The World Today for May 13, 2021

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Truth and Consequences

President Joe Biden recently phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to say that the US was going to recognize the Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign against Armenians in 1915.

The conversation was tense, reported CNN.

Erdoğan often paints Turkey as the heir to the glorious Ottoman tradition when a Muslim caliph ruled a vast territory that stretched from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf. In contrast, Biden, who described Erdoğan as an autocrat in an interview with the New York Times editorial board, was now dredging up one of the many disgraceful moments in Ottoman history, the Guardian wrote.

The 1915 genocide occurred when Ottoman authorities massacred, deported or marched 1.5 million Armenians to their deaths from Anatolia to concentration camps in what are now Iraq and Syria. In 1923, after the Ottoman defeat as one of the German-affiliated Central Powers in World War I, reformers took over the empire and founded the current republic of Turkey.

As the Washington Post explained, many countries have shameful legacies that many of their citizens would prefer to ignore or forget – think Germany and National Socialism (Nazis), the US and slavery and the subjection of indigenous communities in former British colonies. But publicly stating that the Ottomans committed genocide is a crime in Turkey punishable by up to two years in prison.

For years, following a “realist school” of diplomacy, the US was willing to omit mentions of the Armenian genocide in relations with Turkey, a NATO ally, Politico wrote. During the Cold War, the US wanted to shore up Turkish support against communism and the Soviet Union. In the 2000s, Turkey, which quietly worked with Armenia behind the scenes to make peace, backed off any final agreement.

As a result, the Biden administration has calculated that denying the truth is more harmful than helpful in relations between the two countries at this point.

Turkish officials, meanwhile, said Biden’s move would hurt relations between the two countries, Reuters reported. But ties between the US and Turkey have been fraying for years. Last year, for example, Erdoğan purchased Russian-built air defense systems over US objections – that resulted in the US expelling Turkey from the F-35 development program, halting the training of Turkish pilots and canceling deliveries of the plane. In December 2020, it adopted sanctions against Turkish defense procurement officials.

Turkey has also accepted Russian help with its energy, its main supplier, and Russia is helping to construct the TurkStream natural gas pipeline and Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, to the West’s concern.

And the US and Turkey have also been working at cross purposes in Syria and disagree on human rights and other domestic issues within Turkey.

Meanwhile, Armenians in the capital of Yerevan, greeted Biden’s announcement with a “mix of joy and incredulity,” wrote Euronews.

Progressive American writers like John Nichols welcomed Biden’s move, saying that America elided this infamous episode in Turkish history for far too long.

Accepting the truth, after all, is the only way to face it.




The United Nations warned of a “full-scale war” breaking out between Israelis and Palestinians, as fighting continued Wednesday amid ongoing Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire in what has been described as the worst violence in years, CNN reported.

Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel since the latest flareup began Monday. Although many of the rockets have been stopped by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, some missiles hit Israeli cities including Tel Aviv, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 200.

Israel retaliated by launching airstrikes in Gaza, killing at least 67 people, including 17 children, and injuring more than 380.

The latest violence comes amid escalating tensions following protests over the potential eviction of Palestinian families from a neighborhood in east Jerusalem by Israel’s Supreme Court and access to one of the most sacred sites in the city, CNBC reported.

Weeks of tensions boiled over on Monday when Israeli police and Palestinian protesters clashed at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque and led to Hamas firing rockets.

More than 900 Palestinians in east Jerusalem have been injured since last week’s unrest began, according to the UN.

The situation has sparked international calls for a ceasefire amid fears that it could develop into a conflict similar to the 2014 war in Gaza, according to PBS News.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern over violent unrest in Israeli cities which have a majority Arab population: Israel declared a state of emergency in the central city of Lod on Wednesday, following a second night of clashes between Jewish and Arab communities, which saw a synagogue set on fire.


Hindsight’s Clarity

A new report by an independent global panel found that the coronavirus pandemic could have been prevented and noted that a myriad of failures in both preparedness and response resulted in the global outbreak, Politico reported Wednesday.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s (IPPPR) report highlighted major mistakes in January and February 2020: It said that the current systems in place were too slow to respond when the virus first emerged in China reportedly in December 2019.

It also criticized the “wait and see” approach many nations took in February which later led to an inability to contain the pandemic.

Among its notes, the panel said that the existing International Health Regulations – these determine how countries must respond to public health events – “serve to constrain rather than facilitate rapid action.”

However, it added that under the current system, the World Health Organization (WHO) should have declared a public health emergency of international concern by Jan. 22. Instead, it declared that designation eight days later.

Panel co-chair, Helen Clark, also noted that a “lack of global leadership and coordination” as well as geopolitical tensions and nationalism also contributed to the spread of the virus.

The IPPPR recommended that high-income countries provide at least one billion vaccine doses to nations waiting for vaccines under COVAX. It also argued that vaccine-producing nations and manufacturers should agree to voluntary licensing and technology transfer.

The panel added that the WHO is underpowered and underfunded and that members should contribute more to its budget.


Why (Not) The Rush?

Britain is planning to introduce legislation that would ban conversion therapy and provide more support to members of the LGBTQ+ community who have had the therapy, a move that has received a mixed reception from community activists, according to Sky News.

Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss said the government wants these “coercive and abhorrent” practices – which consist of trying to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity – to end in England and Wales.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to conduct a public consultation on the legislation: Among the proposals, the government aims to end the practice while at the same time protecting the medical profession, defending freedom of speech and upholding religious freedom.

It will also include a victim-support package, marking the first time the government has offered such measures.

However, former government advisers and human rights groups voiced concern over some aspects of the plan. They noted that the government doesn’t need to conduct consultations while adding that there is a risk of a “highly dangerous loophole” being created if the government focuses only on “coercive practices.”

The government has come under pressure to ban conversion therapy, with three LGBTQ+ advisers resigning in protest over what they viewed as an undue delay in ministers taking action.


The Great Hairy Conquest

The large tarantula spider is found on all continents of the world except Antarctica.

While seeing one is unsettling for the average arachnophobe, the good news is that tarantulas are homebodies and rarely leave their burrows.

The arachnid’s ubiquity has puzzled scientists for a long time. But now, a new study has shed light on how they conquered the world, Carnegie Mellon University press reported.

Researchers at the university analyzed DNA components of tarantulas and other spider species from different time periods. They then built a genetic tree of spiders and corroborated it with fossil data.

Their findings show that tarantulas first emerged 120 million years ago on the Gondwana supercontinent, which included South America, India, Australia and Africa.

The ancient spiders eventually populated all of Gondwana, which later split into other continents allowing the crawlers to spread, according to Live Science.

The team also noted that tarantulas in India had split into two lineages – one, tree-dwelling, and another, ground-dwelling – before the subcontinent merged with Asia more than 50 million years ago.

Later on, each lineage colonized Asia in separate periods that underscores the spiders’ ability to easily disperse, says lead author Saoirse Foley.

“While continental drift certainly played its part in their history, the two Asian colonization events encourage us to reconsider this narrative,” she said. “The microhabitat differences between those two lineages also suggest that tarantulas are experts at exploiting ecological niches.”

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 32,814,945 (+0.11%)
  2. India: 23,703,665 (+1.55%)
  3. Brazil: 15,359,397 (+0.50%)
  4. France: 5,882,882 (+0.37%)
  5. Turkey: 5,072,462 (+0.26%)
  6. Russia: 4,849,044 (+0.17%)
  7. UK: 4,457,742 (+0.05%)
  8. Italy: 4,131,078 (+0.19%)
  9. Spain: 3,592,751 (+0.18%)
  10. Germany: 3,575,826 (+0.50%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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