Good morning. North Korea’s outbreak grows, India bans most wheat exports and South Korea changes its operating laws.
North Korea outbreak grows
State media reported 21 new deaths on Saturday and a huge jump in suspected coronavirus cases as North Korea struggled to contain the first reported outbreak.
State media said an additional 174,400 people had symptoms, such as fever, that could be caused by Covid-19 – a tenfold jump from the 18,000 such cases reported Friday. North Korea has reported a total of 524,400 people with Covid-like symptoms since late last month.
“North Korea only reports ‘people with a fever’ because it doesn’t have enough test kits,” said an expert. Covid may not be causing all that fever, he said, but the number of asymptomatic cases is likely much higher than the official count.
Vaccines: North Koreans have not been vaccinated, although some elites may have received shots. International health organizations and the South Korean government have said they are ready to ship vaccines, therapies and other aid.
India bans most wheat exports
In addition to concerns about global food insecurity, the world’s second-largest wheat producer has banned most of the grain’s exports. India’s Ministry of Commerce said a sudden price hike had threatened the country’s food security.
The move, an apparent turnaround, could widen a global deficit and exacerbate a poor forecast for global hunger. In April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told President Biden that India was ready to supply the world with its reserves.
Background: The war has interrupted wheat production in Ukraine and Russia and blockades in the Black Sea have disrupted the grain’s transportation. And climate change is a major threat. Agricultural experts said the ongoing heat wave in India could affect this year’s crop. Torrential rains caused poor harvests in China, while droughts in other countries further choked supplies.
Surveillance of operations in South Korea
South Korea has become one of the first countries to require cameras in operating theaters treating patients under general anesthesia, a measure designed to restore confidence in the medical system.
For years, hospitals have filed complaints about doctors turning patients over to unsupervised assistants who perform “ghost surgery.” About five patients have died from such surgeries in the past eight years, a patient advocate said.
According to patient advocates, surgeons are replacing nurses to perform surgeries, packing more procedures and maximizing profits. They claim that cameras will protect patients and provide victims of medical malpractice evidence to use in court.
But ethicists and medical officials around the world have warned that supervising surgeons could hurt morale, invade patients’ privacy and make doctors less likely to take risks to save lives.
Background: The covert surgeries began in plastic surgery clinics in the 2010s, after South Korea began promoting medical tourism, according to legal experts. They spread to spinal hospitals, experts said, which typically perform relatively straightforward procedures that are in high demand with the country’s aging population.
Tattooing without a medical license is illegal in South Korea, where decorative body art has long been linked to organized crime. But the law collides with rising international demand for what are known as “k-tattoos,” and the country’s tattooists argue it’s time to end the stigma on their businesses.
Lives Lived: Katsumoto Saotome compiled six books of survivors’ memories of the 1945 Tokyo firebombing and established (without government support) a memorial museum. Saotome died at the age of 90.
ART AND IDEAS
The future of paralysis?
Sixteen years ago, Dennis DeGray’s mind was nearly separated from his body. He ran to take out the garbage in a rainstorm, slipped, landed hard on his chin and broke his neck, paralyzing him from his collarbones.
For years he “just lay there, watching the History Channel,” he said. But then he met Jaimie Henderson, a neurosurgeon at Stanford, who had developed a brain-computer interface. Henderson asked DeGray if he wanted to fly a drone. DeGray decided to join in.
Now, implants in his brain give DeGray some control, even though he can’t move his hands. Just by imagining a gesture, he can move a computer cursor, control robotic limbs, buy from Amazon, and pilot a drone — albeit only in a simulator for now.
There are clear therapeutic applications. Interest from an increasing number of high-profile start-ups also suggests the possibility of a future where neural interfaces enhance people’s innate skills and give them new ones – in addition to restoring lost skills.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook?
That was it for today’s briefing. Until next time. — Amelia
PS Elisabeth Goodridge, deputy travel editor of The Times, will study travel reporting in an era of climate change as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 2023.
The latest episode of “The Daily” deals with the US Covid death toll.
You can reach Amelia and the team at: briefing.†