The World Today for September 09, 2022
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If You Can’t Beat Them…
A local politician in Sweden, Saida Hussein Moge, recently quit the ruling Social Democratic party after Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she didn’t want Chinatowns, Somalitowns or Little Italys in the Nordic country. Moge is ethnically Somali.
“The Social Democrats no longer stand for the values and principles that I believe in,” Moge wrote on Facebook, according to the Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-owned news outlet. “The Social Democrats are (moving) further (away) from their roots and are increasingly approaching right-wing politics, while they have become a more xenophobic party.”
The scandal erupted less than two weeks before Swedish voters are slated to go to the polls on Sept. 11 to elect a new parliament.
Moge wasn’t necessarily imagining things. A new political landscape has taken hold in Sweden, explained Voice of America. After years of accepting migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere since 2015 – without background checks – Swedes are wondering if they should stop being so welcoming. The result has been increased polarization as the left and the right square off before the vote.
The leader of the Swedish Democrats, Jimmie Akesson, who admits that his political party’s roots are in neo-Nazism, is happy with the changing political landscape, the Associated Press reported. Akesson and his allies want to change society. Using immigration as a wedge issue has done the job, he said.
A decade ago, a major party wouldn’t have dreamed of partnering with the Swedish Democrats. But the opposition Liberal and the Moderate parties are likely to form a coalition with them if they would sweep Andersson and the Social Democrats out of power.
The far-right says that immigration has strained Swedish society. Shootings and murders have risen in the country, with a noted prevalence in poor, immigrant neighborhoods, Reuters wrote. Out of 22 European countries, Sweden has had the second-most gun deaths per capita in the last four years compared with 20 years ago, when it was among those countries suffering the least amount of gun violence.
Polls indicate that, while the Social Democrats will win the largest share of the vote, a coalition of rivals could unseat them if they managed to win as expected and put aside their differences.
Social Democrats hope the personal popularity of Andersson, the country’s first female prime minister, will win the day, the Financial Times reported. Late last year, Andersson became prime minister, then resigned when she couldn’t assemble sufficient votes for her budget, and then became prime minister seven hours later after another vote, the BBC wrote.
Moge doesn’t like Andersson’s new tactics. She won’t like the alternative much better.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Long Live the King
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away Thursday, in what has been described as a watershed moment for many Britons, who have viewed her as a symbol of stability and continuity during her seven-decade reign, the New York Times reported.
Buckingham Palace announced the monarch died at the age of 96 at the Balmoral Castel in Scotland, where she had been residing in her last days as a result of her poor health.
Days before her death, she formally appointed former Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as the country’s new prime minister, following the resignation of her predecessor, Boris Johnson. In a break with tradition, the official appointment took place in Balmoral, instead of Buckingham Palace, as her health prevented her from traveling.
Elizabeth II was 25 years old when she ascended the throne in 1952 and presided over a declining British Empire that saw its former colonies become independent during the 20th century, as well as the United Kingdom splitting from the European Union.
She is fondly remembered by many British as a symbol of permanence and perseverance, amid royal scandals, contraction of the empire and constant changes around the world, according to the Washington Post.
British leaders offered their condolences to the queen, with Johnson calling it the “country’s saddest day.” His successor, Truss, described the queen as a “personal inspiration to me and to many Britons.”
“Through thick and thin, Queen Elizabeth II provided us with the stability and the strength that we needed,” she added.
For ordinary Brits, her death was quite a shock and somber moment.
“She’s a bit of England that will never be replaced,” Mike Rowe, who heard about the queen’s death at a pub, told the New York Times.
Tributes also poured from other world leaders, including current and former US presidents. President Joe Biden mourned her loss and regarded the monarch as “a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons,” CNBC noted.
Queen Elizabeth II will be succeeded by her son Prince Charles, who will now be officially known as King Charles III.
Observers remarked that the queen’s death could provoke a reckoning with the identity and future of Britain. Others questioned whether members of the Commonwealth of Nations will continue to recognize the British monarch as their head of state.
The Imitation Game
Solomon Islands lawmakers passed a bill Thursday to delay the next year’s elections, a move that the opposition called a “power grab” by pro-China Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Al Jazeera reported.
The new bill changes the constitution to allow the next general elections to be delayed until 2024. The prime minister said the bill was rushed through the legislature to avoid protests.
Sogavare explained that logistical issues made the delay necessary, noting that the Solomon Islands could not successfully host both the May 2023 elections and the November 2023 regional Pacific Games – for which China is building seven venues and stadiums.
But many opposition politicians countered that the delay was “morally wrong” and questioned the prime minister’s justification for seeking to postpone the vote. Sogavare rejected allegations that changing the constitution was a breach of democratic principles.
The recent controversy comes amid concerns over Sogavare’s close relationship with China and his efforts to steer the Pacific nation away from traditional allies, including Australia and the United States.
