The World Today for March 13, 2024

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Saxon State Minister for Economic Affairs, Labor, and Transport Martin Dulig recently said that Germany’s new immigration law would attract skilled Indian immigrants who would help Germany plug its labor shortages. As the Hindu reported, Saxony currently needs four million skilled workers, particularly mechanical engineers for its formidable automobile industry.

The minister was referring to a new German immigration law that took effect late last year, Euronews explained. The law could draw as many as 60,000 non-European workers to Germany annually.

“We know that we can only guarantee our future, the efficiency of our economy and the efficiency of our social security systems if we have enough skilled workers at our disposal,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a socialist who oversees a coalition of green and liberal parliamentarians.

The immigration law was one example of a shift in attitudes toward migrants in Germany, which saw more than a million people arrive beginning in 2015 during the so-called migrant crisis.

German lawmakers, for example, recently enacted a new law to make it easier for foreigners to retain their citizenship but still become German citizens, the Local wrote. Germany has also pioneered the use of digital payment cards to provide migrants with modest cash benefits while cutting down on administrative overheads, added Deutsche Welle.

These changes have fueled the popularity of far-right parties in Germany, but many Germans have also stood up to refute their fellow citizens’ xenophobic views, argued Boise State University political scientist Julie VanDusky in the Conversation.

Meanwhile, over the border, reflecting a wider trend throughout Europe, as Euractiv noted, France appears to be hardening its stance against migrants and newcomers.

French lawmakers recently adopted an immigration law that Human Rights Watch described as “regressive,” claiming that it allowed authorities to more easily deport migrants, make asylum more difficult to achieve, cut off access to benefits, and empower officials to more easily rescind residency permits. Courts struck down many of the law’s measures on constitutional grounds, but many parts remained, France24 added.

French officials, for instance, used the law recently to expel an allegedly radical imam who said France’s tricolor flag was “satanic,” remarks that officials deemed “unacceptable,” the BBC reported. The imam denied the allegations and said he did not mean to disrespect France.

Politicians on the French far-right, meanwhile, have announced that European Parliamentary elections in June will be equivalent to a referendum on immigration, Reuters reported. In a move that critics said was the government caving to the far right, the French government planned on denying citizenship to children of immigrants in Mayotte, a French territory in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, Al Jazeera wrote.

Mayotte is one of the poorest departments of France, noted Bloomberg. The decision to end birthright citizenship comes after weeks of protests in Mayotte, which has seen the deterioration of living conditions blamed on immigration from the impoverished Comoros islands nearby.

Mayotte residents say the arrival of immigrants has put health, housing and education services under pressure. The new measure will cut off access to benefits and make Mayotte a less attractive destination, officials said.

Meanwhile, critics say it sets a dangerous precedent for mainland France. Centrist lawmaker Aurelien Tache told local media that “if this provision is enacted and if Marine Le Pen then comes to power, it will be the end of birthright citizenship in France.”


Bowing Out


Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned, following national and international pressure to step down as armed gangs have tightened their grip in the Caribbean country’s capital Port-au-Prince and are threatening civil war, the Washington Post reported.

The embattled prime minister announced late Monday that he would relinquish power immediately following the establishment of a transitional presidential council and the selection of a new interim leader.

Henry is currently stuck in Puerto Rico following a trip to Kenya to promote a United Nations-backed police force to help Haiti’s dangerous security situation. He has been unable to return to Haiti because armed criminal gangs have launched attacks on airports and police stations in Port-au-Prince, saying they will continue until the prime minister resigns.

Henry’s announcement comes after negotiations led by Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders, alongside representatives from the United States and the UN to resolve the years-long political crisis in the country.

The agreement aims to facilitate a peaceful transition of power and pave the way for free and fair elections, according to Guyanese President Irfaan Ali, the regional bloc’s chairman.

Haiti has been grappling with political and security crises following the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and more recently, the absence of a functioning legislature. Henry was appointed shortly before Moïse’s death and initially had international backing to govern the island nation amid promises to hold new elections.

But as Haiti’s situation continued to deteriorate and he failed to hold new polls, he started facing pressure from the international community – including the US and Caricom – to resign and facilitate a transition of power to a new interim government.

The new transitional council will be comprised of seven voting members, and two non-voting ones representing civil society and the faith community.

Individuals under indictment, UN sanctions, or with criminal convictions will be barred from participating – that includes prominent figures such as powerful gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Chérizier and former rebel leader Guy Philippe.

While the creation of the transitional council and the timeline for elections remain unclear, Haitians expressed a mixture of relief and anxiety, being uncertain about the impact of Henry’s resignation on the country’s future trajectory amid its ongoing challenges.

