Category Archives: World

Mapped: The State Of Facial Recognition Around The World

From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world.

In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. However, as Visual Capitalist’s Iman Ghosh notesat the state level, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis.

Today’s visualizations from SurfShark classify 194 countries and regions based on the extent of surveillance.

Click here to explore the full research methodology.

Let’s dive into the ways facial recognition technology is used across every region.

North America, Central America, and Caribbean

In the U.S., a 2016 study showed that already half of American adults were captured in some kind of facial recognition network. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its “Biometric Exit” plan, which aims to use facial recognition technology on nearly all air travel passengers by 2023, to identify compliance with visa status.

Perhaps surprisingly, 59% of Americans are actually in favor of implementing facial recognition technology, considering it acceptable for use in law enforcement according to a Pew Research survey. Yet, some cities such as San Francisco have pushed to ban surveillance, citing a stand against its potential abuse by the government.

Facial recognition technology can potentially come in handy after a natural disaster. After Hurricane Dorian hit in late summer of 2019, the Bahamas launched a blockchain-based missing persons database “FindMeBahamas” to identify thousands of displaced people.

South America

The majority of facial recognition technology in South America is aimed at cracking down on crime. In fact, it worked in Brazil to capture Interpol’s second-most wanted criminal.

Home to over 209 million, Brazil soon plans to create a biometric database of its citizens. However, some are nervous that this could also serve as a means to prevent dissent against the current political order.

Europe

Belgium and Luxembourg are two of only three governments in the world to officially oppose the use of facial recognition technology.

Further, 80% of Europeans are not keen on sharing facial data with authorities. Despite such negative sentiment, it’s still in use across 26 European countries to date.

The EU has been a haven for unlawful biometric experimentation and surveillance.

– European Digital Rights (EDRi)

In Russia, authorities have relied on facial recognition technology to check for breaches of quarantine rules by potential COVID-19 carriers. In Moscow alone, there are reportedly over 100,000 facial recognition enabled cameras in operation.

Middle East and Central Asia

Facial recognition technology is widespread in this region, notably for military purposes.

In Turkey, 30 domestically-developed kamikaze drones will use AI and facial recognition for border security. Similarly, Israel has a close eye on Palestinian citizens across 27 West Bank checkpoints.

In other parts of the region, police in the UAE have purchased discreet smart glasses that can be used to scan crowds, where positive matches show up on an embedded lens display. Over in Kazakhstan, facial recognition technology could replace public transportation passes entirely.

East Asia and Oceania

In the COVID-19 battle, contact tracing through biometric identification became a common tool to slow the infection rates in countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. In some instances, this included the use of facial recognition technology to monitor temperatures as well as spot those without a mask.

That said, questions remain about whether the pandemic panopticon will stop there.

China is often cited as a notorious use case of mass surveillance, and the country has the highest ratio of CCTV cameras to citizens in the world—one for every 12 people. By 2023, China will be the single biggest player in the global facial recognition market. And it’s not just implementing the technology at home–it’s exporting too.

Africa

While the African continent currently has the lowest concentration of facial recognition technology in use, this deficit may not last for long.

Several African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have received telecommunications and surveillance financing and infrastructure from Chinese companies—Huawei in particular. While the company claims this has enabled regional crime rates to plummet, some activists are wary of the partnership.

Whether you approach facial recognition technology from public and national security lens or from an individual liberty perspective, it’s clear that this kind of surveillance is here to stay.

Remembering The Biggest Empires In Human History

In 1913, 412 million people lived under the control of the British Empire23 percent of the world’s population at that time.

It remains the largest empire in human history and at the peak of its power in 1920, it covered an astonishing 13.71 million square miles – that’s close to a quarter of the world’s land area. Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes that at its height, it was described as “the empire on which the sun never sets” but of course the sun finally did set on it.

Today, Britannia no longer rules the waves and its remnants consist of 17 small dependent and unincorporated territories scattered across the world such as the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar.

