The World Today for January 23, 2023

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The Celtic Conundrum

IRELAND

Three years after the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, officials in Brussels, London and Dublin still haven’t fixed the rules governing the border between Northern Ireland, a member of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland in the south.

Recently, both sides in negotiations over the Northern Irish border – Ireland is an EU member – agreed to keep discussing the topic, reported the Guardian. The announcement showed how Northern Ireland is one reason why some Irish might feel as if they are in limbo, a midpoint or waiting area between a future of unity some can imagine, including potentially a unified Ireland, and potential instability and decline as changing global conditions jeopardize the republic’s recent economic rise.

For skeptics who believe the chances of Northern Ireland joining the republic are zero, note that a 2019 poll found that a majority of Conservatives who supported Brexit also supported Northern Ireland leaving the UK. Pro-unification Sinn Féin, a political party with historic links to the Irish Republican Army, a militant organization, now is the largest party in the Northern Irish Assembly, too, added the Associated Press.

At the same time, as Irish and EU diplomats negotiate over Northern Ireland, Irish leaders are struggling to deal with the economic currents that globalism started, Brexit complicated, the coronavirus pandemic undermined and the Russian invasion of Ukraine outright harmed.

For now, Ireland is doing great. The Irish government recently announced that the West European country’s economy grew handsomely last year amid high inflation, according to the Irish Independent, because of record exports and rising household wealth that rivaled the increases seen during the emergence of the so-called Celtic Tiger in 2007.

But pessimists worry if Ireland can maintain this trajectory, however. “With record corporate tax returns swelling the state coffers, are we on a sustainable footing?” wrote RTE, the national public broadcaster. “Could a global recession put a pin in Ireland’s balloon?” Writing in the Irish Examiner, Dublin City University Business Professor Anthony Foley argued, for instance, that housing costs, labor shortages, the quality of public healthcare and other issues are worsening even as the Irish economy grows.

Deaths from Covid-19, additionally, are extremely high at present in Ireland, surpassing rates that occurred in late 2021, when Irish leaders were compelled to declare a six-month nationwide lockdown, the Times of London reported. Vaccination rates are high but some people still have yet to receive jabs.

Conditions have birthed an international irony. Millions of Irish families quit the country over the centuries to escape poverty. Today, 60 percent of young Irish citizens are considering emigrating due to high rents and other costs, the Irish Times noted.

Ireland was not better when violence raged in the North and poverty ruled in the South. But more money can also bring more problems.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Spring Cleaning

BRAZIL

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sacked the head of Brazil’s military Saturday over his alleged involvement in the Jan. 8 riots, when supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s main government buildings in the capital, the Washington Post reported.

The removal of General Júlio Cesar de Arruda comes as Brazil’s judicial authorities continue to investigate the alleged dereliction of duty and possible collusion with rioters by the military and security forces.

Arruda had initially refused an order by senior government officials to detain rioters and Bolsonaro supporters sheltering near army headquarters following the protests. The general later relented.

Another reason cited for Arruda’s dismissal was his refusal to fire Colonel Mauro Cid, a former senior Bolsonaro aide and the commander of an army battalion in the city of Goiânia.

Tensions between the military and Lula’s administration have increased following Jan. 8, which saw thousands of protesters storming the Three Powers Plaza – it hosts the Presidential Palace, the Supreme Court and Congress – over the results of the Oct. 30 presidential runoff.

Leftist Lula won against Bolsonaro, the conservative incumbent, by a thin margin. As a result, many of the former leader’s supporters rejected the results and urged the military to take over.

Analysts warned that Arruda’s removal could exacerbate the poor relationship between the leftist president and the security forces: Many Brazilians believe the military and police harbor sympathies for Bolsonaro.

At least 40 rank-and-file soldiers of the military who were involved in security at the Presidential Palace on Jan. 8 have already been fired or forced to retire by the administration.

Meanwhile, Brazilian authorities have launched a probe over Bolsonaro’s involvement in the riots. Bolsonaro – who is currently residing in Florida – has rejected any links to the rioters and condemned the violence.

Even so, the conservative leader never publicly conceded his loss and called the results unfair. He had previously questioned the legitimacy of Brazil’s electoral system amid allegations of fraud.

Game, Set, Match

INDIA

India’s Supreme Court judges backed the appointment of a gay lawyer to Delhi’s High Court, despite the government’s fierce objections over his candidacy and his activism in LGBTQ causes, Reuters reported.

