The World And COVID-19 In A Nutshell
March 23, 2020
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
― Lao Tzu
The Cancer That Is Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, the Shabab, is growing stronger, and issuing specific new threats against Americans in East Africa and the US. The terrorist group has raised significant sums of money from local taxation and extortion, and has carried out deadly attacks not only in Somalia, but also in Kenya and Uganda.
Abu Ubaidah, Al Shabab’s leader, appeared in a 52-minute video released in November during which he called for attacks against Americans, including civilians, wherever they may be found. In December the Shabab claimed responsibility for exploding a truck at a busy intersection in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, which killed some 82 people. A week later a Shabab attack at Manda Bay, Kenya, killed three Americans, and revealed serious security vulnerabilities.
Last July a Kenyan aviation student with suspected ties to Shabab was arrested in the Philippines for possession of illegal firearms and explosives. More recently another suspected Shabab pilot was arrested in an African country, drawing eerie reminders of the 9/11 terrorists who had trained to fly jetliners. Shabab fighters are also acquiring Chinese-made, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles which could pose a deadly threat to US helicopters and other aircraft in Somalia.
Intelligence analysts and Special operations officers worry that Shabab militants could threaten the 3,500 personnel at the Pentagon’s base in Djibouti, the only permanent US base on the African continent, as well as international shipping in the critical Bab al Mandab waterway off Yemen’s southern coast.
This month General Stephen Townsend, head of the military’s Africa Command, told a House committee: “Shabab is a very real threat to Somalia, the region, the international community and even the U.S. homeland.”
Image via Getty Images
The World And COVID-19 In A Nutshell
- Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, 65, appeared at a press briefing Sunday where she announced a number of new curbs on social interaction to slow the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on outdoor meetings of two or more people for at least the next two weeks. “The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus,” she told reporters.
- Shortly thereafter she was informed that a doctor who had given her a vaccine shot Friday afternoon against pneumococcus, a pneumonia-causing bacteria, had tested positive for Covid-19. Merkel immediately went into quarantine and will continue her work from home. She will be tested more times over the next few days.
- European governments have escalated their emergency responses amid a rising death toll. On Sunday Italy banned travel within the country after freezing non-essential business activity.
- Nearly 60,000 Italians have tested positive for Covid-19, and more than 5,400 have died. In Spain almost 29,000 have tested positive, and over 1,720 have died. That country plans to extend the state of emergency it imposed this month until April 11. (Reuters, Guardian, CNN)
- Germany’s low coronavirus mortality rate intrigues experts | World news (Guardian)
- Timeline: The early days of China’s coronavirus outbreak and cover-up (Axios)
- Before Trump’s inauguration, a warning: ‘The worst influenza pandemic since 1918’ (Politico)
- Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health (BBC)
- What we scientists have discovered about how each age group spreads Covid-19 (Guardian)
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler Dumped Millions in Stock After Coronavirus Briefing (The Daily Beast)
- US senators accused of coronavirus insider trading are a symbol of moral bankruptcy (Guardian)
- How firms move to secret offices amid Covid-19 (BBC)
- Coronavirus: what happens to people’s lungs if they get Covid-19? (Guardian)
- Emboldened wild animals venture into locked-down cities worldwide (Guardian)
- Exclusive: U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak (Reuters)
- Taiwan’s new ‘electronic fence’ for quarantines leads wave of virus monitoring (Reuters)
A Pressing Problem For The Press
- Beginning in early February US diplomats and their family members began leaving China and returning to America in what has become one of the largest peacetime evacuations of US diplomatic personnel in history. The consulate general in the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic began, closed in late January. The drawdown on US presence in China comes at a time of rising tensions between the two superpowers, and reduces opportunities to collaborate on fighting the coronavirus.
- Last week Beijing responded to new US restrictions on Chinese state-run media by revoking the press credentials of more than a dozen American foreign correspondents at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post. The director of the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations questioned Washington’s need to call back so many diplomats. “At a time when we should be building greater collaborative mechanisms to deal with the pandemic — never mind the other big issues like climate change and trade — we’re rupturing them across the board,” he lamented. (WSJ)
Additional World News
- Poor water infrastructure is greater risk than coronavirus, says UN (Guardian)
- This Japanese man spent almost five decades on death row. He could go back (CNN)
- ‘No-waste’ Japanese village is a peek into carbon-neutral future (Guardian)
- Coming to a Country Near You: A Russian Nuclear Power Plant (NYT, $)
- As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan, Diplomats Are Left to Fill Uncertain Mission (NYT, $)
- The Fall of Evo Morales (New Yorker, $)
- Zagreb hit by earthquake while in coronavirus lockdown (Guardian)
The US And Covid-19 In A Nutshell
- President Trump gave a coronavirus task force update Sunday. Among the announcements were that he has deployed the National Guard to assist New York, California and Washington with the outbreak, three of the hardest-hit states. Also, the FDA is relaxing restrictions on ventilators, and one navy hospital ship will be sent to New York and one to California.
