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The Latest: Belarus Olympic Clash, COVID Surges In Florida And Nanking, Panda Twins

Welcome to Monday, where a Belarusian athlete is now under UN protection at the Tokyo Olympics, China suffers its worst coronavirus outbreak in months and a French zoo welcomes rare twin panda cubs. German daily Die Welt also asks who is doing most of the work to kill the virus: summer or social distancing and vaccines?

The Latest: Belarus Olympic Clash, COVID Surges In Florida And Nanking, Panda Twins

A giant panda named Huan Huan has given birth to two twin cubs at the ZooParc de Beauval in France

Anne-Sophie Goninet

Belarus athlete under UN protection: Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the embattled sprinter who alleges Belarusian team officials tried to forcibly send her back home from the Tokyo Olympics, is now under protection from the UN refugee agency and local police. Tsimanouskaya was due to compete in the women's 200 meters, but was removed from the team after criticizing coaches. She is now seeking asylum in Poland fearing imprisonment back home under the regime of strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

COVID-19 update: China has imposed new travel restrictions in the face of suffering its most widespread coronavirus outbreak in months, including a cluster linked to Nanjing airport. In Florida, the southern U.S. state, the Delta variant has led to a new record of daily 21,683 cases on Saturday. The surge came a day after Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting school districts from mandating masks. Meanwhile, Indian domestic workers are losing their jobs as wealthier citizens fear COVID infections.

Hong Kong activist/singer arrested: Anthony Wong, a singer and prominent pro-democracy activist, has been arrested and chargedwith "corrupt conduct" by Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). In a statement, the ICAC said Wong had provided "entertainment to induce others to vote" for a pro-democracy candidate.

Madagascar makes 21 more arrests over coup plot: Madagascar has arrested 21 more suspects, including 12 military personnel, in connection with a plot to kill President Andry Rajoelina. Last month, six people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the plot as well.

Wildfires spread in Italy, Turkey, Greece: The death toll from wildfires in Turkey has risen to eight as firefighters battle for a sixth day to contain the blaze. In neighboring Greece, five people have been hospitalized with breathing problems and in Italy 800 people, including tourists, have been evacuated from their homes and stays as more flare-ups broke out.

Simone Biles to take part in balance team final: Team USA gymnast Simone Biles will be taking part in Tuesday's balance beam final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, USA Gymnastics has announced. Biles withdrew from the individual competition last week, citing mental health concerns.

Two Sumatran tigers recovering from COVID: Two rare Sumatran tigers in an Indonesian zoo became infected with COVID and are now recovering. Nine-year-old Tino first got symptoms on July 9 and shortly after, 12-year-old Hari, became ill as well. Sumatran tigers are the most critically endangered tiger subspecies.

Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport celebrates the two Olympic gold medals in athletics won by Gianmarco Tamberi in high jump and Lamont Marcell Jacobs in 100 metres. Jacobs became the first Italian in history to be crowned champion in the sprint, breaking both the European record in 9.80 seconds and retired Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt's 13-year hold on the event.

Summer revisited: Does warm weather reduce COVID-19 spread?

The number of infections is decreasing across many European countries, even as restrictions are eased. But one question remains for the time being: What is doing most of the work to kill the virus: vaccines? Social distancing? Hot summer weather? Birgit Herden weighs the factors in German daily Die Welt.

It's not really because of the cold weather that people catch colds. Various factors influence the spread of respiratory viruses, with humidity playing an important role. Cold air can absorb less humidity than warm air. If you warm up dry winter air in heated rooms, it contains much less water than it could absorb at warm temperatures. The relative humidity the maximum amount of water that can be stored is often below 40%. Beyond temperature and humidity, solar radiation also affects the spread of cold viruses: UV rays destroy viruses.

All of these factors affect the virus's occurrence. In the tropics, for example, there are no flu seasons, but a slight risk of infection all year round. In New York, the spread of flu viruses will be reduced by 40% in the summer, in Florida by only 20%. Things are made even more complicated by human behavior. If, for example, many people are in air-conditioned rooms in hot summers, this can probably weaken the summer effect. So, it's no wonder that it has been difficult to predict how the seasons would affect the pandemic.

Summer is here, the public mood is improving and some people forget the reasons that led to restrictions: they keep no distance, no masks, and organize parties. The German left-leaning member of Parliament and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach warns the people have become too reckless and expect a fourth wave of infections to take Europe by storm in the fall. "To assume that the measures play no role at all would be nonsensical, just like the idea that seasonality has only a very small or no influence on the number of infections," says Berlin epidemiologist Kai Schulze.

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$85 million

According to a preliminary settlement, Zoom has agreed to pay $85 million to settle a class action lawsuit charging that it violated the privacy rights of its users. Despite denying any wrongdoing, the U.S. communications tech company also agreed to reinforce its security measures, including alerts to users when online meetings participants are using third-party apps.

I am afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail.

— Belarus sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya said after she announced on Instagram Sunday she was seeking protection from Japan after Belarusian authorities tried to forcibly send her home. The athlete had criticized her coaches for registering her for the wrong event at the Olympics. On Monday, the International Olympic Committee announced it had taken measures against the Belarusian committee in the run-up to the Games.

Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger, and Meike Eijsberg

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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