The World Today for June 22, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Drawing in Pencil

KASHMIR

Three years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unilaterally abolished the limited autonomy that India’s portion of the disputed region of Kashmir enjoyed. At the time, Modi claimed the move would reduce violence in the region.

Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority region of India. Pakistan has also claimed the territory since both countries achieved independence from Britain in 1947. Fighting between the two nuclear powers has broken out periodically over it, as the Council on Foreign Relations explained.

Since 2019, however, fighting has routinely erupted between Indian security forces and pro-Pakistan rebels, claiming the lives of 1,000 people. The rebels call themselves freedom fighters, NDTV wrote. They accuse India of decades of repression, forced disappearances, torture, rape and other human rights abuses. Pakistan, meanwhile, helps the separatists with technology, logistical support as well as cyberwar capabilities, the National Interest wrote.

As Al Jazeera reported, the violence has led many observers in the country to wonder if Modi’s policies in the region have failed.

For example, after Modi’s decision to assume direct control of the region, the government encouraged Kashmiri Hindus, or Pandits, to return after fleeing in the 1990s when they came under attack from Muslim militants – the subject of a recently released, popular Indian movie called “The Kashmir Files.” In the last three years, however, they have become the targets of rebel attacks.

Now many are reconsidering their choice, spawning talk of a “second exodus” that is embarrassing Modi, who advocates for a greater role for Hinduism in the technically secular country, the Deccan Herald wrote. Many believe they are caught between militants and Indian government officials who are using them as political pawns in a larger geopolitical struggle, added the Washington Post.

“Fear is increasing with each new killing,” Kashmiri Pandit activist Sanjay Tickoo told the Guardian, adding that 3,500 members of his community have left the region. “The minorities are facing the worst situation in Kashmir.”

Modi has sought to champion economic growth in Kashmir rather than address the political troubles there, the New York Times reported. On a visit to Kashmir in April, for example, he touted the opening of a new power plant as a sign of a new dawn in the region.

But a political solution is likely necessary, India Today political columnist CA Sandeep Deshpande argued. He suggested merging Kashmir with another Indian state, Punjab, as a way to create a new political unit that might begin anew without fighting.

That idea could amount to little, given how it amounts to little more than shifting lines on a map. But that’s how this problem started, so it might be a means to ending it.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

We Rise, We Fall

ISRAEL

Israel will hold its fifth election in three years after the country’s diverse but fragile ruling coalition collapsed amid internal disputes over the future of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, NPR reported.

The government dissolved after lawmakers from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s nationalist party withdrew their support for the ideologically-mixed coalition that included a secular Jewish party and pro-Palestinian politicians.

The collapse came after the government could not secure enough votes to extend legal protections to Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The provisions provide Jewish settlers rights that Palestinians in the territory do not have, including the entitlement to Israeli health insurance and the right to be tried in Israeli courts.

While the legislation is usually renewed every five years, lawmakers failed to reach a consensus despite pleas by Bennett that the country could face “heavy security damage and constitutional chaos.”

The parliament’s dissolution will allow the protections to be frozen until three months after a new legislature is elected. Meanwhile, Bennett will step down as prime minister with centrist Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to replace him.

The next elections will likely take place in October.

Despite the coalition failure, analysts noted that the inclusion of an Arab Islamist party in the government played “a historical role.” They added that this could later pave the way “for the possibility of more inclusion by the Arab minority in the political process and Israeli society as a whole.”

Meanwhile, questions linger about whether former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will return to power in the snap polls. Netanyahu remained a fierce opponent of Bennett’s coalition and accused the outgoing government of relying on “terror supporters” – a slur aimed at the Arab party.

Getting Clean

CANADA

Canada will ban the production and importation of single-use plastics by the end of the year as part of an effort to boost its fight against pollution and climate change, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The Environment Ministry said most plastic grocery bags, cutlery and straws will be included in the ban with a few exceptions for medical needs. Officials added that businesses will have until December 2023 to transition and sell off their existing stocks.

Exporting these plastics will be banned by the end of 2025.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the move as a significant effort to fight climate change: He noted that the ban will result in the “estimated elimination of over 1.3 million tons of plastic waste and more than 22,000 tons of plastic pollution.”

Government data showed that up to 15 billion plastic grocery bags are used every year, and approximately 16 million straws are used daily in Canada.

Many environmental advocates and groups welcomed the ban but urged Canada to take more action to combat the plastic problem. They said the list of banned products should be expanded to include drinking cups, cigarette filters and single-serve packets.

