The World Today for August 08, 2022
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NEED TO KNOW
An emergency worker recently proposed to his girlfriend. Dressed in his first responder gear as his colleagues watched, he went on bended knee and presented his sweetheart with a ring.
The moment would not have been a big deal, except that it occurred in Ukraine as the former Soviet republic wages a life-or-death battle against Russia, which invaded the country in late February.
“This is our life now – we joke about ‘war-life balance’,” wrote Anton Herashchenko, a Ukrainian government official in a Tweet quoted in the Indian Express. “This rescuer was saving people, now he is proposing. The siren wails for danger, now it sounds in joy. It is all intertwined and no one’s life is untouched by war in Ukraine.”
A video of the marriage proposal went viral because it reminded the world of how life continues, even amid carnage and destruction. Performances still occur in Odesa’s 135-year-old opera house and Ukrainians still grab drinks at bars and cafes, for example, reported CNN. Living normally, they told the news network, is the best victory they can achieve over Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has maintained that Ukraine has no right to be a country because historically it has been part of Russia, as a London School of Economics blog explained.
The preservation of a semblance of normal life in Western Ukraine has led to a massive migration of Ukrainians from the east to the west, the Washington Post wrote, evoking the yearning that millions of East Europeans experienced during the communist period when defection was viewed as a path to the land of milk and honey.
Of course, as National Public Radio illustrated, Ukrainians living in Kharkiv’s subway system in order to avoid bombs and bullets would tell a different tale of their lives at present. But the Cold War comparison is apt because the Ukrainians who remain behind in Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine might as well live in a different world.
In some parts of the east, for example, billboards colored blue, white and red – the colors of the Russian flag – declare, “We are one people” and “We are with Russia.” Russian passports, mobile phone numbers and television have replaced Ukrainian services, the New York Times reported. Such measures have led many Ukrainians to fear a return to a way of life resembling that under the Soviet Union, added Reuters.
The shift is already happening. Shortages of medicine and other essentials have made life “hell” for elderly folks who have managed to survive until now, Agence France-Presse reported. Those who publicly oppose Russian rule wind up disappearing. Officials brand anyone speaking Ukrainian as a Nazi.
When the Ukrainians say they are fighting for the freedom of the Western world, they mean it.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
The Big Flex
China will hold five additional live-fire drills in the Bohai and Yellow seas in another show of force to broadcast its fury over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
China has been holding military exercises near Taiwan in what observers describe as the greatest show of force around the island since the last cross-strait crisis of 1995-1996.
Under its “one China” policy, Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has consistently warned that it would take the island by force if it ever declares independence. For years, it has attempted to diplomatically isolate Taiwan by luring away its diplomatic partners and vehemently obstructing exchanges between Taipei and other countries.
Meanwhile, during her visit, Pelosi vowed that China would not succeed in isolating Taiwan. The Chinese government condemned the visit and accused the US of hollowing out its “one China” doctrine.
The diplomatic fallout escalated over the weekend after China imposed sanctions on Pelosi and her family. Beijing also suspended cooperation with the US in a number of areas, breaking off military cooperation and climate negotiations.
Meanwhile, the White House summoned China’s ambassador to the US in response to Beijing’s “irresponsible” military activities, including the launch of missiles into waters near Taiwan.
Taiwan called the drills a “simulated attack” on the island but noted the military exercises have caused only limited disruptions to shipping routes and flights.
Changing of the Guard
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
St. Kitts and Nevis’ opposition party won the island nation’s legislative elections over the weekend, in a poll that came three years earlier than planned, the Associated Press reported.
Preliminary results showed the St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) secured six seats in the 15-seat parliament, ousting the People’s Labor Party (PLP) of Prime Minister Timothy Harris, which won only one seat.
The vote was originally scheduled for 2025 but took place earlier amid political disputes in the twin-island nation. Earlier this year, Harris’ three-party coalition, Team Unity, filed a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister, prompting the country to hold general elections on Aug. 5.
Six political parties fielded more than 30 candidates for 11 of the 15 seats in parliament. Following the election, the governor general will nominate candidates for the remaining four seats.
Terrence Drew of the SKNLP will now become the country’s fourth prime minister since the country became independent of the UK in 1983. He has vowed to improve health care provision and increase access to affordable housing and education.
