Public health officials are
sounding the alarm over a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Europe as
countries ease lockdowns and international travel ramps up with some
experts warning citizens have become too complacent.
The increase is marked in
countries such as Spain, while eastern Europe and the Balkans, which were
largely spared the worst of the early pandemic, are seeing a steep
increase in recorded cases.
Some governments are already
taking measures to slow the spread. The UK has imposed quarantine on
people returning from Spain, while Germany and France have ordered
mandatory testing for travellers from high-risk areas.
Officials said the gradual
lifting of restrictions on public life across the continent over the past
couple of months had lulled people into a false sense of security: many
were no longer observing strict hygiene rules, wearing masks in public and
maintaining social distancing.
The $4.5bn that America’s
Department of Justice says disappeared between 2009 and 2015 from 1MDB, a
Malaysian sovereign-wealth fund, was not spent subtly. The spree attracted
investigations in at least six countries.
On July 28th a court in
Malaysia convicted Najib Razak, the former prime minister who co-founded
and chaired the fund, of seven charges of abuse of power, breach of trust
and money-laundering relating to the scandal.
The court sentenced him to 12
years in prison and fined him 210m ringgit ($49m). The verdicts come days
after Goldman Sachs reached a settlement with Malaysian authorities
related to its underwriting of three bond offerings which raised $6.5bn
The criminal trial was the
first of several facing Mr Najib (he denies any wrongdoing). The verdicts
come at a febrile time for Malaysian politics. Mr Najib’s conviction on
all seven charges was not widely expected.
Can Donald Trump pull a rabbit
out of the hat and win re-election as US president? Not according to most
pundits, reflecting the widespread disapproval of his job performance. But
don’t write him off yet.
Amid a pandemic, a recession,
and a period of civil unrest, it would be difficult for any incumbent to
win re-election — let alone one as polarising as Mr Trump. He trails Democrat
Joe Biden by eight points in the average of national polls.
Political advisers in both
campaigns agree that Mr Biden’s relative invisibility creates an
opportunity for Mr Trump. The incumbent will seek to influence the way
voters define his rival — using Mr Biden’s choice of a running mate as a
Mr Trump could also make gains
if there were cautiously optimistic news from leading western vaccine
candidates, particularly if he is seen trying to assist and offering
regular updates on progress.
Trump’s advisors are reportedly
obsessed with ancient Greece, but they aren’t alone. The Peloponnesian War
mesmerizes strategists and international relations scholars.
When it comes to ancient Greece
and the U.S.-China relationship, the most prominent comparison is the
“Thucydides Trap,” which uses the relationship between Athens and Sparta
to draw an analogy between a rising China and the threat felt by the
United States today.
But conflicts between
city-states in a backwater Eurasian promontory 2,400 years ago are an
unreliable guide to modern geopolitics—and they neglect a vast span of
world history that may be far more relevant.
Historical analogies aren’t
always relevant. As useful as the past’s lessons can be, the parallels
drawn can say more about the priorities of the pundit than the messy
realities of ancient empires that bore little resemblance to our own
and the White House on Monday threw their support behind a substantial cut
in jobless aid for tens of millions of Americans laid off amid the
pandemic, proposing a weekly reduction of $400.
The proposal was
part of a $1 trillion opening bid that would have to be reconciled with
Democrats, who were pushing a recovery package that would spend three
times as much and extend the $600 per week in extra unemployment aid
through the end of the year.
that the money, slated to expire this week, has provided a crucial
economic buffer for the unemployed, and that lowering the payments could
have a cascade of damaging effects across the economy.
Republicans’ decision to embrace the decrease reflects the predicament in
which they find themselves during a worsening pandemic and continued
economic recession, little more than three months before Election Day.
technology giant Facebook is suing EU regulators after a spat between the
two parties erupted over access to company documents as part of an ongoing
EU competition enforcers have been
investigating Facebook for practices related to the use of data in apps
since last year, as well as reviewing how the company operates its online
part of the EU’s ongoing investigations it has transpired that Facebook is
appealing the Commission’s right to access thousands of “irrelevant”
documents that contain “highly personal information”, the company has
source added that many of the documents identified in the Commission’s
request include such articles as employee medical records, childcare
information and data related to private investments and insurance.
