THE WASHINGTON POST
Founded in 1877, The Washington Post is a leading U.S. daily, with extensive coverage of national politics, including the historic series of stories following the Watergate break-in that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. After decades of ownership by the Graham family, the Post was purchased in 2013 by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos
Future
Emma Flacard

Good And Evil Uses Of Facial Recognition Around The Globe

Much has been said about China's use of biometric technology for mass civilian surveillance. But facial recognition is being used elsewhere too, and not always as a tool for crime prevention.

Leo Colombo Viña had just hopped onto a Buenos Aires subway when he was approached by a police officer and taken in for questioning over a robbery he'd supposedly committed 17 years prior.

The computer science professor and software company founder had done no such thing. It was a case of mistaken identity, one that was triggered, ironically, by the latest in digital technology: a facial recognition system. But as civil rights activist Eduardo Ferreyra explains in a recent op-ed piece in the Argentine daily Clarín, it didn't stop the Colombo Viña from having to spend six days in jail.

"They surrounded him, told him he had to accompany them to a police station, handcuffed him in front of his family," Ferreyra writes of the incident, which took place in 2019.

For some time now, debates over facial recognition tend to focus on places like China, where the technology is being used for social control, or perhaps India, notorious for its use of facial recognition to identify anti-government protesters.

But as Colombo Viña's case shows, the technology is gaining a foothold far and wide, including in Argentina, where starting two years ago — much to the chagrin of groups like Human Rights Watch — it's even being used to target juvenile suspects.

Biometric technology raises obvious concerns about mass surveillance.

Here is an overview of several of the controversies (and sometimes, pleasant surprises!) surrounding the use of facial recognition tech around the world:

Missing the mark

Biometric technology raises obvious concerns about mass surveillance and the extensive gathering of private information. It's also proven to be racially biased: The programs have more difficulties distinguishing among dark-skinned people, inevitably leading to false arrests.

In the United States, a 2019 case saw an innocent Black man arrested after a false facial recognition match was used as evidence to detain him, CNN reports. The 31-year-old New Jersey resident spent 11 days behind bars before he was finally released, and even then, it took a year for the charges, including unlawful possession of weapons, to be dropped.

A face recognition system at the Narita International airport in Narita, suburban Tokyo — Photo: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO via ZUMA Press

In China, where facial recognition technology has been used for many years now, and especially in provinces that are said to house separatists, the BBC has just revealed that artificial intelligence and facial recognition intended to reveal states of emotion has been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang. According to an anonymous software engineer, Uyghurs have been used as test subjects for emotion detection cameras.

Tracking political opponents

Thousands of kilometers away, in the middle of the African continent, the Chinese influence on biometric technology is still prevalent. In 2019, the Chinese company Huawei sold an invasive surveillance system to the Uganda government to track down, arrest and torture political opponents, Quartz Africa reports.

During anti-government protests in November 2020 that led to the death of 50 people, the Uganda police reportedly used Huawei's facial recognition tech to track down and arrest suspects.

Others see facial recognition as Big Brother.

The technology is being put to use in Europe too. In southeastern France, the seaside city of Nice has also become a testing ground for high-tech surveillance tools. Starting a dozen years ago, the then mayor, right-winger Christian Lestrosi, implemented a vast surveillance system that has gotten increasingly high-tech as times goes on. More recently, starting in 2018, Nice began experimenting with facial recognition and has even tested biometric technology in high schools.

Just say cheese

Elsewhere, though, the technology is being used not to fight crime, but to keep people healthy. In East Africa's Tanzania, developers are employing it to fight against rabies, with an application that can determine immediately — with just a cellphone camera image — whether a dog has been vaccinated against the illness.

Facial recognition technology also has the advantage of being hands-free, and can thus be a tool in the fight against COVID-19. In the main airport of the Bahamas, biometric technology allows passengers to travel without having to physically present their (potentially germy) documents, The Bahamas Tribune reports.

