The World Today for August 22, 2022

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A Changing Country

UKRAINE

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Ukraine had 40 million people. Now it is 6.7 million short.

Those missing millions have crossed the border, to Poland, to Romania, to Hungary, to safety. But that is only part of the story: Inside of Ukraine, six to 10 million people have shifted, fleeing the bombs and the fighting and the desperation for quieter parts of the country.

As a result, east is becoming west, north is becoming south and everything in between is getting all mixed up.

Hundreds of thousands of people, for example, have fled the heavily industrialized deeply Russian-influenced south and east for Transcarpathia, an agricultural region in western Ukraine, which has remained relatively unscathed by the war – by bombs and fighting, at least.

But this region, known for its verdant hills, small villages, central European culture and the Hungarian minority, has seen its population balloon by more than a third, according to the Washington Post.

And along with people come their skills, their attitudes and also their businesses – 350 enterprises have relocated to the region since March. Some of these employees, especially from the east, are still adjusting to the silence and the singing of birds that replaced the daily sound of bombs.

One manufacturer, the newspaper wrote, became the first to recycle in the region. Locals are thrilled.

And before the war, the region had about 2,000 computer scientists. Now it has more than 30,000, with the region’s leadership discussing transforming the area into a new Silicon Valley.

Across the country, as Transcarpathia grows, Nova Kakhovka shrinks. People have been escaping the city even as others hold on.

The city, in southern Ukraine, was occupied by Russian troops almost six months ago. It’s run by Russian-backed separatists, it’s likely to be annexed by Russia, and it’s also being targeted by Ukraine in its new offensive to take back areas lost to Russia, Politico wrote.

Those who remain say they have already felt as if they have gone backward in time, pointing out a new statue of former Russian Communist leader Vladimir Lenin and the new Russian and Soviet flags in the city. The Russian currency is used here now, along with Russian SIM cards, Russian-hosted internet services and Russian passports. The Ukrainian curriculum is slated to be changed to a Russian one soon.

Town officials say it’s a relief to finally be able to embrace the local identity officially.

But some residents take issue with that sentiment. And they complain that Ukrainian goods have disappeared from stores only to be replaced with poor-quality Russian ones.

“They haven’t returned us to Russia like they like to say – they’ve sent us back to the USSR of 40 years ago,” a teacher in the city told Euractiv.

“We’re waiting for the Ukrainian army,” she added. “I don’t know how it’s going to happen and where we’ll hide and what we’ll lose, but we want to be in Ukraine.”

In the heavily industrialized east and south, especially in the Donbas region, many areas are now battered and empty – Donbas alone has lost half of its six million people since the invasion began in February, the New York Times wrote. This region has long been more Russian than Ukrainian in language and culture because of centuries of rule by the Russian empire and, later, the Soviet Union.

Now, as Russia continues to employ its “scorched earth” policy on this region it wants to annex, as Bloomberg wrote, some are rejecting their own culture, especially the Russky Mir (Russian World) concept – the pretext Russian President Vladimir Putin uses to invade Ukraine.

Svitlana Panova, an IT manager who fled Crimea to the eastern city of Kramatorsk after it was annexed by Russia in 2014 and then fled from there to Lviv in the west recently, said she is rejecting her native tongue, Russian, after losing her home – twice.

“Russia left me without my home, without my family,” she told NPR. “It’s hard for me to switch to Ukrainian but I will learn it for sure.”

One-third of Ukrainians speak Russian as their mother tongue. But classes that offer Ukrainian are filling up fast. One launched recently had 800 people sign up from all regions in the country in three days, the broadcaster noted, forcing it to close registration.

For many of these Ukrainian students, changing one’s mother tongue is about more than language or culture. It’s about rejecting a bully, about unity, about the nation itself, however it will look when people stop shifting, when missiles stop falling, and when all of this is over.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Sending a Message

SOMALIA

Somali forces ended a 30-hour siege of a popular hotel in the country’s capital, after Islamist militants stormed the building over the weekend in what has been described as the biggest assault since the new president took office in May, Al Jazeera reported Sunday.