Moderna has given the first
doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine to participants in what will be
a 30,000-person trial, as the US moved into a new phase in the race to
develop a vaccine by the start of next year.
The company’s shares were up as
much as 10.6 per cent before paring some of their gains. Donald Trump,
president, said it was “the fastest a vaccine for a novel pathogen has
ever gone”. Mr Trump said other vaccines were also heading into final
Moderna’s trial is being
conducted in conjunction with the US National Institutes of Health at
sites across the US, under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed
Moderna took just 42 days from
receiving the genetic sequence of Sars-Cov-2, the virus behind Covid-19,
to produce a vaccine for testing. In its phase-three trial, Moderna and
the NIH will be testing whether it can prevent symptomatic Covid-19
The lifetime of the Paris agreement, signed in a wave of optimism in 2015, has seen the
five hottest years ever recorded on Earth, unprecedented wildfires torching towns from California to Australia, record heatwaves baking Europe and India and temperatures briefly bursting beyond 100F (38C) in the Arctic.
These sorts of
impacts could be a mere appetizer, scientists warn, given they have been
fueled by levels of global heating that are on track to triple, or worse,
by the end of the century without drastic remedial action.
“The choice of
Biden or Trump in the White House is huge, not just for the US but for the
world generally to deal with climate change,” said Stern. “If Biden wins,
November 4 is a blip, like a bad dream is over. If Trump wins, he seals the deal.”
Trump, who once
famously called climate science a “hoax”, has never looked kindly on the
deal, which he framed as an international effort to damage the US while
letting China off too lightly.
authorities have taken over the US consulate general in Chengdu, marking
the diplomatic mission’s official closure and a new low point in ties
between the world’s largest economies.
At dawn on Monday,
the American flag outside the consulate was lowered while police held back
crowds that had gathered over the weekend to watch. At 10am, the mission
was closed, according to China’s foreign ministry.
took up their posts outside the consulate, while teams of workers in
hazmat suits and Chinese officials dressed in white short-sleeved dress
shirts and black briefcases entered the mission.
grey clothes over signs bearing the consulate’s name. “Competent
Chinese authorities entered through the front entrance and took it over,”
the foreign ministry said in a statement.
officials have compared the global allocation of vaccines against the
coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to oxygen masks dropping inside a
difference, of course, is that airplane oxygen masks do not drop only in
first class—which is the equivalent of what will happen when vaccines eventually
become available if governments delay providing access to them to people
in other countries.
international, enforceable commitment to distribute vaccines globally in
an equitable and rational way, leaders will instead prioritize
taking care of their own populations over slowing the spread of COVID-19
coordination, countries may bid against one another, driving up the price
of vaccines and related materials. Supplies of proven vaccines will be
limited initially even in some rich countries, but the greatest suffering
will be in low- and middle-income countries.
Shares in Europe’s
biggest travel companies tumbled on Monday as newly imposed travel
curbs following a string of local spikes in coronavirus infections raised
fears over the pandemic’s lasting impact on the industry.
Spain’s tourism sector is
particularly feeling the brunt of the latest caution, prompting an angry
response from Madrid. “Spain is a safe country,” said foreign minister
Arancha González Laya.
Germany has also seen a fresh
uptick in Covid-19 cases in recent days, which health minister Jens Spahn
attributed to travellers returning from certain regions such as the West
Balkans and Turkey.
The surge highlights the
dilemma facing policymakers: on one hand they fear reimposing a shutdown
that has devastated their economies, but on the other they worry the return
of mass travel will trigger a second wave of the pandemic.
Poland will begin the process
of withdrawing from a treaty to prevent violence against women, which the
right-wing government in Warsaw says imposes controversial ideologies
about gender, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Saturday.
Poland signed the Istanbul
Convention for the prevention and combating of violence against women and
domestic violence in 2015 under the previous administration of centrist
party Civic Platform (PO).