Across the planet, in Australia, lawmakers are considering an entirely different use of facial scanning: as a requirement for internet users to access online pornography.

For proponents of such programs, facial recognition tech can help keep us safer. Others see it as Big Brother, and warn that by allowing its increasing use, we're progressively transforming public spaces into spheres of oppression. As Eduardo Ferreyra urges in his Clarín piece: "It is the responsibility of all of us to commit ourselves and work to prevent this from happening."

Rue Amelot
Anne Sophie Goninet

Happy Birthday, COVID: The Moments Missed We’ll Never Get Back

When I blew the candles on my 29th birthday cake, on March 27th 2020, it was only 10 days after the first lockdown had begun in France. Still, I felt lucky. I remember telling myself that, even though the day included no friends, at least in 2021 for the much more momentous passage into la trentaine, I could celebrate properly. Alas...

Besides a fleeting opening up over the summer, France, like much of the world, has largely remained in lockdown mode for what in fact has now been more than one full year. Three weeks ago, when I turned 30, I was able to invite some family members to share a slice of delicious chocolate cake and a champagne flute, but my parents and my brother, who live in another region, couldn't make it because of the curfew restrictions. A big party with friends was of course out of the question.

A big party with friends was of course out of the question.

A second birthday in lockdown puts a point on the disappointment and frustration so many — of all ages — are experiencing. It's as if we were in the same position as when the pandemic started — despite the vaccination campaign and the hope that it would bring back some sense of normalcy. Still, I do believe this troubling moment in history is harder on some ages than others — and I'm not talking about my fellow millennials.

Earlier this month, I received a message in my family's WhatsApp group, asking if everyone could send a postcard to my niece, who turned six years old on April 14th. For the second year in a row, she wasn't able to celebrate her birthday with friends her age or even with her whole family. Reading the message, I thought about all the birthday parties I had as a child and a teenager, how important they were to me, how sad it was that my niece has now missed a proper celebration two years in a row.

happy_quarantine_cake_candles

Happy Quarantine. A young girl celebrating her birthday. — Photo: pixpoetry

Such concerns of course pale in comparison to the health, economic, social and psychological crises the pandemic has caused. Still, this too is something lost. Experiences (and, later, memories) of games, cakes and candies when you're young, dancing, flirting and maybe the first hangovers a few years later… Many of the group photographs that I have as a child were taken at birthday parties and I will never forget my 18th fête d'anniversaire.

For 18-year-olds, it's not just birthdays that had to be canceled, but also celebrating their graduation, driving license, first summer job,… My brother turned 18 last February and he is going to pass his baccalauréat in just a few months, and so far, I don't think he has any unforgettable memories to take with him. Another 18-year-old, who had to cancel her birthday party, told Le Monde: "It was a way to assert myself (...) There will be no before, no after."

For 18-year-olds, it's not just birthdays that had to be canceled, but also celebrating their graduation, driving license, first summer job,…

To counter that feeling, I can only look at my calendar, hoping that I'll be able to organize a party later this summer, not just for me, but also for my partner and all my friends who are turning 30 as well in 2021.

We might draw some inspiration from Heather Brooks, who'd had a big birthday — 50 — soon after the first lockdown in the U.S., and now just turned 51. She told The Washington Post: "The pandemic makes you understand how fragile and precious life is, to a degree we didn't have to look at before. So, I think I will give my birthdays a little more honor than I used to." Brooks joked that until she can properly celebrate, she still considers herself 49. Well then, count me in too as 29!

Geopolitics

Third Wave Coming: How We’re Getting Smarter About COVID-19

PARIS — With much of the world trying to minimize the impact of a COVID-19 second wave, governments are again forced to make impossible choices between relaxing restrictions to avoid total economic implosion or staying shut down to limit death tolls. Even countries typically mentioned as pandemic role models, like South Korea, are seeing a resurgence of cases.

But perhaps the grimmest news of the second wave is that many experts say we're bound for a third wave.

