The World Today for December 06, 2022

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Royal Flush


The fifth season of the Netflix show, “The Crown,” depicts the British royal family in the 1990s, a “famously turbulent time” for the late Queen Elizabeth II and her family, wrote People magazine. Three out of four of Elizabeth’s children separated from their spouses in that decade. A fire broke out at Windsor Castle. In 1997, Princess Diana, the current king’s late wife, died in a car accident in Paris as paparazzi were tailing her.

Other royals around the world are not immune to high drama, either.

In Norway, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, who is fourth in the line of succession to the throne, gave up her royal status in order to marry Durek Verrett, who describes himself as a practitioner of shamanistic wellness. As the Washington Post reported, citing his website, he sells a device called a “spirit optimizer” for $222, charges $1,500 for counseling sessions, and has described cancer as a “choice.” Their engagement has stirred controversy in the Scandinavian country.

Royal love is also causing a scandal in Spain, where former King Juan Carlos I, who abdicated in 2014 due to corruption allegations, is battling his former mistress, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, over allegations that he spied on and harassed her after they broke up, the BBC explained. Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein recently said the king couldn’t stand to spend Christmas with his family and held a second celebration with friends.

Still, questions about scandals and the finances of royals have been rising over the years among Europeans, who for the sake of societal cohesion generally favor the retaining of their kings and queens. Recognizing that, some are making preemptive moves to downsize, the Washington Post added.

For example, recently in Denmark, 82-year-old Queen Margrethe II, now the longest-serving monarch in Europe, stripped the royal titles of four of her eight grandchildren, the New York Times reported, converting the three princes and one princess into mere counts and a countess. They will keep their places in the line of succession in case older relatives die. But now they will be involved in fewer public ceremonies, saving money and reducing the profile of elites who possess their wealth based solely on the accident of their births.

The queen, hugely popular among Danes, recently apologized for the move. But she stood her ground, recognizing a public uproar over the growing costs of supporting the family, saying, “It is my duty and my desire as queen to ensure that the monarchy always shapes itself in keeping with the times. Sometimes, this means that difficult decisions must be made.”

That followed a move by King Carl XVI Gustaf in neighboring Sweden, who removed five of his grandchildren from the official royal house, meaning they would no longer benefit from taxpayer funds, the BBC added.

Lest readers think European royals are the only ones to cause the raising of eyebrows, the king of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, is under investigation in Germany for conducting government business from the European country, where he formerly lived, and potentially paying too little in taxes, Deutsche Welle noted.

And critics at the Intercept are raising questions over why American officials want to grant immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who will succeed his father, the 86-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, in a court case related to the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in 2018.

There are reasons many favor a continuation of monarchy as a form of government, or at least some remnant of that. But others counter that the example that most royals present today belies the “divine right of kings” argument.


Reality Dawning


Confusion over whether Iran has disbanded its “morality police” has grown as state media said a widely-reported quote from the country’s attorney general that the force had been “abolished” was misunderstood.

Local media had reported that the country’s top lawyer Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had made the announcement Saturday during a religious conference, CBS News reported, news that was met with widespread skepticism by anti-government protesters and amid no further confirmation from the government. But state media outlets later claimed the attorney general had been “misunderstood”, the Associated Press reported.

Montazeri’s comment came as Iran continues to grapple with mass anti-government protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was arrested by the morality police on Sept. 16 for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Amini died three days later in police custody.

Her death sparked large women-led demonstrations against Iran’s hardline Islamist regime, with protesters burning their mandatory hijabs and shouting anti-government slogans. Later, the protests widened to include men with demonstrators demanding the resignation of top regime officials.

The government, in response, has violently cracked down on the protesters and has blamed the West for the upheaval. Officials say more than 300 people have died in the unrest but human rights groups say the death toll is much higher.

Iranian officials recently announced the death penalty for protesters if convicted. More than 1,000 people are expected to be put on trial.

