The World Today for March 24, 2022

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Four Weeks

UKRAINE

The pregnant woman and her infant who died after a Russian airstrike on a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol might be the most moving, tragic, needless individual story in the war in Ukraine that started one month ago today.

Associated Press photographer Evgeniy Maloletka saw the woman as five men carried her on a stretcher in front of a bombed-out building. Suffering grave injuries, she later died amid “horrific conditions,” the Washington Post explained. Her unborn child was delivered via Caesarean section but didn’t make it.

Another, slightly more hopeful, episode followed a Russian airstrike on a revered theater in Mariupol, a port city that had been fortified against Russian attacks but where people nonetheless are suffering horribly, as NBC News reported. Residents had written the word “children” on the ground in front of the theater in order to dissuade Russians from dropping bombs there, added National Public Radio.

The Russians dropped a bomb on the theater anyway. Luckily many inside survived because they were in a basement bomb shelter where they avoided the worst of the impacts.

Attacks like those led US President Joe Biden to call Putin a “war criminal,” strong language that draws a bright line between the righteous US-led NATO alliance and Russia, the Hill wrote, adding that Putin is technically not a war criminal until international courts and lawyers have convicted him as such.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov tartly told Reuters that Biden’s comments were not only “absolutely impermissible, unacceptable and unforgivable” but also hypocritical. “The main thing is that the head of a state which has for many years bombed people across the world…the president of such a country has no right to make such statements,” Peskov said.

Biden is scheduled to visit with European leaders on March 24 to discuss the war, the Associated Press reported. Military aid, refugees and Russia’s potential crimes will be on the docket for sure.

Around 7,000 Russians have died in the war, CNN noted. That’s more than the US lost in 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Morale in the Russian armed forces is plunging. In contrast,  1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have died, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Guardian wrote. But the fighting has displaced as many as 10 million people, with more than 3.6 million of those having left the country, the UN reported.

The world, meanwhile, still awaits closure on how China might decide to respond to the war. A Reuters analysis warned that, as Western sanctions have crippled the Russian economy, Chinese President Xi Jinping could create a new economic bloc with Russia and other nations to counter the US and European Union.

In one month, the entire world order shifted. Europeans are moving to shore up their borders with soldiers and arms like never before. Russians are leaving their country in droves as their leaders crack down on dissent. And, meanwhile, in country zero, Ukrainians who stayed look around at some of their cities now, tattered and broken, often unrecognizable, and wonder when it will all end.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

A Spark

FRANCE

French President Emmanuel Macron called for calm in Corsica after a Corsican independence figure died of his injuries resulting from a prison attack, a death that some worry could spark unrest on the island, Euronews reported.

Yvan Colonna died Monday after being in a coma for three weeks. The nationalist figure was attacked by a “jihadist” inmate at a prison in Arles in southern France.

He was arrested in 2003 and was serving a life sentence for the 1998 assassination of Claude Érignac, a senior Corsica official.

Colonna’s attack ignited violent protests on the French island that left more than 100 people injured, including 77 police officers. French officials have raised concerns that his death could result in further violence.

Following the announcement of his death, hundreds of people held a peaceful demonstration in the capital of Ajaccio. Officials from Spain’s restive Basque and Catalonia regions also offered their condolences.

Many independence campaigners had long called for Colonna to be transferred from the mainland prison to the island. They accused France of “state responsibility” for the attack.

The incident, meanwhile, has sparked debates in France over Corsican autonomy ahead of next month’s presidential elections.

Macron vowed there will be “consequences” for Colonna’s death, while other officials said an investigation will hopefully shed light on the events that led to his death.

Even so, the president’s opponents have accused his government of weakness in the face of violence on the island.

‘Seh Yuh Sorry’

JAMAICA

British royals Prince William and his wife Kate toured Jamaica this week as part of a week-long Caribbean tour, a visit overshadowed by protests and calls for reparations for slavery, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a tour that coincides with the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. The first stop was in Belize and the last, over the weekend, will be the Bahamas.

Before they arrived in Jamaica, dozens marched in the capital to protest the visit and held banners with the phrase “seh yuh sorry” – a local phrase that urges Britain to apologize for its legacy of slavery.

“There are historical wrongs and they need to be addressed,” protest organizer Rosalea Hamilton said. Many of the protesters accused the couple of benefiting from the “blood, tears and sweat” of slaves.

The demonstrations come amid growing criticism of Britain’s colonial legacy in the Caribbean and efforts to move away from the British Commonwealth: In November, Barbados officially became a republic and removed Queen Elizabeth as the country’s head of state, according to BBC.

Meanwhile, Jamaica is also considering parting ways with the British monarchy. Last year, the government proposed plans to seek reparations from Britain for forcibly transferring an estimated 600,000 Africans to work as slaves on sugar cane and banana plantations that made fortunes for their British owners.