We know little about how things will play out, especially as hopeful results continue to arrive from several major vaccine efforts. But the logistical challenge of deploying a global vaccination effort means there's a real risk of a third wave arriving well before the virus is defeated. Others say that the next surge would be better characterized as a second installment of a drawn-out second wave.

Either way, the West is unlikely to go into crippling lockdowns again given the depth of economic damage caused by previous efforts to contain infections. What we do have is nine months of gained experience of grappling with the pandemic, and from that, governments have learned important lessons and fashioned new tools for minimizing the impact of the crisis in the months ahead. Here's a look at some of the progress that's been made:

Better knowledge of the virus

Treatments Three major vaccines have been developed and moved into final approval phase, with the UK set to deploy this month. But as we wait, the medical community has been testing and repurposing existing drugs and studying their effect on health, mortality and length of hospitalizations. Some show promise:

• A recent WHO worldwide study (conducted on 11,266 adult patients, across 500 hospitals in more than 30 different countries) reported that the steroid dexamethasone, used as a last resort among the most serious cases requiring oxygen, reduced mortality rates by up to one-third.

President Trump's hospitalization, in the United States, shed light on an experimental treatment using a combination of two synthesized "monoclonal" antibodies to boost the natural immune response of patients. U.S. officials have granted emergency authorization for the treatment — though the WHO remains unsure about the method.

• According to CNN, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu from Texas could help deliver another potential COVID-19 treatment. Using in-silico methodology, she developed a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to attach to human cells, infect them and replicate.

• Health professionals and authorities around the world have learned just how crucial timely diagnoses and treatments are. We now know that it's critical to act fast in symptomatic cases, while asymptomatic or only lightly affected patients can quarantine at home.

Viral load - One question researchers have sought to explain is why hospitals and ICU admissions dropped drastically over the summer. The going theory now is that when people receive lower doses of the virus, largely due to social distancing and wearing a mask in public spaces, their bodies are able to fight it and develop immunity more quickly. And the smaller the viral dose people carry, the less infectious they are. The hypothesis is backed by several studies, according to the The Washington Post, but more research is needed to confirm it, especially about how the viral load may impact the severity of the infection.

Masking up in Frankfurt — Photo: 7C0

Prevention is the best cure, but how?

The right tracking - The faster a cluster can be identified, the better the chances of containing the spread. Countries like South Korea have been praised for their streamlined responses to new cases, made possible through extensive contact tracing systems using both manual and digital methods. Many countries have tried to copy that approach, launching smartphone apps that rely on Bluetooth and geolocation to identify and notify people who might have become infected.

• In Germany, the Corona-Warn-App has been downloaded approximately 22 million times but only around 60% of users who have tested positive for Corona upload their findings onto the app, meaning that the people they have come into contact with aren't duly informed of the risk.

• In Finland, an app launched at the start of September became one of Europe's most popular with 1 million downloads in the first 24 hours, as reported by AP. It now has 5.5 million users and counting.

• Across the EU, three out of the 23 member states with a contact-tracing app have switched on cross-border interoperability: Germany's Corona-Warn-App, the Republic of Ireland's COVID-19 tracker, and Italy's Immuni app. Any user traveling from and to these countries can now receive exposure notifications through their national app, without downloading the local one.

Up to the test - Several countries have carried out massive testing campaigns. But the results of the standard PCR tests take up to 4-5 days to arrive, limiting their ability to prevent infected people spreading the virus further. Several labs worldwide have developed antigen tests that work just like the PCR-tests but produce results much more quickly (15 to 30 minutes).

• In the United States, Abbot Laboratories, the only one manufacturing rapid tests, received emergency authorization in August to put them on the market. At the end of September, Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million of them.

• The WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered to reach volume guarantee agreements with Abbott and SD Biosensor to make 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests available to low- and middle-income countries.

On air - Unlike during the first wave, we now know that the virus can be airborne and thus ventilation of potentially infected places is key, with new studies suggesting that the virus can survive in the air for as long as eight minutes. This summer, the WHO issued new recommendations regarding ventilation in public spaces.