Montazeri’s apparent comment came a day after he said that “both parliament and the judiciary are working” on whether the law requiring women to cover their heads should be modified.

But demonstrators and campaigners remain skeptical at any such moves. Observers noted that even the abolition of the morality police would not be enough to curb protesters’ demands, including fundamental changes to the leadership of the nation.

The Two-Step


Sudan’s coup leaders and the country’s main pro-democracy group signed a deal Monday to create a civilian-led transitional government following last year’s military takeover, as the African country continues to reel from economic woes and ongoing anti-junta protests, the Associated Press reported.

The agreement offers the broadest outline for how the country will resume its progression towards democracy, which initially began following mass protests that led to the ousting of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

At the time, a transitional government of civilian and military leaders was created to usher Sudan toward democracy after decades of dictatorship. But that progress stalled in October 2021, when the military ousted the civilian half, a move that prompted international condemnation and ongoing demonstrations against army leaders.

The new deal came after months of negotiations between the military and the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, which were mediated by the US, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Britain.

Under the new deal, Sudan’s military will eventually retreat from politics and form a new “security and defense council” under the appointed prime minister.

Meanwhile, some elements of the deal are vague, including how the armed forces will be reformed or when the new transitional government will be put in place.

While the mediating countries welcomed the agreement, many key Sudanese players – including former rebel leaders – are boycotting it.

Political analysts have also questioned whether the goals of the new deal are achievable.

Others noted that the agreement might help draw new international aid for Sudan after donor funds dried up in response to last year’s coup.

Meanwhile, Sudan has also seen a sharp rise of inter-tribal violence in the country’s west and south, which many observers have attributed to the power vacuum caused by the coup, as well as the ongoing political and economic crises.

A Little Stir


Protesters stormed a government building in a southern Syrian city this week in a rare anti-government demonstration over rising prices and economic hardships that have impacted the war-torn country, Al Jazeera reported.

On Sunday, more than 200 people rallied in front of the governor’s office in the city of Sweida, calling for the removal of President Bashar Assad amid economic difficulties.

At least two people died during the clashes, including one police officer. Government officials accused protesters of being “outlaws,” saying they ransacked the governor’s office and attempted to seize the city’s police headquarters, Reuters added.

Sunday’s unrest marked a rare occasion of anti-government dissent in Syria. The government quickly crushed pro-democracy protests that erupted across the country more than a decade ago. Those demonstrations quickly evolved into an ongoing civil war that has killed nearly half a million people and displaced about 50 percent of Syria’s population.

The war and sanctions against the Syrian government have pummeled the country’s economy and the value of the local currency. The United Nations estimates that around 90 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and more than 12 million don’t have enough to eat.

Although Sweida has generally been spared from the worst of the conflict, tensions between its residents and Assad’s government have been simmering over the past few years.

In February, hundreds of people protested in Sweida to demand better living conditions and democratic rule, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the time.


Off the Charts

Scientists discovered two new minerals never before seen on Earth inside a large meteorite, a finding that could hold important clues about how space rocks form, Live Science reported.

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada came across the minerals inside a single 2.5-ounce slice taken from the 16.5-ton El Ali meteorite which was found in 2020 in Somalia.

They were able to quickly identify the minerals as new by comparing them with similar synthetic versions that had previously been made in a lab.

The team explained that El Ali was a type of meteorite made from meteoric iron flecked with tiny chunks of silicates – known as an “Iron, IAB” complex meteorite.

The new findings were named elaliite – after the meteor – and elkinstantonite after Lindy Elkins-Tanton: She is the principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission, which plans to send a probe to investigate the mineral-rich Psyche asteroid for evidence of how our solar system’s planets formed.

Researchers are planning to also analyze the space chunks to determine the conditions under which the meteorite formed.

They are also looking for ways as to how the unique minerals could be used on Earth, USA Today noted.

“Whenever there’s a new material that’s known, material scientists are interested, too, because of the potential uses in a wide range of things in society,” Chris Herd, curator of the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection, said.

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