The World Today for May 06, 2022

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Law & Order

HONG KONG

Gangsters beat up and robbed John Lee Ka-chiu when he was a boy growing up 50 years ago in Hong Kong public housing. Now the man whom Chinese leaders in Beijing have tapped to lead the free-market-oriented metropolis recalled how his childhood has taught him “the importance of law and order,” according to the South China Morning Post.

There is little doubt that Lee will win the May 8 vote that involves almost 1,500 members of the city’s Election Committee selecting their next chief executive. He is the only candidate approved by central government authorities. Barring a surprise, no one else will be considered.

Known for his tough stance against pro-democracy protesters, Lee, a former policeman, said he would enact local security laws that lawmakers have failed to pass in the past due to massive protests against them, the Associated Press reported. The issue has been paramount to Chinese officials’ concerns. In 2020, after months of anti-government protests against such rules, Chinese officials forced Hong Kong to adopt a national security law that has come to symbolize the Chinese central government’s increasing control over the global business center and former British colony, as Amnesty International explained.

In a story on outgoing Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Bloomberg spoke to Hong Kong Baptist University Political Scientist Kenneth Cha, who said the national security law was part of Lam’s legacy of eroding democracy and the city’s independence. “We have…witnessed the biggest falls in confidence in the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” Chan said, alluding to the city’s special semi-autonomous status within China. “She (Lam) has dealt fatal blows to the core values of the city – the rule of law, civil liberties, political rights, democracy and global outlooks – due to her total reliance on Beijing.”

Lam cracked down on pro-democracy activists after bungling the city’s response to demonstrations. That crackdown continues. For example, one activist/DJ was recently sentenced to 40 months in jail for “seditious words,” noted the Guardian. According to Voice of America, Hong Kong jails are “using ‘brainwashing’ measures to ‘deradicalize’ jailed pro-democracy protesters” – allegations that echo reports of Chinese reeducation camps for members of the Uyghur Muslim community. But a high-profile collection of five jailed activists are now in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize, too, wrote the Hong Kong Free Press, an English-language newspaper.

Lee, who was Lam’s number two, has said he will focus on quality of life issues like housing and other services when he becomes chief executive, Reuters reported.

Those plans sound nice. Lee should not assume everything will go so orderly, however.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Make or Break

UNITED KINGDOM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party suffered major losses in the early results of Thursday’s local elections, in a vote many observers say is a referendum on the embattled leader and his Conservative party, the New York Times reported.

Early results showed the Conservative party fared badly in the capital, London, losing the boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster – the latter of which they have been holding for nearly 60 years.

The election results are expected to punish Johnson and his Conservative party for soaring costs of living and a scandal over parties in Downing Street that flouted strict Covid-19 lockdown rules.

Johnson is currently facing three probes over a series of gatherings that took place at government offices and the prime minister’s residence during strict coronavirus lockdowns. Last month, police fined Johnson and other officials for violating the rules, making him the first sitting prime minister punished for breaking the law, according to the Washington Post.

Parliament is also investigating whether Johnson “knowingly misled” lawmakers about whether the parties violated government lockdown rules.

Though local elections have no direct impact on the government’s fate, many consider them a litmus test for the prime minister’s popularity.

Opinion polls show that Johnson has seen a dip in popularity and “likability” with a majority of Brits saying he should resign. Meanwhile, Conservatives are behind the opposition Labour party by five to eight percentage points depending on the opinion polls.

Even so, analysts noted that the Labour party might still struggle to win certain areas, including the so-called “red wall” regions in north and central England. These areas have historically voted Labour but largely supported Brexit and turned toward the Conservatives in the 2019 general election, the Times reported separately.

No Winners

ARMENIA

Armenian authorities arrested dozens of protesters this week amid daily protests of thousands against a planned peace agreement with neighboring Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Radio Free Europe reported Thursday.

Anti-government protests have been taking place since last month after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to draft a bilateral peace deal to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The two leaders also agreed to establish a joint commission on demarcating their common border during talks in Belgium.

In 2020, the two countries fought over the breakaway region which had been under ethnic Armenian control since the 1990s but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Armenia, however, lost control of parts of Nagorno-Karabakh when the conflict ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

At the time, Pashinian agreed to the ceasefire, saying that he wanted to avoid more casualties.