Germany will reportedly invest 500 million euros to help schools, offices, museums, entertainment halls, and other public buildings upgrade their ventilation systems.

Buenos Aires province will ban using air conditioning in hospitality venues around primary tourist spots during seasonal holidays, El Tribuno reports.

• In Spain, the Ministry of Education and Employment of the Junta de Extremadura issued clarifications to educational centers in preparation for winter, advising for a "balance" between ventilation to minimize the spread, "adequate" air conditioning to keep a decent temperature, and "adequate" clothing for pupils to stay warm.

Finding new indicators

Back in April, studies pointed out that traces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) of COVID-19 could be found in wastewater. The information was at first explored as a potential new source of contamination but it is now used for wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), a powerful tool to trace the circulation of a virus in a community and estimate its prevalence and geographic distribution. It is particularly useful to monitor asymptomatic infections, which often slip under the radar of clinical surveillance. Wastewater analysis can help locate potential clusters by detecting the virus from 24 hours up to six days before the first symptoms appear.

• In Madrid, Spain, the regional government implemented a method for collecting samples along the city's 15,000-kilometer sanitation network. The action helped the city predict hospitalization rates several days in advance, La Vanguardia reports.

• In late July, maritime-firefighters from the dedicated COMETE unit in Marseille, France predicted an outbreak that only became clinically measurable in early August. The unit recently started collecting more targeted samples in nursing homes to test the residents' environment without exposing them.

Ideas
Jeff Israely

Ivory Coast On The Potomac? Democracy At Risk In U.S. Election

-Analysis-

PARIS — It was the kind of headline that risks fading into your news feed as if it were barely news: "Ivory Coast: As Presidential Election Approaches, International Criminal Court Worries About Violence," Jeune Afrique magazine announced last week.

And so it followed, as votes were cast this past weekend in President Alassane Ouattara's contested run for a third term, with Radio France Internationale reporting that violence had begun to spread as the opposition rejected the result and called for "an opening to a civilian transition."

Elections, we're reminded again, are both the strongest safeguard and weakest link of any country calling itself a democracy. For those without a long or deep democratic tradition, from West Africa to Southeast Asia, the act of opening the polls can become the moment the true nature of the system is laid bare — either for the unrest set off in the streets, or the certainty of the results, or as we've seen recently in Belarus, both.

The messy counting of the votes in Ivory Coast, of course, coincides with another campaign coming to a head an ocean away. There, instead, ahead of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election, similarly worded headlines jump straight off the page: "With Election Day Looming, an Anxious Nation Hears Rumblings of Violence" is one from The Washington Post. Another from NBC News reads: "Trump has Signaled He Won't Accept an Election Loss. Many of his Voters Agree."

Elections are both the strongest safeguard and weakest link of any country calling itself a democracy.

In the months after Donald Trump's 2016 victory, commentators from less-than-democratic parts of the world noted, sometimes with a cruel twinkle of irony, that the new president resembled the political "strongmen" American governments had long propped up elsewhere. Trump, to a large extent, has done his part to fulfill such predictions: bullying opponents and allies alike, regularly attacking a free press, egging on the basest behavior of his worst followers — all fueled by a craven desire for attention and utter disregard for telling the truth.

Still, we are told that "the institutions" of democracy, including the 2018 mid-term elections that handed the House of Representatives back to Trump's rivals, have been built to withstand such power grabs.

Voting in Abidjan on Nov. 1 — Photo: Yvan Sonh/Xinhua/ZUMA

Now, the ultimate institutional test has arrived for what Americans like to boast is the "world's oldest democracy:" For the first time in living memory, the basic discharge of safely and properly electing the nation's leader is said to be in serious doubt. The subtext is that nothing guarantees the perpetuity of one form of government or another, as we've seen repeatedly over the past century, from 1930s Germany to to 1970s Chile to Thailand since 2014.

