawyer and politics professor also writing in Folha, warns against actually hoping for Bolsonaro to die. Such thoughts strip us of our reason, humanity and trust in democratic institutions; it's a gut reaction that appeals to our rage against the injustice of having lost thousands of people that should still be among us.

But gut reactions hardly ever produce justice, Amparo notes. "If they did, the pre-Enlightenment system of public lynching would have been a great place to live," Amparo writes. "Let the anger against Bolsonaro reveal the diamond it hides: the thirst for justice."

Society
Alessio Perrone

Black Lives Matter In Brazil, Where Racial Tensions Simmer

João Pedro Matos was in his uncle's garden on May 18 in São Gonçalo, near Rio de Janeiro, when Brazil's Federal Police stormed in. Police claim officers traded shots with armed drug traffickers, though the Matos family denies this. A bullet fired by an officer hit João Pedro, who was taken away in a helicopter and reported as missing. His parents were only told the next day that he had died. João Pedro was 14 years old.

The victim's father, Neilton Pinto, addressed Rio de Janeiro state governor Wilson Witzel on television. "I want to say, mister governor, that your police force didn't just murder a 14-year-old boy with a dream and plans," the UOL newssite reports. "Your police force killed an entire family, it killed a father, it killed a mother and João Pedro. This is what your police force did to my life."

João Pedro's death is just one reason why the protests against police brutality aimed at people of color — which began last week in the U.S. after officers killed George Floyd in Minneapolis — have also flared up in Brazil. The anger has found particularly fertile ground in Brazil, a country with several historical and political parallels with its North American neighbor.

People gathered outside the headquarters of the Rio de Janeiro government on Sunday, May 31 to protest against police operations in Rio de Janeiro's low-income neighbourhoods, known as favelas. Protesters marched with banners chanting Vidas negras importam, the Portuguese for "Black lives matter", and Parem de nos matar, ("Stop killing us'). Later, as some protesters lingered after the end of the demonstration, police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse them, causing a stampede, O Globo reports. Dramatic footage showed an officer holding a protester at gunpoint with an assault rifle. Similar scenes were seen in São Paulo and other major Brazilian cities.

Bolsonaro was elected promising a ‘licence to kill" to police officers

Police violence against people of color in favelas has been a problem for years in Brazil, a country that shares with the U.S. a tragic history of slavery of African populations. Just over half of the country's population identifies as black, but black Brazilians represent more than 75% of the victims of police operations. According to BBC Mundo, Brazilian police forces kill up to 21 times more black citizens than their U.S. counterparts.

But many believe that the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a former military officer, has exacerbated the problem. "Bolsonaro was elected promising a ‘licence to kill" to police officers," writes Folha de São Paulo columnist Ilona Szabo. Since Bolsonaro's election, police killings have reached new record highs. Police killed 1,810 people in Rio in 2019 – the highest number since records began in 1998. In the first four months of 2020, Rio de Janeiro police have killed 606 people, by their own count.

Like Donald Trump in the U.S., Bolsonaro has appeared to fan the flames after the first protests, calling black rights protesters "terrorists, idiots and drug addicts', Folha reported. A high official appointed during Bolsonaro's time in power was recorded calling the black rights' movement "scum", months after claiming that slavery had benefited black Brazilians. Bolsonaro's sons Carlos and Eduardo, both politicians, publicly endorsed Trump's promise of a hard line stance against protests.

Also like in the U.S., the racial tensions in Brazil have been mixing with a rising death toll from a very poorly managed coronavirus outbreak. This week, Brazil overtook Italy as the world's third worst hit country in the world. On Friday, Brazil's Supreme Court temporarily halted police raids in favelas during the pandemic, though critics of the government cited the ruling as a response to the recent killings of blacks Reuters reports.

Popular protests in Brazil against the police have thus far not escalated, though new demonstrations are expected on Sunday.

Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Police Violence And Racism, International

As more than 20,000 protesters in Paris reminded us last night, police violence against people of color is a global issue. Demonstrations have been held in cities across the world, including London, Auckland, and Berlin to condemn the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. There is something more than just solidarity with American victims in the outpourings, even though the notorious tough police tactics, as well as historical racism, feed the problem in the United States. There are cases of unarmed people killed at the hands of police in other countries, and often there is also race and history involved


France: The Paris protests Tuesday night centered around the 2016 death of 24-year-old construction worker Adama Traoré in police custody.

  • Expert opinions have been conflicted around the police's role in his death. His family, who have been at the forefront of the Truth for Adama Movement, recently presented evidence that asphyxiation caused by excessive police force killed him.
  • Large-scale anti-police demonstrations took place in France in 2005, after two teenagers, one black and one Arab, were killed while trying to escape police custody.
  • "In France, it is the scars of slavery, the scars of colonialism that we suffer from, that result in these barbaric acts," actor Greg Germain told French public TV at the Paris protest. "I beg the French State: Let this be a lesson for us."


Belgium: A few weeks ago in Brussels, Adil a 19-year-old of Moroccan descent, died after being struck by a police vehicle.

  • Last year, a similar incident left a 17-year-old named Mehdi Bouda dead, launching the "justice for Mehdi" movement on social media.
  • In a 2018 study by Amnesty International, half of Belgian police officers interviewed said there was a problem with ethnic profiling and dubious practices around identity stops.
  • Police also often take or break bystander's phones to prevent them from filming.​

March for Mehdi Bouda in Brussels in October — Photo: Hugo Monnier via Instagram

Brazil: The latest in a long history of police killings, a 14-year-old boy died after being shot in the back during a botched drug arrest operation in the Rio de Janeiro area. Over the weekend, protestors marched in the country's favelas against unprecedented police violence:

  • João Pedro Matos, who dreamed of being a lawyer, is one of the thousands of black Brazilians who have been killed by police.
  • Between 2017 and 2018 in Brazil, more than 75% of those who died in police interactions were black.
  • In April, Rio state police killed 177 people, the second highest number recorded since tallying started more than 20 years ago.
Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: After Climate Change, War On Science Speeds Up

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: AFTER CLIMATE CHANGE, WAR ON SCIENCE SPEEDS UP

For those who believe in science and empirical evidence, the global "war on facts' has taken its toll on multiple fronts in recent years, from climate-change deniers to the anti-vaxxer movement trying to halt longstanding vaccination treatments.

And now, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, it's happening again — only at warped speed. "For the climate community, observing U.S. national political leaders' responses to the coronavirus pandemic has been like watching the climate crisis unfold on fast-forward," writes Dana Nuccitelli in Yale Climate Connections, a publication from the Yale Center for Environmental Communication. The article features President Donald Trump's denials of the gravity of both climate change and coronavirus side-by-side, and the comparison is stark.

Trump isn't the only leader who likes to wrestle with science. India's former chief scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research lamented to Science magazine that the country's Prime Minister Narenda Modi has "initiated what may be called ‘Project Assault on Scientific Rationality."" Modi once argued: "Climate has not changed. We have changed… our tolerance and habits have changed. If we change then God has built the system in such a way that it can balance on its own." Now, that same line of thinking has led members of the prime minister's party to publicly extol the virtues of cow excrement in treating COVID-19 without a shred of evidence.

Then, of course, there's Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's Denier-in-Chief, who went against his government's own scientists, claiming both the destruction of the Amazon and the dangerous spread of COVID-19 were blown out of proportion by the media, as Folha de S. Paulo reported. His country currently has almost 30,000 confirmed cases of the disease, placing it among the world's most affected countries, with reports that the death toll may be about to skyrocket. Bolsonaro's firing on Thursday of Brazil's health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who had pushed for stronger restrictions, was perhaps the most direct challenge to the scientific community.

Will the virus wake the world up to the dangers of not taking science seriously? Well, there may be a silver lining on the anti-vaxxer front, as those skeptical about vaccines are forced to rethink their beliefs as they join the rest of the world in eagerly waiting for one for the coronavirus. We can only hope that common sense will keep on spreading.