In April, the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with China that will allow Beijing to deploy Chinese police to restore social order and protect Chinese infrastructure projects in the country. The pact came following riots last year which saw Chinese shops and businesses in the capital burned down by protesters angry with Sogavare’s government.
The riot and the resulting agreement have put the country at the center of an intensifying geopolitical tug of war between China, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
On Tuesday, Australia offered to fund the Pacific country’s elections to allow it to take place on time but Sogavare initially rejected the proposal as “foreign interference.”
He later told lawmakers that he would accept Canberra’s offer after parliament passed the bill to delay elections.
Analysts suggested that Sogavare is trying to “string out his reign” and is looking for justifications for why he would be a better president than a candidate from the opposition.
Rules of Engagement
Israel rejected calls to review the army’s rules of engagement in the West Bank as part of taking accountability for the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the territory, Axios reported.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has come under intense scrutiny in recent months over the death of Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera reporter who was shot dead in May while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
The armed forces initially suggested that it was not able to establish the source of the gunshot that killed Abu Akleh, saying that it could have been fired by Palestinian militants, Agence France-Presse noted.
But on Monday, Israel published an investigation into the journalist’s killing, which determined that Abu Akleh was most likely killed by “unintentional fire” from an Israeli soldier who did not realize she was a journalist.
IDF officials maintained that there was no violation of the rules of engagement and no issues in the briefing the soldiers received before the Jenin raid.
Still, the United States called on Israel to review its guidelines, prompting swift criticism from Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Lapid expressed “sorrow” about Abu Akleh’s killing but stressed that “no one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, when we are the ones fighting for our lives.” He also rejected calls to prosecute the soldier that potentially shot dead the journalist.
Al Jazeera criticized the results of the investigation and called for a probe by an “independent international body.”
Previously, a United Nations probe found that there was “no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by” when Abu Akleh was shot as Israel had initially claimed.
This week, a Ukrainian counteroffensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv appeared to be proving difficult for Russian forces to contain on Thursday, amid reports that Kyiv’s forces had advanced more than 30 miles in a breakthrough involving tanks and artillery, the Moscow Times reported.
Ukrainian military officials added that Ukraine had retaken about 700 square kilometers of territory in both the east and south of the country. Analysts explained that if the claims are confirmed, the Ukrainian advance towards Kharkiv would be the swiftest and most successful onslaught by either side in the previous six months of fighting.
Meanwhile, on the political front, Russia’s ruling party suggested holding referendums on Nov. 4 to annex territory seized by Russian forces in Ukraine, according to Agence France-Presse. The United Russia party said on its website that “Donetsk, Lugansk and many other Russian cities will finally return to their home port,” adding that “the Russian world …will regain its integrity.” Earlier in the week, the Russia-appointed administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region said a September referendum on joining Russia has been “paused” due to the security situation, Al Jazeera added.
Also this week:
- According to recently declassified US intelligence, Russia is purchasing millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea, a hint that international sanctions have severely constrained its supply chains and driven Moscow to turn to pariah states for military supplies, the New York Times wrote. Meanwhile, a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air think tank found that Russia sent more oil and coal to China and India over the summer, while European countries that long relied on Russian energy have cut back sharply in response to the war in Ukraine, the Associated Press noted.
- Russian public support for the war against Ukraine, while remaining high, is less solid than statistics normally show, and has dropped in recent months, with some supporters indicating they are indifferent, concerned, startled, or scared about the ongoing military operation, according to a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, the Washington Post reported.
- Poland and the Baltic states will temporarily limit entry to Russian citizens with EU visas beginning Sept. 19 at the latest, AFP added. The prime ministers of the four countries warned “about the substantial and growing influx of Russian citizens” into the European Union.
A Spoonful of Sugar…
A new study found that artificial sweeteners are not as harmless as originally believed, Cosmos Magazine reported.
Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, sucralose and stevia, contain chemicals that provide no energy or nutritional benefit. Their non-nutritive features allow them to be used in various products – such as low-fat ice cream and Diet Coke – instead of glucose, which is a common dietary sugar.
But scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science discovered that these sweeteners can alter a person’s microbiome and glycemic responses – described as the effect that food has on blood glucose levels after consumption.
In their experiments, researchers gave a group of 120 participants low doses of these sweeteners and closely monitored their physiological responses. A control group, meanwhile, received glucose or no supplement.
The findings showed that the sweeteners changed the microbiomes in the stool and the mouth, as well as the blood sugar levels. The team also noted that sweeteners saccharin and sucralose also impaired glycemic responses.
“This seemed to suggest that gut microbes in the human body are rather responsive to each of these sweeteners,” said lead author Eran Elinav.
Elinav noted that he had previously observed similar glycemic changes in mice. He added that responses to artificial sweeteners can differ from person to person but the study underscores that they are not the best alternative.
“In the meantime, we need to continue searching for solutions to our sweet tooth craving, while avoiding sugar, which is clearly most harmful to our metabolic health,” he concluded.