The World Today for February 16, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Her Majesty’s Prerogative

UNITED KINGDOM

Queen Elizabeth recently announced plans for a weekend in June to celebrate her platinum jubilee, or 70 years on the throne, the longest reign in British history. As the queen’s website detailed, festivities include a tree-planting initiative called the Queen’s Green Canopy and the Platinum Pudding Competition featuring uniquely British dishes that could involve savory sausages or sweet cream.

The queen has been an “anchor in a storm-tossed Britain,” according to the New York Times, owing to her role as a calming presence from the years of decolonization after World War II when the country suffered economic and political diminution to the ructions of Brexit today.

Still, despite her popularity, which endured the death of Princess Diana, the separation of her grandson, Harry, from the royal family and her recent decision to allow her son Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, to assume the title of Queen Consort after she exits the palace, some of Elizabeth’s subjects want to fire her.

Barbados recently became a republic, with a president rather than Elizabeth as head of state, for example. The move was a repudiation of the Caribbean nation’s colonial past, the Associated Press said.

The co-leader of New Zealand’s Maori Party, which ostensibly represents the interests of the country’s indigenous community, recently called for the abolishment of the queen as head of state, too, according to the Washington Post. “The only way this nation can work is when Maori assert their rights to self-management, self-determination and self-governance over all our domains,” said Rawiri Waititi.

But the 15 countries that still retain the British monarch as their highest officeholder have erected numerous legal and bureaucratic hurdles that make republicanism a tough goal, Reuters wrote. Removing Queen Elizabeth as Canada’s head of state, for example, would require constitutional amendments and ratifications in 10 provinces and three territories.

Politics is another issue. Jamaican polls similarly suggest that the country would be open to ousting the British monarch from their political system, too. But lawmakers there, while paying lip service to the idea, never bring it to fruition because they use the monarchy as a wedge issue to rally voters who might oppose or support the idea depending on whether they are trying to hold onto power or unseat their opponents.

News that Queen Elizabeth used a prerogative called “Queen’s consent” to alter laws in Britain that allowed her to conceal her private wealth from the public has raised interest in republicanism in Britain again, wrote Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. Queen Elizabeth would likely have to approve any law abolishing her post, however, reported Insider, a publication formerly called Business Insider.

Anchors don’t bend. Unless there’s pudding.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Out of Favor

HONDURAS

Honduran authorities detained former President Juan Orlando Hernández after the United States formally requested his extradition on drug trafficking charges, the Washington Post reported.

The extradition request came after US prosecutors charged members of Honduras’ political elite with using state resources to traffic drugs in the US. One of these cases also involved Hernández’s brother, Tony, who was sentenced last year to life imprisonment on drug trafficking charges.

US authorities alleged that the former president agreed “to facilitate the use of Honduran armed forces personnel as security” for drug traffickers. Witnesses also said that Hernández wanted to shove drugs “right up the noses of the gringos” by flooding the United States with cocaine.

Hernández has denied those allegations.

The former head of state had been a close ally to the United States during the Trump administration until last month when his party was unseated by the leftwing opposition of Xiomara Castro.

Many Hondurans celebrated the extradition request but officials noted that Hernández still has considerable political power in the country.

It will be up to the country’s Supreme Court to decide whether Hernández’s extradition will go forward. One senior official warned that the judges in the high court were picked by Hernández, which could result in the judiciary blocking or delaying the request.

Dishonorable Honor

PAKISTAN

A Pakistani court acquitted a man accused of killing a social media star this week, a verdict that provoked outrage over a crime described as one of the country’s most high-profile cases of “honor killing,” the Associated Press reported.

The case is related to the 2016 murder of Fouzia Azeem – who is also known as Qandeel Baloch – by her brother Waseem Azeem. Azeem confessed to the police that he drugged and strangled his sister for “bringing dishonor” to the family.

The 26-year-old victim was known to post provocative statements and pictures on social media, including racy pictures of herself with a Muslim cleric, Mufti Abdul Qawi. The cleric was initially arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder but was later freed after police failed to establish a link.

Baloch’s murder caused a stir in conservative Pakistan, where nearly 1,000 women are killed by a close relative each year in so-called “honor killings,” punished for bringing “shame” upon a family.

Although her brother had confessed to the murder, he pleaded not guilty and a court sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2019, CNN noted.

Monday’s acquittal came after his parents forgave him for the murder: Under Islamic law, a convicted murderer can be pardoned by the victim’s family.

Azeem’s lawyer said he would likely be released this week.

Weeding Out the Junk

NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand lawmakers passed a law Tuesday banning the controversial practice of conversion therapy, becoming the latest country to do so, Reuters reported.

Conversion therapy is used to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The practice can include talk therapy, hypnosis, electric shock therapy and also exorcism and “corrective rape.”

Under the new bill, individuals performing conversion therapy on people under 18 or someone with impaired decision-making capacity can face up to three years in prison.

The legislation also makes it illegal to perform conversion procedures on anyone that could cause substantial harm. Violators will face up to five years in jail.

The measure fulfills a campaign promise by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was elected for a second term last year.

Laws against conversion therapy have gained traction around the globe: Last year, Canada and the Australian state of Victoria banned LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.

DISCOVERIES

The First Specks

Shortly after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with elementary particles such as quarks and gluons which resulted in countless combinations.

These configurations eventually cooled and became more stable ones that resulted in neutrons and protons, the basic blocks of matter.

But, scientists have theorized that less than a second from the dawn of the universe, some of these quarks and gluons randomly collided to create the enigmatic “X” particle.

These short-lived particles were named after their unknown structure and are believed to exist, albeit they are extremely rare.

Now, physicists have detected for the first time this primordial particle using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, Australia’s 9News reported.

In their study, a research team sifted through more than 13 billion heavy-ion collisions in the LHC that created a myriad of charged particles. Their findings pointed to the discovery of about 100 X particles in quark-gluon plasma – an environment that they hope will reveal the particles’ mysterious structure.

Lead author Yen-Jie Lee explained that the basic protons and neutrons are made from three-tightly bound quarks but speculated that the X particle could be a wholly unique structure, or an extremely rare “tetraquark” – a particle made from four quark combinations.

Lee’s team is hoping they will have a chance to finally explore the particles’ structure.

“This is just the start of the story,” he said. “In the next few years, we want to use the quark-gluon plasma to probe the X particle’s internal structure, which could change our view of what kind of material the universe should produce.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 415,525,901

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,838,049

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,257,109,696

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

  1. US: 77,919,052 (+0.23%)
  2. India: 42,692,943 (+0.06%)
  3. Brazil: 27,552,267 (+0.22%)
  4. France: 21,886,328 (+0.14%)
  5. UK: 18,475,373 (+0.23%)
  6. Russia: 14,102,736 (+1.28%)
  7. Turkey: 12,984,953 (+0.59%)
  8. Germany: 12,628,843 (+1.40%)
  9. Italy: 12,134,451 (+0.24%)
  10. Spain: 10,672,906 (+0.65%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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