The World Today for September 01, 2022

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Choosing Forgiveness


Indonesian officials are considering granting early release to Hisyam bin Alizein, also known as Umar Patek, the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group that killed 202 people in a bombing at a tourist spot in Bali in 2002.

The officials felt that the murderer has been rehabilitated and could serve as an example to other would-be terrorists of the folly of their ways. Bin Alizein has served two-thirds of his 20-year prison term. He has participated in a flag ceremony that suggests he has converted to a more moderate form of Islam and sworn allegiance to the Indonesian state, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“In terms of his participation in the deradicalization program, he has been loyal to the Republic of Indonesia for a long time,” Indonesia’s Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly told the Associated Press.

Eighty-eight Australian citizens were among those killed. Australian officials quickly registered their displeasure at the thought of bin Alizein walking free. The terrorist was on the run from authorities for nine years as investigators searched for him to claim a $1 million reward, Sky News explained. He was eventually captured in January 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the same town where US forces would kill Osama bin Laden four months later.

Survivors described the psychological anguish they were experiencing at the thought of his release, added Agence France-Presse.

The background to these developments suggests that Indonesian officials should think long and hard about setting the bombmaker free. Islamic militantism is rife in the Southeast Asian country, the largest Muslim country in the world, analysts say. A few months ago, for example, Reuters wrote, Indonesian security forces arrested dozens of extremists who had pledged loyalty to Islamic State via an instant messaging service.

In East Nusa Tenggara, the southernmost province in the sprawling archipelago nation and where Christianity is the majority religion, lawmakers have alerted the central government of the threat posed by the Khilafatul Muslimin terrorist group, which wants to impose an Islamic caliphate on Indonesians, reported Union of Catholic Asia News.

But, as San Diego State University political science professor Ahmet Kuru noted, Indonesia is also home to groups like the Nahdlatul Ulama, an Islamic organization founded in 1926 to counter the rigid Saudi interpretation of Islam. It has 90 million followers.

Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) is also launching a new effort to promote “Pancasila,” the foundational philosophy of Indonesia that calls for tolerance, justice, democracy and other progressive notions, according to Antara News, the state-run Indonesian news agency.

Time will tell if Pancasila can melt the hearts of those who choose hate.


Legacy’s End


World leaders gave their final farewells to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union whose reformist national and international policies helped end the Cold War but also resulted in the collapse of the USSR, CBS News reported Wednesday.

Russian media said the former leader passed away at the age of 91 after suffering an unspecified “long and grave illness.”

Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and introduced a series of reforms that provided more openness to the repressive Communist regime in an effort to restructure the country’s society and ailing economy, the New York Times added. But these changes resulted in a chain of events that eventually led to the fall of the Soviet Union.

He is fondly remembered in the West for signing a series of agreements with the US that eliminated for the first time an entire class of nuclear weapons, and began the withdrawal of most Soviet tactical nuclear weapons from Eastern Europe.

To many in the West, Gorbachev has been hailed a hero: US President Joe Biden described him as “a man of remarkable vision,” while his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, called Gorbachev “a man of peace whose choices opened the way to freedom for Russians.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the last Soviet leader played “a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain.”

“It opened the way for a free Europe. This legacy is one we will not forget,” she added.

But at home, his legacy is one mixed with praise and condemnation because of the USSR’s fall: Many Russians – including President Vladimir Putin – have lamented the end of not only the Soviet Union’s existence, but its position as a global superpower.

Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Still, the Russian leader offered his “deepest condolences,” noting that Gorbachev “had a huge impact on the course of world history.”

“I will especially note the great humanitarian, charitable, and educational activities that Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev has been conducting in recent years,” he said in a message shared on the Telegram social media app.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials offered a more neutral response to Gorbachev’s death, whose legacy is seen as a cautionary tale for China’s ruling Communist party, CNN noted.

For an entire generation of Chinese leaders, Gorbachev has come to symbolize the dangers of embracing democratic reforms, with officials long predicting that Communist-ruled China would suffer a fate similar to that of its former ideological cousin, the USSR, if internal politics are not reined in.

Gorbachev’s death comes six months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that declared independence shortly after the dissolution of the USSR.

While he made no public statements on the invasion, his foundation called for a “speedy cessation of hostilities.”

But radio journalist Aleksei A. Venediktov, a friend of the late leader, said in an interview that Gorbachev was “upset” about the war, viewing it as having undermined “his life’s work.”

An Inevitable Waterworld


Greenland’s widespread ice loss will add 10 inches to global sea levels, according to a new study, a rise that can’t be stopped even if fossil-fuel burning came to an immediate end, CNN reported.

