The World Today for July 25, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Neighbor Versus Neighbor

UKRAINE

For months, rumors have spread in Ukraine about locals collaborating with the Russians. As the Washington Post reported, patriotic Ukrainians believe only a treasonous neighbor would give Russian troops information about where residents might store their guns or who among them has the most wealth. One witness told Ukrainian authorities about her neighbor who fired a flare gun that provided guidance for a column of Russian tanks that plowed through the village soon after.

The search for collaborators is growing more intense. Already, anti-corruption officials have opened more than 650 cases of high treason in law enforcement, for example.

Meanwhile, the collaborator issue generated a national scandal in the war-torn country last week when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his top prosecutor and domestic intelligence agency chief, wrote the Daily Beast. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Director Ivan Bakanov’s agencies were riddled with Russian collaborators, alleged Zelenskyy in a recent televised speech. He had lost confidence in their capacity to lead.

The sackings didn’t necessarily reflect well on Zelenskyy. Venediktova oversaw the high-profile investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in the town of Bucha near the capital of Kyiv. The job earned her the spotlight and granted her moral authority, as Radio Free Europe showed. Soon after she was fired, a court ordered an investigation into why she failed to disclose assets and declare her income, the New York Times added.

Bakanov is the president’s childhood friend and former business associate, reported CBS News with wire agencies. He came under criticism when the war started for failing to plug security breaches in his massive, 30,000-strong agency that was formerly part of the KGB under the Soviet Union, as the Kyiv Post explained.

“The threat of Kremlin agents is particularly high as many senior SBU officials began their careers in the Soviet era and are graduates of elite Moscow institutions,” wrote Andrew D’Anieri of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in a blog post.

Zelenskyy described the terminations and investigations as parts of a “purge” or “self-purification” process that Ukraine needed to embark upon in order to survive their struggle against their stronger foe, noted the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Analysts noted that traitors likely undermined Ukraine’s defense of Kherson, which fell quickly to the invaders in contrast to Ukrainian resistance in Kyiv and elsewhere.

Many believe Zelenskyy is probably on the right track, as long as the purge doesn’t turn into a witch hunt, a line that can be hard to define.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Raising the Alarm

WORLD

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern Saturday, as cases of the virus increase worldwide and countries scramble to secure enough vaccines, Politico reported.

WHO has recorded more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox in dozens of countries since May.

Monkeypox is spread between humans through close contact with an infected person and the symptoms include fever, rash as well as swollen lymph nodes. It may infect anybody but in the present outbreak, cases have largely been discovered in males who have sex with men.

The pathogen is endemic in parts of Africa but the recent global outbreak has raised fears about the virus establishing itself outside the continent. Health professionals noted that the cases are occurring in countries without travel links to areas where the virus is endemic.

Health officials also welcomed WHO’s designation because it could bring more attention to monkeypox, which has been largely ignored despite spreading for decades in Africa.

Meanwhile, WHO officials warned countries to take the outbreak seriously and cautioned that the declaration should not be used as a way to implement surveillance on groups most affected by the virus.

Breaking a Ceiling

INDIA

Indian lawmakers elected an Indigenous tribal woman to become the country’s president this week, a move seen as a significant breakthrough for one of India’s marginalized minority groups, the Washington Post reported.

Draupadi Murmu, a former governor of Jharkhand state, was sworn in Monday, making her the first Indigenous person and the second woman to serve as India’s head of state, a position that holds limited powers compared to those of the prime minister.

Her election received support from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as from tribal and some opposition lawmakers.

BJP leaders hailed her election as a testament to an “aspirational” India under their leadership. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Murmu will “be an outstanding president who will lead from the front and strengthen India’s development journey.”

Murmu’s ascent is considered a major step for Indian democracy, which is driven by caste, religion and regional identities. Analysts noted that the recent election also underscores the BJP’s strategy to expand its voter base to attract more Hindus traditionally considered lower in the caste hierarchy and the Indigenous tribal population.

Indigenous people – collectively known as Adivasi or “original inhabitants” – make up roughly nine percent of India’s population and have long been at the bottom of the country’s socioeconomic ladder.

