The World Today for March 06, 2023

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The Black Sheep and the Family


Hungarian objections to Finland and Sweden entering NATO might delay a vote of the allies on accepting the two Nordic countries into the pact.

As Reuters reported, Finnish and Swedish leaders appealed to join NATO last year after Russia invaded Ukraine. Adding new members requires unanimity among the transatlantic alliance’s 30 members. But Hungary and Turkey have been erecting roadblocks to Finnish and Swedish membership.

The Turks’ resistance stems from a dispute concerning alleged terrorists who seek an independent Kurdish state in the Middle East but have received asylum in the two countries, noted CNN. Turkey wants Swedish and Finnish officials to extradite those Kurds, a demand the two countries have so far rejected.

Hungarian officials have a less clear rationale for gumming up the NATO accession process. Hungarian diplomats have suggested that their objections were payback for Swedish and Finnish criticism of Hungary’s so-called “illiberal democracy” over the years, as well as disputes within the European Union over EU funding to Hungary due to related issues, the Associated Press wrote.

The term illiberal democracy refers to the lock on power that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz political party have secured over the country over the years, explained the New Republic. Acting with super majorities, they have gutted the press, judiciary and other checks on their power, erecting one-party rule, while also creating and controlling business elites.

This system, coincidentally, has turned Hungary into the most corrupt country in Europe, surpassing Bulgaria, noted Agence France-Presse, citing watchdog Transparency International.

Such concerns have led the EU to hold back more than $23 billion in funds designed to help Hungary integrate into the bloc’s common market and political traditions, Bloomberg added.

Orban and Fidesz happen to also have cultivated close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has many good reasons to oppose Finland and Sweden joining NATO and further encircling his country with potential military rivals.

For example, Orban has been critical of Western efforts to help the Ukrainians defeat Russia. “When Russia launched its attack, the West didn’t isolate the conflict but elevated it to a pan-European level,” Orban stated during a recent nationwide address. “The war in Ukraine is not a conflict between the armies of good and evil but between two Slavic countries that are fighting against one another. This is their war, not ours.”

Hungary also has opted not to send weapons to Ukraine to keep the war from escalating, it says, according to Euractiv.

Orban has said he expects to see Hungary approve the Finnish and Swedish applications at some point. He probably also expects something valuable in return.


Burdens of Power


The Colombian government negotiated the successful release of 88 hostages over the weekend who were taken during deadly protests against an oil company in the country’s south, Al Jazeera reported.

Last week, thousands of protesters from farming and Indigenous communities in the Caquetá province shut down access to an oil field operated by the Emerald Energy firm. Videos showed demonstrators burning company property. Clashes with authorities led to the deaths of two people, including one police officer.

Nine company employees and 79 police officers were taken hostage as part of the protests, which demanded Emerald Energy improve infrastructure in the area and compensate for environmental damage.

Leftist President Gustavo Petro appealed to protesters to give up, promising “dialogue” with them “about their needs, their complaints, their claims.” Officials told the protesting communities that the government would address their concerns only after the hostages were released.

Even so, Colombia’s conservative opposition chided the government for failing to take tougher action against the demonstrators and showing “indifference” to the families of the hostages.

Observers described the incident as a setback for Petro – considered Colombia’s first leftist leader – who vowed to resolve the country’s nearly six-decades-long internal conflict through a policy of dialogue and negotiations, intending to achieve “total peace.”

The new government has resumed peace talks with the National Liberation Army, the country’s largest remaining rebel group.

But Petro is facing fresh scrutiny as Colombian authorities have launched investigations into his brother and older son for corruption, Reuters noted.

The president, however, welcomed the probes for both relatives.

No Limits


Philippine police on Sunday killed one suspect and arrested three others who are implicated in the murder of a provincial governor over the weekend, the latest attack targeting politicians and officials in the Southeast Asian nation in recent weeks, Agence France-Presse reported.

On Saturday, at least six gunmen armed with rifles and wearing military-style uniforms fired at Governor Roel Degamo’s home in the Negros Oriental province, killing the official and eight others. At least 17 others were wounded.