As an American who has lived abroad for years, I've read these headlines with much trepidation, but also with a bit of distance that comes from, well, distance; but perhaps from also having watched how power changes hands in different countries, where repeated failures of the most fragile democracies stand in stark contrast to the resilience of more stable political systems.

There are entire chunks of American public life that will be hard to recover.

Since its independence from France in 1960, Ivory Coast, has sadly fit too often in the category of the democratically fragile. President Ouattara came to power in 2011 only after a civil war had been set off by the refusal of longstanding President Laurent Gbagbo to cede power after "postponing" elections for five years. And now Ouattara himself has claimed a third election victory, even though the constitution sets a limit of two terms. Opponents have largely boycotted what they say is a rigged contest, and the country is bracing for what could again be protracted conflict.

The similar cloud of uncertainty and diminishing trust is now hanging over the American democracy. With its 224-year history (flaws and all), as well as the United States' continued superpower status, mean the rest of the world will be watching — strongmen and democratic activists alike.

Commentators have been cataloguing the entire slabs of American public life that will be hard to recover after four years of Trump, and harder still after eight. Much of what this president has tried to undermine are those other fundamental components of a functioning democracy: pluralism, civil debate, basic decency.

Still, with Election Day upon us, I am doubtful that he will succeed in upending that cornerstone of free and fair elections. In recent days, courts have overturned Republican party attempts to limit voting — a sign that the institutional safeguards are working. No, what worries me most about the fate of our political system is something else: that the undemocratic candidate might win again. Or, to paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt: the only thing we have to fear is democracy itself.

Geopolitics

Trump Or Biden: 15 World Leaders, Who They Are Rooting For

Every U.S. election carries consequences beyond America's borders. But Nov. 3 stands out for multiple reasons: a lethal pandemic has killed more than one million people across the world, once thriving economies are in tatters, U.S. isolationism has created an international power vacuum that is allowing right-wing autocrats to thrive across continents. And then, there's Trump.

What's at stake: Having become a de facto leader for many of the world's populists, Trump has recently signalled that after the election on Nov. 3, an eventual transition of power in the case of his defeat might not be peaceful. Yes, democracy itself is on the line. For this and many other reasons, the world's eyes have focused on the U.S. campaign — and that includes presidents and prime ministers everywhere.

Clues and confessions: Of course definitive conclusions about whether a world leader favors Joe Biden or Donald Trump are hard to come by: diplomacy and the sheer fact that they will have to be prepared to work with either man induces many to hide their cards. Still, some have left breadcrumbs (or explicit statements) behind, and others we can quite easily surmise. We followed them to bring you our best bet about whether top world leaders are leaning more to Team Trump or Team Biden.

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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

The Latest: Mogul’s Prison Suicide, Indigenous Graves, Britney’s Back

Welcome to Thursday, where software mogul John McAfee is found dead in his Spanish prison cell from apparent suicide, hundreds of indigenous graves are discovered in Canada and French soccer fans get very lost. Meanwhile, the Worldcrunch Express stops at iconic train stations around the world that are being kept alive in unusual ways.

• Merkel and Macron's olive branch to Putin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have suggested inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to a summit with the EU, as part of a broader reset of the bloc's relations with Russia, which has been excluded from summits since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

• Anti-virus creator John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison: John McAfee, the anti-virus software entrepreneur, was found dead in his prison cell in Barcelona hours after a Spanish court agreed to extradite him to the U.S. to face tax evasion charges. According to the Catalan justice department, "everything indicates' that McAfee took his own life.

• Hundreds more unmarked graves found at former indigenous school in Canada: The Cowessess First Nation made the discovery at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in the province of Saskatchewan. This is the second discovery in less than a month and statements suggest that the number of graves surpass last month's finding of unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children in British Columbia.

• Long COVID and new rare vaccine side effect: According to new research in the UK, more than 2 million adults in England have had "long COVID" and have thus experienced coronavirus symptoms lasting over 12 weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be adding a warning about a rare heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults to fact sheets for the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, Brazil registers a new daily record of 115,228 confirmed cases.