Punching Back


Pro-Ukrainian militias staged a cross-border attack on Russia on Tuesday, just hours after Kyiv launched a wave of drone attacks across the border, a notable escalation in the ongoing conflict as Russians prepare to head to the polls later this week, Agence France-Presse reported.

The pro-Kyiv volunteer fighters are Russians, who oppose the Kremlin, and claim to have breached the Kursk and Belgorod regions. One of these militias, the Freedom of Russia legion, took responsibility for the border breach, sharing drone footage showcasing the incursion.

Russia’s defense ministry said it successfully repelled multiple Ukrainian attempts to infiltrate the border. The confrontations led to intense aerial and artillery exchanges, resulting in shootouts and shelling in multiple regions.

While Moscow has portrayed the incursions as orchestrated by the Ukrainian military, Kyiv said they are independent actions by Russian citizens opposed to the Kremlin.

Separately, Kyiv orchestrated one of its largest strikes on key Russian energy sites since the war began two years ago. One of the targets included a major oil refinery owned by the Russian energy giant Lukoil in Kstovo that resulted in a major blaze.

The energy company announced the temporary suspension of operations at the refinery, one of Russia’s leading oil refineries with an annual capacity of 17 million tons.

Tuesday’s operations took place just days before Russia’s presidential election that analysts say will see long-time President Vladimir Putin win reelection, NBC News added.

They added that the strikes emphasized Kyiv’s resolve to challenge Moscow’s military aggression, as well as present a public relations challenge for the Kremlin, which has sought to project stability and unity ahead of the vote.

Slap, Slap


The Indian government will begin implementing a 2019 citizenship bill that fast-tracks passports for foreigners except when they are Muslim, a move that comes ahead of India’s general election this year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a rare third term in office, CNN reported.

Officials announced this week rules to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act, which was originally passed five years ago but that did not come into effect because of procedural technicalities.

The bill will provide fast-track citizenship for immigrants from neighboring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan as long as they are part of Hindu, Parsi, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, or Christian minorities fleeing persecution in those countries on religious grounds.

Modi and his ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have welcomed the law as a humanitarian gesture, but the opposition warned that it is unconstitutional and marginalizes India’s 200-million Muslim population, according to the Associated Press.

Critics noted that the announcement is another example of the BJP’s efforts to push a Hindu nationalist agenda in the secular country of 1.3 billion people. They also criticized Modi and his cabinet for eroding India’s democratic foundations, persecuting minorities and muzzling dissent.

As India’s general election is expected to take place by May, Modi has fused religion and politics, a strategy that has strongly connected with India’s predominantly Hindu population.

In January, he inaugurated a Hindu temple on the site of a razed mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya, fulfilling a longstanding Hindu nationalist commitment of his party.

Last month, the BJP-led government in Assam state repealed a 1935 law on Muslim marriage and divorce, sparking outrage among the minority Muslim community, Al Jazeera noted.

State officials cited concerns about child marriages as the rationale for repealing the legislation, which required marriage registration even if below the legal age.

But critics accused the state government of exploiting colonial-era laws for electoral gains, with opposition leaders denouncing it as a move to polarize voters along religious lines.


Dotting a Mystery

The history of mathematics will need a slight revision, according to a new study.

The decimal point is a ubiquitous symbol in modern mathematics for dividing whole numbers into fractions.

Throughout history, various civilizations have used a version of decimals, but the current and consistent system is believed to have been established by German mathematician Christopher Clavius in 1593.

However, newly found 15th-century notes from Venetian merchant Giovanni Bianchini have upended this timeline, Live Science reported.

Researcher Glen Van Brummelen recently examined some of Bianchini’s treatises dating between 1441 and 1450, and noticed an earlier adoption of the decimal notation – predating Clavius by approximately 150 years.

Prior to the decimal point, mathematicians predominantly utilized fractions, while astronomers relied on base-60 decimals for their calculations.

The researcher explained that Bianchini’s notation – which resembled the modern decimal system – was notably used in his astronomical computations, showcasing an early understanding of decimal fractions.

Although Bianchini’s use of decimals did not immediately gain widespread acceptance, it undoubtedly influenced subsequent mathematicians, including Clavius and John Napier.

Napier is known as the inventor of logarithms and played a pivotal role in cementing the decimal point’s significance in mathematics during the early 17th century.

“Thus, attempting to identify a ‘first’ among this host of different players may be a fool’s errand, depending on one’s criteria for the historical actor’s level of appreciation of the power of operations with decimal fractions and the persistence of their systems,” Van Brummelen wrote.

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