Authorities said that two of the three detained suspects, all now charged with murder, were former soldiers who were dishonorably discharged years ago. Police added that around 10 people were involved in the attack.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the killing of Degamo – who supported him in last year’s presidential elections – and said the “government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice,” the Associated Press noted.

Degamo was at least the third politician to be killed in the Philippines since that general election. He had received death threats in the past.

Still, analysts said his killing highlights how rising gun violence in the country has impacted even the powerful.

Last month, gunmen fired at another provincial governor, Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr., wounding him and killing four of his bodyguards.

Rising crime, decades-long extremist Islamist and communist insurgencies, and other security concerns are among the key issues inherited by Marcos, who assumed office in June.

Looking Outward, Feminine Style


The German government announced it would create a new feminist foreign policy this week aimed at ensuring that all people “have the same right to representation and access to resources,” the Associated Press reported.

The country’s foreign and development ministers said the policy will focus on supporting the needs of women to eliminate discrimination and promote more stable societies.

“We are not calling for a revolution here, but we are doing something that is self-evident,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

The new guidelines for this policy will require that more than 90 percent of newly committed project funds be devoted toward global programs that promote gender equality – an increase from 64 percent in 2021.

The new policy will also address gender parity in Germany, specifically at the country’s foreign ministry where only 26 percent of ambassadors are female.

Some countries have implemented feminist foreign policies, which in theory means defending human rights and enabling meaningful participation in decision-making by women and other, often excluded groups, the newswire wrote.

Such policies often dictate that women and girls must be protected from violence, be allowed to assert their rights, and participate in political decisions, with adequate resources provided to enable them to do so.

German non-governmental groups welcomed the new feminist policy but criticized the lack of clarity about how the policy would be implemented and how it would be financed.


Ancient Care

Archaeologists discovered new insights about the early medical practices during the Bronze Age in what is now northern Israel, Gizmodo reported.

In the ancient settlement of Megiddo, they came across the 3,500-year-old skeletons of two brothers, who appeared to have suffered long-term diseases, such as tuberculosis or leprosy.

But one of the skeletons – the older sibling – appeared to have a square-shaped hole in his skull.

The research team closely studied the peculiar remains and found that the young man had his skull cut open to help treat his ailing body. They explained that the hole was a case of trephination, a surgical procedure where a piece of the skull is removed to relieve pressure on the brain.

Lead author Rachel Kalisher expressed excitement at the findings.

“We have evidence that trephination has been this universal, widespread type of surgery for thousands of years,” she said in a statement. “But in the Near East, we don’t see it so often – there are only about a dozen examples of trephination in this entire region.”

But sadly the findings showed that the procedure couldn’t save the older brother’s life, who died during or soon after the procedure. His younger sibling followed suit a year or two later – although he didn’t undergo any trephination.

Still, Kalisher noted that the brothers appeared to be from wealthy or privileged families, considering that they were not ostracized and had some form of care.

“In antiquity, there was a lot more tolerance and a lot more care than people might think,” she added.

Covid-19 Global Update

Editor’s Note: Exactly three years ago, we began publishing the COVID-19 Global Update with the goal of tracking the impact of the pandemic. Today, we are pausing the Update given that the week-to-week changes in the pandemic are no longer statistically significant. We assure our readers that the Update will return if the coronavirus surges again, something we all hope will not happen.

Your DailyChatter Team

Total Cases Worldwide: 682,546,389 (+0.88%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,819,835 (-0.90%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,232,904,667 (-0.79%)*

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

  1. US: 105,972,038 (+2.09%)
  2. India: 44,696,388 (+0.01%)
  3. France: 39,703,279 (-0.41%)***
  4. Germany: 38,297,037 (+0.13%)
  5. Brazil: 37,145,514 (+0.16%)
  6. Japan: 33,374,303 (+0.13%)
  7. South Korea: 30,702,960 (+0.29%)
  8. Italy: 25,651,205 (+0.19%)
  9. UK: 24,423,396 (-0.95%)***
  10. Russia: 22,506,199 (+1.90%)

Source: WorldOMeters.Info**

*Numbers were taken from the World Health Organization as of March 14th, 2023.

**Johns Hopkins University stopped publishing the Covid-19 update on March 10th, 2023.

***Numbers have been adjusted by affected country.

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