Infographic: The Biggest Empires In Human History | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries and it is recognized as being the largest contiguous land empire in history. It of course originated in Mongolia and once stretched from Eastern Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending into the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, covering 9.27 million square miles.

The Russian Empire comes third on the list with a peak land area of 8.8 million square miles.

The data for this infographic was published by website World Atlas.

Trump’s team considered 1st NUCLEAR TEST since 1992 as show of strength to Russia & China – reports

These American imbeciles do not get that nuclear power is not something you play political games with.  Do the testing in downtown New York ye troglodytes!
rt.com
Trump's team considered 1st NUCLEAR TEST since 1992 as show of strength to Russia & China – reports
US authorities considered whether to carry out a “rapid” nuclear test – the first for almost three decades – to use as a bargaining chip in dealing with Russia and China, according to media reports.

The proposal to cause a controlled nuclear explosion is “very much an ongoing conversation,” a high-ranked official within the administration of Donald Trump told the Washington Post on Saturday.

It was assumed that a “rapid test” could prove useful in making Moscow and Beijing negotiate a nuclear-weapons-related trilateral deal with Washington, the paper’s sources said.

The rationale behind the United States holding its first test of this kind since 1992 involves a convenient allegation that Russia and China have resumed testing low-yield nuclear munitions. So far, however, there is no publicly available evidence substantiating the claims, the Post itself noted.

US is stuck in Cold War thinking; Plan to spend Russia & China ‘into oblivion’ in arms race will bankrupt only America

The plan was apparently floated on May 15, but it was ultimately decided to shelve the resumption of nuclear testing for now.

“There are still some professionals in the room who told them this is a terrible idea, thank God,” an unnamed congressional aide told the Guardian. The scheme, dismissed as “unworkable and dumb,” received critical acclaim from the National Nuclear Security Administration and State Department, which refused to come “on board.”

Putting nuclear devices on trial is generally prohibited under the 1996 Nuclear Testing and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed by 184 nations. Russia ratified the accord four years later. The US didn’t do so but chose to adhere to its moratorium on nuclear tests, which is still in force for the time being.

Washington has already rid itself of two vital arms control agreements in recent years. In 2019, the Trump administration quit the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, which banned short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The US cited alleged violations by Moscow, a claim that Kremlin denied, pointing out that ditching the landmark accord was a pre-planned action by the US administration.

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This week, Trump announced that the US will pull out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allows its 35 signatories, among them Russia and NATO members, to conduct surveillance flights of each other’s territories.

The last major arms control pact still standing is the 2010 New START agreement, which was aimed at halving US and Russian missile launchers. Set to expire in February next year, it is now in jeopardy, with Washington threatening to “spend Russia into oblivion” if an arms race breaks out, while also unwilling to extend the pact without bringing China into the negotiations.

Coronavirus pandemic may throw 60 MILLION people into extreme poverty, World Bank warns

Coronavirus pandemic may throw 60 MILLION people into extreme poverty, World Bank warns
The world’s progress in eliminating poverty is set to suffer a major setback due to the Covid-19 outbreak, forcing more people to survive on less than $1.90 per day, the World Bank has said in its recent report.

“The pandemic and shutdown of advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty – erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said. According to him, the unprecedented crisis could wipe out up to three years of progress in the area.

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The pandemic has been ripping through the global economy, which is set to fall into a deep recession and contract by up to five percent this year, the Washington-based institution said.

Last month, the bank said that the virus-triggered economic turmoil is likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998, when the Asian Financial Crisis hit. Even under the bank’s best estimate, some 49 million people will fall into extreme poverty, which it defines as living on less than $1.90 per person per day.

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To help combat the deadly virus, the World Bank has offered financing emergency programs in 100 countries. In the “largest” crisis response in the Bank Group’s history, the program unlocked $160 billion in grants and financial support over a 15-month period, as well as the suspension of bilateral debt service payments. The bulk of the financial help will go to Sub-Saharan Africa, as it is expected be the region hit hardest in terms of increased extreme poverty.

