The World Today for June 06, 2022

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Dairy and Dictatorship

CUBA

Years ago, the late Fidel Castro promised that Cuba’s communist government would subsidize a liter of milk a day for every child under the age of seven. He even showcased a prized Cuban milk cow, Ubre Blanca, to highlight his regime’s dairy capacities. Now, however, as Agence France-Presse reported, the supply chain snarls of the early 21st Century have proved too much for the will of the country’s former strongman.

Despite Castro’s vision, Cuba likely could never produce enough milk for itself, the Havana Times wrote. So it has to import the stuff, along with 70 percent of its food needs in general. Due to the US embargo against Cuba, though, milk must be flown into the Caribbean island from New Zealand, Belgium and Uruguay. Those supply chains aren’t running so smoothly in the current post-pandemic economic chaos. Cuba is more than 120 million gallons short of its people’s nutritional needs.

The milk shortage is happening as the island’s economy hit its worst rough patch in years. Covid-19 gutted tourism. Former President Donald Trump squeezed the island with extra sanctions that President Joe Biden has not yet completely lifted. Venezuela, another socialist Latin American nation, is experiencing its own troubles and has cut aid. As a result, Cubans routinely wait in lines for staples.

“Since you wake up, you are always thinking, what can you eat, where can you find food?” Yohana Perdomo, a Havana manicurist, told the Washington Post.

Observers are wondering if the situation could spin out of control. Last summer, protests broke out over food and electricity shortages. These same conditions are expected in the coming hot summer.

Anti-government sentiments are strong in Cuba, according to CNN. Activists who are members of the San Isidro Movement, a group of artists and others who demonstrate in support of freedom of expression and civil rights, are now facing trial for appearing in a music video for “Patria y Vida,” a song critical of Raúl Castro, who succeeded Fidel in 2011, and current leader Miguel Díaz-Canel, who took office last year.

The current unstable conditions could also lead to more migration, as Smithsonian magazine recently depicted in a story recalling the Cubans who came to the US in the 1990s. Cubans trying to emigrate to the US have pathways to residency but face significant hurdles, as the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, Russia has struck a deal with Cuba that could bring more milk to the island, the Cuban state-owned Prensa Latina wrote.

It needs to be a lot. Cuban children can’t live on symbolic goodwill.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

The New Guard

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakh voters overwhelmingly backed a series of constitutional changes aimed at reforming the country’s political system and curbing the privileges of founding leader Nursultan Nazarbayev after three decades of rule, Agence France-Presse reported.

The referendum is part of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s “New Kazakhstan” initiative that would amend one-third of the country’s constitution: The changes would include more representation of various groups in parliament and decentralized decision-making.

Among the main reforms, it would also prevent relatives of the president from holding government positions and do away with Nazarbayev’s privileges, including his title of “Elbasy,” or “Leader of the Nation.”

Tokayev – who was handpicked by his predecessor in 2019 – has emerged as a more independent figure after quashing violent unrest earlier this year, as well as removing Nazarbayev and his relatives from key government positions, according to Al Jazeera.

The unrest – which has been described as an attempted coup – began against a fuel price hike but soon evolved into a mass popular protest against a system that concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a few.

More than 230 people were killed and the Kazakh government called in troops from a Russia-led security bloc to curb the violence.

Still, some critics said the referendum was an attempt by Tokayev to legitimize his power and strip Nazarbayev’s privileges as the country’s founding father. They noted that the amendments included very few limits to presidential power, adding that the president is planning to “reset his relations” with the people after the violent crackdown.

Brutal Comeback

MYANMAR

Myanmar’s military junta will carry out its first executions in decades against two prominent pro-democracy figures after authorities upheld the death sentence of two individuals accused of terrorism, CNN reported.

The military junta said that veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy and former National League of Democracy lawmaker Phyo Zayar Thaw have been sentenced to death for involvement in terrorist acts such as bombings and the killing of informants.

It’s unclear if the two men denied the charges.

Amnesty International described the verdicts as “shocking” but noted that authorities have been increasing the number of death sentences since the junta overthrew the democratically-elected government in February 2021.

The number of known death sentences has gone from at least one in 2020 to more than 86 in 2021. No one has been executed in Myanmar since 1988.

Following the junta’s decision, the United Nations and other groups condemned the ruling as a “blatant violation of the right to life, liberty and security of person.” They urged authorities to drop the charges against the accused and urged the international community to increase intervention efforts.

