The World Today for April 23, 2019
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NEED TO KNOW
Bearing a Cross
Leaders in the Canadian province of Quebec want to ban teachers, police officers, nurses and other civil servants from wearing religious clothing on the job.
The controversial measure highlights a tension between the province’s North American and European roots, exposing a rift between free-speech advocates and those who want to curb the power of religion in the public sector, the Associated Press wrote.
In Europe, at least five countries ban face coverings in public, the Washington Post reported. Coming as fears over a growing, unassimilated Muslim minority have become more commonplace, many argue that the bans target Muslim women.
Quebec Premier François Legault has taken pains not to refer to Islam in his comments on the measure. Instead, he cites polls. Most Quebecers “would like to have a framework where people in an authority position must not wear a religious sign,” Legault told the Telegraph.
Around 76 percent of Quebecers support the proposal, according to Global News, a Canadian outlet. In other Canadian provinces, 68 percent of those polled said they would support a similar ban.
But critics of the measure, like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who faces re-election this year – said the proposal is discriminatory. “It is unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion,” he said at a news conference covered by the Guardian.
Expect political posturing, court challenges and civil disobedience.
Montreal student-teacher Nancy Nazha, who was born in Quebec, said she would not take off her veil if the law passes in June, as anticipated. “It means I could never become a school principal. It says to me that not everyone is equal,” the 24-year-old told the Globe & Mail. “As public employees, we represent the population. Quebec isn’t just Québécois. It’s everyone who lives here.”
Ironically, the law is reviving a long-running debate about crucifixes in Quebec, including one that hangs in the main chamber of the province’s legislature. Legault has offered to relocate the crucifix if the clothing ban is passed.
Some Quebecers think that would be a mistake. “The crucifix is symbolic,” Quebec historian Frédéric Bastien told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s not like a police officer who would be wearing a kippah or a turban or a Muslim veil, a person who is exercising some authority and is arresting you.”
The people’s representatives, of course, enact laws in the legislature. But sometimes, some say, authorities have blind spots.
WANT TO KNOW
The Kingdom’s Capped Piece
Pyongyang confirmed Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will visit Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin “soon,” following a statement from the Kremlin last week indicating that the leaders would meet in the latter half of April.
The first summit between the leaders of North Korea and Russia since Kim Jong-il – Kim Jong-un’s father – met with Dmitry Medvedev eight years ago, the meeting is expected to take place in the eastern Russian port of Vladivostok, possibly on Wednesday or Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.
That would be less than two months after the meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi broke up without reaching an agreement on the North’s nuclear arsenal, the agency noted.
Analysts suggest Kim is looking to garner support from Putin for his pushback against Trump’s demands, the agency said, noting that Moscow has already called for international sanctions on the North to be eased.
Upping the Ante
The leader of the Houthi rebels fighting for control of Yemen said Monday that his forces have missiles capable of reaching Riyadh, Dubai and Abu Dhabi if the fragile ceasefire in the main Yemeni port city of Hodeidah breaks down.
“It is possible to target strategic, vital, sensitive and influential targets in the event of any escalation in Hodeidah,” Abdul-Malek al-Houthi said in an interview with Houthi-run Masirah TV, Reuters reported. “We are able to strongly shake the Emirati economy.”
The Iran-backed Houthis have been battling a Saudi-led coalition of Yemeni and Arab forces, which include the United Arab Emirates, in an effort to unseat the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi for the past four years. The rebels routinely lob missiles into southern Saudi Arabia and occasionally try to target Riyadh, the agency noted, but most of its missiles have been intercepted by the Saudi military.
Currently, the United Nations is trying to get both sides to pull troops out of Hodeidah, while each is blaming the other for the lack of progress.
Rebelling for Life
Overshadowed by wars, elections and coups elsewhere, Britain’s Extinction Rebellion climate change protests have grown into what may be the largest such action in recent British history.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, London police said they had made 1,065 arrests over the past eight days of protests and charged 53 people with related crimes, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported.
Beginning by blocking traffic at Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square on April 15, the protesters have turned to various creative and disruptive tactics to make themselves impossible to ignore. On Monday, for instance, scores of activists took over part of London’s Natural History Museum, where they lay on the floor in what they called a “die-in” to draw attention to “the sixth mass extinction.”
About 9,000 police officers have been responding to the protests since they began, the BBC reported. On Sunday London Mayor Sadiq Khan expressed concern about the impact that might have on normal policing.
The other challenges of climate change aside, the World Wildlife Fund recently reported that humanity has wiped out 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970.
A Dog for the Ages
A forensic artist recently reconstructed the face of a dog that lived around 4,500 years ago from a skull found in the Orkney Islands, off northern Scotland.
The artist used a 3D print from a scan of the animal’s cranium to reveal that the ancient canine resembled a European grey wolf and was the size of a large collie, Sky News reported.
The dog’s remains were found in a burial site called Cuween Hill in 1901. Researchers back then also discovered the remains of eight humans, suggesting that the dog was buried with its owners.
Steve Farrar, a manager with Historic Environment Scotland, which commissioned the reconstruction, said that Neolithic humans treasured their dogs, and trained them as guards and to tend sheep.
He also argued that the burial might have served a ritualistic purpose.
“Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the ‘dog people,'” he added.
Judging by the radiocarbon dating, the wolf-like pooch lived during a period when the Orkney Islands were one of the religious and cultural centers of Europe, and when Egyptians started building one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Great Pyramid of Giza.