Analysts told Caribbean National Weekly that the PLP’s defeat could also signal the end of Harris’ political career which has spanned more than 25 years.
Equal but Unequal
Malaysia’s Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a landmark decision that would allow women to automatically pass their citizenship to children born overseas, a case that has sparked criticism over the government’s inability to ensure gender equality, Al Jazeera reported.
The case centers on a constitutional provision, which gives Malaysian fathers the automatic right to pass their citizenship onto their offspring born abroad. However, the constitution is silent on Malaysian women married to foreign spouses whose children were born outside Malaysia.
The advocacy group Family Frontiers and six mothers initially challenged the constitutionality of omitting women in the law, saying that judges should interpret the provision in line with the principle of gender equality.
Last year, Malaysia’s High Court ruled that women had the same right as men to confer citizenship to their children. But the government appealed the decision, saying it needed time to amend the constitution in favor of mothers.
After the High Court’s verdict, the six women were able to acquire citizenship for their overseas-born children. But the appeals court ordered any new applications be frozen until the Federal Court – the country’s highest court – had considered the matter.
The government said in the past year, there have been more than 590 submissions from Malaysian mothers seeking to pass their citizenship to their children. Only a few of these cases were resolved.
Women’s rights advocates and opposition politicians have been calling on the government to move forward with the amendment and ensure equality for women.
But the government says that the gender equality amendment does not apply to nationality and that matters of citizenship are beyond the jurisdiction of the courts.
- British intelligence officials warned that the Ukraine war is set to enter a new phase, saying the Russian military is “almost certainly” massing in the south in preparation for a Ukrainian counter-offensive, Sky News wrote. Long convoys of military trucks, tanks, and towed artillery have been heading southwest from the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, according to officials from the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
- The top officer at Amnesty International’s Ukrainian office announced her resignation over the weekend after the organization produced a report alleging that some of Kyiv’s troops were stationed in crowded residential areas, the Hill reported. According to the report, the Ukrainian military set up operations within schools and hospitals and executed strikes while close to residential homes.
- Turkey will convert a portion of its payments for Russian gas to rubles and plans to strengthen ties with Moscow by extending the use of Russia’s Mir payment system, Deutsche Welle noted. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the switch Saturday, a day after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. The move puts Erdogan at odds with the US, which has spearheaded the international campaign to sanction Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Pollination is not exclusively the province of bees and other pollinators, according to a new study.
Marine scientists found that a small woodlouse-like crustacean helps fertilize a type of red seaweed similar to the way land creatures do to terrestrial plants, New Scientist reported.
In their study, researcher Myriam Valero and her colleagues focused on the life cycle of the Gracilaria gracilis algae. The red seaweed can be either male or female during its life cycle, they explained.
Generally, water currents deliver spermatia – the algae’s version of sperm – to nearby a female’s reproductive organs, which would then create a bulb-shaped structure called a cystocarp.
But Valero’s team found that the Idotea balthica crustacean can boost this fertilization: In their experiments, they placed 20 creatures into an aquarium containing one male and one female seaweed. They also used tanks without crustaceans as a control experiment.
By measuring the number of cystocarps that developed on female seaweed, researchers observed that there were 20 times more fertilization events in the presence of the tiny crustaceans than in their absence.
They noted that spermatia attached to the legs and abdomen of the Idotea balthica and spread around as the marine animal moved from male to female seaweed.
While this is not the first instance of ‘sea bees,’ Valero suggested that animal-assisted pollination could have first started in the sea, rather than on land, as believed.
COVID-19 Global Update
Total Cases Worldwide: 584,591,121 (+1.25%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,418,041 (+0.28%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 12,006,857,963 (+0.35%)
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*
- US: 92,112,922 (+0.87%)
- India: 44,145,709 (+0.25%)
- France: 34,237,067 (+0.71%)
- Brazil: 34,018,371 (+0.55%)
- Germany: 31,228,322 (+1.21%)
- UK: 23,582,003 (+0.28%)
- Italy: 21,313,427 (+1.30%)
- South Korea: 20,544,420 (+3.65%)
- Russia: 18,440,314 (+0.60%)
- Turkey: 16,295,817 (+2.56%)
*Numbers change over seven days