Saurabh Kirpal had initially been recommended for a judicial appointment in 2017 and the country’s top court approved him in 2021. But last November, the Indian government sent back the proposal, saying it had concerns.

The Supreme Court said that the government had issues with Kirpal’s “ardent involvement and passionate attachment to the cause of gay rights,” saying it might influence the would-be judge’s decisions.

The government also had objections about Kirpal’s partner, a Swiss national.

The top court, however, rejected both objections, countering that the lawyer has “not been surreptitious about his orientation.” It also added that Kirpal’s Swiss partner was not “inimically disposed to our country, since the country of his origin is a friendly nation.”

The court urged the government to act immediately on the recommendation.

If elected, Kirpal would become India’s first openly gay judge, a significant milestone in India, observers say.

In 2018, the Supreme Court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex. Even so, members of the LGBTQ community have long complained about the lack of acceptance and discrimination in Indian society, which is considered socially conservative.

Meanwhile, senior government officials have recently said that they want greater influence in appointing justices, a demand that numerous attorneys and judges argue threatens the judiciary’s independence.

Andean Shakeup

PERU

Peruvian protesters and police clashed in the capital, Lima, and other cities over the weekend, the latest bout of unrest since mass demonstrations erupted in the South American nation following the ousting of President Pedro Castillo last month, Axios reported.

One historic building in Lima caught fire as riot police and protesters skirmished. Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the blaze.

Meanwhile, officials ordered the closure of the famous tourist site of Machu Picchu on Saturday in an effort “to protect the safety of tourists and the population in general,” according to the Associated Press.

Violence has gripped Peru for more than a month as thousands of demonstrators – many of them from the predominately Indigenous south – have been protesting Castillo’s removal.

Last month, Peruvian lawmakers removed Castillo after he attempted to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. Authorities later detained him and charged the leftist leader with inciting a rebellion.

Following Castillo’s ousting, Dina Boluarte – his vice president – was sworn in as the country’s leader.

But protesters have been demanding Boluarte’s resignation and called for new elections. They have also demanded the dissolution of Congress.

More than 55 people have been killed in the unrest, prompting louder calls for Boluarte to step down.

Observers noted that the protests highlight the country’s vast divide between the urban elite, who largely live in Lima, and Peruvians who live in impoverished rural areas.

DISCOVERIES

Young Altruists

Past studies have shown that toddlers are very helpful toward struggling people, even strangers, but questions remain about whether this altruism extends to other species.

It does, according to the Guardian.

A new research paper showed children as young as two would go out of their way to help dogs get toys or tasty treats, despite lacking any relationship with the animal.

In their experiments, a research team recruited 97 toddlers between the ages of 20 and 47 months and watched them interact with three child-friendly dogs. Separating them with a fence, the researchers dropped toys or snacks on the child’s side – just beyond the dog’s reach.

Afterward, the toddlers were twice as likely to give the items to the pups when the dogs showed interest, such as whimpering or pawing after the objects.

Meanwhile, when the dogs were interested in the objects, the children assisted in half of the situations, but only in a quarter of the cases when the pooches were not.

The results showed that toddlers not only understood the canines’ wishes but also helped them despite slim chances of the animals returning the favor, the team noted.

Lead author Rachna Reddy explained that the study is significant because it underscores how humans’ friendly behavior toward other species could have helped in animal domestication.

“Why we came to domesticate animals is a big mystery, and this is one piece of evidence that might help us to understand that mystery,” she said.

Covid-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 670,345,260 (+0.22%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,823,832 (+1.25%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,265,930,942 (+0.20%)

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

  1. US: 102,283,559 (+0.27%)
  2. India: 44,683,863 (+0.001%)
  3. France: 39,713,004 (+0.08%)
  4. Germany: 37,739,472 (+0.19%)
  5. Brazil: 36,794,261 (+0.21%)
  6. Japan: 32,486,503 (+1.31%)
  7. South Korea: 30,157,017 (+0.49%)
  8. Italy: 25,453,789 (+0.15%)
  9. UK: 24,507,298 (+0.06%)
  10. Russia: 21,629,273 (+0.20%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over seven days

Editor’s Note: According to the World Health Organization, the data reported by China underrepresent the number of people who have died from the virus in the country’s rapidly growing COVID-19 outbreak.

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