The World Today for September 29, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

The Unwelcome

GREECE

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is vowing to “break and smash” the smuggling networks that are bringing migrants to the country via Turkey. He especially wants to block Afghan refugees seeking safety in Europe, the Associated Press wrote.

Critics say Mitsotakis is cracking down on more than just migrants. They claim he is also undermining the efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are trying to help the migrants and protect their human rights.

In July, for example, Greek authorities launched a criminal case against 10 people for aiding migrants seeking to reach Greek territory. Four of those charged worked for NGOs, including the Aegean Boat Report, a group that has reported on violent Greek border guards who have sought to stop asylum seekers from reaching the shores of Greek islands, according to Human Rights Watch.

Last year, the Greek government issued new rules for NGOs working on migration issues within the country and raided some that operated in Athens. United Nations and European Union watchdogs condemned the crackdown. Many foreign and local NGOs simply can’t comply with the new rules that create new financial and other compliance hurdles, including the sharing of potentially sensitive data on migrants, said Devex, a news agency that serves the international humanitarian community.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson recently called on Greek lawmakers to put aside legislation that would “hinder” NGOs in their quest to help the desperate migrants. Johansson noted that since 2015, the EU has given Greece more than $750 million to manage the migration crisis that started with refugees from the Syrian Civil War but has since expanded to include those fleeing from North Africa, South Asia and elsewhere. She said the EU was considering tying funding to Greece allowing NGOs to go about their business.

Still, Greece has been accused of mistreating refugees for years. Many have been housed in camps under squalid, unsafe conditions, Euronews explained. “It’s like going from one war to another,” Palestinian refugee Huda told PBS NewsHour. “I didn’t find anything better here than the life I was living.”

New camps built with EU funding might be safe and clean. But they feel like prisons, added Agence France-Presse. One of the new camps sports double barbed-wire fences, surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and locked, magnetic doors. Curfew is 8 p.m.

“People are angry (about) the new camp, they think that it’s prison but I don’t think (so),” Didier Tcakonmer, a 28-year-old Cameroonian who has spent more than two years on Samos in a refugee camp, told AFP. “It will be better than here – no mosquitos, no rats.”

WANT TO KNOW

Puppy Love

SOUTH KOREA

South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested this week that the country might ban the consumption of dog meat, sparking a debate about the controversial tradition, USA Today reported.

Moon, a dog-lover and pet owner himself, questioned whether the practice should continue but did not specify whether an outright ban was in the works.

In Korean culture, dog meat is believed to have restorative properties and increase virility and is consumed on special holidays. Despite a law that bans the “cruel” slaughter of dogs and cats, there is no ban on consumption at restaurants and establishments.

Still, a poll last year by the Human Society found that 84 percent of South Koreans won’t eat dog meat and 60 percent would support a legal ban. Even so, politicians have been hesitant to take action, fearing a backlash from traditionalists.

Animal rights groups welcomed Moon’s comments. Meanwhile, other politicians have announced in recent weeks that they will ban the consumption of dog meat in an effort to boost their popularity ahead of next year’s presidential elections, Sky News noted.

The consumption of canine meat has sullied South Korea’s image, particularly at international events such as the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Restaurants in the Pyeongchang area continued selling dog meat, despite a government request – and subsidy offers – to stop the practice, according to National Geographic.

Shots in the Dark

CUBA

Cuba began exporting its locally made coronavirus vaccines to Venezuela and Vietnam this week, even as the communist country seeks approval from the World Health Organization for its three-shot jab, Axios reported.

Cuban officials said they shipped about 900,000 doses and donated 150,000 more to Vietnam. They also confirmed that Venezuela had agreed to buy $12 million worth of the Cuban Abdala vaccines.

Last week, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced that his country would buy at least five million doses.

The Caribbean country is the first in the region to produce coronavirus vaccines and another Cuban-developed jab is being produced in Iran, according to Al Jazeera.

Cuban scientists said the Abdala vaccine requires three shots and it is more than 90 percent effective against Covid-19.

The country hopes to export its shots to other countries but it needs the approval of the WHO, which many nations require before importing vaccines. Even so, researchers at Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine expressed “deep concern” over administering the Abdala vaccine to Venezuelans, citing a lack of research on safety and efficacy.

Cuba plans to fully immunize 90 percent of its population by November in a bid to restart its tourism-dependent economy.

This month, Cuba became one of the first countries in the world to launch a vaccination campaign for children between the ages of two and 10.

We Do

SWITZERLAND

Swiss citizens overwhelmingly voted this week to legalize same-sex marriage in a referendum that LGBTQ groups in the country called the “crowning vote” of a 40-year struggle for equality in Switzerland, Voice of America reported.

More than 64 percent of voters approved measures that would allow marriage between same-sex couples and grant them the same reproductive rights as heterosexual couples. These include adoption rights for gay couples, as well as access to sperm banks and medically assisted procreation.

LGBTQ groups and the Swiss government hailed the vote, saying it will put an end to the current inequalities and state imposition on how citizens should lead their lives. Officials said the first homosexual marriage ceremonies will be allowed starting in July 2022.

Even so, opponents said the referendum will threaten the well-being of children and undermine families based on the union between a man and a woman, according to the Associated Press.

Sunday’s referendum made Switzerland the 30th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

DISCOVERIES

A Mouthful of Metal

Scientists recently figured out why tiny ants pack a strong bite – their teeth, better known as mandibles, contain metal atoms such as zinc and manganese, according to Popular Mechanics.

And even though researchers have known about these ‘tools’ for years, they were mystified as to how these metals help the insects.

In a new study, a research team extracted the tooth of leaf cutter ants and used atom-probe tomography to discover which atoms sit where on the mandible’s tip. The team found that the zinc atoms were evenly distributed across the tooth and served a dual purpose: They helped harden and sharpen the tooth’s point.

They also learned that these heavy metal atoms help the leaf cutter ants to bite harder and create more damage. At the same time, they help minimize tool blunting and allow the ant to puncture and cut using only about 60 percent of the energy and muscle mass it would otherwise require, Science News reported.

Researchers said that these findings could help develop sturdier tools in the future.

“Human engineers might also learn from this biological trick,” said lead author Robert Schofield. “While there are much harder engineering materials, they are often more brittle.”

Schofield and his colleagues are now planning to conduct more research and this time they plan to examine the teeth of larger creatures, such as crocodiles and dinosaurs.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 232,800,601

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,765,604

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 6,152,752,418

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 43,230,197 (+0.26%)
  2. India: 33,716,451 (+0.06%)
  3. Brazil: 21,381,790 (+0.07%)
  4. UK: 7,772,788 (+0.45%)
  5. Russia: 7,355,883 (+0.29%)
  6. Turkey: 7,095,550 (+0.41%)
  7. France: 7,094,334 (+0.10%)
  8. Iran: 5,559,691 (+0.21%)
  9. Argentina: 5,253,765 (+0.03%)
  10. Colombia: 4,954,376 (+0.03%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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