The World Today for January 21, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Divided They Stay

NORTHERN CYPRUS

Turkish Cypriots for years have been reluctant to reunify with the Greek side of their island.

The interethnic conflicts – specifically ethnic Greeks massacring ethnic Turks – and other issues that triggered the Turkish military to invade and partition the northern part of the island in the 1970s make the future of Cyprus a thorny international question. For almost 50 years, and continuing after the Republic of Cyprus and its ethnically Greek citizens joined the European Union, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has been in limbo, as the McGill International Review explained.

Now things might be changing. Turkish Cypriots recently took to the streets to call for reunification with the south. Their anger stemmed from the economic problems that they were importing from Turkey, where inflation is sky high, and fear over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on political dissent.

Consumer prices in Turkey increased by more than 36 percent in December compared with the same period in 2020, reported Agence France-Presse. That inflation has helped to shrink northern Cyprus’s economy by 16 percent in 2021, argued the Cyprus Mail. The local English-language newspaper noted that Turkish Cypriot demonstrators shouted, “No to impoverishment!” and “Stable currency!” at their protests last month.

“Turkey is our biggest problem,” Şener Elcil, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot teachers’ union, told the Guardian. “It should keep its hands off Cyprus and take its lira and go away.”

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, recently declared that Erdogan’s authoritarian government had set back freedoms in the country by decades. Turkish officials have reportedly drawn up a blacklist of northern Cypriots who can’t enter Turkey because of their critical comments about officials in Ankara.

There’s little chance of Northern Cyprus leaving the Turkish, however.

Currently, Ersin Tatar, a pro-Turkey conservative who wants the island to remain divided, is the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The Daily Sabah, a Turkey-based, pro-Erdogan, English-language newspaper, highlighted why the islanders are completely dependent on Turkey. Greek Cypriots won’t likely embrace any plan that gives their Turkish neighbors the power they might rightfully seek.

Total independence is also elusive. Only Turkey recognizes the sovereignty of the north, though Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally, is considering recognizing the northern republic, as well, reported TRT World, a Turkish state-owned news broadcaster. Turkey, coincidentally, supported Azerbaijan in its recent war against Armenia. Some hope that Pakistan might be considering recognition, too.

But, of course, symbolic gestures from faraway lands won’t do much to change what’s going on in the Cypriots’ backyard(s).

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

First Milestone

BARBADOS

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley secured a second term Thursday following the country’s snap parliamentary polls this week, the first election since Barbados cut ties with the British monarchy and became a republic a few months ago, the Associated Press reported.

Preliminary results showed that Mottley’s Barbados Labor Party secured all 30 seats in the lower house of parliament, shutting out her main rival, Verla De Peiza of the Democratic Labor Party. Voter turnout was about 50 percent, according to election officials.

The parliamentary elections are the first since the island moved to become a republic after splitting from British Queen Elizabeth II and ceasing to be a constitutional monarchy in late November. Mottley called the snap polls a month later despite opposition criticism.

Mottley – the country’s first female leader – vowed to target issues including financial security, renewable energy projects and housing for the fledgling republic. She added that the island will face serious challenges in the next 10 to 15 years.

Economic output had stagnated for 15 years in Barbados, even before the coronavirus pandemic caused an 18 percent slump in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

Can You Spell It?

LITHUANIA

Lithuanian lawmakers passed a bill this week to permit the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names in Latin-based characters for identification and personal documents, a move that broke a decades-long deadlock, Euronews reported Thursday.

The bill would include provisions that enable Lithuanian people to use the letters “q,” “x,” and “w” – which do not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet – to spell their names if they take the surname of their foreign spouse.

Currently, foreigners and their families had to turn to the country’s courts to have their names – with the non-existing letters – written in passports and ID cards.

The draft legislation was passed in a vote of 82 to 37 with three abstentions and will come into force once it is signed into law by President Gitanas Nauseda.

Parliament Speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen said the change was important “in terms of human rights and even in terms of security policy.”

Debates about the original spelling in documents have been occurring for decades in Lithuania. At bilateral talks between Lithuania and Poland, the topic of the original spelling of ethnic Poles’ names including non-Lithuanian characters is frequently highlighted.

Despite the support in parliament, some politicians in the ruling coalition rejected the changes and called it “a betrayal of the Lithuanian language.”

Making An Example

CUBA

Cubans who joined last year’s mass protests are facing severe punishments, human rights advocates warned, saying that the government is holding mass trials and seeking stiff sentences in a bid to deter future demonstrations, the Washington Post reported.

In July, unprecedented protests considered the largest in decades gripped the Caribbean nation. Demonstrators lamented the poor state of the economy, which has been battered by ongoing United States sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

The government acknowledged some of the protesters’ concerns but blamed the rallies on US-backed “counterrevolutionaries.” Authorities later launched a crackdown on the demonstrations in which human rights groups say that at least 1,300 people were detained.

Initially, some protesters faced minor charges, such as public disorder, but trials that began last month have involved more serious charges.

Advocates said that about 300 protesters will have gone to court by the end of this week in what has been described as the most extensive collective trials in decades.

They noted that some defendants are facing sedition and other harsh charges that could carry sentences of more than 10 years in prison.

Juan Pappier of Human Rights Watch said that most of the defendants have been found guilty, adding that the crimes were “very broadly defined” and the punishments “grossly disproportionate.”

DISCOVERIES

Mind-Bending Brew

An ancient civilization in the Peruvian Andes liked their beer with some mind-bending properties, New Scientist magazine reported.

Archaeologists recently studied a site that belonged to the Wari society that ruled what is now Peru between around 550 CE and 1000 CE. Researchers described the people as “the first example of an expansionary state in the Andes” but noted that there is no written record about them – only artifacts and structures.

At the Quilcapampa site, a research team came across two pits, each filled with two different seeds. One of the pits had seeds of the Schinus molle, a fruit also known as the Peruvian pepper. The other pit was packed with seeds of the vilca tree, which contain hallucinogenic substances that cause “a sensation of flying.”

In their paper, the team wrote that the pepper was used to make a fermented alcoholic drink known as chicha. But the presence of the vilca seeds suggests that the Wari combined the beer-like chicha with the hallucinogen.

The authors believe the combination created “a very mild and controlled hallucinogenic effect” and that the drink was used during feasts and celebrations.

They also theorized that the drink could have served in the Wari expansion throughout the Andes, as society leaders would use the mind-bending brew to bond with the local populace.

“Being able to provide that experience would create heightened social status among Wari leaders,” said lead author Matthew Biwer.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 342,607,332

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,574,413

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 9,752,136,072

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

  1. US: 69,308,600 (+1.08%)
  2. India: 38,566,027 (+0.91%)
  3. Brazil: 23,595,179 (+0.72%)
  4. UK: 15,718,193 (+0.69%)
  5. France: 15,715,670 (+10.01%)
  6. Russia: 10,754,905 (+0.36%)
  7. Turkey: 10,736,215 (+0.66%)
  8. Italy: 9,418,256 (+2.16%)
  9. Spain: 8,834,363 (+1.81%)
  10. Germany: 8,502,134 (+1.68%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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