• Former President of Philippines Benigno Aquino dies: The only son of the Philippines' two democracy icons died in a Manila hospital on Thursday, aged 61. During his six-year term starting in 2010, the country's long history of junk-debt status ended and average economic growth was at its highest since the 1970s.

• Sesame Street introduces two gay fathers in its show for the first time: On Thursday, the series aired an episode called "Family Day" that introduced Frank, his husband Dave and their daughter Mia as the family attend a surprise party for Big Bird. It is the first time in the show's 51-year history that a same-sex couple has been featured.

• Britney Spears speaks out against "abusive" conservatorship in court: The American pop star Britney Spears said she was traumatized by the conservatorship that has controlled her life for 13 years. The 39-year-old also said she had been denied the right to have more children and was put on a psychiatric drug against her wishes.

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Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

COVID-19 Is Bad News For Those Fighting Other Diseases

To call it a "side effect" of the pandemic would miss the point entirely. Beyond the devastating health impacts of coronavirus on those infected is the impact the crisis is having on research and treatment for other diseases.


Nobody can argue with the massive public attention and funds focused on coronavirus, considered the worst worldwide disease outbreak in a century, infecting nearly 5 million and killing more than 320,000 people, while shutting down large parts of the global economy.


Still, experts say we are witnessing a resurgence of what were assumed to be largely controlled diseases, notably in developing countries, while resources are also being diverted from laboratories searching for cures for longstanding illnesses that affect millions around the world.


Take, for example, cancer, which is estimated to kill more than nine million people each year, and still has no definitive cure. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 50% of cancer research in the United States has been put on hold. Many labs are closed and some researchers are switching their efforts to coronavirus. Yale Medical School Professor Kevin Sheth estimated that globally, 200,000 clinical trials have been impacted. As just one example, Dr. Gwen Nichols, the chief medical officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, told Healthline that the research process for blood cancer has been slowed significantly.


Medical professionals also warn that certain ailments are going untreated because of lockdowns put in place. One study estimates that 1.4 million more people will die of tuberculosis by 2025 because of the lack of treatment during the current crisis. In certain high incidence countries like India, Ukraine and Kenya, cases are going undiagnosed and undetected, with infection levels creeping up to 2013 highs, according to a study published by the Stop TB Partnership. Described by the World Health Organization as the "world's top infectious killer," TB is highly contagious and a vaccine only exists for children, not adults. Those with weakened immune systems and previous lung damage are likely to face more severe effects if they are infected by the coronavirus.


Then there is polio, an infectious disease that used to paralyze hundreds of thousands of children a year until it was almost eradicated by a vaccine. But there has been a resurgence this year, with The Washington Post reporting that Pakistan, Afghanistan and more than a dozen African countries have stopped or postponed delivering vaccines because of travel restrictions and the difficulty of administering drop vaccines at a safe distance.


Coronavirus has, for now, pushed these and other more or less pressing medical issues to the side. The longer-term hope is that the current crisis shines unprecedented attention on the need to invest in both long-term research and emergency care. Saving lives and defeating disease require attention to the entire organism of our health care systems.

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Geopolitics
Rozena Crossman

Seoul To Stockholm, Living With The Cycles Of A Virus

Today, you may read about lockdowns being loosened in COVID-19 hotspots like France or Spain or the U.K. But you may also discover that Germany, widely lauded for keeping infection rates relatively low, has seen an uptick in their number of coronavirus cases since they relaxed certain social distancing restrictions. Turn farther to the East, to South Korea — the supposed poster child for effective management of the crisis — and you'll find out that one 29-year-old's Seoul bar crawl last weekend has set off a new rash of cases, and forced officials to reimpose restrictions on businesses.


We talk a lot about quarantining and de-quarantining, a tricky maneuver for any government tasked with trying to control the behavior of millions of people who are used to the most basic freedom of movement. Here in France, today, May 11, has been marked on the calendar for the past month as the supposed "end" to the national lockdown. The rendezvous was maintained, but frankly not much has changed.