Critics of the treaty believe
that the convention violates parents’ rights by requiring schools to teach
children about gender ideology that go against Polish family traditions. The
convention has been signed by 45 countries and the EU, and ratified by 34
Thousands of people, mostly
women, protested in the capital and other cities on Friday after the
government had signaled it was planning to withdraw from the convention.
The European parliament’s
biggest parties have threatened to reject the EU’s coronavirus budget,
demanding increased spending on common projects and a stronger rule of law
mechanism as their price for backing the deal.
MEPs from the parliament’s
centre-right, centre-left, liberals, and greens have backed a resolution
saying they “do not accept” the terms of the bloc’s €1.07tn draft budget
that was thrashed out after four days of marathon negotiations between EU
leaders this week.
The European parliament has a
binding say over the EU budget and will enter into negotiations with
member states to finalise the terms of the spending plan this summer. MEPs
will then have to vote on approving the multiannual financial framework
Although the parliament has no
veto over the recovery package, MEPs have also demanded a role in the
governance of a €673bn Recovery and Resilience Facility as their price for
approving the final budget deal.
President Trump on Thursday
abruptly canceled the Republican National Convention celebrations
scheduled for next month in Jacksonville, Fla., making the latest in a
series of head-snapping reversals in the face of a nationwide pandemic out
Trump has for months instructed his
advisers to find a way to stage a loud, boisterous and packed convention
celebration, after North Carolina officials said they could not guarantee
such an event in Charlotte.
Advisers scoured the country for a
new location to host a multi-night televised spectacle, settling on
Jacksonville, where the mayor and Florida’s governor are Trump’s allies.
The president’s ambition, however, ran headlong into a massive spike in coronavirus cases
At one point, convention planners
announced they would administer daily coronavirus tests to thousands of
delegates, donors and members of the media to help reduce the viral risk.
That plan was later scrapped to move large portions of the celebrations
Trump’s egregious mishandling of the
COVID-19 pandemic is producing debilitating long-term effects that will
further accelerate America’s decline. Even if he is defeated
in November and a Joe Biden administration does nearly everything right,
the consequences will be with us for many years to come.
Trump’s attempt to wish away the
problem (along with the rest of his administration’s incompetent response)
has tarnished America’s dwindling reputation as a society that knows how
to get things done effectively.
The economic depression caused by the
pandemic will leave deep
scars on the U.S. economy, and the damage
increases the longer the crisis occurs. Jobs won’t suddenly reemerge once
a lot of businesses have gone under, and bankruptcies and layoffs will
continue until we get the virus under control.
Trump didn’t deliberately and
consciously set out to ruin the United States—and torpedo his own chances
for reelection—he just couldn’t help himself. It is the rest of us—and
especially our children and grandchildren—who will suffer the consequences.
The cost of preventing
further pandemics over the next decade by protecting wildlife and forests
would equate to just 2% of the estimated financial damage caused by
Covid-19, according to a new analysis.
Two new viruses a
year had spilled from their wildlife hosts into
humans over the last century, the researchers said, with the growing
destruction of nature meaning the risk today is higher than ever.
Spending of about
$260bn (£200bn) over 10 years would substantially reduce the risks of
another pandemic on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, the researchers
estimate, which is just 2% of the estimated $11.5tn costs of Covid-19 to
the world economy.
The key programmes
the scientists are calling for are: much better regulation of the wildlife
trade, disease surveillance and control in wild and domestic animals,
ending the wild meat trade in China, and cutting
deforestation by 40% in key places.
The United States
has abruptly ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, accusing
diplomats of aiding economic espionage and the attempted theft of
scientific research as the Trump administration sharply escalates its moves against China.
China vowed to
retaliate, calling the action illegal. Hours after the administration
issued its order on Tuesday, consulate employees burned papers in
open metal barrels in a courtyard of the Houston building,
prompting police officers and firefighters to rush to the area.
It was unclear
what had immediately prompted the crackdown on the consulate, which must
close by Friday, although the State Department said China was directing
“massive illegal spying and influence operations.”
