The World Today for June 23, 2022

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Loathed, Loved

UNITED KINGDOM

When he announced his resignation as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ethics advisor, Lord Christopher Geidt complained that Johnson had put him in the “impossible and odious” position of trying to justify how to break the rules of conduct for Her Majesty’s government.

The prime minister asked Geidt how the government could retain some steel tariffs in violation of World Trade Organization agreements, the Guardian reported.

Lord Geidt had also recently “expressed frustration” over Partygate, a political controversy involving Johnson holding events that contravened his own pandemic rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus, added the BBC. Geidt was also critical of Johnson for using a political donor’s funding to renovate the prime minister’s residence and office at 10 Downing Street.

He was the second ethics czar to leave Johnson’s team. Sir Alex Allan quit in 2020 when Johnson ignored his findings on Home Secretary Priti Patel’s alleged bullying of civil servants.

Similarly, earlier this year, Johnson’s “Cost of Living Business Tsar” said he thought the prime minister was “not blessed with intelligence” and should resign, reported Reuters.

It’s no wonder, then, that pundits have foretold the end of Johnson’s career. While he survived a recent vote of no confidence in parliament, his days appear numbered, CNBC noted. “The question is no longer whether Boris Johnson goes, but when,” was the headline of a Washington Post column by Henry Olson, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

As his star falls at home, however, Johnson’s popularity has been skyrocketing in another unlikely place: war-torn Ukraine.

While French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have sought to communicate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, Johnson was the first leader of a major Western power to journey to Kyiv to show his support for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

Johnson has also ensured that the United Kingdom was part of the pipeline, beginning with the US, of military aid, equipment and weapons to Ukraine, Foreign Policy explained. That help has been critical in the Ukraine military’s success in inflicting heavy casualties on the larger and better-equipped Russian army.

The Zavertailo Bakery in Kyiv has even created a Boris Johnson-themed croissant to celebrate the prime minister. “Crowned with undulating meringue and a scoop of vanilla ice cream to represent the Conservative politician’s unruly golden hair,” the New York Times wrote, the pastry is selling like hot cakes.

Politicians can stand tall on the world stage but stumble at home.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Tragedy Upon Calamity Upon Misery

AFGHANISTAN

An earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday killing more than 1,000 people and injuring at least 1,500 others even as the country continues to reel from a collapsing economy, violence and the lack of international aid, USA Today reported.

Officials said the 5.9 magnitude quake hit about 25 miles southwest of Khost near the Pakistani border at night while people were sleeping. They added that hundreds of homes and buildings have collapsed and the death toll is expected to increase.

Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund pledged $10 million to immediately aid families in the affected provinces of Paktika and Khost. Other officials called for international help and urged aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent more deaths.

Many international aid organizations departed Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country last year, following the withdrawal of US-led international troops.

Earthquakes in Afghanistan have remained devastating despite efforts by aid agencies to reinforce buildings over the years, the BBC noted.

Years of conflict have made it difficult for the country to improve its defenses against earthquakes and other natural disasters. Even before the Taliban took power, Afghanistan’s emergency services were overwhelmed by natural calamities, with few planes and helicopters available to rescuers.

Wednesday’s quake was one of the deadliest in the country’s history.

In 2002, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake killed about 1,000 in the country’s north. Four years earlier, a similar tremor in the northeast resulted in the deaths of at least 4,500 people.

Capsized

SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka’s economy has “completely collapse,” according to the country’s prime minister, who warned that the South Asian island is in such a dire state it cannot pay for essential oil imports, Sky News reported Wednesday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament Wednesday that the country is facing “a far more serious situation beyond the mere shortages of fuel, gas, electricity and food.”

He noted that the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is $700 million in debt and that “no country or organization in the world is willing to provide fuel to us.”

Wickremesinghe’s comments follow months of shortages of food, fuel and electricity in Sri Lanka, resulting in soaring prices and sparking mass anti-governmental protests.

Sri Lanka has been struggling under the weight of its debt, as well as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including a loss of tourism earnings.

In April, it suspended payments equivalent to $12 billion in foreign debt.

