Welcome to Monday, where we have very good news on vaccine effectiveness, Myanmar protesters won't back down after police open fire and Edvard Munch turns out to be a different kind of scream. We also find out how AI is helping to preserve dying languages.
• COVID-19 latest: The U.S. death toll is approaching the 500,000 mark, the UK unveils plan to cautiously loosen its lockdown and Argentina authorizes emergency use of Chinese-made vaccine. A new study offers very good news about the effectiveness of vaccines to reduce serious illness from COVID.
• Myanmar coup protests: Massive protests continued Monday across Myanmar against the military coup despite increasingly deadly response from authorities.
• Beijing olive branch: A top Chinese official urged American counterparts to work together with Beijing to mend the damaged bilateral relationship between the world's two most powerful countries.
• Italian envoy killed: The Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and a military policeman have been killed in an attack on a United Nations convoy.
• Boeing 777 grounded: Dozens of Boeing 777 aircraft have been grounded in the U.S. and Japan after the dramatic engine failure of a United Airlines flight near Denver this past weekend.
• Bitcoin dips: Trading was down as much as 6% in opening hours on the cryptocurrency after a record-shattering week that saw Bitcoin rise above $58,000. Elon Musk, who has bet big on bitcoin, said on Saturday that prices "seem high."
• Madman Munch: The National Museum of Norway has confirmed that the mysterious graffiti on Edvard Munch's painting The Scream that read "Can only have been painted by a madman" was written by the artist himself.
USA Today devotes its front page to the grim milestone the United States is approaching with 500,000 lives lost to coronavirus.
Saving languages from extinction, with the help of AI
The world's linguistic heritage is facing a crisis just as serious as that of biodiversity. A French project is trying to save what exists in the Pangloss collection, powered by new tools of Artificial Intelligence, reports Yann Verdo in daily Paris-based Les Echos.
Across the earth, there are 7 continents and 197 countries. How many languages are spoken? The answer is around 7,000, but if this number surprises you, it's because you suffer from the distorted perspective that half of the 7.8 billion inhabitants of the planet express themselves or communicate through only about 20 of them (Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese...), while the other 97% of these 7,000 languages have a total number of speakers that does not exceed 4% of the population.
Our world linguistic heritage, as rich it may be, is very fragile. The overwhelming majority of these 7,000 languages have no written tradition, and today are only spoken by a handful of old people. This heritage is both the fruit and the guarantor of humans' cultural diversity, and is no less significant than the biodiversity of plant and animal species. The crisis it faces can be considered the sixth major extinction that threatens the world.
This threat of massive linguistic extinction is what motivated researchers to create the Pangloss collection in 1995, named after a character in Voltaire's "Candide," whose name in Greek means, "all languages." This collection is to linguistic diversity what protected areas are to biodiversity. And soon the painstaking work of transcribing and translating a rare language before it disappears into oblivion could be greatly accelerated by the advancements made in Artificial Intelligence.
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COVID kills off last of Juma, Brazilian indigenous tribe
An 86-year-old identified as the last male member of the Juma, a Brazilian tribe on the verge of extinction, died of the coronavirus last week, Rio-based daily O Globo reported.
Amoin Aruká died in a hospital Feb. 18 in Porto Velho, in the northern Brazilian state of Rondonia, where he was receiving treatment since earlier this month. Aruká's people, the Juma, have plummeted in numbers from 15,000 several decades ago to four this year, having faced killings at the hands of miners and landowners, and disease brought into the area by outsiders. And now COVID-19 has taken a final toll on the Juma, along with other indigenous people. Madrid-based El Pais reports that COVID has killed 567 from Brazil's shrinking population of indigenous tribes.
Aruká had three daughters who married men of another nation, the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, which would make his grandchildren of mixed blood, the website Infobae reported. Yet, it added, they would have the right to live in a land enclave marked in 2004 as Juma territory thanks to efforts made by Aruká. Like other native lands, it observed, the enclave remains vulnerable to incursions by Brazilians — and to infection from the coronavirus.
➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com
World's #1 tennis player Novak Djokovic won his 9th Australian Open title, which is also his 18th Grand Slam title overall, leaving him two behind the record held by two other active players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
I have carried these secrets with a heavy heart and remorsefully regret my participation.
— New allegations surrounding the death of Malcolm X have surfaced in a deathbed letter written by a former New York City Police Department officer who says he was forced by his superiors to frame security staff assigned to the African-American activist that left him vulnerable just before he was killed.
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