David R. Stilwell,
who oversees policy for East Asia and the Pacific at the State Department,
said in an interview that the Houston consulate had a history of engaging
in “subversive behavior” and was the epicenter of research theft in the
As of July 20, Uruguay has only 1,054
total confirmed cases, 33 deaths, and more than 920 patients
recovered—with only 99 active cases. Although the government’s approach
has not been without missteps, the relative success is a credit to the
public and the administration.
With close ties through border cities
with Brazil, the Uruguayan government has had to shoulder not only its own
situation but also that of a country whose response to the pandemic has been disastrous.
In addition to being among the countries with the least poverty in Latin
America, Uruguay is one of the few
countries in the region where the population has full access
to basic services, such as running
water and electricity, as well as high rates of internet connection.
With more than 88,000 coronavirus
tests conducted since March 13, when the first cases were detected in
Uruguay, the country is among the top performers in the world in terms of
testing by population—which has been widely available even to people
editor-in-chief of Hungary’s leading independent news website has been
fired a month after he publicly raised alarm over political interference
in the outlet’s operations.
The dismissal of
Szabolcs Dull from his role at Index.hu on Wednesday
appears to be yet another blow struck against news sources that do not
support the far-right political line of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has been in
power for a decade.
The NGO Reporters
Without Borders put Hungary in 89th place in its annual media freedom
ratings this year, making it the second worst country in the EU for
press freedom. Index, Hungary’s largest online news portal, is
widely regarded as the last big independent player in local media.
businessman acquired significant control over Index’s funding this year.
Last month Index put out an emergency alert to followers warning that its
independence was at risk owing to external pressure.
A major new study of
the relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming lowers the odds
on worst-case climate change scenarios while also ruling out the most
optimistic estimates nations have been counting on as they
attempt to implement the Paris Agreement.
A group of 25
leading scientists now conclude that catastrophic warming is almost
inevitable if emissions continue at their current rate, even if there’s
less reason to anticipate a totally uninhabitable Earth in coming
published Wednesday in the journal Reviews
of Geophysics, narrows the answer to a question that’s as
old as climate science itself: How much would the planet warm if
humanity doubled the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere?
That number, known
as “equilibrium climate sensitivity,” is typically expressed as a range.
The scientists behind this new study have narrowed the climate-sensitivity
window to between 2.6° Celsius and 3.9°C.
It wasn’t that long ago, in
early June, that Russia’s capital Moscow was eerily quiet as the Kremlin
enforced one of the world’s harshest lockdowns to flatten the rising curve
of coronavirus infections.
Flash forward nearly two months
and the contrast couldn’t be greater: Parks, restaurants, museums, gyms,
nightclubs — even strip clubs — are open once again. Moscow is churning at
full blast again.
Muscovites are well aware that
their corona freedom came about in anticipation of a July 1 vote on a new
constitution that Putin needed to push through to potentially extend his
reign until 2036 — but there hasn’t been much pushback.
Russians are mostly just
relieved to be free again, even though the country is still recording more
than 6,000 new cases daily. International borders may still be closed, but
most Russians have thrown caution to the wind and already embraced a
Some said this week’s European
Council beat the record-holder, a mammoth discussion over
institutional arrangements in Nice in 2000. Others thought it fell half an
hour short. Either way, the summit will be one for the history books.
The deal falls some way short of
the “Hamiltonian moment” some had hoped for it. Unlike America’s treasury
secretary in 1790, no one has proposed mutualising EU countries’ legacy
debts; not even the new common debt will enjoy joint-and-several
Yet from 2028 money must be found
to repay the debt the EU will soon incur: if not from own resources, then
from larger national contributions. Next year the commission will propose
EU-wide taxes on digital firms and climate-unfriendly imports.
To preserve the recovery fund’s
grants, cuts fell on so-called “future-oriented” areas like research,
health-care and climate adjustment. These, critics grumble, are precisely
the priorities the frugals claim should take precedence over agricultural
and regional subsidies, which remain intact.
Indeed, Trump is already working to
invalidate the 2020 tally, accusing Democrats of plotting fraud through
mail-in voting that might be needed because of the pandemic, and legal challenges are
mounting at an unprecedented rate.
Alternatively, what if Trump doesn’t
seize power illegally but is actually reelected? Surely that would amount
to a virtual mandate, in his mind, to ignore the Constitution and the law
of the land altogether.