At the same time, a Bahamas committee called on the royal couple to acknowledge the British economy was “built on the backs” of past Bahamians and pay reparations, Bloomberg added.

The recent visit is seen as an attempt by Britain’s monarchy to persuade former British colonies to remain on as “realms,” despite calls of republicanism.

Bad Grades

WORLD

Air pollution around the world spiked to unhealthy levels last year, according to a report that found that more than 90 percent of cities failed to meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines in 2021, CNN reported.

The report released this week was compiled by IQAir, a Swiss pollution technology company that monitors air quality. It is the first major air quality report based on the WHO’s new annual pollution guidelines, which were updated in September.

The UN organizations recommended that the average yearly readings of PM2.5 – small and hazardous airborne particles – should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter.

The findings showed that about 222 out of 6,745 cities around the world had average air quality that met the WHO’s guidelines. Among the territories that followed these guidelines were France’s New Caledonia, as well as the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh had the worst air pollution, exceeding the guidelines by at least 10 fold. The report also placed Bangladesh as the most polluted country, while the African nation of Chad – included for the first time in the report – came in second, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, China showed signs of progress as part of the country’s efforts to fight pollution: China fell to 22nd place in the PM2.5 in 2021 – a significant drop from the 14th place it ranked in 2020.

Even so, the IQAir report warned that the Amazon Rainforest – a major defender against climate change – emitted more carbon dioxide than it absorbed last year.

In its 2021 report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that in addition to decreasing the rate of global warming, reducing the use of fossil fuels would improve air quality and public health.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Between 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have died during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to NATO estimates, as the conflict enters its fourth week, the Associated Press said. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened, Al Jazeera wrote.
  • Drone footage published by the Ukrainian National Guard shows a residential section of Mariupol, Ukraine, that is still on fire following intense bombardment from Russia, NBC News reported. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 100,000 people remain in the besieged city, despite humanitarian measures to evacuate inhabitants.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged French firms to leave Russia and cease funding Moscow’s “war machine,” as many other Western corporations have done in the aftermath of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe noted. His comments came during a video address to the French parliament. Meanwhile, the European Union’s executive body adopted new state-aid rules that would allow countries to support businesses harmed by the war, Politico reported.
  • Poland will expel 45 Russian diplomats, whom the government accuses of being spies operating in the NATO country, Voice of America wrote. At the same time, neighboring Belarus shut down Ukraine’s Consulate General in the western city of Brest and ordered a number of diplomats to leave the country, Radio Free Europe noted. Belarusian officials said the move was due to Ukraine’s “numerous unfriendly actions” over many years. Belarus is aiding Russia in its war in Ukraine.
  • The United States is preparing to sanction most of the members of Russia’s lower house of parliament to punish Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal added. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov admitted Wednesday that “no one could have predicted” Western sanctions would target Russia’s central bank, the Kremlin’s first acknowledgment that the transatlantic reaction to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine caught Moscow off guard, according to Politico.
  • Anatoly Chubais, Russia’s climate envoy, resigned and left the country, citing his opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s conflict in Ukraine, becoming the highest-ranking official to oppose the invasion, Bloomberg wrote.

DISCOVERIES

Tiny Artists

Young children made major contributions to the art world tens of thousands of years ago, according to a new study.

Researchers from Britain’s Cambridge University and Spain’s University of Cantabria discovered that children – and toddlers – were responsible for a quarter of hand stencils painted in Spanish caves about 20,000 years ago, Artnet News reported.

In their paper, they analyzed 180 hand stencils painted in various Spanish caves and used 3D models of hand paintings at different sites, such as El Castillo and Maltravieso.

The team explained that the artwork would be made by blowing pigments through a hollow reed or bone onto hands placed against the cave wall. But during their analysis, they noticed that up to 25 percent of the hand marks were not from adults or teenagers.

They suggested that the stencils belonged to children between the ages of two and 12. They added that the pigment could have been blown by their parents or other adults helping them.

“Many more children’s hands came out than we expected,” lead author Verónica Fernández-Navarrogical told the Telegraph.

Fernández-Navarrogical added that the findings also show that rock painting was more of a family-oriented group activity than a solitary male pursuit.

She and her colleagues are now planning to study whether some of the gestures made in some hand markings carry any meaning.

“We want to find out if it is a code that they knew how to interpret, in the same way that we today interpret a ‘stop’ sign,” she said.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 475,769,335

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,104,520

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,835,408,732

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

  1. US: 79,844,430 (+0.05%)
  2. India: 43,014,687 (+0.00%)
  3. Brazil: 29,738,362 (+0.16%)
  4. France: 24,683,075 (+0.63%)
  5. UK: 20,578,050 (+0.50%)
  6. Germany: 19,217,142 (+0.83%)
  7. Russia: 17,408,475 (+0.15%)
  8. Turkey: 14,743,437 (+0.12%)
  9. Italy: 14,070,450 (+0.56%)
  10. Spain: 11,378,784 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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