November 30, 2021

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Standing Tall

BARBADOS

It’s often forgotten that Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of many former British colonies that have become full-fledged independent countries, including Australia and Canada, where she serves as a “nonpartisan symbol of the nation, constitutional continuity, and moral authority,” the Council on Foreign Relations explained.

In the Caribbean, however, where Britain’s legacy of slavery and colonization is still felt today, the queen’s appeal has repeatedly been questioned. The island of Barbados, for example, recently opted to become a republic.

On Nov. 30 – the 55th anniversary of Barbados’ independence from the United Kingdom – Sandra Mason, the 72-year-old former governor-general, or the queen’s representative in the country, is slated to become its first president, the Guardian reported.

In leaving the queen behind, Barbados joins Dominica, Guyana as well as Trinidad and Tobago, three Caribbean nations that ditched the British monarchy in the 1970s. Some Jamaican politicians, applauding the Barbadian move, have also called for their country to become a republic, BET added.

Seized by England in 1625, Barbados remained under British control as the great European empires and the US fought over the territories in the region. By the 1670s, “enslaved Africans outnumbered whites by a ratio of almost 10 to one,” wrote Reuters. Local English leaders, as well as slaves revolting, sought independence from the mother countries a few times throughout history, with British military forces always restoring the monarchy’s authority.

In substantive terms, Queen Elizabeth will no longer sign off on laws, diplomats and other actions approved by the Barbadian parliament, National Geographic wrote. Symbolically, however, the difference is massive. “The time has come for us to express the full confidence in ourselves as a people and to believe that it is possible for one born of this nation to sign off finally and completely,” said Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

Transitioning to a republic is not a snub against the queen, analysts told the HuffPost. Instead, it’s an assertion of Barbadian identity. The country will retain membership, for example, in the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of 54 former British colonies and territories. During the ceremony to announce the republic, officials will present the Order of the Freedom of Barbados to the newly appointed President Mason as well as His Royal Highness Prince Charles, according to the Caribbean Media Corporation.

It promises to be a wonderful example of an amicable split that overcomes the past.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Déjà vu

SWEDEN

The Swedish Parliament reappointed Social Democratic Party leader Magdalena Andersson as the country’s prime minister Monday, less than a week after she resigned from the same post amid political turmoil and only hours after she took office, the BBC reported.

Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister last week but stepped down after her governing partnership with the Green party broke down.

The collapse stemmed from the failure of her budget proposal to pass in parliament – lawmakers voted instead for one introduced by a group of opposition parties, including the far-right Sweden Democrats. The Green party rejected the new proposal and subsequently quit the coalition.

Monday’s vote came after 101 of 349 lawmakers supported Andersson’s re-election, with 75 abstaining. Under Sweden’s political system, a candidate can be appointed prime minister if there is no majority vote against them

Despite receiving narrow support, the new prime minister will lead a minority government until an election in September 2022. She pledged to “take Sweden forward” with a program focused on welfare, climate change and crime but it’s unclear if she will be able to pass any legislation.

Andersson replaced Stefan Lofven, who resigned after being ousted in an unprecedented vote of no-confidence in June.

Rinse, Repeat

KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyz opposition parties and supporters hit the streets Monday against the results of parliamentary elections held over the weekend, which showed that parties loyal to President Sadyr Zhaparov received most of the votes, the Associated Press reported.

The election commission said that three party blocs – Ata-Zhurt (Homeland Kyrgyzstan), Ishenim (Trust) and Yntymak (Accord) – received about 16 percent, 13 percent and 11 percent of the vote on party lists respectively.

Meanwhile, two opposition parties each received less than 10 percent of the vote, while other parties missed the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

The opposition accused the government of rigging the election and demanded a recount.

Sunday’s election came more than a year after numerous voters rejected the results of the October 2020 elections, prompting mass protests that resulted in the ouster of the previous government. Zhaparov, who was serving a prison sentence on charges of abducting a regional governor, was released and subsequently elected as president.

However, Zhaparov later pushed for a referendum on a new constitution that increased the powers of the president and decreased the size of the parliament from 120 to 90 seats. It was passed.

Following the vote, foreign observers said the polls were competitive but lacked meaningful voter engagement due to a stifled campaign and the controversial constitutional amendments.

Before the vote, Zhaparov accused his rivals of staging a coup and threatened prosecution if they tried to stage protests after the elections.

Even so, he agreed on Monday to a recount.

Who Benefits?

SERBIA

Demonstrations gripped Serbia this week over the government’s decision to pass new laws that critics say will harm the environment, Euractiv reported.

Protesters who numbered in the thousands across the country said legislative changes to referendums and on property expropriation have been created to benefit foreign investors and large mining projects, such as the Rio Tinto lithium extraction project in central Serbia or the Chinese Zijin copper mines.

Activists added that the reforms would damage the environment, and vowed to continue demonstrating until the government reverses the measures, according to the Associated Press.

Officials rejected the accusations and said the changes are necessary because of infrastructure projects.

Decades of neglect have caused major environmental problems in Serbia, including water and air pollution. Analysts noted that the planned lithium mine could destroy farmland and pollute the waters even further.

The demonstrations followed weeks of tension over a mural supporting convicted Bosnian-Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic, a divisive figure in the country.

Police detained a number of activists protesting the mural, a move that received criticism internationally.

DISCOVERIES

We’re Open

Mining quarries have gotten a lot of flak for contributing to habitat loss but for one butterfly, it’s offered refuge, according to a new study.

Scientists discovered that the silver-studded blue butterfly prefers to live in abandoned and active quarries, instead of open meadows, Science Magazine reported.

Half of Europe’s butterfly species are located in grasslands with alkaline soil from limestone or chalk. But by the mid-20th century, the population of many species began to dwindle as meadows started to disappear due to the decline of traditional herding and the re-emergence of forests.

However, researchers found that silver-studded blue butterfly populations are flourishing in abandoned and managed limestone quarries and meadows in northern Germany: They noted that the pretty insects were thriving in all active quarries, despite the mining activity, and that the species also likes to hang around abandoned quarries and managed meadows, but to a lesser extent.

The team suggested that the arthropod prefers these noisy quarries because its egg-laying plant of choice, birdsfoot trefoil, grows in thin, recently-quarried soil – which prevents bigger plants from growing there. They also noted that the temperatures in active quarries are higher than in quiet meadows.

The findings highlight that occasionally, human activity can help certain species, with the authors recommending that some limestone quarries should remain open for the sake of many insects.

Even so, other researchers cautioned that industrial mining can eliminate sensitive habitats and create barren landscapes.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 262,221,568

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,208,466

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,958,511,159

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

  1. US: 48,438,037 (+0.43%)
  2. India: 34,587,822 (+0.02%)
  3. Brazil: 22,084,749 (+0.02%)
  4. UK: 10,245,244 (+0.42%)
  5. Russia: 9,436,650 (+0.35%)
  6. Turkey: 8,772,342 (+0.28%)
  7. France: 7,731,371 (+0.11%)
  8. Iran: 6,113,192 (+0.07%)
  9. Germany: 5,854,888 (+0.87%)
  10. Argentina: 5,328,416 (+0.04%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours



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