Canada’s decision is part of a global effort to tackle the ever-growing problem of plastic pollution. Kenya, Britain and the European Union have implemented a similar ban on single-use plastic goods.

Earlier this year, the United Nations established the groundwork for an ambitious, legally binding treaty to decrease plastic waste. However, the treaty’s provisions are preliminary and have been met with opposition from the oil and petrochemical sectors.

We, Too!

GEORGIA

Tens of thousands of Georgians marched in the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, this week to demand closer relations with the European Union, just days after the European Commission recommended deferring Georgia’s candidacy, Agence France-Presse reported.

Roughly 60,000 people rallied outside the Georgian parliament waving Ukrainian, Georgian and EU flags and holding placards that read, “We are Europe.” Organizers of the “March for Europe” said the demonstration aims to send a message “that the citizens of Georgia have made a European choice and are ready to defend this choice.”

The huge rally came less than a week after the Commission recommended that the European Council grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, both of whom have applied for EU membership.

Georgia has also applied for membership but the EU’s executive arm suggested that it will “assess how Georgia meets the number of conditions before granting its candidate status” by the end of the year.

The 27-nation bloc is planning to discuss the applications of the three states this week.

All three countries launched their applications for EU membership in February following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Relations between Georgia and Russia have been tense since the 2008 Caucasus war when Moscow recognized the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics and stationed hundreds of Russian troops there.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Two US veterans captured by Russian forces could be “held responsible” for acts they committed in Ukraine: Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with NBC News that Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh are “soldiers of fortune” who were “involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine.” When asked about detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, Peskov says he “strongly disagrees” that she is a hostage.
  • Russian officials said they have modified communications equipment in Ukraine’s Kherson region and are now transmitting Russian television channels there, Radio Free Europe reported.
  • During an unexpected trip to Ukraine on Tuesday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the formation of a War Crimes Accountability team, which would try to identify and prosecute anybody who committed war crimes in Ukraine, CNN wrote.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize medal auctioned off by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov to aid displaced Ukrainian children broke a record on Monday night, selling for $103.5 million, the Washington Post noted. The proceeds will go to UNICEF’s child refugee fund, Heritage Auctions said in an announcement, after Muratov sold the prize to help children forced out of their homes in Ukraine.

DISCOVERIES

Jurassic Belly Buttons

All mammal species, including humans, have belly buttons. one dinosaur species had them as well, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

In a new study, scientists studied the remains of a Psittacosaurus, a non-avian dino species that lived more than 100 million years ago in what is now China and Mongolia.

A member of the horned Ceratopsia group, the extinct creature measured nearly seven feet in length and was known for its high and narrow skull with a parrot-like beak.

Using special lasers and imaging techniques, researchers saw that the Psittacosaurus had a peculiar belly button that had faded over time.

The team explained that this belly button – scientifically known as an umbilical scar – was not similar to those in mammals because Psittacosaurus were egg-hatchers.

Unlike mammals, egg-hatcher embryos are connected to the yolk sac in the egg, providing them with the nutrients to grow and develop. Modern egg-hatchers, such as snakes and birds, lose their belly button within days or weeks but that wasn’t the case with the Psittacosaurus.

Scientists had long speculated that egg-laying dinosaurs had belly buttons but the findings offer the first evidence of such a feature.

Even so, the authors added that the discovery doesn’t mean that umbilical scars were present in all non-avian dinosaurs.

Covid Update, Editor’s Note

It was at this time last year that we asked our subscribers whether we should continue the daily COVID-19 Update. Overwhelmingly, you told us you valued the information and asked that we keep publishing it. As we enter the third summer in the “era” of the coronavirus, we now feel more certain that it’s time to cease publishing the Update. Although the pandemic has not ended, the increase in the daily caseloads has slowed greatly around the world and especially in the Top 10 countries; and it looks as if COVID could be part of our lives indefinitely. Before we end publication, we’re giving our readers another opportunity to express your thoughts. Please write to us at [email protected].

DailyChatter Staff  

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 540,577,550

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,322,130

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,622,312,637

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

  1. US: 86,456,151 (+0.18%)
  2. India: 43,331,645 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 31,818,827 (+0.20%)
  4. France: 30,476,915 (+0.31%)
  5. Germany: 27,454,225 (+0.44%)
  6. UK: 22,717,987 (+0.07%)
  7. South Korea: 18,298,341 (+0.05%)
  8. Russia: 18,134,735 (+0.01%)
  9. Italy: 17,959,329 (+0.35%)
  10. Turkey: 15,085,742 (+0.00%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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