—By Rozena Crossman

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: Worldwide cases surpass 2 million. Death toll in France jumps by record 1,438 deaths following three-day Easter weekend while Sweden passes 1,200 mark in "herd immunity" context.

  • Apology to Italy: President of European of Commission Ursula von der Leyen offers "heartfelt apology" to Italy for not being there when the country "needed a helping hand at the very beginning" of the pandemic.

  • Bailout pleas: The IMF reports that more than 100 countries have made requests for bailout funds in response to crisis.

  • "Free our children": Barcelona mayor calls for an end to strict lockdown measures for children, as Spain is the only country where they cannot leave home under any pretext.

  • Cluster at sea: At least 668 sailors from French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have tested positive to the virus and 20 are hospitalized.

  • R.I.P.: Luis Sepúlveda, the best-selling Chilean writer, has died in Spain at 70 after contracting the virus.

  • Walk-a-thon: British 99-year-old war veteran raises more than £12 milionfor the National Health Service by walking 100 laps in his garden.

Watch Video Show less
Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Calculating How Long It Will Last

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world. To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT:

For the first time in most peoples' lives, no matter where we are, we're living our days amid a swirl of statistics and news flashes that leaves us waking up the next morning with the same question. How big will it get?

So how is it that we can't, with the brainpower of all the virologists, biologists and public health officials around the world, figure out what COVID-19 will mean for our future?

Well, part of the problem is just that: the whole world. Experts are dealing with a sample size spanning all of humanity in which much of the information is missing, confusing or unreliable. In Iran, a clerical regime known for its opaqueness is believed to severely understate the already high number of 1,100 deaths — and the same now goes for Russia, with an equally dark record of state censorship, where only one death has been reported so far — a suspicious figure considering the country ranked 116th last year in the Global Health Security Index for "detecting" pandemics. But even in more open societies like the U.S. and Italy, overloaded institutions and slow rollout of diagnostic tests have blurred both the actual figures and geographical scope of the spread.

The hard truth is that even with more accurate numbers, we're missing many pieces of a puzzle that keeps multiplying: How strong is the immune response to a novel infection? How does the virus react to warmer weather? And how fast can it mutate? For now, we are left to stay at home, wonder, and wash our hands for longer than we're used to.​ At least that number we can be sure of: 20 seconds.

Watch Video Show less
Geopolitics

The Latest: Myanmar Toll Multiplies, Attack In Sweden, Platypus Refuge

Welcome to Thursday, where the Myanmar crackdown toll multiplies, a Swedish axe attack injures eight and someone's finally looking out for the platypus. We also feature Le Monde"s investigation of rampant sexism in France's finest culinary schools.

• COVID-19 latest: Indian Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN shows 81% efficacy. In Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel reveals a five-step plan for easing restrictions, while France lifts its ban on AstraZeneca vaccine to be given to 65+. Police in China and South Africa seize thousands of counterfeit Covid vaccines. And a new report shows that mortality rates are higher in countries where more people are obese.

• Myanmar coup: The United Nations reports at least 38 people were killed yesterday in the deadliest day since coup began.

• U.S. Police uncover ‘possible plot" by militia: Nearly two months after the insurrection, Capitol police uncover intelligence on a possible plot to breach the U.S. Capitol today. The threat appears to be connected to a QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump will rise again to power on March 4.

• Sweden attack: A man in the southern Swedish city of Vetlanda injured eight people in an axe attack that police are investigating as a possible terrorist act.

• South Korean transgender soldier found dead: South Korea's first transgender soldier, Byun Hui-su, has been found dead at home after being forcibly ousted from the military. The cause of death is unknown and authorities said she had been dead for a few days.

• SpaceX prototype lands, explodes: After two previous attempts that exploded mid-air, Elon Musk's SpaceX Mars prototype SN10 rocket landed successfully in Texas. The craft, however, blew up only minutes later.

• Platypus refuge: In light of recent droughts and wildfires which have devastated the animal's habitat, an Australian zoo will set up the world's first platypus sanctuary.

Watch Video Show less