After months of riding these ups and downs, perhaps it's time for nations to discuss long-term plans with their people, acknowledging that, until a vaccine arrives, our lives to some extent are in the hands of a virus that the world's best scientists are still trying to understand. Inevitably, it will create the kinds of ups and downs, cycles of activities and emotions, that we must adjust to.


U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein tried to put it in clear terms last month for the public: "All the predictions are no vaccine for upwards of a year, so that means we've got to refine our ability to survive and operate and do the missions the nation requires. And we've got to bring back those missions that we slowed down, so we can get back to some kind of a sense of new normalcy in an abnormal world… Until we have a vaccine, we're going to be living with this virus and the potential for it to come back in some cyclical way is likely."


What will this new "cycle of life" look like? The answer, to some degree, depends on the country. Sweden's leaders believe Stockholm will achieve herd immunity in a month's time thanks to their citizens' ability to diligently follow their relatively loose lockdown measures. Meanwhile, part of Iran, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, is heading back indoors as their denizens "failed to follow social distancing rules." There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to how we organize our agendas for the next year, but a straightforward conversation about learning to live with coronavirus will serve the whole world well.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Olympics At Risk, Sanctions On Russia, Magic Mushrooms

Welcome to Thursday, where Japan says the Olympics could still be cancelled, the U.S. is set to impose sanctions on Russia and there's a wild new treatment for depression. We also have a piece from Cairo-based online magazine Mada Masr about how the particular way the #MeToo awakening on sexual violence is playing out in Egypt.

• COVID surge in Japan, Olympics still at risk: The pandemic's fourth wave is hitting Japan hard, prompting a senior leader to say that cancelling the Summer Olympics "remains an option." The World Health Organisation warns that Cambodia might be on the verge of "a national tragedy," as it experiences its worst COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

• Hong Kong's first "National Security Education Day": The government celebrations are aimed at promoting the controversial law imposed by Beijing last year that punishes anything the Chinese government considers as subversion, secession, "terrorism" or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

• U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia over cyber attacks: Washington is expected to announce sanctions against Russia over cyber attacks and alleged interference in the 2020 presidential elections.

• Officer who killed Daunte Wright charged: U.S. ex-officer Kim Potter who fatally shot a black motorist near Minneapolis — where George Floyd was killed last year by a police officer — has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

• Bernie Madoff dies in prison: The infamous architect of the most expensive Ponzi scheme in financial history, Bernie Madoff, died yesterday at the age of 82, while serving a 150-year prison term.

• Two-year anniversary Notre-Dame blaze, cathedral to reopen in 2024: Two years to the day after Notre Dame's devastating fire, the director of its restoration mission has announced that the iconic site is very likely to reopen for worshippers in 2024.

• Magic mushrooms help cure depression: The psychedelic drug found in magic mushroom is said to be as efficient at reducing depression symptoms as any conventional treatment, an early-stage study reports.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Sep. 11 Troop Withdrawal, Vaccine Doubts, Even Bigger Christ In Brazil

Welcome to Wednesday, where Joe Biden chooses a major anniversary for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout is stopped and there's an even taller Christ statue in Brazil. We also look at how different countries are finding creative ways to commemorate the COVID-19 victims.

U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan: U.S. President Joe Biden has officially announced the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that led to the 2001 invasion. It is a short extension of a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal made in an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban.

New questions about vaccines made in U.S. and China: The United States, the European Union and South Africa temporarily halt the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine rollout, after a few rare cases of blood clots have been reported. Meanwhile, new questions are raised about the effectiveness of China's Sinovac vaccine, which has been distributed in such countries as Brazil and Indonesia.

