The World Today for December 12, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

The Invisible Victims

UKRAINE/ RUSSIA

Earlier this year, doctors in Kherson, Ukraine immediately took action when they heard that Russians were invading their city. They quickly began making fake documents for orphans that claimed the children were too sick to move.

“We deliberately wrote false information that the children were sick and could not be transported,” said Dr. Olga Pilyarska in an interview with the Associated Press. “We were scared that (the Russians) would find out … (but) we decided that we would save the children at any cost.”

Pilyarska’s quick thinking prevented Russian troops from seizing Ukrainian children and sending them to live with Russian families – one of the worst atrocities to come to light since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of the former Soviet republic earlier this year. More than 1,000 children in Kherson were taken away while Russia occupied the city for eight months until its liberation in mid-November. More than 13,000 in total have been kidnapped, according to the Ukrainian government.

Sometimes Russian troops convinced parents to relinquish their children with the enticement of free summer camps in Russia where children would be safe from the fighting, wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. But the children never return, and the Russian government has not been receptive to parents who have been trying to bring them back home.

Some of the kids were remanded to a “military-patriotic” training camp in Chechnya, a country led by Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov. As Radio Free Europe wrote, Russian officials designated these Ukrainian children as “socially troubled” and in need of “re-education.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations recently accused Russia of committing numerous war crimes in Ukraine, including, stunningly, the summary execution of children, reported El Pais. Human rights advocates explained to ABC News that removing children from an enemy’s territory in this manner is a clear indication of Russia’s “genocidal intent” in Ukraine. Like rape, taking kids is a classic ethnic cleansing maneuver to destroy families and thus the basic building block of a nation’s sense of identity, added Forbes.

Bloomberg Opinion columnist Andreas Kluth called these abducted and missing Ukrainian children the war’s “invisible victims.” He wondered if they would ever be reunited with their families, even after the war ends. Investigators can find mass graves and see the damage that bombs and bullets have wrought. But parents won’t find closure until they have their children back.

Nobody should expect the Ukrainians to back down.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

High Prices, Low Faith

BANGLADESH

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka over the weekend to protest soaring prices while demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign, CNN reported.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) organized Saturday’s protest, saying that the prime minister had failed to address rising fuel prices and costs of living.

The weekend demonstrations are part of a series of protests seen over the past week. The government responded by arresting BNP members and two of the party’s top leaders. The opposition party told Al Jazeera that at least 2,000 BNP activists and leaders had been arrested ahead of Saturday’s demonstrations.

Earlier in the week, at least one man died during clashes between protesters and police in Dhaka. Authorities, meanwhile, have blamed the BNP for “creating chaos.”

Human rights organizations, on the other hand, have condemned the government’s harsh response to the protests.

Bangladesh has seen skyrocketing prices, resulting in the devaluing of the currency and declining orders for products from Western nations, which has caused the country’s forex reserves to drop to $26.3 billion, down from $45.5 billion just a year earlier.

Hasina’s ruling Awami League, in power since 2009, has also come under criticism for its heavy-handed approach against political dissent. The prime minister has also had two national elections marred by opposition boycotts and electoral irregularities under her watch.

The Bangladesh Election Commission has not set an exact date for the next general election, which by law must happen by the end of 2023.

Safe Spaces

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK is planning a bill to criminalize sexual harassment in public, which would make certain offenses such as catcalling punishable by law, the Washington Post reported.

The Conservative government said it would back a bill to introduce harsher penalties for individuals who harass an individual in public because of the victim’s gender. This would ban various acts, such as walking behind someone as they head home at night or making obscene or aggressive comments or gestures toward an individual.

The maximum penalty is set to increase from six months to two years for those convicted.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the draft law is aimed at making women feel safer walking on the streets.

The proposed changes follow the gruesome murder last year of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer in London. Couzens kidnapped, raped and strangled the 33-year-old woman after circling the capital in a rental car to “hunt” for a lone woman.

The death damaged public trust in police and focused attention on the dangers that women confront when they are alone in public places. According to the opinion pollsters YouGov, 62 percent of Brits believe police do not treat sexual harassment seriously enough.

Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium, France, and Portugal have already made verbal or public sexual harassment a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Getting Younger

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea will change its age-counting system next year, putting an end to the traditional system in which a person is older by a year or two, NPR reported.

Parliament passed a set of bills this week that will require the use of the international age-counting system, where a person’s age is based on their birth date.

The country currently uses three systems: The international one, the “counting age” and the traditional “Korean age.”

The “counting” system calculates a person’s age from zero at birth and adds a year on Jan. 1. This method is primarily used to calculate when an individual is legally allowed to drink and smoke, according to the BBC.

But in the “Korean Age,” a person is one-year-old the day they are born and gains one year on each New Year’s Day.

The new system will take effect in June 2023, so if a baby is born before then, the “Korean age” system may apply.

While most South Koreans use the traditional system, many have expressed support for the international system. Many politicians have also criticized the traditional system, including President Yoon Suk Yeol, who said the age-counting systems created “unnecessary social and economic costs.”

Most East Asian countries have abandoned the traditional age-counting system, but countries other than South Korea have also yet to do so.

In China, for example, where the nominal age-counting system is used, a person is regarded as one-year-old on the day they are born and gains a year on the Lunar New Year.

DISCOVERIES

True Vocal Artists

Humans – and most mammals – can reach from three to four octaves when singing. Singers Mariah Carey and the late Prince could reach five octaves or more to hit those high notes.

Bats, meanwhile, can go higher, says a new study.

Bats are able to produce ultrasonic chirps to echolocate flying insects in the dark, chirps that can reach up to seven octaves or 120 kilohertz.

Still, because of their unique vocal range, scientists recently found that the flying mammals can produce “death metal growls,” too, when communicating with each other, the Guardian reported.

A research team sought to understand how the animals produce these high-frequency sounds by taking high-speed videos of their vocal cords. But their findings also showed that bats used thick structures in the larynx called ventricular folds to produce very low frequencies, which ranged from one to five kilohertz.

“The only use in humans for these vocal folds is during death metal singing and Tuvan throat singing,” said lead author Coen Elemans. “The oscillations become very irregular, they become very rough, and that’s what you get with death metal grunting.”

Elemans explained that his team has yet to determine why the creepy creatures produce these sounds, but noted that bats made them while expressing annoyance or flying away from the colony.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 649,159,003 (+0.60%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,653,005 (+0.18%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,076,667,952 (+0.17%)

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

1. US: 99,413,504  (+0.44%)
2. India: 44,676,045  (+2.69%)
3. France: 38,598,292  (+1.11%)
4. Germany: 36,755,666  (+0.54%)
5. Brazil: 35,531,716  (+0.55%)
6. South Korea: 27,754,149  (+1.54%)
7. Japan: 26,091,965  (+3.36%)
8. Italy: 24,709,404  (+0.90%)
9. UK: 24,281,498  (-2.11%)**
10. Russia: 21,358,235  (+0.22%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over seven days
**Numbers have been adjusted per affected country

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