The World Today for May 01, 2023

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Victims of Success


Author Elizabeth Gilbert embraces romance and finds a partner in Bali after a life journey that she chronicled to great fame in her 2006 memoir, “Eat Pray Love.” Now residents of the Indonesian island are fed up with the increasingly large numbers of tourists who have been inundating the magical isle in search of similar transformative experiences – or at least some fun.

Indonesian officials are considering a new tax on tourists with the goal of keeping out so-called bad elements and shifting Bali from a “low-end holiday destination to a quality tourism hub,” wrote Time Out magazine. The island’s governor has banned tourists from renting motorbikes, too. Balinese folks have complained of tourists driving recklessly, flouting immigration rules, committing indecent exposure, and disrespecting local culture, including religious events and customs, reported the Washington Post.

The proposed tax and other rules would not necessarily stop foreigners, on the other hand, from purchasing and owning properties or shares in resorts along Bali’s amazing beaches, the South China Morning Post added, illustrating how the tourism industry is and will remain vital to the local economy. For example, after potentially putting off tourists with a raft of new laws that ban adultery, cohabitation before marriage and apostasy, or renouncing one’s religion, officials made a point of telling CNN that these draconian laws would not apply to tourists.

Indonesia is not alone in wanting to control tourists. Bulgaria, where tourists flock to Black Sea beaches and Balkan ski slopes, the happening Spanish cities of Barcelona and Valencia, paradisiacal Thailand and a handful of others have also imposed fees on tourists, Euronews wrote.

Recently, officials in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam – the destination for 20 million tourists annually – released a statement saying that visitors coming to the city solely for sex and drugs were not welcome. As Politico explained, the marketing campaign included ads that said: “Coming to Amsterdam for a messy night + getting trashed = €140 fine + criminal record. Stay away.”

Meanwhile, tourists visiting the majestic city of Venice will now pay $10.50 for the pleasure under new rules to manage the millions of visitors who visit the Italian city every year, the New York Post reported. Officials in Hawaii wanted to charge tourists a fee to enter the state – but feared such a measure would run afoul of the US Constitution, noted the Associated Press. Instead, they might charge higher fees at state parks and trails to generate funding for environmental restoration and remediation efforts.

These locales are arguably victims of their own success. The question now is whether they will kill the golden goose that has paid them dividends many times over.


Pay Up


Zimbabwe is planning to launch a digital currency this month to address the depreciation of its national currency caused by longstanding economic challenges, the Associated Press reported.

The new currency will introduce “tokens” that are supported “by physical gold held by the bank.” Zimbabweans can buy these tokens through banks and use them as a way to save money or conduct various transactions.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gov. John Mangudya said the digital currency will also ensure that people with low amounts of money can trade them “so that we leave no one and no place behind.”

The decision comes as trust in the national currency – the Zimbabwean dollar – is extremely low, with faith in the currency having plummeted since people saw their savings disappear by hyperinflation in 2008. The situation was so dire that the country issued a 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollar banknote at one point. But later the government was forced to temporarily scrap its currency and allow the US dollar to be used as legal tender.

The Zimbabwean government reintroduced the country’s currency in 2019 and banned the use of foreign currency for local transactions. However, the move was largely ignored, leading to a thriving black market and the rapid devaluation of the local currency. Officials later reversed their decision and lifted the ban on the US dollar.

To this day, many Zimbabweans opt to acquire scarce US dollars on the black market to keep at home as savings or for daily transactions. Because of the low confidence in the Zimbabwean dollar, many retailers and government institutions don’t accept the local currency.

Zimbabwe has experimented with unconventional methods to prevent the devaluation of its currency before this new measure, including the launch of gold coins as legal tender in July 2022. However, many struggling citizens have found the coins to be too expensive.

A Human Wall


Lithuania passed a new law that will allow volunteers to use force to help detain migrants trying to enter the country’s borders, a move the government says will enhance border security – but human rights advocates fear will attract “far-right extremists,” and promote violence, Euronews reported.

The Border and Protection Law, passed last week, will authorize volunteers to work alongside Lithuanian border authorities. These volunteers will receive state funds and be issued with “certificates, identification badges and vests” under the legislation drafted by the Interior Ministry.

The legislation also gives volunteers a number of legal rights, including the ability to “use mental or physical coercion” and “perform personal examinations and inspections.” It requires that volunteers must obey the law and “respect human dignity,” as well as help foreigners who are not allowed to enter the European Union member country.

The law bars convicted criminals or individuals who have been dismissed from military service or working as civil servants, lawyers, or bailiffs from signing up.

The Interior Ministry said the bill will enhance the defense of national security and reduce the “pull factors” attracting migrants.

But migrant advocates raised concerns that it could entice “far-right extremists” to use violence and commit abuses against migrants on the frontier.

The ministry said the concerns are “unfounded.”

The contentious legislation – set to take effect in May – comes as Lithuanian authorities have been trying to stop tens of thousands of undocumented people from entering the country via Belarus since 2021. Lithuania and the EU have accused Belarus of intentionally sending migrants across the border in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the bloc in 2020 because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In 2021, Lithuania declared a state of emergency on its eastern frontier and created a three-mile zone that shut out observers. It also temporarily suspended the right to claim asylum, which allowed officials to turn away around 20,000 people without assessing if they needed protection.

The Interior Ministry said the move was done out of concern for national security, but it has been criticized by the EU and human rights advocates as inhumane and illegal under international law.

Alternative Methods


Japan approved the sale of an abortion pill for the first time, a move many medical professionals and supporters see as a major milestone for reproductive and women’s rights in the socially conservative country, the Independent reported over the weekend.

The health ministry said the medication – which actually consists of two types of pill – can terminate a pregnancy at up to nine weeks of gestation.

Officials had initially reviewed the drug in January and later asked the public to submit their opinions through an online portal.

Local media reported that the total cost of the medicine and a medical consultation will be more than $730.

Medical professionals welcomed the decision, saying it provided an opportunity to promote greater sex education and awareness about contraceptive methods.

Abortion is legal up to 22 weeks in Japan but it usually requires consent from a spouse or a partner. Until now, a surgical procedure had been the only option.

Even so, abortion is not covered by Japan’s public health insurance and surgical procedures can cost between $730 and $1,500.

Similar abortion pills have been approved for use in numerous countries, such as France, which approved its use in 1988, and the United States, where it has been available since 2000, according to Agence France-Presse.


Parrot Zoom

Life as a pet is hard for parrots – they can easily feel isolated, lonely and bored.

That’s especially true because many parrot species are very social, living in large, highly interactive flocks.

Now, scientists have discovered that parrots can deal with the isolation blues and stave off psychological problems by having video calls with each other, the Guardian reported.

In a new study, co-author Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas and her colleagues wanted to explore whether the avian species would benefit from video calls, similarly to how many humans benefited during the pandemic.

“If we gave them the opportunity to call other parrots, would they choose to do so, and would the experience benefit the parrots and their caregivers?” she wondered.

As a result, the researchers taught 18 pet parrots to ring a bell and then select the photo of another bird on the screen of a tablet to trigger a call – all of this with the help of their owners.

They studied more than 1,000 hours of footage and observed that the birds made a total of 147 calls to each other.

The findings showed that animals “seemed to grasp” that they were engaging with other birds because their behavior mirrored that seen during real-life interactions.

They also displayed fewer feelings of isolation and more social behavior, including preening and singing.

“Some would sing, some would play around and go upside down, others would want to show another bird their toys,” said Hirskyj-Douglas.

It seems that a little tech can go a long way for parrots, too.

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