Most international financial institutions have already sounded alarms over the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with some forecasts indicating that the global gross domestic product (GDP) could fall nearly 10 percent. The UN had earlier warned that the virus could also trigger a global food shortage, while its labor agency forecasts that 195 million jobs could be lost worldwide.

3 heavyweights in the ring: As US-China hostility escalates, what role will be played by the world’s other great power, Russia?

By Artyom Lukin, associate professor of international relations at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia. 
3 heavyweights in the ring: As US-China hostility escalates, what role will be played by the world’s other great power, Russia?
Don’t expect a new world order to emerge post-Covid-19. It will be the current big three who dominate, with an informal alliance between Russia and China crucial to reining in American ambitions.

When Covid-19 began to consume the world a few months ago, there were hopes that maybe the pandemic would moderate geopolitical rivalry and encourage international collaboration. What we have seen instead were a spike in US-China tension, a US-British naval flotilla entering the Barents Sea in proximity of Russia for the first time since the 1980s, clashes on the Sino-Indian border, and other developments showing that even a shared disaster is not capable to bring peace among nations, especially among major powers.

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What is a great power?

It is difficult to deny that we live in an era of intensifying great-power competition. This is now the central premise of US foreign policy and national security strategy, while other major nations have, openly or implicitly, adopted the same proposition.

But what is a great power? International relations theory is pretty straightforward on this: “A great power is a state that can contend in a war against every other state in the system and thus can independently provide for its own security vis-a-vis any other country.”

In his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Paul Kennedy defines a great power as “a country which is willing and able to take on any other” state in the international system. And in U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic, Walter Lippmann argued that only “the great powers can wage great wars. Only the great powers can resist a great power.”

Soft power may be important in the modern world. But it is first and foremost military might – and the willingness to use it – that makes a great power. You can be rich like Saudi Arabia, have an enviable quality of life like Canada, be technologically advanced like South Korea or have vast natural resources and a huge population like Brazil or Nigeria. But none of that will give you the status of a great power unless your country achieves military preponderance over all other nations – except, of course, your peer great powers.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where the ability to kill, maim and destroy on a massive scale constitutes the single most important leverage of power. And it is not in a fit of absentmindedness that some nations pursue military primacy. They do it because they want to be able to impose their will upon others – an inherent urge the founder of international political theory Hans Morgenthau called ‘animus dominandi.’

The list of the contemporary great powers is pretty short: the United States of America, Russia and China. It is these three nations that are far ahead of others in their capacity to wage war. The US, admittedly, has the strongest military among the three, giving it superpower stature, but that does not annul the great-power status of Russia and China: the former is the only country in the world capable of obliterating the US with a nuclear strike, while the latter, steadily building up its nuclear forces, is approaching such a capability.

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In 2008, Russia got involved in a military conflict with Georgia, a partner of both America and NATO. In 2014, Vladimir Putin changed the borders of another Western ally, Ukraine, by reclaiming Russian-populated Crimea.

China has been less audacious so far, but its salami-slicing tactics in the South China Sea have been quite a success, with the Americans essentially powerless to prevent Beijing’s growing dominance in that strategically crucial body of water.

Don’t write Russia off as a great power

The current great-power roster of three is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Germany and Japan could theoretically seek to regain the great-power ranking they once had. However, Berlin and Tokyo, as well as London and Paris, are firmly incorporated into the structures of the US-led alliances, having exchanged full sovereignty for the comfort of an apparently safe existence under American hegemony.

India is probably the most plausible candidate to become another great power. It has both the potential and ambition to reach for the top tier of the global power hierarchy. However, it will still take a while for Delhi to make it to the premier league of world politics.

If India is the most likely candidate to enter the great power ranks in the future, isn’t Russia the most obvious one to drop out soon? It is almost a conventional wisdom that Russia is a declining nation, with poor demographics and a shrinking share of the world’s economy.

Yet reports of Russia’s impending demise as a great power may be exaggerated. Let us not forget that great powers are primarily defined by their war-fighting capabilities. Russia’s stock of formidable weapons and military-related technologies, accumulated over many decades, as well as the wealth of its war-fighting experience, will allow Moscow to continue as a first-rate geopolitical player for a long time yet.

