Coronavirus Politics Daily: Chileans riot, Belgium's sky-high numbers, Afghan doctors strike

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Chileans riot, Belgium's sky-high numbers, Afghan doctors strike

Chileans take to the streets: When Chile declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, the country's months-long mass protests about inequality fizzled fast. But now the lockdown measures themselves are causing unrest. Riot police on Tuesday clashed with demonstrators in a Santiago suburb protesting food shortages under lockdown. The upheaval comes just days after a fresh surge in cases prompted the government to reimpose quarantine measures in the capital region. Chile has so far confirmed about 46,000 cases and just under 500 deaths. President Sebastian Piñera — who pledged an additional 2.5 million food baskets — has the difficult task of balancing public health concerns with economic ones in one of the most unequal countries in the world.


Afghan doctors demand their pay: Hundreds of medical workers in Herat, Afghanistan's third largest city, staged a walk out Tuesday because they haven't received their government-paid wages in three months despite being on the frontlines of COVID-19. The doctors and nurses who staff the city's 10 government-run hospitals say they continue to go to work despite a shortage of testing materials and protective equipment, but that they shouldn't be expected to do so for free. The government, for its part, says it's working on addressing the problem. These protests add mounting pressure on an already-stretched Afghan government, whose weak healthcare system is overwhelmed by both a surge in coronavirus cases and new war injuries amid clashes between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces. Violence has, in fact, increased since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed earlier this year.

How sick is Belgium? According to Johns Hopkins, Belgium has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. An estimated 16.3 of every 100 confirmed cases (compared to 6 in the US) has died. Belgium also has the highest death rate per 100,000 people. Why? One reason is that countries measure the disease's impact in different ways. In some, deaths are attributed to COVID only if the deceased tested positive for the virus before dying. But Belgium, by contrast, looks at the number of people who die during a particular month and compares that to past averages of deaths over the same period to determine the rate of "excess deaths" attributable to the pandemic. Some scientists say the larger number produced by that method is more accurate. Others disagree. Isn't it possible, they ask, that people with illnesses unrelated to COVID are now dying at higher rates because fear of catching it dissuades them from seeking medical treatment? As the stats debate continues, Belgium continues to distinguish itself as one of the very few places willing to post high numbers.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old whom some have dubbed "the Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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Tanzania reverses course on COVID: Just four months ago, the Tanzanian government was completely denying the existence of the pandemic. Then-President John Magufuli insisted Tanzania was COVID-free thanks to peoples' prayers, and refused to try to get vaccines. But Magufuli died suddenly in March — perhaps of COVID. His successor, current President Samia Suluhu, has acknowledged the presence of the virus in Tanzania, and although she was initially lukewarm on mask-wearing and vaccines, Suluhu has recently changed her tune, first joining the global COVAX facility and now getting vaccinated herself to kick off the country's inoculation drive. Well done Tanzania, because if there's one thing we've all learned over the past 18 months, it's that nowhere — not even North Korea, whatever Pyongyang says — is safe from the coronavirus.

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16: A new study tracking Earth's "vital signs" has found that 16 out of 31 indicators of planetary health are getting worse due to climate change. Last year's pandemic-induced shutdown did little to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, stop the oceans from warming, or slow the shrinking of polar ice caps.

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Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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