Rebranding

TURKEY

Turkey will now be known as “Türkiye” after the United Nations approved the country’s request to formally change its name as part of a rebranding campaign launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year, Fox News reported.

Türkiye – pronounced “tur-key-YAY” – has been the country’s name since 1923 when the new nation was formed following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Most Turks have used Türkiye to refer to the country as well as the anglicized form, “Turkey.”

Erdogan pushed for the name change in December, saying the new name would better represent Turkish culture and values. The country’s state broadcaster had also noted that the rebranding was aimed at separating Turkey’s association with the bird traditionally linked with Christmas or Thanksgiving in the US, the BBC added.

As part of the rebranding, “Made in Türkiye” will appear on all exports. Meanwhile, a campaign promoting tourism the catchphrase “Hello Türkiye” has been running since January.

Changing a country’s name is not uncommon: In 2019, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became the Republic of North Macedonia to resolve a dispute with neighboring Greece. A year later, the Netherlands dropped “Holland” as part of a rebranding move. Burma changed its name to Myanmar in 1989.

Still, the name change has received a mixed reception: While government officials support it, others called it a distraction by Erdogan, who is preparing for next year’s elections while handling an economic crisis.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that if Ukraine receives powerful missile systems from Western countries, Moscow will strike targets “we have (not) yet struck,” according to the Washington Post. Ukraine has lobbied hard for such weapons. President Biden acknowledged last week that the US will send systems capable of pinpointing an enemy target of roughly 50 miles away.
  • A number of explosions shook Kyiv early Sunday, the first attack on the Ukrainian capital in weeks, as life in the city and its outskirts have gradually returned to normal over the past month, Reuters noted. According to Mayor Vitali Klitschko, at least one person was hospitalized but no deaths were reported as of early Sunday.
  • A senior Ukrainian official stated Sunday that his country’s forces now control half of Sievierodonetsk, following heavy confrontations with Russian soldiers in the strategically important city, Agence France-Presse wrote. The victories, claimed by regional governor Serhiy Gaidai, would mark a huge advance for Ukrainian soldiers, who had previously looked to be on the point of being driven out of the large eastern metropolis.
  • At least 20 of Russia’s most influential businessmen are suing the European Union to get their assets unfrozen and their visas unblocked at the bloc’s second-highest court as a result of sanctions, Politico reported. One likely plaintiff, Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea football club, was sanctioned in March for allegedly profiting from his close relations with President Vladimir Putin.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba blasted French President Emmanuel Macron for urging international powers not to “humiliate Russia,” the Hill wrote. Since the beginning of the crisis, France has tried to mediate between Ukraine and Russia while maintaining civil ties with both sides.

DISCOVERIES

A Name, a Face

Domesticated cats can remember the names of other cats living with them, CTV reported.

In a new study, Japanese scientists focused on felines living in multi-cat dwellings, as well as those in Japan’s famous cat cafes.

They tested the animal’s memory through a series of audio-visual experiments: Cats would see photos of other felines they resided with and hear an audio recording of the owner – or a researcher – calling that animal’s name. The audio would either say the name of the familiar cat or one that was a stranger.

The team observed that cats from households would take their time to look at the picture when the audio used a different name, compared to when the correct name was used.

That suggested that the animal was trying to understand why the name and the image didn’t match.

Researchers then conducted a similar experiment using the images and names of their human owners. The house pets again stared at the images longer when a different name was used.

This wasn’t the case with cats living in the cafes.

“Our interpretation is that cats living with more people have more opportunities to hear names being used than cats living with fewer people and that living with a family for a longer time increases this experience,” the authors explained.

They added that more research is needed to better understand how cats learned to associate names with people or animals familiar to them.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 531,960,611

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,299,070

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,662,935,375

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

  1. US: 84,762,022 (+0.02%)
  2. India: 43,181,335 (+0.01%)
  3. Brazil: 31,137,479 (+0.00%)**
  4. France: 29,834,390 (+0.07%)
  5. Germany: 26,496,611 (+0.01%)
  6. UK: 22,493,328 (+0.00%)**
  7. South Korea: 18,168,708 (+0.03%)
  8. Russia: 18,083,984 (+0.00%)**
  9. Italy: 17,505,973 (+0.09%)
  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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