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It also matters that Russia is the most experienced of the three contemporary great powers. The notion of a Great Power first came into being after the Napoleonic Wars, when the four victorious powers of Russia, Britain, Austria and Prussia established the Concert of Europe, later joined by France. Tsar Alexander I, along with the Austrian Foreign Minister Prince Metternich and the British Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh, was a founder of the great-power concert that secured relative peace and stability in Europe for almost a century.

America became a great power a century later, whereas China is only now learning the art of a modern great power. Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, are full heirs to the Russian tsars’ foreign policy that combined military muscle with adroit diplomacy, even though debacles, such as the 1853 Crimean War, did happen from time to time.

The great-power entente of Moscow and Beijing

The dynamics of the modern great-power triangle are determined by the primordial law of international politics – the balance of power – whereby lesser poles pull together to counter the strongest force. This is why Russia and China have formed a quasi-alliance in opposition to the American superpower. Their entente has much less to do with the supposed commonality of domestic political regimes in China and Russia, the so-called “axis of authoritarians.

In fact, Russia and China established their “strategic partnership” in 1996, the same year the Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who was seen as a liberal by the West, was running for re-election with the aid of American political strategists.

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And Russia’s hybrid-type political system of the present day is no more similar to the Chinese party state than it is to American liberal democracy.

Speaking of historical continuity, in the late nineteenth century Tsarist Russia formed an alliance with republican France to prevent Germany from dominating Europe. This makes it unlikely that the Sino-Russian entente will end any time soon. It will continue, and will probably become even more solid, as long as Moscow and Beijing see the US as the overweening power. Alexey Navalny, the leader of the anti-Putin opposition in Russia, bears many hallmarks of a great-power nationalist. Should he or someone like him move into the Kremlin, Russia’s foreign policy will not change that much.

The great-power mission in the twenty-first century

Unlike in the nineteenth century, it is now impossible for a few great powers to run the world. If there is to be a global concert of powers in the twenty-first century, it needs to include many more states, not only those that possess military pre-eminence but also those that play major economic and social roles. However, as Paul Kennedy observes, the primary responsibility of the great powers is “to prevent any actions that might lead to a world war. Their job is simply to hold firm the iron frame that keeps the international system secure.

Alas, as things are shaping up now, the great power triangle may not live up to this task.

COVID-19 Deaths In Context: How Many People Die Each Day?

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the media continues to rattle off statistics at full force.

However, as Visual Capitalist’s Jenna Ross notes, without a frame of reference, numbers such as the death toll can be difficult to interpret. Mortalities attributed to the virus, for example, are often measured in the thousands of people per day globally—but is this number a little or a lot, relative to typical causes of death?

Today’s graphic uses data from Our World in Data to provide context with the total number of worldwide daily deaths. It also outlines how many people who die each day from specific causes.

Worldwide Deaths by Cause

Nearly 150,000 people die per day worldwide, based on the latest comprehensive research published in 2017. Which diseases are the most deadly, and how many lives do they take per day?

Here’s how many people die each day on average, sorted by cause:

Cardiovascular diseases, or diseases of the heart and blood vessels, are the leading cause of death. However, their prominence is not reflected in our perceptions of death nor in the media.

While the death toll for HIV/AIDS peaked in 2004, it still affects many people today. The disease causes over 2,600 daily deaths on average.

Interestingly, terrorism and natural disasters cause very few deaths in relation to other causes. That said, these numbers can vary from day to day—and year to year—depending on the severity of each individual instance.

Total Daily Deaths by Country

On a national level, these statistics vary further. Below are the total deaths from all causes for selected countries, based on 2017 data.

China and India both see more than 25,000 total deaths per day, due to their large populations.

However, with 34.7 daily deaths per million people each day, Russia has the highest deaths proportional to population out of any of these countries.

While these numbers help provide some context for the global scale of COVID-19 deaths, they do not offer a direct comparison.

