The World Today for June 03, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Closing the Circle

NATO

If Finland joins NATO, the Western Alliance will have opened a potential 800-mile-long front in a war against Russia. What’s more, as the Washington Post illustrated, this new front would come very close to Russia’s nuclear submarine and Arctic navy bases on the Kola Peninsula.

If Sweden joins NATO, a country with a formidable military and arms industry will join the Western Alliance and will control the strategic island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, a fortifiable redoubt that could stop Russian ships from entering the Atlantic Ocean from Eastern Europe, Sky News added.

Some observers, like those at the nonpartisan, independent United States Institute for Peace, view NATO expansion as proof that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to fracture the Western Alliance has backfired.

But observers like CNN’s Stephen Collinson wondered aloud if leaders and citizens of Finland, Sweden and NATO members had really thought through the implications of dramatically altering the battlefield of a potential war between the West and Russia. If Putin invaded Ukraine because NATO was encroaching on Russia’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, how might Putin react to a massive NATO presence in the north?

Russia will likely need to move more troops to the Baltic region, according to US General Christopher Cavoli’s recent comments to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Cavoli has been nominated to become the next commander of US and NATO forces in Europe, Stars & Stripes reported.

Robin Wright similarly wrote in the New Yorker about how some observers are concerned about the long-term implications of enlargement. The move is likely to further expand the divide between East and West, she suggested.

In conflict are two versions of history and reality that date back to the various treaties and agreements struck between American, European and Russian leaders at the end of the Cold War, National Public Radio noted. Johns Hopkins University Historian Mary Elise Sarotte told the outlet that Putin’s version of history cherry-picks facts in order to paint a picture of NATO that is inaccurate but supports his narrative on the war.

NATO enlargement is also a bureaucratic process that requires the unanimous support of all members, from the US to Luxembourg. Already, the Associated Press reported, Turkey is throwing up roadblocks, saying that Swedish and Finnish officials have supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group that Turkey views as a terrorist group, and have restricted arms exports to Turkey.

Still, many in Europe and also in Finland and Sweden say it’s a natural inclusion. These voices will prevail as long as Russia remains a credible threat.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Sparks of Light

YEMEN

Yemen’s warring parties agreed Thursday to renew a nationwide ceasefire for another two months, a move that raises hope for a potential peace in a country plagued by eight years of civil war, the Associated Press reported.

The United Nations confirmed that Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels approved the renewal a few hours before the original truce was set to expire.

The ceasefire between the two factions – which was brokered by the UN – came into effect in April and was considered the first nationwide truce in six years. Under the ceasefire agreement, the parties have agreed to a number of provisions, including the establishment of two commercial flights each week from the capital, Sanaa, to Jordan and Egypt, as well as the entry of 18 tankers of gas into the port of Hodeida.

Meanwhile, even as the fighting has died down, both parties have occasionally accused each other of violating the ceasefire.

Human rights groups welcomed the extension as a sign of a “serious commitment” to end the conflict. They added that the ceasefire could lead to the reopening of roads to allow humanitarian aid to reach Yemenis and allow the displaced to return home.

Fighting broke out in Yemen in 2014 when Houthi rebels took over Saana and forced the internationally-recognized government to flee to Saudi Arabia. A year later, a Saudi-led coalition launched attacks against the Iran-backed group to restore the government to power.

However, the conflict has devolved into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Currently, more than 377,000 people have died in the conflict, according to UN estimates.

Her Majesty

UNITED KINGDOM

British Queen Elizabeth II and her royal family saluted troops and citizens outside the balcony of Buckingham Palace Thursday, as the monarch celebrated 70 years on the throne, an event known as the Platinum Jubilee, the New York Times reported.

The queen was joined by her eldest son and heir Prince Charles and other family members in the massive multi-day celebrations, a major turnaround for the country following two years of coronavirus restrictions that have led to scaled-back events at Windsor Castle, according to NBC News.

Observers told the Times that her appearance will provide reassurance to the British public following a protracted period in which sickness and mobility issues led the queen to postpone many public engagements.

Tributes also poured in from all over the world, including from current and former world leaders: French President Emmanuel Macron said Elizabeth was the “golden thread that binds our two countries.” Meanwhile, former US President Barack Obama said she was a “gift” to the entire world.

Australia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also marked the event by lighting a beacon at Regatta Point in Australia’s capital of Canberra, the Guardian added. He noted that Australians still hold the queen “in respect and affection.”

Albanese also took the opportunity to say that Australia’s relationship with Britain had changed over the past seven decades, positing that both stood as “equals” rather than “parent and upstart.”

Many fans of the royal family also gathered in the streets with flags, painted faces and royal costumes  – with some dressed as Queen Elizabeth II herself, the Washington Post noted.

