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Divisiveness Spreads in Advanced Economies, and Other Stories We’re Following Into the Weekend

There is never a slow week in security. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the major stories we’re following into the weekend.

Divisiveness Spreads, Alongside COVID-19

People in 17 advanced economies around the globe said that their society is now more divided than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Researchers said that while 34 percent of people said they feel more united, approximately six-in-ten people said that national divisions have worsened since the coronavirus began to spread. “In 12 of 13 countries surveyed in both 2020 and 2021, feelings of division have increased significantly, in some cases by more than 30 percentage points,” Pew found.

A key source of this social division was how individuals viewed the restrictions placed on them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including facial covering mandates and stay-at-home orders.

“Overall, about four-in-ten express the opinion that over the course of the pandemic, the level of restrictions on public activity has been about right,” Pew explained. “A nearly equal share believes there should have been more restrictions to contain the virus. A minority in most publics think there should have been fewer restrictions.”

Perceptions based on global region also varied. In the Asia-Pacific, for instance, most people thought restrictions on social activity to stop the spread of the virus were appropriate. In North America and Western Europe, however, more people thought restrictions did not go far enough.

“Ideologically, in most nations, those who identify on the right of the political spectrum are more likely than those on the left to support fewer restrictions to contain the virus,” Pew assessed.

Health Officials Issue Delta Variant Warnings

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control issued a warning that the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 would be the dominant strain of the virus this fall.

“Unfortunately, preliminary data shows that it can also infect individuals that have received only one dose of the currently available vaccines,” said Dr. Andrea Ammon, the director of the agency. “It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate extensively during the summer particularly among younger individuals that are not targeted for vaccination.” 

The warning comes at a time where regions of the world are still in a fierce battle to stop the spread of COVID-19. India’s cases topped 30 million this week, and officials warned against reopening too early and causing a new wave of exposure.

“Vaccination rates are far below the levels deemed to be safe for easing social distancing measures substantially in the more populous and economically important states,” said Priyanka Kishore, head of India and Southeast Asia economics at Oxford Economics, in a Wednesday note. 

Miami Search and Rescue Mission Continues

A mass search-and-rescue operation was underway in Miami this week after an oceanfront condo building partially collapsed Thursday morning, killing at least four people and injuring more than 10. Rescuers are continuing to search for 159 people that are unaccounted for. 

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, who is also the state’s fire marshal, said the search and rescue effort will continue throughout Friday and be supported by teams from Naples and Orlando, who will relieve the Miami-Dade searchers. 

“The cause of the oceanfront condo’s collapse is unknown at this early stage,” the Miami Herald reports. “About 70 of the Champlain Towers South’s 130 apartments were destroyed or damaged, according to Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management.”

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an order declaring a disaster in Florida and authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide support to Miami officials. Biden’s move follows earlier state and local disaster declarations.

Chauvin Returns to Court

Derek Chauvin, who was convicted on murder charges for killing George Floyd, will be back in the courtroom today for his sentencing. 

Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison for his convictions for second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

The judge who will oversee Chauvin’s sentencing is Peter A. Cahill, who the New York Times reports has already ruled that four “aggravating factors” apply to Chauvin’s convictions and allow for harsher sentencing than Minnesota guidelines suggest.

“The judge found that Mr. Chauvin acted with particular cruelty; acted with the participation of three other individuals, who were fellow officers; abused his position of authority; and committed his crime in the presence of children, who witnessed the killing on a Minneapolis street corner on May 25, 2020.”

Protecting the Final Frontier

Microsoft announced that it will join the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) to help protect space-based critical assets vital to government agencies and the economy. The move marks the first time a cloud service provider has joined the Space ISAC.

“Through Microsoft’s founding membership in the Space ISAC we look forward to supporting the mission to facilitate collaboration across the global space industry, to enhance the community’s ability to prepare for and respond to cyber vulnerabilities, incidents, and threats; disseminate timely information; and serve as the primary communications channel for the sector,” wrote Microsoft Azure Corporate Vice President Tom Keane in a company blog post. 

McAfee Found Dead in Spain

John McAfee, the controversial founder of the McAfee antivirus platform and alleged cryptocurrency scammer, was found dead in a Spanish prison on Tuesday. McAfee was awaiting extradition to the United States to face charges of tax evasion and is said to have died by suicide.

“The eccentric cryptocurrency promoter and tax opponent whose history of legal troubles spanned from Tennessee to Central America to the Caribbean was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain,” the Associated Press reports. “Security personnel tried to revive him, but the jail’s medical team finally certified his death, a statement from the regional Catalan government said.”