They are far more likely to be illiterate than other groups, while almost half live under the poverty line.

The Big Family

CUBA

The Cuban parliament approved changes to its family law that would allow gay marriage, an amendment that has met resistance from the country’s religious community, Reuters reported.

The Families Code would legalize same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as allow gay couples to adopt children and promote equal sharing of domestic responsibilities. It would also permit prenuptial agreements and surrogate pregnancies, though not for profit.

The changes would also provide greater women’s rights and increased protection for children, the elderly and other family members. Under the new code, parents would have “responsibility” for their children rather than “custody,” and they would be expected to be “respectful of the dignity and physical and mental integrity of children and adolescents.”

Justice Minister Oscar Manuel Silvera said the amended code promoted “love, affection, care, sensitivity, respect for others and the harmony of our families.”

But religious organizations opposed the new law, saying it is “going to bring confrontation.”

The revised Families Code will be put to a referendum on Sept. 25, with organizers saying that 62 percent of Cubans support the change.

That is low by Cuban standards, where the recently ratified new constitution received 86 percent approval.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • Russian rockets struck the Ukrainian city of Odesa Saturday, a day after Russia signed an agreement to allow grain exports to flow out of the Black Sea port, the New York Post wrote. On Friday, Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement that would allow essential grain shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea ports to resume, a major diplomatic success aimed at alleviating a worldwide food crisis caused by the war, CNN reported. The breakthrough came after months of discussions and promises to open Black Sea ports to facilitate the safe passage of grain and oilseeds, two of Ukraine’s most vital exports.
  • Lithuania has lifted a ban on rail movement of sanctioned products in and out of Russia’s Kaliningrad region, the BBC noted. Kaliningrad is located on the Baltic Sea and has a rail connection to Russia via Lithuania for both passengers and freight. When Lithuania blocked the transportation of steel and other ferrous metals under EU sanctions last month, Russia expressed outrage and threatened the country.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Egyptian authorities Sunday as Russia attempts to end its diplomatic isolation and Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, according to the Associated Press. Egypt is the first stop on his tour of Africa, which will include Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

DISCOVERIES

A Signal Far, Far Away

For more than a decade, astronomers have been detecting strange and quick radio waves coming from space billions of light-years away.

Known as “fast radio bursts,” these intense, rapid signals emerge from unknown regions of the universe and last about a millisecond.

Since 2007, scientists have discovered hundreds of them but recently they came across the longest FBR ever found, USA Today reported.

In their study, a research team wrote that the new signal is the longest-lasting one to date – around three seconds, which makes it about 1,000 times greater than the average FBR.

But the new FBR also had a unique pattern: The team found that the radio wave bursts repeated every 0.2 seconds, a pattern resembling a “heartbeat.”

They added that the origins of the FBR – named FRB 20191221A – remain murky and it’s unclear which galaxy generated the space signal. But they suggested that the emissions are similar to a radio pulsar or a magnetar, two types of neutron stars.

Neutron stars emerge when big stars die and their cores collapse.

Scientists first found FRB 20191221A in 2019 via a radio telescope called Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. They hope that building more telescopes could facilitate the finding of more FBRs.

Co-author Daniele Michilli said that detecting FBRs provides information about their possible origins “and it gives us a new tool that, maybe in the future, we’ll be able to (use for discovering) new information about the universe.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 570,193,546 (+1.38%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,384,336 (+0.23%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,918,351,297 (+0.75%)

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

  1. US: 90,410,386 (+0.97%)
  2. India: 43,905,621 (+0.32%)
  3. France: 33,621,366 (+2.25%)
  4. Brazil: 33,591,356 (+0.87%)
  5. Germany: 30,331,133 (+2.15%)
  6. UK: 23,422,751 (+1.13%)
  7. Italy: 20,660,065 (+2.55%)
  8. South Korea: 19,247,496 (+2.45%)
  9. Russia: 18,262,088 (+0.23%)
  10. Turkey: 15,524,071 (+1.48%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over seven days

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