The fact is that many of the aforementioned death rates are based on much larger and consistent sample sizes of data. On the flipside, since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, daily confirmed deaths have fallen in a wide range between 272 and 10,520 per day—and there is no telling what could happen in the future.

On top of this variance, data on confirmed COVID-19 deaths has other quirks. For example, testing rates for the virus may vary between jurisdictions, and there have also been disagreements between authorities on how deaths should even be tallied in the first place. This makes getting an accurate picture surprisingly complicated.

While it’s impossible to know the true death toll of COVID-19, it is clear that in some countries daily deaths have reached rates 50% or higher than the historical average for periods of time:

Time, and further analysis, will be required to determine a more accurate COVID-19 death count.

Chomsky, Sanders, Others Launch Progressive International

  • Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Yanis Varoufakis are among the interim Council of over 40 advisors.

    Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Yanis Varoufakis are among the interim Council of over 40 advisors. | Photo: AFP

Published 11 May 2020

In September, the Council will meet for the inaugural Summit of the PI in Reykjavik, Iceland, hosted by the Prime Minister of Iceland and the Left-Green Movement.

A coalition of left-leaning intellectuals, activists, and political leaders from around the world officially launched Monday the Progressive International with the support of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 and the Sanders Institute.

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“Never before has international solidarity been more necessary—and more absent,” General Coordinator of the PI David Adler said, adding that “only a common international front can match the scale of our crises, reclaim our institutions, and defeat a rising authoritarian nationalism.”

At launch, the Progressive International is supported by an interim Council of over 40 advisors, including Iceland’s Prime Minister Katriin Jakobsdottir, intellectual Noam Chomsky, former Greek Minister of Economy Yanis Varoufakis, author Naomi Klein, and many others.

From Latin America, political leaders such as the Ecuadorean ex-president Rafael Correa; former Brazilian presidential candidate Fernando Haddad; former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim; Bolivian former Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera are part of the founding members.

The idea was born in December 2018, when the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and the Sanders Institute issued an open call proclaiming “it is time for progressives of the world to unite.”

On the launch of the group Monday, Chomsky in an interview with the Guardian said that the urgency created by the COVID-19 crisis has pushed deepening economic inequalities and the rise of the far-right.

So as autocratic neoliberalism stands as one way, “the other way is to try to dismantle the structures, the institutional structures that have been created; that have led to very ugly consequences for much of the population of much of the world, [and] are the source of this pandemic.”

Progressive International@ProgIntl

We are at a fork in the road: either we unite with progressives around the planet in a shared struggle for justice, or we surrender to the forces of nationalism and free-market fundamentalism. @yanisvaroufakis, Greek MP and PI Council member, on the mission before us:

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The activities of the initiative are divided across three pillars: the movement aimed to forge a global network; the Blueprint to develop a policy blueprint for a progressive international order;  and the Wire which offers a wire service to the world’s progressive forces.

In September, the Council will meet for the inaugural Summit of the PI in Reykjavik, Iceland, hosted by the Prime Minister of Iceland and the Left-Green Movement, to analyze the challenges of the 21st century and consider proposals from the PI membership for its strategic direction.

“The ambitions of this initiative are undoubtedly high—no higher than the present crisis demands. But the Progressive International is only as powerful as its membership, and to reclaim the world after COVID-19, we will need a powerful movement of progressive forces,” Adler added, calling forces alike to join the movement.

Covid-19: Cuba’s people-before-profit approach pays off as capitalism proves a bitter pill for the US

Source

rt.com
By Pablo Vivanco, a journalist and analyst specializing in politics and history in the Americas, who served as the Director of teleSUR English. Recent bylines include The Jacobin, Asia Times, The Progressive and Truthout. Follow him on Twitter @pvivancoguzman
Havana has punched above its weight for decades when it comes to health. But never have the differences between its socialist system and the market-based system of its strongest detractor, America, been so apparent.

