The World Today for June 09, 2022

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Two important developments in Denmark illustrate the new geopolitical landscape in Europe.

Because Danish officials refused to pay for Russian gas in rubles, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently cut off natural gas supplies to the Northern European country. As the Associated Press reported, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen compared Putin’s move to “blackmail,” a sentiment that reflects the country’s defiant stance since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

“We stand firm in our refusal to pay in rubles, and we’ve been preparing for this scenario,” Mads Nipper, chief executive of Danish energy company Ørsted, said. “The situation underpins the need of the EU (to become) independent of Russian gas by accelerating the build-out of renewable energy.”

Secondly, two-thirds of Danish voters recently opted to join the European Union’s common defense policy, CNN wrote. Denmark was the only member of the 27-nation EU to opt out, securing exemptions years ago. The move means Denmark will be more closely knitted into EU militaries, which now have missions in Bosnia, Mali and Somalia.

The Danes’ approval of this shift in a referendum is an example of how direct voting is becoming a preferred means for EU engagement and reforms, said University College Dublin Law Professor Imelda Maher and University of London Political Economist Dermot Hodson in the Conversation. The upshot is that people on the ground – not politicians like those portrayed in the hit Danish television political drama Borgen – are driving these tectonic changes.

Frederiksen recently also secured an additional $1 billion in defense spending for Denmark, which is also a NATO member, and pledged to cut down on Russian gas imports in order to strike an economic blow against Russia, Reuters added. Germany has also announced massive escalations in military spending in anticipation of warding off Russian threats.

These shifts also come as Finland and Sweden have decided to join NATO. If Putin had plans to fragment the West while he plundered Ukraine, his plans have arguably backfired, as Politico explained.

The changes could also impact Danish politics.

The Danish People’s Party, a far-right, anti-immigrant populist group, opposed joining the EU’s defense policy, reported the Washington Post. The overwhelming “yes” vote – 66 percent in favor, 33 percent opposed – obviously undercuts their standing. In recent months, internal conflicts and disagreements have also led parliamentarians in the party to quit in protest, the Local added. Still, judging how Denmark has made Syrian refugees feel unwelcome, the party’s platform continues to attract supporters.

These developments are still unfolding. But the changes hint at a new world.


Playing Coy


Cambodia and China are planning to revamp a strategic Cambodian naval base amid concerns from the United States and its allies that the facility will be used exclusively by the Chinese navy, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday.

Officials from China and Cambodia attended a ceremony Wednesday as work began at the Ream naval base, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The project was paid for by a Chinese grant and will include the construction of a boat maintenance workshop and two piers. China also donated military equipment and will pay for the repair of eight Cambodian warships.

The revamp is expected to take two years.

Chinese and Cambodian representatives said the project will deepen the “iron-clad” friendship between the two nations and modernize Cambodia’s navy.

But Western officials had expressed concern that the strategically-located base will be used by China’s fleet as Beijing seeks to shore up its international influence with a network of military outposts.

For years, the naval base had been a point of contention between the US and Cambodia. US diplomats warned that the project lacks transparency and could “threaten Cambodia’s autonomy and undermine regional security.”

But Cambodia and China denied the allegations, saying the base’s development is “not a secret.” They added that the base is also small and “won’t pose a threat to anyone, anywhere.”

Making Amends


Belgian King Philippe made a historic visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week, a trip many say is a chance to build new ties between the two countries in the wake of atrocities committed by Belgium during its rule of the country, Africanews reported Wednesday.

It is the king’s first trip to the African country since he ascended the throne in 2013 and the first official trip from a Belgian monarch in more than a decade.

The visit comes as Belgium prepares to return a tooth that belonged to Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba, a hero of the anti-colonial struggle. Lumumba was killed by Congolese separatists and Belgian mercenaries in 1961 and his body was dissolved in acid.

The tooth – the only existing remains – was taken as a trophy by one of his killers, a Belgian police officer.

Meanwhile, Philippe is also discussing the return of tens of thousands of artworks and artifacts looted during the colonial era. On Wednesday, he returned a ceremonial mask, called Kakungu, that was previously exhibited at Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa, the BBC noted.

He said that the mask’s return “marks the symbolic beginning of the reinforcement of the cultural collaboration between Belgium and Congo.”

Philippe’s trip comes nearly two years after the monarch expressed his “deepest regrets” for colonial crimes committed by his predecessors in a letter to President Felix Tshisekedi on the 60th anniversary of the DRC’s independence.