Fascism in its various forms has no
enduring record of success in the long run; based on the evidence, it is
almost always doomed to destroy itself in an orgy
of ultranationalism and megalomania.
It may be an effective means to
gaining power, but fascists typically destroy themselves before long, especially
when crises erupt. “We are seeing that with COVID-19 in the United States
and Brazil,” Stanley said.
The first active
leak of methane from the sea floor in Antarctica has been revealed by scientists. The
researchers also found microbes that normally consume the potent
greenhouse gas before it reaches the atmosphere had only arrived in small
numbers after five years, allowing the gas to escape.
Vast quantities of
methane are thought to be stored under the sea floor around Antarctica.
The gas could start to leak as the climate crisis warms the oceans, a
prospect the researchers said was “incredibly concerning”.
The reason for the
emergence of the new seep remains a mystery, but it is probably not global
heating. The research also has significance for climate models, which
currently do not account for a delay in the microbial consumption of
The release of
methane from frozen underwater stores or permafrost regions is one of the key tipping
points that scientists are concerned
about, which occur when a particular impact of global heating becomes
EU leaders have struck a deal
on a landmark coronavirus recovery package that will involve the European
Commission undertaking massive borrowing on the capital markets for the
The recovery fund centres on a
€390bn programme of grants to economically weakened member states — a
significantly smaller sum than the €500bn package originally proposed.
Leaders also signed off on the EU’s next seven-year budget, which will be
The price for this was a boost
to the budget rebates that those frugal nations receive as a legacy of the
UK’s membership of the EU. Austria’s annual reduction will be doubled,
while the Netherlands’ rebate will jump to €1.92bn from €1.57bn.
Proposed top-up spending
intended to be added to the EU’s Horizon science programme was radically
reduced compared with earlier proposals, and a “Just Transition Fund” to
help poorer countries reduce their carbon emissions was cut from a mooted
€30bn to €10bn.
In January, researchers at Oxford
University started work on a vaccine for covid-19. Six months on, with
more than 600,000 people dead, the Oxford team is leading a race to
develop a vaccine that could halt the pandemic.
The vaccine has been raced into
production around the world by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish drug
company, and billions of doses are planned. But two key questions remain:
is it safe and does it work?
According to Adrian Hill, director
of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and one of the authors of the paper, the new
vaccine stimulated a strong immune response and appears to be well
tolerated and safe.
It generated both antibodies and
“an excellent” T-cell response. Dr Hill says that the
antibody levels seen in the trial are similar to those observed in natural
infections and that the T-cell responses are “very high”.
In the four months since the
pandemic began, nearly 50 million workers have filed unemployment claims
nationwide, a flood that’s overwhelmed some states, freezing antiquated
computer systems and jamming websites and phone lines for days.
Many have been struggling to get
their regular unemployment benefits as well as the $600-a-week federal
pandemic unemployment assistance passed in March that begins running out
for millions of Americans later this week.
In Oklahoma, one of the poorest
states, unemployment — which reached a record 14.7 percent in April — has
pushed many to the point of desperation, with savings depleted, cars
repossessed and homes sold for cash.
The Oklahoma Employment Security
Commission staff has tried to combat the delays by holding mega-processing
events at large arenas in Oklahoma City and Tulsa this month, with masks
and social distancing required. So far, they’ve
managed to help 6,200 people.
The European Union’s
most coal-reliant country has a controversial new strategy for its 400
billion-euro ($456 billion) green push: bulk up the Polish state oil
company and let it lead the transformation.
plans to build an energy champion with the
financial heft to drive the overhaul by combining refiner PKN Orlen SA and gas group PGNiG SA.
It may soon find,
however, that growing European reluctance to invest in companies selling
fossil fuels means that adding oil and gas to the mix won’t necessarily
make it easier to gain funding.
Even as financing
the oil and gas industry remains a big business for banks, the trend is
changing. While most European banks have withdrawn from funding coal
projects, the European Investment Bank last year
decided to stop funding all fossil fuel projects, extending its ban to oil
and natural gas.