Violence continues in Minneapolis after police resignations: A third night of unrest was reported in Minneapolis, following the resignation of police officer Kim Potter two days after fatally shooting Daunte Wright. The police chief in the nearby town where the killing happened also resigned after calling the shooting an accident. The latest killing happened just a few miles from where George Floyd was killed last year by police officer Derek Chauvin, who is currently on trial for murder.

20 children die in Niger school fire: Investigators are probing the cause of a fire that killed 20 children died yesterday at a school in Niamey, Niger's capital city.

Coinbase listing marks crypto landmark: The largest cryptocurrency exchange, called Coinbase, lists today on the Nasdaq stock market, a milestone for the blockchain-backed currency economy.

Somalia's president extends his mandate: President Mohamed Abdullahi has signed a controversial law that extends his mandate for two more years, according to a state news agency. Adullahi's four-year term expired in February without a successor.

World's longest rabbit is missing: Darius, the 129 cm-long continental giant rabbit has been stolen from its home in Worcestershire, in the UK, according to police officials. His owner has offered a £1,000 ($1,378) reward for his return.

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Geopolitics

Worldcrunch Today, Jan. 7: Capitol Chaos, S. African Strain, AMLO And Assange

Welcome to Thursday, where chaos rocks Washington, South Africa worries about a new COVID strain, and a Nicaragua zoo celebrates the birth of an exceptionally rare animal. Meanwhile, as many vaccination rollouts are delayed, we look at what's slowing down the jabs around the world.

SPOTLIGHT: AMERICAN DEMOCRACY UNDER ASSAULT, THE WORLD WATCHES

The raid of Congress by a crowd of Donald Trump supporters is the culmination of a tumultuous presidency that has deeply fractured the American political system, says Le Monde in its front-page editorial Thursday.

Elected four years ago with the promise to "Make America Great Again," U.S. President Donald Trump is ending his term of office in shame. History will remember the date of January 6 when America's democracy was threatened — and momentarily suspended — by a mob of extremist supporters whom the president had personally encouraged to march on Capitol Hill to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from being declared the winner of the 2020 election.

In this world of denial, it matters not that some 60 court decisions, including those at the level of the Supreme Court, have rejected appeals for annulment of the election. It matters not that the president himself called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2 and demanded to change the election result, claiming that he could not have been defeated by 11,779 votes, as the records show, because he knows that he won "probably by half a million votes."

The U.S. has reaped what its populist, demagogic and narcissistic president has sown for the last four years, aided and sometimes even encouraged by the Republican Party. The leaders who, at the beginning of his term, had supported him in the White House, the famous "adults in the room" whom we counted on to assuage him, have either thrown in the towel or have been dismissed, one after the other. Trump made no secret of his seditious intentions: He had consistently refused, even before the election took place, to commit to respecting the outcome of the vote if it was not in his favor. He had also voiced support for the extreme right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, to whom he had asked to "stand back and stand by" during the first presidential debate in September 2020.

These were the partisan groups that stormed Capitol Hill and invaded the Congressional building on Wednesday, effortlessly overtaking an surprisingly light police presence, just as members of Congress started to vote on the certification of the presidential election. The elected officials were promptly evacuated, and only able to resume following several hours of unprecedented chaos, after Trump finally encouraged his supporters to go home.

It will be up to President-elect Joe Biden to rebuild the deeply shaken democracy. He now has the means to do so, thanks to the crucial Senate victory for the two Georgia Democrats on Wednesday and the Congressional confirmation of the presidency. Democrats now hold the Senate, the White House, and the House of Representatives, and Biden has exemplified firm and lucid leadership amid the Trumpist attempt at insurrection.

Still, after Wednesday's trauma, many unknowns remain. What will become of the insurgency's leader, Donald Trump, who still has two more weeks in the White House and has been abandoned by even his own vice president? Must he be removed, even though he has finally agreed to make the transition? What will happen to the 121 Republican Congress members who, on Thursday morning, continued to reject the election result on the pretext of fraud? How will the 74 million people who voted for Trump react? Will the departing Republican majority learn its lessons from this disaster? The entire world waits for answers.

— Le Monde

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