The World Today for August 29, 2022
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The Little Country That Could
Latvian authorities began dismantling a 262-foot-tall Soviet-era monument that commemorates the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. As Bloomberg reported, the move came after Russia launched a massive cyberattack against Estonia for taking down a similar monument for similar reasons – a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.
The move in the Latvian capital, Riga, was just one example of how the former Soviet republic is perhaps the best example of Russophobia in the world.
Latvian officials recently declared Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, Agence France-Presse wrote, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, another former Soviet republic, is tantamount to genocide. The small Baltic country is even considering banning the Russian language in workplaces, Newsweek added. It also might institute a military draft in order to beef up its defenses in case of a Russian attack.
Russian hackers have launched cyberattacks on Latvia in response, wrote the Record, a publication of Recorded Future, a US-based private cybersecurity company.
Latvia’s history and geography make a total escape from Russian influence almost impossible. As the BBC explained, around one-third of just under two million Latvians speak Russian. Many absorb Russian state-controlled media that presents pro-Kremlin perspectives on world events. Only 40 percent of Russian speakers in Latvia supported Ukraine in June, for example.
The decision to destroy the World War II victory monument struck Latvians of ethnic Russian descent as a repudiation of a positive shared history throughout the former Soviet Union.
“This is silly. It’s such a stupid decision,” said Svetlana, a Russian-speaking resident of Riga who spoke to National Public Radio – but withheld her last name out of fear of reprisal. “Each year, I’d come here with flowers and a portrait of my grandfather, who fought in the Soviet army and was wounded. It’s very sad to see what’s happening to it now.”
Latvia has banned Russian propaganda-peddling media outlets in the country, and even hosted anti-Kremlin newscasts in a bid to influence Russians’ opinions about Putin, the Foreign Policy Research Institute noted.
Putin is hitting back. The Russian gas company Gazprom has cut off natural gas supplies to Latvia, though the latter said that the move would have little effect, as they already ended gas imports from their neighbor starting from next January, Al Jazeera reported. Latvia is now securing alternative sources, added the Lithuanian Information Agency.
Latvia might be small but sometimes little countries punch above their weight.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
United Nations member countries failed to reach a global agreement to protect the world’s oceans and marine life in what would have been a landmark deal to address growing environmental and economic challenges, Agence France-Presse reported.
Since Aug. 15, nations have been negotiating a legally binding treaty that would tackle a number of issues hitting international waters – also known as the “high seas.”
International waters begin at the border of a country’s exclusive economic zone – which do not go beyond 200 nautical miles (or just over 230 miles) from its coast – and are under no state jurisdiction.
They make up approximately two-thirds of the world’s oceans.
The treaty failed because countries failed to agree on a number of items, including potential profit-sharing from the development of genetic resources in international waters, where pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic companies hope to find miracle drugs, products or cures.
A key issue was the creation of marine protected areas, which would limit the amount of fishing allowed, shipping lanes, and exploration activities such as deep-sea mining, the BBC explained.
Currently, slightly more than one percent of international waters are protected but many nations hope to cover 30 percent of the Earth’s oceans by 2030.
Environmental groups and advocates said the outcome of the session was a “missed opportunity,” warning that further delays could destroy the ocean.
Fixing the Frays
Algeria and France signed a series of agreements on energy and security over the weekend, following a three-day visit by French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at mending strained relations with the North African country, Al Jazeera reported.
Macron’s visit came amid ongoing disputes with France’s former colony, including issues related to migration and the legacy of colonial crimes. Algeria, the largest country in Africa by area, is the continent’s largest gas exporter and is already an important energy supplier to Europe, which is also seeking to further replace Russian energy imports. It is also an influential military player in North Africa and has long been a Western partner in the fight against terrorism.
The two nations agreed to cooperate on gas and hydrogen development, as well as medical research. One of the key points of the agreements is the establishment of a joint commission to examine archives from the 130 years of French rule over Algeria, which recently marked its 60th anniversary of independence.
This commission would investigate the fallout of French nuclear tests in the Sahara Desert, and try to resolve questions about the remains of slain Algerian resistance fighters and other issues that still linger since Algeria’s eight-year war for independence more than six decades ago.
Macron also vowed that France would become more flexible in issuing visas to Algerians after the issue sparked a major diplomatic crisis last year, the Associated Press noted.
The French leader has made efforts to acknowledge France’s past transgressions while shifting to a new era of relations with former colonial territories.
In recent years, he has acknowledged that French colonial forces used torture in Algeria. Last year, he commemorated the victims of a bloody police crackdown on pro-independence protesters in Paris in 1961.
While Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hailed Macron’s visit and his efforts in rapprochement, many analysts in Algeria said the French leader stopped short of issuing an official apology for France’s colonial-era wrongdoing.
Mohand Arezki Ferrad of the Institute of History of Algiers told the Associated Press that the new commission is “a clever maneuver to clear (Macron) of the obligation to ask forgiveness from Algeria for what he himself called crimes against humanity.”
Dozens of South Korean adoptees who were sent to Danish parents in the 1970s and 1980s demanded the South Korean government investigate their adoptions, saying their adoptions were part of shady practices that falsified or obscured their origins, the Associated Press reported.
The case is related to 53 adoptees among some 9,000 received by Denmark from the 1960s to the late 1980s when South Korea was ruled by consecutive military governments.
The adoptees are demanding an official investigation on how scores of children were taken from their South Korean families amid loose government oversight.
Specifically, the probe would also target predatory profit-driven adoption agencies: These agencies registered many abandoned South Korean children as legal orphans, although they frequently had relatives who could have been easily identified and found.
The agencies aggressively sought infants and young children from hospitals and orphanages, frequently in exchange for monetary compensation. They also ran maternity homes where unmarried mothers were forced to give up their children.
South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has four months to decide whether to accept the request. If the commission accepts, it could trigger the most far-reaching inquiry into foreign adoptions in South Korea and be used by adoptees in possible lawsuits against the agencies or the government.
About 200,000 South Koreans were adopted abroad during the past 60 years, mainly to White parents in the US and Europe.
Many board members of the adoption agencies were close to South Korea’s military leaders, who saw adoption as a tool to lower the number of mouths to feed and remove socially undesirable individuals, including children from unmarried mothers.
- Russia has obstructed the adoption of a joint declaration by a United Nations nuclear disarmament conference, the BBC reported. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is reviewed every five years by its 191 signatories, attempts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Russia objected to language in a draft that expressed “grave concern” about military activity near Ukraine’s nuclear plants, particularly in Zaporizhzhia.
- The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine is at risk of a radioactive leak due to Russian forces’ shelling, according to Ukraine’s official energy operator Energoatom, Politico noted. Russia has “repeatedly shelled” the complex, Europe’s largest nuclear station, in recent days, according to Energoatom. Meanwhile, UN atomic agency inspectors are set to undertake an emergency visit to the nuclear power facility early next week, following a breakthrough in negotiations over access, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced over the weekend a series of benefits that will be provided to specific individuals who travel to Russia from Ukraine, the Hill wrote. Disabled people, pregnant mothers, and the elderly who have relocated from Ukraine to Russia will receive financial assistance. The Russian government has already begun compensating people who migrate to the country from Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk areas, which Russia claims to be part of its nation.
When Space Screams
The slogan of the original “Alien” movie read, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
While sound cannot conventionally travel in space – unlike on Earth – there is a scary cacophony coming from a supermassive black hole located about 250 million light-years away from Earth, Newsweek reported.
NASA researchers recently released a 34-second video clip on Twitter containing an eerie sound emanating from the Perseus cluster of galaxies. The clip was originally posted in May but it gained more attention when it was reposted last week on the agency’s Twitter account for its exoplanet programs.
Many netizens were in awe of the peculiar sound but others pointed out that the celestial body sounded like “a billion souls being tortured,” according to Insider.
The agency explained that the black hole was first discovered in 2003 and has ever since been associated with sound.
“This is because astronomers discovered that pressure waves sent out by the black hole caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that could be translated into a note,” it wrote in the original May post.
NASA originally picked up data from the ripples using its Chandra X-ray Observatory but the actual sounds cannot be heard by the human ear.
To make them audible, they had to amplify the sounds 144 and 288 quadrillion times above their original frequency to get them from their true pitch to something that can be heard.
The results, however, were something akin to “cosmic horror,” as another Twitter user quipped.
COVID-19 Global Update
Total Cases Worldwide: 600,966,895 (+0.80%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,486,551 (+0.51%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 12,126,284,371 (+0.46%)
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*
- US: 94,190,979 (+0.59%)
- India: 44,415,723 (+0.15%)
- France: 34,662,834 (+0.37%)
- Brazil: 34,368,909 (+0.31%)
- Germany: 32,041,350 (+0.73%)
- UK: 23,708,629 (+0.14%)
- South Korea: 23,026,960 (+3.26%)
- Italy: 21,806,509 (+0.72%)
- Russia: 19,123,501 (+1.51%)
- Japan 18,531,986 (+7.82%)
Source: Johns Hopkins University
*Numbers change over seven days