Researchers from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland observed the changes in ice-sheet volume in and around Greenland and concluded that meltwater runoff is the primary cause.

This ice, also known as zombie ice, is still attached to thicker areas of Greenland sheet ice but is no longer fed by larger glaciers. Warm air temperatures rapidly contribute to this runoff along with warmer ocean waters eroding the edges of the sheet ice.

Scientists predict that about 3.3 percent of Greenland’s sheet ice – equivalent to 110 trillion tons of ice – will certainly melt. Past studies warned that the accelerating trends in climate change will result in more intense, frequent and extreme melting events if no action is taken.

While there is no specific timeline, scientists from the Survey estimate it will likely occur between now and the end of the century, the Guardian added.

The findings follow another report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which found that US coasts could expect 10 to 12 inches of sea level rise in the next 30 years.

Northern Greenland’s temperature was recently marked at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 degrees warmer than usual around this time of the year. Between July 15 and 17, Greenland added six billion tons of water per day to sea levels.

The Danish territory has enough ice that if it all melted it would increase sea levels by nearly 25 feet globally. Scientists, however, warned that this change in level is not equal, with some areas experiencing a fall in sea levels.

Billions of people live in coastal regions, which makes flooding due to rising sea levels one of the greatest long-term impacts of the climate crisis.

Row of Dominoes


A Caribbean regional court struck down a colonial-era law that prohibited gay sex in St. Kitts and Nevis, the latest ruling against such legislation that continues to exist in the region, the Associated Press reported.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court said the 1873 law was unconstitutional, noting that it violated “the claimants’ right to determine the way they, as individuals, choose to express their sexuality in private with another consenting adult.”

The case began after the nonprofit St. Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality and a local gay man sued the country’s attorney general, saying that the right to liberty entitles people to choose their intimate partner and have consensual sex with whomever and however they want.

The twin islands’ government, however, countered that freedom of expression did not apply to sexual orientation and that moral standards are the foundation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The court dismissed those arguments, saying that “public morality is not synonymous with religious dogma or public opinion.”

Although the law was rarely invoked, it was amended in 2012 to raise the maximum penalty for indecent assault against men from four to 10 years, including the possibility of hard labor.

LGBTQ activists applauded the recent verdict, adding that homosexual people on the twin-island nation have tended to forego medical care for fear of being fired, beaten, prosecuted, or vilified by healthcare providers and the government.

Previously, courts in Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua and Barbuda ruled that such laws were unconstitutional. Other cases are pending in Barbados and St. Lucia.


  • The European Union has struck a political agreement to suspend a visa facilitation arrangement with Russia, making it more difficult and expensive for Russian tourists to obtain visas, but the action falls far short of the blanket ban demanded by some politicians, the Washington Post wrote.
  • Russian energy giant Gazprom interrupted the delivery of natural gas to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Euronews reported. The corporation claims that the stoppage, which will remain until Saturday, is necessary for maintenance. But Western countries assert that Russia is weaponizing its gas supplies amid the Ukraine war.
  • Ukrainian forces have had “successes” in three areas of the Russian-occupied region of Kherson, the Guardian noted. Ukrainian soldiers had advanced in the districts of Kherson, Beryslav, and Kakhovka, according to Yuriy Sobolevskyi, the regional council’s deputy head. Sobolevskyi did not provide any details about the successes, but his remarks came as Russia’s defense ministry otherwise claimed that Ukraine’s efforts to stage a counter-offensive in the country’s south had failed.


Biting Off More

Chewing food played an important role in human evolution, according to a new study.

Scientists recently tested how much energy humans spend masticating on food compared with our closest primate species, the New York Times reported.

Humans spend more than half an hour chewing every day, but chimpanzees and orangutans chew food for about 4.5 and 6.6 hours per day, respectively.

In their experiments, researchers outfitted participants with plastic hoods connected to tubes that measure oxygen and carbon dioxide from breathing. They explained that the gas exchange created by the metabolic process – where oxygen is used and CO2 is produced – was used to measure the energy output from chewing,

The team then gave volunteers two types of chewing gum – hard and soft – and asked them to chew them for 15 minutes each.

Their findings showed that the softer gum increased the individuals’ metabolic rates by roughly 10 percent compared with while they were resting. However, the harder gum resulted in a 15 percent rise.

The researchers noted that munching tougher food takes a lot of energy and the results highlight that the metabolic costs of chewing may have played an important role in human evolution.

Cooking, mashing food with tools, and cultivating crops that are suited for consumption may have reduced the evolutionary pressure for humans to be super-chewers, the authors said.

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