Meanwhile, police detained a number of protesters who were part of the Animal Rebellion group, when they tried to disrupt the massive military parade. The group said the disruption was aimed at “demanding that royal land is reclaimed” and protesting “the crown’s inaction on the climate emergency and their continued support for meat, fishing, and dairy,” the Evening Standard wrote.

The platinum jubilee comes at a difficult time for the 96-year-old queen, amid the declining popularity of the British monarchy and family scandals that have tarnished the image of the centuries-old institution, NPR noted.

A majority of British people view the queen favorably, and she continues to be seen as a symbol of steadfastness and dependability. Yet, many questions linger about the survivability of the royal family and the popularity of the monarchy once Queen Elizabeth II leaves the stage – a majority said in a recent poll they don’t want the queen to retire.

That is in part due to her successor: In April, a YouGov poll showed that just 34 percent of Brits want Charles to become king, while about 37 percent would prefer to see his son, Prince William, take the throne.

Holistic Methods

CANADA

Canada will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs – including cocaine – in the province of British Columbia, in an effort to reduce deaths from overdoses, which have risen in the past five years, NPR reported.

The experimental policy will only apply to the western province, set to take effect at the beginning of 2023 and last for three years.

The changes will legalize the possession of 2.5 grams or less of illicit drugs, including opioids, cocaine and methamphetamines. The new rules will only apply to people who are above the age of 18.

Overdose deaths spiked at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and remained high in 2021 across Canada.

British Columbia has been the hardest-hit province, even declaring a public health emergency over fentanyl overdoses in 2016.

Provincial and federal officials said the policy shift will focus on health care and “break down the stigma that stops people from accessing life-saving support and services.”

In recent years, Canada has introduced a series of healthcare programs to tackle the overdose epidemic, including providing tests to check drugs for fentanyl and making heroin available by prescription for those who haven’t found success with other treatments.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russian forces control roughly one-fifth of Ukraine, as fighting in the Donbas region continued, the Evening Standard reported. His remarks came as Russian soldiers were consolidating control of the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk following days of escalated fighting. According to Kyiv, the Ukrainian military made a strategic choice to evacuate from the city.
  • The White House imposed fresh sanctions on Russia Thursday in response to its invasion of Ukraine, targeting Russian government leaders and elites with a series of new financial and diplomatic measures, according to CNN. The latest sanctions target some prominent Russian elites’ luxury assets, as well as levies to limit Russia’s capacity to acquire military technologies.
  • Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Thursday that he expects Denmark to join the European Union’s shared military strategy after a referendum in which two-thirds of voters favored repealing a 30-year-old waiver that excluded the EU nation, the Associated Press wrote.
  • The western Ukrainian city of Lviv observed International Children’s Day this week by conducting a memorial for the children slain during the Russian invasion, the Guardian noted. The memorial consisted of an empty school bus with stuffed toys strapped into seats to symbolize each of the 243 children believed to have died in the conflict. President Zelenskyy said in an address that 446 children have been wounded and nearly 140 are missing. He added that 200,000 children have been forcibly taken to Russia.

Weekly World Quiz

DISCOVERIES

The Little Algae That Could

Green energy is about to become greener, according to Gizmodo.

Scientists recently found that a type of algae can power a computer microprocessor for more than six months using sunlight.

Cyanobacteria – better known as blue-green algae – produce energy from sunlight and transform it into food for themselves. For their study, researchers placed the algae into a plastic and metal enclosure roughly the size of an AA battery along with an aluminum anode.

The novel device was then placed on a windowsill and left to run for six months. During the experiment, the algae-computer system was programmed to conduct a series of calculations and check its own work.

The bio battery worked efficiently during this period and it still continues to generate electricity even after being disconnected.

“I cannot predict when it will stop,” said lead author Paolo Bombelli.

Bombelli and his team speculated how their system created current: They suggested that the cyanobacteria themselves could be generating electrons which transferred across bacterial membranes to the aluminum anode, thus creating electrical output.

The authors believe that such a battery could be used as an alternative energy supply, including powering small electronics without rare earth elements and lithium, which are in short supply.

Still, the algae’s generated energy is very minuscule at the moment and more research is needed to create cyanobacteria-based devices that can power phones – or houses.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 530,894,237

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,296,231

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,654,607,643

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

  1. US: 84,545,476 (+0.12%)
  2. India: 43,168,585 (+0.01%)
  3. Brazil: 31,101,290 (+0.13%)
  4. France: 29,763,546 (+0.09%)
  5. Germany: 26,452,148 (+0.16%)
  6. UK: 22,493,305 (+0.00%)
  7. South Korea: 18,141,835 (+0.07%)
  8. Russia: 18,072,173 (+0.02%)
  9. Italy: 17,457,950 (+0.10%)
  10. Turkey: 15,072,747 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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