Now, the proposed agreement will be based on five elements, including mutual recognition of both countries’ territorial integrity. Pashinian said that the elements are acceptable in principle but opposition leaders criticized his stance.

Many demonstrators are demanding Pashinian’s resignation, saying the prime minister is ready to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinian countered that he would not sign any agreement without consulting ethnic Armenians in the disputed region.

A New Chapter

BOLIVIA

Bolivian inmates can reduce their prison terms by reading books in a new initiative aimed at spreading literacy and hope in a country that offers very few second chances, Reuters reported this week.

The state program called “Books Behind Bars” offers detainees shorter sentences of days or weeks. The program has been launched in 47 prisons that do not have enough funds to pay for education, reintegration or social assistance programs for inmates.

At the moment, more than 860 prisoners have participated in the program, which has helped them to improve their reading and writing skills.

Nadia Cruz of Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s office said the program is aimed at offering hope to many inmates, who receive a daily salary of $1.18 to eat and pay for high court fees.

Bolivia’s justice system does not sentence criminals to life or death but pretrial detentions can sometimes last for years because of the speed of the judicial processes.

The Andean nation’s penal system has long suffered from overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, prompting many detainees to demonstrate over the lack of healthcare.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Russian soldiers are preparing for a parade in the devastated coastal city of Mariupol, removing rubble from a bombed-out theater that had served as the city’s primary shelter before it was destroyed seven weeks ago in one of the war’s worst attacks, the Washington Post noted. According to Ukraine’s defense intelligence service, Russia intends to convert Mariupol into a center of “celebrations” on May 9, or “Victory Day” in Russia which commemorates Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany.
  • In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko praised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but he said he didn’t expect the 10-week-old conflict to “drag on this way.” Meanwhile, a series of attacks and explosions on Russian territory near the Ukrainian border have broadened the scope of the conflict in recent weeks, underscoring vulnerabilities in regions critical to Moscow’s ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Russian forces have taken control of Ukraine’s internet infrastructure and are diverting traffic to Russia-controlled operators, exposing Ukrainians’ data to surveillance and censorship by the Kremlin, the Financial Times reported.
  • Finland began a two-week military exercise this week as it prepares to apply to NATO, breaking decades of neutrality because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal wrote.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church issued a warning to Pope Francis on Wednesday after the pontiff made comments imploring Russian church officials to quit being “Putin’s altar boy,” Newsweek said. In an interview with Italian media, Pope Francis said he had directed his comments toward the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill while attempting to mitigate the conflict in Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church warned that Francis’ comments discouraged conversation between the two churches.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized for his foreign minister’s allegation that Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, according to the Guardian.

DISCOVERIES

Sun Turtles

Sun rays could be the remedy to help tumor-afflicted sea turtles recover, New Atlas reported.

Green sea turtles are prone to fibropapillomatosis, a disease characterized by tumors growing on various parts of the body and associated with the herpes virus. Even so, scientists have warned that such infections have been increasing due to marine pollution.

The tumors can be surgically removed but the turtles don’t always survive the procedure. When they do, the tumors grow back.

In their study, researchers studied the blood samples of green sea turtles with and without signs of fibropapillomatosis. They found that the creatures with the disease had lower levels of vitamin D, which could affect their recovery.

Because the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum of sunlight helps produce vitamin D in the body, the team tested whether increasing that exposure would help the reptiles.

In their experiment, they placed turtles recovering from surgery in tanks with differing levels of sunlight exposure for periods of up to six months. Scientists then analyzed the animals’ blood and found that higher UV led to increased levels of the vitamin.

But most importantly, the marine creatures also experienced less regrowth of tumors than turtles that got less sunlight.

While the findings are promising, the authors cautioned that excessive UV exposure has its own risks, including skin cancer.

Nonetheless, the study might lead to better outcomes for the wild turtles being treated for fibropapillomatosis.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 516,180,725

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,247,584

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,327,100,246

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

  1. US: 81,697,221 (+0.09%)
  2. India: 43,094,938 (+0.01%)
  3. Brazil: 30,524,183 (+0.07%)
  4. France: 29,040,934 (+0.15%)
  5. Germany: 25,215,210 (+0.34%)
  6. UK: 22,280,496 (+0.06%)
  7. Russia: 17,945,617 (+0.03%)
  8. South Korea: 17,464,782 (+0.15%)
  9. Italy: 16,682,626 (+0.29%)
  10. Turkey: 15,038,495 (+0.01%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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