The World Today for March 01, 2022
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Profiles in Courage
On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece from a Ukrainian journalist arguing that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a 44-year-old former comedian and actor, was in over his head.
A week later, it’s an understatement to say that perceptions of Zelenskyy have dramatically changed. “Savvy communication skills, his ability to sway audiences via social media, a healthy dose of grit and defiance — and not least of all, his readiness to die if necessary — have transformed him into an unlikely champion for Ukrainians and the world,” wrote the Washington Post.
On Tuesday morning, as Russian forces continued their relentless assault on Kyiv, Kharkiv and other Ukrainian towns in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revanchist quest to revive the Soviet empire, Russian forces – while causing significant death and destruction – had yet to subdue the capital or other major cities due to a series of strategic and logistical blunders, the Associated Press explained.
It’s Zelenskyy and his fellow Ukrainians’ courage and solidarity that is a major factor in Russia’s failure to secure a quick and decisive victory. As Vox noted, Russian intelligence incorrectly believed the Ukrainians were unhappy with their government and would embrace invading Russian troops as liberators – Russians watching state media broadcasts have been told that Ukrainians are greeting them with pies.
Instead, because of their resistance, Zelenskyy successfully convinced European governments to aid Ukrainians in their time of need when some were on the fence, CNN noted. He called into an emergency meeting of EU leaders Thursday and left some in tears after telling them that Ukrainians are dying for European ideals. Meanwhile, he rallied a mass mobilization that turned the entire country into enemy territory, the Hill reported.
While millions of refugees leave for the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, millions of those who stay behind – like the Kalashnikov-carrying parliamentarian Kira Rudyk who appeared on Britain’s Channel 4 – have taken up arms in expectation of laying down their lives for their homeland.
Students in the Western city of Lviv are preparing Molotov cocktails in a former rave space at a rate of 1,500 a day. The students know the makeshift bombs won’t stop tanks. But one student said that didn’t matter. “It will break Russian soldiers mentally, and show them they are not welcome here,” he told the Guardian.
An elderly woman berated a Russian soldier in the city of Henichesk on the Sea of Azov, telling him he was a fascist and yelling at him and other soldiers to put seeds in their pockets so that sunflowers – the Ukrainian national flower – would grow when they died, the Independent added. The video has gone viral.
In another incident celebrated around the country and fueling defiance of Russia, a small group of soldiers on Ukraine’s Snake Island are heard in a video telling their counterparts on a Russian warship who are giving them a choice to surrender or be bombed to “fuck off.” On Monday, it was reported the soldiers were still alive.
One reason Ukrainians so quickly formed ranks was because they have already rejected Russian domination and won. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, eight years ago, Ukrainians rose up to oust the corrupt, Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych from office, prompting Putin to invade Crimea and begin supporting separatist movements in the eastern region of the country, known as Donbas, which he formally recognized as independent states last month.
Make no mistake; Russia has the numbers and weapons to win the conflict if Putin remains in power and keeps ordering his troops forward. Already, the suffering is growing as thousands remain without power in sub-zero temperatures. But, as Market Watch noted, the Kremlin has lost the information war that sways opinions worldwide as to who is in the right.
Against all odds, hearts and minds mean something.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Roads, Grids and Sovereignty
Nepalese lawmakers approved a half-billion-dollar US government aid program this week, despite intense opposition from China and local politicians, who warned that the funds will undermine the country’s sovereignty, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Parliament Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota said that Millennium Challenge Compact received support from a majority of legislators.
Nepal and the United States originally signed the grant in September 2017, which aims to improve the country’s electricity infrastructure and road network.
Even so, critics feared that some provisions of the deal would override the Himalayan country’s laws. Some politicians said the compact was designed to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which Nepal signed with Beijing in May 2017.
Others noted that it was part of the US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy to counter China’s influence in the region.
In recent days, many student unions and local communist parties protested the program in front of parliament.
But US representatives countered that the grant was “designed to transparently reduce poverty and grow the economy of Nepal.”
The Millennium Challenge Compact was created in 2004 during the presidency of George W. Bush. It has currently invested more than $14 billion in development projects in more than 40 countries.
The Bells Toll
The world has a very short time to adapt to the effects of climate change, according to a recent landmark United Nations report which shows a dire picture in describing how warming temperatures are affecting the planet, the Financial Times reported Monday.
The document is part of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is the sixth such report, following last year’s milestone paper on the Earth’s rising temperatures.