Last month, Wickremesinghe’s predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned following months of violent demonstrations and economic malaise.

Even so, the new prime minister said he is working with the International Monetary Fund to secure an agreement by the end of this month. At the same time, Wickremesinghe also said that he would ask for help from India, China and Japan to resolve the crisis.

The Politics of Never Again

POLAND

Poland is seeking a formal agreement with Israel to regulate the terms under which Israeli schoolchildren make Holocaust study visits, amid an ongoing row over educational trips to the European country, the Associated Press reported.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz lamented this week that young Israelis are receiving a “negative image” of Poland when they visit the country during these trips.

He said that Israeli youth groups are accompanied by armed guards during their trips and their visits focus on the Holocaust only. He added that many young Israelis have no contact with their Polish peers to understand the country’s approach to Polish-Jewish history, which spans centuries.

Przydacz noted that a new agreement should regulate when the armed guards can be present and establish more contact between Polish and Israeli youths.

Before the pandemic, the trips were considered a watershed moment in Israeli education, with more than 40,000 Israeli students participating each year. The visits were suspended during the coronavirus pandemic but last week Israel announced the suspension as permanent because it said Poland’s right-wing government was trying to control the curriculum.

Przydacz countered that they have not been resumed “because we believe that (they) should be regulated by an agreement between Poland and Israel.”

At the start of World War II, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Poland, killing nearly all of the country’s roughly three million Jews. Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile had warned about the Nazi atrocities.

Thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews, although some others murdered or persecuted their Jewish compatriots, the AP said.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Russian and Russian proxy troops in Ukraine’s Donetsk area have sustained substantial fatalities, according to British intelligence officials, the BBC noted. Officials believe that the Donetsk militia has lost 55 percent of its initial force. According to Ukrainian commanders, Russian soldiers are intent on seizing all of neighboring Luhansk and encircling the city of Lysychansk.
  • A drone strike caused a fire at a refinery in southern Russia near the Ukrainian border on Wednesday, causing no injuries, according to the Associated Press. The fire engulfed industrial equipment at the Novoshakhtinsk oil processing complex in the Rostov-on-Don area. Ukrainian officials haven’t claimed responsibility for the drone strike.
  • Western sanctions against Russia have cut off supplies and equipment for Russian dentists, forcing them to use outdated – and expensive – alternatives on their patients, Radio Free Europe reported.

DISCOVERIES

Overheated

A new study discovered that being “hot-headed” is a sign of a healthy brain, according to Cosmos magazine.

A research team found that normal human brain temperatures can change based on age, gender, menstrual and sleep cycles.

For their paper, they analyzed the brains of 40 healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 20 to 40 and used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to produce the first 4D maps of healthy human brain temperatures – known as HEATWAVE.

The team explained that most participants had an oral temperature below 98 Fahrenheit degrees but their average brain temperature would reach between 101 to 104 degrees.

Temperatures also varied among participants: For example, female brains were 0.72 degrees warmer than male ones. The participants’ noggins also got warmer during the day but started to cool down by night.

Researchers also observed that temperatures increased with age, particularly in the deep brain regions, which suggests that the capacity to cool down may deteriorate with age and could be linked to the development of age-related brain disorders.

The study challenges the previous belief that human brain and body temperatures remain constant, the authors noted.

They also found that daily brain temperature cycles are highly related to the survival of individuals with traumatic brain injury.

“Our work also opens a door for future research into whether disruption of daily brain temperature rhythms can be used as an early biomarker for several chronic brain disorders, including dementia,” said co-author Nina Rzechorzek.

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: 541,374,196

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,324,101

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,628,379,422

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

  1. US: 86,636,306 (+0.21%)
  2. India: 43,344,958 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 31,890,733 (+0.23%)
  4. France: 30,555,038 (+0.26%)
  5. Germany: 27,573,585 (+0.43%)
  6. UK: 22,751,393 (+0.15%)
  7. South Korea: 18,305,783 (+0.04%)
  8. Russia: 18,137,759 (+0.02%)
  9. Italy: 18,014,202 (+0.31%)
  10. Turkey: 15,085,742 (+0.00%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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