Al-Shabab fighters unleashed a gun and bomb attack on the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu on Friday evening, killing 21 people and injuring 117 others.

Western governments and the United Nations condemned the siege.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes a few months after Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was sworn in. Mohamud’s government has made security its top priority and has stepped up efforts against the armed group.

The Islamist insurgents have been fighting the Somali government for more than a decade, seeking to topple it and establish their own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Analysts noted that the brazen assault underscored the group’s strength and the many challenges that the new president will face in fighting them, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the World Food Program, al-Shabab’s insurgency is worsening the impacts of a record-breaking drought, with roughly half of Somalia’s population now suffering from serious hunger. Aid agencies warned that almost a million Somalis have migrated to Mogadishu and other Somali cities this year in search of food and water.

A Breakthrough

MEXICO

Mexican authorities arrested the country’s former attorney general Friday over his alleged role in the mass kidnappings of 43 students in 2014, a major move by the government as it grapples to resolve one of the worst human rights scandals in recent decades, the Washington Post reported.

Officials detained Jesús Murillo Karam over the weekend, accusing him of torture and the forced disappearance of the students. Murillo Karam is the highest-ranking former official to be charged.

Hours after his detention, a Mexican court issued arrest warrants for more than 80 people allegedly involved in the 2014 disappearance, including military officials, police officers and judicial authorities, CNN noted.

The arrests follow eight years of slow-moving investigations and what investigators have described as a cover-up under the previous president, Enrique Pena Nieto.

The disappearances happened in September 2014 when the 43 students from the rural Ayotzinapa teachers’ college were traveling to the southern city of Iguala to go to a protest rally. Their buses were intercepted by police and federal military forces.

What transpired next is unknown because the majority of the missing students were never located. However, bullet-riddled buses with shattered glass and blood were later observed on the city’s streets.

Murillo Karam, who led the initial investigation, said in 2015 that the students were turned over to a criminal gang, who burnt their bodies at a dump in the adjacent city of Cocula.

But international investigators, forensic analysts, as well as a truth and justice commission established by the current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, disputed the narrative.

Earlier in the week, Mexico’s Undersecretary for Human Rights, Population and Migration Alejandro Encinas described the disappearances as a “crime of state” that involved security forces, civilian officials and a drug-dealing gang based in the Guerrero state.

The Ayotzinapa case drew international outrage and sparked large protests in Mexico. It brought attention to the rising crisis of the disappeared, the number of whom has now surpassed 100,000.

So far, the remains of three students have been identified, while the rest are believed to be dead. López Obrador pledged to solve the case when took office, but there have been no convictions so far.

Some analysts also questioned whether Mexico’s anemic justice system could successfully win convictions in the complex crime following the former attorney general’s arrest.

Friend or Foe?

JAPAN

Japanese authorities are warning beachgoers to beware of an angry dolphin that is responsible for attacking at least six swimmers at three beaches in western Japan over the past month, the Guardian reported.

Victim accounts from the attacks on three beaches in the Fukui Prefecture on the coast of the Sea of Japan since July have led experts to conclude that it is a single adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin responsible.

That dolphin was also spotted near the coast in April.

In one attack, the dolphin bit down on the arm of a 60-year-old man and attempted to force itself on top of him, pulling the man underwater. The man was saved when someone nearby drove the dolphin away.

After the first four attacks, officials installed an underwater device to emit ultrasonic waves to deter the mammals, and also instituted dolphin patrols by police. However, even after the device was installed, the dolphin attacked two more beachgoers.

Most of the attacks occurred within 30 feet from shore, a sign that dolphins are familiar with humans in shallow waters.