The researchers of the new study highlighted how some of the ecological losses the globe is experiencing are already irreversible, adding that ecosystems were reaching the point where they could not adapt to the changing climate anymore.
This means that hazards such as rising sea levels are unavoidable, adding that any delay to adapt to the warming would miss the “window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”
Scientists also warned that the consequences of global warming – such as extreme weather events – may become worse at lower temperatures than the previous 2014 IPCC adaptation assessment had predicted.
The findings estimated that between $7.9 trillion and $12.7 trillion in global assets would be in one-in-100-year coastal floodplains by 2100, noting that vital infrastructure was very vulnerable if not made to withstand climate change.
Meanwhile, the current funds earmarked for adaption are “insufficient.”
UN Secretary-General called the findings an “atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
A Long Reach
A group of Chinese police officers began official duties in the Solomon Islands, more than two months after major anti-government protests gripped the Pacific nation, the South China Morning Post reported this week.
The police officials said that their role in the country will be to train local police, help investigate China-related cases and provide safety training for Chinese citizens living in the Solomon Islands.
The move is part of China’s plan to send advisers and equipment for riot police following mass demonstrations in December: The protests began a month earlier when Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was accused of using Chinese money from a national development fund to manipulate lawmakers’ votes.
The unrest saw a number of Chinese businesses targeted and left hundreds of people homeless.
In response, Australia and New Zealand sent their own security forces to quell the turmoil.
The Chinese embassy in the Solomon Islands said the advisers will help deepen the relationship between the two forces. The postings are raising concerns, however, that the deployment is an attempt by China to extend its influence in the region.
In recent years, Beijing has been increasing cooperation between police forces on a number of Pacific island nations in an effort to solve transnational crimes and protect the interests of Chinese citizens there.
Still, some analysts noted that the recent deployment does not “carry a geopolitical meaning and should not be interpreted as political interference and engagement.”
- More than half a million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the European Union’s eastern borders, an exodus that shows no signs of slowing down, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, there are no verified numbers of casualties in Ukraine but a classified US briefing Monday reported more than 1,500 Ukrainian casualties (it is unclear if it is injuries or deaths) since the start of the invasion last week. US officials at that briefing said the casualty count would likely explode because “Ukrainians are just not going to submit.”
- On Monday, suspected cluster munitions struck residential parts of Kharkiv even as Ukrainian officials met with their Russian counterparts for five hours of inconclusive talks near the Belarus border. On Tuesday, a 40-mile long Russian military convoy headed toward Kyiv.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has officially signed an application for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union, asking for immediate entry, NPR reported. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen did not promise immediate membership but said, “they belong to us…we want them in.”
- International Criminal Court will open an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Politico reported. The ICC chief prosecutor had warnedRussia and Ukraine on Friday that any investigation could include genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets scattered across the galaxy, including “super-Earths.”
These types of planets range between the sizes of Earth and Neptune but scientists remain puzzled as to whether they are rocky like our world or gas giants.
There are more questions over whether they can host life. As a result, a research team decided to study if super-Earths were equipped with a magnetic field, Forbes reported.
One of the main reasons Earth is habitable is because of its magnetic field – or magnetosphere – generated by the convective motion of molten iron in the planet’s outer core. This protective field defends the planet from harmful solar winds that can be detrimental to life.
For their study, lead author Richard Kraus and his team recreated the pressures found at the center of super-Earths using one of the world’s most powerful lasers.
The process showed that the melting point of iron in these planets is up to 1000 gigapascals (Gpa), which is about three times the pressure of Earth’s core.
Kraus suggested that this high melting point means the liquid metal core lasts the longest on terrestrial exoplanets about four to six times Earth’s mass. He added that this also means that a super-Earth’s magnetosphere is longer lasting and possibly able to host life.
But the authors cautioned that more research needs to be conducted before people prepare their voyage to colonize a super-Earth.
COVID-19 Global Update
Total Cases Worldwide: 437,025,183
Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,956,688
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,535,503,369
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*
- US: 79,045,043 (+0.13%)
- India: 42,931,045 (+0.02%)
- Brazil: 28,796,571 (+0.07%)
- France: 22,878,605 (+0.07%)
- UK: 19,021,076 (+0.44%)
- Russia: 16,161,596 (+0.66%)
- Germany: 14,912,626 (+0.90%)
- Turkey: 14,089,456 (+0.46%)
- Italy: 12,782,836 (+0.14%)
- Spain: 10,977,524 (+0.00%)**
*Numbers change over 24 hours
**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country