Between 1885 and 1908, millions of Congolese suffered under the brutal rule of Belgian King Leopold II, who owned the Congo Free State. More than 10 million Africans are believed to have died from disease, colonial abuse and dangerous working conditions on plantations during that period.

Bovine Disruption


New Zealand is proposing to make farmers pay for the greenhouse gases produced by sheep and cows, becoming the first country to do so, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The government released a draft plan that would help reduce emissions from one of New Zealand’s biggest sources of greenhouse gases and tackle global warming.

The country of five million is home to 10 million cattle and 26 million sheep. Nearly half of its total greenhouse emissions come from agriculture in the form of methane.

Previously, agricultural emissions were exempt from the country’s emissions trading programs, sparking criticism and questions about the government’s commitment to combat global warming.

Under the new plan, farmers will have to pay for their gas emissions starting in 2025. Short- and long-lived agricultural gas will be priced individually, although their volume will be calculated using a single measure.

The draft regulations also include incentives for farmers to reduce emissions through feed additives. Revenue from the scheme will be invested in research, development and advisory services for farmers.

A final decision is expected later this year and the proposal could potentially mark the biggest regulatory disruption to farming since the removal of agricultural subsidies in the 1980s, according to analysts.


  • Russian and Turkish officials ended discussions on Wednesday without making any significant progress toward establishing a sea route to transport grain from Ukraine across the Black Sea as part of a United Nations-backed plan to ease the global food crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported. Ukraine, which was not involved in the discussions, has refused to agree to any prospective arrangement between Turkey and Russia, saying that it requires guarantees that Moscow will not use a potential safe corridor to launch new strikes.
  • Fiji’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a $300 million yacht owned by a pro-Kremlin oligarch may be taken by American authorities, giving the US a victory in its efforts to punish Russian oligarchs for the Ukraine war, the Washington Post noted. According to US authorities, the ship “Amadea” belongs to Suleyman Kerimov, a Russian billionaire. The seizure comes about a month after the Justice Department requested permission from Fijian officials to take the yacht after US officials designated Kerimov as part of a group of oligarchs who profited from the Russian government through corruption and suspect activity, including the occupation of Crimea.
  • In her first significant public statement since leaving office last year, Angela Merkel said she will not apologize for her actions during her 16 years as Germany’s chancellor, rejecting claims that they were somehow responsible for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the New York Times. Merkel has been chastised for promoting German-Russian commercial interests during her term, particularly by supporting the contentious Nord Stream 2 gas project. Both Ukraine and its eastern European neighbors opposed the Kremlin-backed initiative, which Berlin halted following the invasion.
  • Authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine have released a propaganda video showing three foreigners being tried as mercenaries fighting for Ukraine, CNN wrote. The three individuals have been charged with “mercenarism, crimes aimed at forcible seizure and retention of power, as well as training in order to carry out terrorist activities on the territory of the DPR.”


Faking It

West Virginia University geologists discovered a group of microorganisms dating back more than 800 million years that may still be alive, Futurism reported.

In their paper, scientists wrote that they were initially studying halite salt crystals inside the Browne Formation, an 830-million-year-old rock found in the Australian desert.

Using non-invasive optical methods, the team came across organic liquids and solids on the halite samples that were housing a group of microorganisms. These included single-celled prokaryotes – such as bacteria – and eukaryotic cells, which include salt-loving algae and fungi.

They told USA Today that such microbes residing in halite shrink and greatly reduce their biological activity when host waters become too salty. They added that the prokaryotes have a reputation for surviving millions of years trapped inside halite salt crystals, which means that they could possibly be alive.

Researchers have yet to determine if the microorganisms have a pulse, with other scientists noting that they could be in a dormant stage.

Still, the findings have been described as “a really fantastic snapshot of life 830 million years ago” and could have major implications for the search for life on other planets.

Rock compounds similar to the Browne Formation are abundant on Mars, meaning that Martian microorganisms could be trapped inside halite crystals – and still be alive and kicking.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 533,667,432

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,304,835

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,528,367,210

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

  1. US: 85,214,036 (+0.24%)
  2. India: 43,197,522 (+0.02%)
  3. Brazil: 31,315,777 (+0.16%)
  4. France: 29,906,452 (+0.18%)
  5. Germany: 26,660,652 (+0.29%)
  6. UK: 22,551,660 (+0.06%)
  7. South Korea: 18,200,346 (+0.07%)
  8. Russia: 18,094,054 (+0.02%)
  9. Italy: 17,566,061 (+0.13%)
  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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