Dolphins have a reputation for being friendly, curious and sociable creatures. They occasionally nudge swimmers but attacks are rare. Still, many dolphins don’t like being touched on the nose or their dorsal fin.

One local café owner said dolphins had occasionally nudged swimmers. Now, he added, they are “lunging on top of them.”

Scientists suggest that wild bottlenose dolphins find swimming with humans stressful because it disrupts their behavioral routines, resulting in the attacks, BBC reported.

Similar attacks have occurred in other parts of the world. In April 2022, a 23-year-old dolphin in Miami Seaquarium, bred in captivity, attempted to drown his trainer. In Cancun, Mexico, two dolphins tried to drown a 10-year-old British girl during a ‘swimming with dolphins’ experience in 2019, by biting her and attempting to drag her underwater. She survived with cuts, bruises and bite marks.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • A fresh drone strike has targeted the Russian military in Crimea, the latest in a series of attacks this month against Russian personnel and equipment in the annexed peninsula, the BBC reported. On Saturday, a Ukrainian drone targeting Russia’s Black Sea navy was shot down in the city of Sevastopol, according to the Russian-appointed regional head.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to allow a team of independent inspectors to travel through Ukraine to the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor, Al Jazeera noted. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Moscow’s soldiers occupying the Zaporizhzhia plant in south Ukraine not to disconnect it from the grid, potentially cutting supplies to millions of Ukrainians. A resurgence of violence near the Zaporizhzhia facility, with both sides blaming each other for attacks, has heightened the prospect of a tragedy greater than Chernobyl.
  • A car bomb killed the daughter of Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin, an explosion that police officials are investigating as a murder, Fox News wrote. Daria Dugina is the daughter of Dugin, who is considered as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally and the strategist behind Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. Russian security analysts suggested that the bomb was aimed at her father, adding that “the most probable suspects are Ukrainian military intelligence and the Ukrainian Security Service,” according to the Associated Press.

DISCOVERIES

Changing Calls

If humans hadn’t lost a small tissue in their voice box millions of years ago, humanity would have lacked the ability to produce an Elvis Presley, a Whitney Houston or a Rob Halford, according to a new study on non-human primates and the evolution of human speech.

Researchers recently studied the voice box – scientifically known as the larynx – of 43 species of apes and monkeys, reported New Scientist. For their study, they used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans on dead or anesthetized animals in the first such large-scale study of primates.

They discovered that all the primates had a “vocal membrane,” a tiny extension of the throat’s vocal cords that gives them coarse, irregular and louder sounds.

The team said that when some of the anesthetized creatures would let out calls – while waking up or stimulated to do so – the primary source of their sounds would derive from vibration and collision of the vocal membranes, as their vocal cords were in motion less often.

Unlike their distant relatives, however, humans don’t possess these vocal extensions. Instead, our vocal cords – which are flaps of tissue in the throat – vibrate as air is expelled from the lungs, allowing us to make “voiced” sounds, as opposed to breathy ones.

The researchers suggested that humans lost these membranes and also experienced changes in the brain that allowed them to develop speech. If they still existed, humans would sound like an individual with laryngitis.

Still, some scientists pointed out that many apes and monkeys can produce quieter and more controlled noises, noting that the “alleged limiting effect (of vocal membranes) … seems exaggerated.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 596,175,371 (+0.99%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,453,758 (+0.28%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 12,070,588,086 (+0.36%)

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

  1. US: 93,641,944 (+0.77%)
  2.  India: 44,348,960 (+0.18%)
  3. France: 34,535,255 (+0.38%)
  4. Brazil: 34,264,237 (+0.34%)
  5. Germany: 31,808,228 (+0.87%)
  6. UK: 23,675,485 (+0.17%)
  7. South Korea: 22,299,377 (+4.11%)
  8. Italy: 21,650,468 (+0.70%)
  9. Russia: 18,839,232 (+1.25%)
  10. Japan 17,188,265 (+9.78%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over seven days

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