The World Today for July 02, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

AFGHANISTAN

Leave No Man Behind

Interpreters were crucial in the US-led effort to root out Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Now they feel betrayed.

As the US and other countries plan to pull out their soldiers in the coming weeks from the war-torn Central Asian country, interpreters and their advocates are calling on Western leaders to help these brave Afghans escape their country before the murderous Taliban take over and seek revenge.

“Thousands of Afghans served shoulder to shoulder with the United States and other NATO forces as interpreters, and in other essential functions,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board. “The United States must prepare an orderly exit for them and avoid a Saigon-like final hour.”

The interpreters – and also other locals who helped the foreign forces and contractors – put their lives on the line as much as American, NATO or other coalition soldiers. Many Western soldiers bonded with their interpreters in fox holes in the same way they forged the closest connections with their brothers in arms, argued retired Army General Carter Ham and retired Army Colonel Stuart Bradin in the Hill.

Many saved US soldiers’ lives, say officers and soldiers of all ranks.

Taliban fighters decapitated one interpreter’s brother for cooperating with “infidels,” for example, reported Al Jazeera in a story that provides a deep dive on how the US attracted Afghan English speakers by paying far more than the average Afghan could earn through honest means.

Citing figures from the nonprofit No One Left Behind, which has been pushing to help the interpreters and helps them when they arrive in the US, National Public Radio wrote how the US has given 26,500 special visas to Afghans who worked for the US government or military. They have set aside 50 per year for interpreters from Afghanistan or Iraq. The process of receiving a visa is supposed to take nine months, but some people have waited years. The amount allocated is far too little for the hundreds of thousands that qualify.

Congress is scrambling to speed up the process, the New York Times noted. They have been trying for years and years.

Afghan Interpreters who worked for Australian forces are also hitting roadblocks, reported the Guardian. Some have received permission to move Down Under but, because of the coronavirus pandemic, can’t find a flight to get there. Officials told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that they are trying to fix the process.

Britain, on the other hand, has begun shuttling the first among an expected 3,000 Afghans who have accepted an offer to move to the UK, according to Sky News. Another 1,300 have already arrived via another policy.

Interpreters who manage to find a new home face other challenges, of course. In the US, they might receive a special visa but they receive little support to help them settle, argued former interpreter Najeeb Aminyar, who is now studying law at Texas A&M University, and Noah Coburn, a political anthropologist at Bennington College in a Newsweek op-ed.

The test of a nation is how it treats its friends.

WANT TO KNOW

EUROPEAN UNION

Uncaged

The European Union plans to end caged animal farming across the bloc, a move animal rights activists describe as a “historic decision,” CNN reported Thursday.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, will propose legislation that would phase out – and ultimately ban – cages for farm animals, including rabbits, hens, ducks and geese.

The changes are expected to be approved by 2023 and take effect four years later.

The decision came after a petition to end the practice of caged farming received more than a million signatures.

Advocates and animal rights lobby groups welcomed the decision and said the changes would affect more than 300 million farmed animals on the continent.

The EU’s current regulations on caging only cover laying hens, broiler chickens, sows and calves. The bloc has one of the world’s highest animal welfare standards although more than 90 percent of farmed rabbits are housed in cages, according to Reuters.

CHINA

Yin and Yang

China celebrated the centennial of the Communist party’s founding Thursday in an event marked with nationalistic praise and warnings against the country’s rivals, the Financial Times reported.

President Xi Jinping hailed the party for accomplishing “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Echoing comments from China’s first communist leader and party founder Mao Zedong, Xi said the Communist party’s victory “showed the world that the Chinese nation had stood up – the time when the Chinese people could be bullied by others was gone forever.”

He also cited a warning aimed at China’s rivals that the world’s largest army “will not tolerate sanctimonious preaching.” Meanwhile, he praised China’s efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, which allegedly began in the Chinese city of Wuhan 18 months ago.

The hour-long address, however, unveiled no new initiatives or timelines for the party’s most important policy objectives, such as reunification with Taiwan.

China claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, and the president emphasized in his speech that unification remains “a historic mission and unshakeable commitment of the Chinese Communist party.”

Analysts noted that the fact that there was no timeline was a positive thing for Taiwan.

The centennial arrived during the 24th anniversary of China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain. The event is largely commemorated by large protests organized by the city’s pro-democracy camp.

This year, police refused to grant permission for protests. Meanwhile, dozens of pro-democracy activists remain in jail under a sweeping national security law imposed on the territory last year by China.

MEXICO

Please, Inhale

Mexico’s Supreme Court struck down laws that prohibit the recreational use of marijuana this week in a ruling that puts pressure on legislators to approve a legalization bill that has stalled in Congress, Reuters reported.

The court’s ruling removed all obstacles for the health ministry to authorize the planting, harvesting, possession and transportation of pot for personal use by adults.

The verdict was hailed by cannabis advocates and companies – the latter is looking toward big payoffs in Mexico, Bloomberg wrote.

Currently, the sweeping legalization has stalled in the upper house after it was approved by lawmakers in the lower house in March.

But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has voiced resistance against legalizing marijuana: While he said he would respect the court’s decision for cannabis use, he remains against the legal sale of weed, calling it “immoral.”

His comments contradict some of the members of his own cabinet and his allies in Congress. Even so, the populist leader acknowledged “there are two views” on the issue and suggested that he could send the bill to lawmakers or push for a public referendum.

Lopez Obrador has, in the past, used referendums to decide thorny policy issues. On Tuesday, he again laid out the argument for such “participative democracy” in the context of the cannabis debate.

DISCOVERIES

When Giants Roamed

A team of scientists discovered a new species of giant rhino taller than a giraffe, reported the BBC.

About 26.5-million-year-old fossilized remains of a new ancient giant rhino species called Paraceratherium linxiaense were discovered in the Gansu Province in northwestern China.

Among the largest land mammals, P.lixiaense weighed a whopping 21 tons and was taller than a giraffe – reaching heights of 23 feet to graze on treetops.

In a recent study, scientists determined that the fossils found, including a fully preserved jawbone and skull, were entirely different than other known species of giant rhinos.

The P.lixiaense had a slender skull and prehensile nose trunk – that could grab or hold onto objects – similar to a modern-day pig-shaped tapir.

However, the animal did share some similarities with a closely related ancient giant rhino species from Pakistan, indicating that it might have traveled across Central Asia.

This possible migration suggests that the Tibetan Plateau would have likely had some low-lying ranges at the time.

“Tropical conditions allowed the giant rhino to return northward to Central Asia, implying that the Tibetan region was still not uplifted as a high-elevation plateau,” lead author Deng Tao said.

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: 33,679,489 (+0.04%)
  2. India: 30,458,251 (+0.15%)
  3. Brazil: 18,622,304 (+0.35%)
  4. France: 5,839,929 (+0.05%)
  5. Russia: 5,472,722 (+0.42%)
  6. Turkey: 5,430,940 (+0.10%)
  7. UK: 4,844,944 (+0.57%)
  8. Argentina: 4,491,551 (+0.47%)
  9. Colombia: 4,269,297 (+0.67%)
  10. Italy: 4,260,788 (+0.02%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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