Planet Watch
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Worldwide police-state measures in face of COVID-19

With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary’s parliament voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree. The Russian parliament has approved an “anti-virus” package that includes up to seven years imprisonment for serious violations of quarantine rules. Israel has joined South Korea in authorizing use of personal cellphone data to track the virus. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has declared a “state of catastrophe,” sending the military to public squares recently occupied by protesters. Military patrols are also enforcing the lockdown in Peru, Italy, Romania and South Africa. “We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close on the heels of a health epidemic,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. (Photo: Peruvian army demonstration video, via YouTube)

Central Asia

Protest mass forced labor in Turkmenistan

Protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in New York as the General Assembly met, to demand an end to forced labor in Turkmenistan's cotton industry. Each year the government of Turkmenistan forces tens of thousands of workers from both public and private sectors to pick cotton during the harvest season or else pay a bribe to supervisors to hire a replacement worker, according to protest organizer Cotton Campaign. This takes place under threat of punishment, including loss of wages from regular jobs, and termination of employment. The government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and "contempt of the homeland." (Photo: AKI Press)

Central Asia

Aral Sea almost gone: NASA

Satellite photos released by NASA reveal  that the eastern basin of the Aral Sea has completely dried up. Water levels are less than 10% of what they were 50 years ago.