Even before it reported novel coronavirus cases of its own in March, Cuba’s fingerprints were all over the efforts to stem the global pandemic, from China’s use of antivirals developed on the island to treat the infected, to the docking of a British cruise ship in Havana in order to allow the 1,000 people on board – including five Covid-19 carriers – to return home.

The MS Braemar, filled mostly with British citizens, was refused permission to disembark at several ports it approached. According to some reports, the US – a principal British ally – was one of the countries that turned it down. The ship’s operator, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, has not commented on the US specifically, saying they explored a number of options and would not disclose the details of those negotiations. The fact that the vessel ultimately found refuge on Cuba’s shores serves to illustrate the difference in approaches to this pandemic.

Despite considerable risk factors, including a high percentage of people over the age of 60 and a high number of visitors to the country, Cuba has been able to keep Covid-19 cases to just under 1,370 as of April 27, with just 54 deaths.

This is largely due to the fact that the Caribbean island not only has the highest ratio of doctors to population in the world, but also a free, universal health system based on proactive, community response.

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The measures that began in January included training and preparation for medical professionals and facilities, but by March these extended into other sectors and included a virtual shutdown of the tourism industry – a huge chunk of Cuba’s economy.

Still, authorities maintained that Cuban doctors would continue to go to countries that needed support in controlling the spread of the virus. These same medical brigades were instrumental in supporting African nations in curbing and controlling the Ebola outbreak that began in 2014.

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But now, for the first time, Cuban doctors have been received with open arms in European countries like Italy and Andorra, and they have even been welcomed back by some of the very same US-allied governments in Latin America that vilified and kicked them out just months ago.

The number of Cuban-trained doctors working in other countries is even higher when you count the graduates from Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine, which has provided free education to 35,000 doctors in 138 countries since 1999.

All of this has been accomplished under the severe limitations and resources that are the intentional consequence of barbaric US sanctions, which were recently intensified by the Trump administration.

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Exporting its doctors and nurses abroad is a vital revenue-earner for Cuba. It brings in around $11 billion each year – a bigger source of income than the island’s tourism industry. At any one time, there are around 50,000 Cuban doctors working across 67 countries, an ‘army of white coats’, as officials describe them.

But while Cubans have put themselves in harm’s way to support people and countries all over the planet, the US has been doing the exact opposite.

In an audacious demonstration of hypocrisy, Washington has pressured countries to not accept Cuban doctors, while offering little support of its own, and has also deliberately (and perhaps illegally) seized shipments of medical equipment meant for other countries, including some of its closest allies.

To be fair, even if it had the will, the US government is not in a position to lend much support to anyone at the moment.

The weaknesses of America’s health system, which paradoxically has the highest per capita funding in the world by far, were laid bare even before the pandemic, as Democratic presidential hopefuls outlined their plans to provide adequate healthcare to the more than 70 million Americans who lack it.

Just a few weeks into this crisis, the picture is even bleaker, with millions more losing access due to job losses, and hospitals lacking proper equipment for patients and staff.

To make matters worse, the discrepancy in measures at the state and local level demonstrates that the country’s overall response is nothing less than schizophrenic. Meanwhile, decisions from the White House – including having tapped a dog breeder to lead the pandemic response and suggesting people inject disinfectant – have become increasingly indiscernible from satire. It’s like ‘Tiger King’, but on healthcare.

In this tragic and farcical situation, the differences between the healthcare systems and approaches in the US and Cuba have become more apparent.

Cuba has long prioritized healthcare as a right that all people should have, while America believes that the market should dictate who has access and who doesn’t. Cuba has exported its doctors across the globe to help stem the pandemic’s tide, while the US has tightened the stranglehold on the island in a futile attempt to stop it from doing so.

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The schism between the two is less a matter of money than a matter of philosophy. Cuba, for all its shortcomings, has maintained an indomitable commitment to the health and lives of people, and it has been vindicated during this pandemic.

Meanwhile, its wealthy neighbor to the north sinks deeper into a death spiral, intent on proving the superiority of the capitalist orthodoxy its government wants applied to every sphere of life, in every part of the planet.