- The number of US cases has now exceeded 33,000 with 417 deaths; some 15,000 of those cases are in New York State, which accounts for 5 percent of the cases worldwide.
- Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is the first US senator to test positive for Corvid-19; Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both Utah Republicans, are self-quarantining due to contact with Paul. Both major parties were on board to pass a huge government rescue/economic stimulus package meant to prop up the US economy devastated by the virus.
- However, the Senate bill was hijacked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and rewritten without input from Democrats. As new provisions emerged Sunday, Democrats denounced the Senate version as a corporate giveaway favoring big business over workers, without protections ensuring that bailed-out companies wouldn’t enrich themselves after receiving government aid, as happened with the bank bailout during the Great Recession. Senate Democrats were able to block the bill’s passage Sunday evening. (Guardian, NYT)
- Coronavirus in N.Y.C.: Region Is Now an Epicenter of Global Pandemic (NYT, $)
- The coronavirus recession is already happening (Vox)
- DOJ asks Congress for broad new powers amid Covid-19. Schumer says, “Hell no.”: The request has been rejected on a bipartisan basis, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez coming out against it. (Vox)
- Internal memo: Jeff Bezos tells Amazon employees he’s ‘wholly focused’ on the COVID-19 crisis (Geekwire)
Will You Quarantine At Prom With Me?
- For all the adults worrying about what this global pandemic may cost them in terms of daily disruptions, there’s a group of not-quite-adults — high school seniors — whose lives are being irrevocably altered. For the Class of 2020, time-honored rites of passage like college visits, senior skip day, prom, graduation — these are experiences most may never get to have.
- “There’s a sense that it’s incomplete,” mourned Xander Christou, an Austin, Texas high school senior. “They’re just parts that we may never get to experience.” One big disruption: any attempt at making plans for next year. “We’re in the midst of college decisions,” he says, and the coronavirus has “really thrown a wrench into a number of things.”
- Christou spent most of last fall researching and applying to colleges. He planned to spend the spring visiting some campuses he was accepted to; now that won’t happen. It may seem a small imposition when compared to unemployment, bankrupt businesses, lost lives. Yet it’s a really big deal in the lives of the next generation.
- “I can’t fathom any family in six weeks from now saying, ‘I know where my student is going to go to college and I know I can afford it,’ ” said one admissions expert. “There are too many unknowns and storms up in the air. Asking someone to make a really expensive decision in the midst of this is really unfair. It just feels wrong.” (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Biden to start considering running mates, consulted Obama (Reuters) (We think he’ll choose Elizabeth Warren)
- Mike Bloomberg transfers $18m to Democratic National Committee (Guardian)
- How did a Hispanic-majority city end up appointing a hate group member? (Guardian)
- A Mustang Crisis Looms in the West (NYT, $)
- Young Voters Know What They Want. But They Don’t See Anyone Offering It. (NYT, $)
- Air Contamination From ‘Forever’ Chemicals Sparks Concern (WSJ, $)
Home Sweet Temporary Home
- Millennials and Gen Z are now renting at record rates, as home ownership has become a distant dream for many. But renters still want to incorporate personal touches, and make their rented abodes stylish.
- Their ambitions are changing the homeware industry. “Everyone is becoming more concerned with how their homes look,” said Alessandra Wood, a design historian and vice-president of style at Modsy. “We’ve seen affordable furniture become much more stylish and on trend. The opening price point range is no longer sad and dumpy, but actually driving many blogger and influencer trends – much like fast fashion.”
- For some young renters, personalizing a home often comes down to affordable, stylish additions. For example, houseplant sales have surged almost 50 percent in the US over the last three years, and mass market retailers such as Zara, ASOS and H&M have all recently launched homeware ranges, focusing largely on smaller items like vases, cushions and candles that are easy to incorporate into an already furnished space.
- Some businesses offer to equip homes with pay-per-month furniture — everything from sofas to houseplants up for rent. This gives landlords the opportunity to entice tenants with on-trend interiors as well as offering renters the opportunity to customize their own temporary space. “Rental companies have been reborn as hip, stylish alternatives to purchasing furniture for a temporary space,” explained one New York renter. “These companies target Millennials who have anxiety about committing to goods.” (BBC)
- U.S. Orders Up To A Yearlong Break On Mortgage Payments (NPR)
- How to cut phone time at work: People hate being ignored in favour of a phone, or ‘phubbed’. New research shows phone-obsessed bosses may cause long-term damage to employee morale. (BBC)
- Surveillance Capitalism: Bigger Brother | by Tim Wu (NY Books)
- Sir Isaac Newton did his best work while working from home during a pandemic. (WaPo, $)
- Are Weird People More Creative?: How not fitting in can lead to creative thinking (Atlantic, $)
- WeWork board’s special committee prepares for fight against SoftBank (Reuters)
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” ― Lao-Tzu
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