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Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
May 20, 2022
Biden will have to tread a fine line on his first trip to Asia as president. Zelenskyy accused Russia of turning Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region into “hell.” Oklahoma state legislators passed an anti-abortion bill that, if it becomes law, will be the strictest in the country. And the U.S. accused Russia of “using food as a weapon.” All this and more in today’s PDB.
Biden in Asia
Making Friends and Influencing People Tops the Agenda
To say that President Joe Biden’s first trip to Asia as commander in chief comes at a sensitive time is a massive understatement. Not only is it hoped that he’ll mend the relationship between South Korea and Japan — important U.S. allies who haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye — but he’ll probably have to contend with a North Korean nuclear missile test while in Seoul. Biden won’t visit China, but his presence at Tuesday’s meeting of The Quad, a fledgling partnership between the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, should send a clear message to Beijing that it can’t call all the shots in Asia. (Sources: AP, Reuters, Time)
Zelenskyy Says Russian Forces Have ‘Completely Destroyed’ Donbas
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of turning Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region into “hell … and that is not an exaggeration.” He added that Russia’s behavior had no “military explanation” and was instead “a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible. Destroy as many houses, social facilities and enterprises as possible.” Meanwhile, a New York Times investigation used video and drone footage to piece together the execution of eight men at the hands of Russian paratroopers in Bucha on March 4. And the U.S. Senate voted 86-11 to release $40 billion in aid to Ukraine.(Sources: BBC, NYT, CNN)
Oklahoma Passes Bill Banning Almost All Abortions
The state Legislature passed — by 73 votes to 16 — a bill that prohibits nearly all abortions from the moment of fertilization, with the only exceptions being for some cases of rape and incest. It also allows individuals to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. While the bill must still be signed into law, Republican anti-abortion campaigner Gov. Kevin Stitt is likely to jump at the opportunity. “There can be nothing higher or more critical than the defense of innocent, unborn life,” said Republican Rep. Jim Olsen. Democratic Rep. Trish Ranson, one of the 16 naysayers, said the bill “draws the worst of us together.” (Source: NYT)
US Accuses Russia of Holding World Food Supply Hostage
Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded that Russia reopen the global flow of food and fertilizer by lifting its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of the world’s wheat. “The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not — to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” he said. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired back: “On the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies. Things don’t work like that, we’re not idiots.” (Source: The Guardian)
Here are some things you should know about today:
“Bulldozer” vs. “Builder.” Australia will choose between Labor challenger Anthony Albanese and Liberal incumbent Scott Morrison. Labor leads in the polls — but it also did in 2019, and ended up losing. (Source: The Guardian) Desperate times. Sri Lankan authorities closed schools and urged civil servants to work from home in a bid to alleviate the acute nationwide fuel shortage. (Source: NPR) Urine trouble. A white law student at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University is being criminally investigated after he was filmed urinating on the belongings of a Black dorm resident. (Source: News 24)
Dolphins Recognize Each Other From the Taste of Their Urine
It takes all sorts. Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have discovered that dolphins can recognize friends and family members by tasting their urine and other excretions. Vincent Janik, director of the Scottish Oceans Institute and co-author of the study published this week, said: “Dolphins explored urine samples for longer if they came from known animals or when they were presented together with the dolphin’s unique and distinctive signature whistle, an acoustic identifier that works like a name.” Researchers believe that dolphins — which have unusual sensory cells on their tongues — experience taste differently from other mammals. (Source: The Guardian)
‘A Hint of Freedom’
Finnish Brewery Launches NATO-Themed Beer
A brewery in the town of Savonlinna near Finland’s border with Russia commemorated Finland’s bid to join NATO with a special brew. Olaf Brewing’s OTAN lager features a smiling, beer-drinking knight clad in armor emblazoned with NATO’s compass symbol. The name is a play on the Finnish phrase “Otan olutta,” which means “I’ll have a beer,” and the French acronym for NATO. CEO Petteri Vanttinen said the new brew boasts “a taste of security, with a hint of freedom.” The brewery takes its name from Savonlinna’s St. Olaf’s Castle, which withstood several Russian sieges in the 15th and 16th centuries.(Source: AP)
US Reports First Monkeypox Case as Europe’s Outbreak Grows
A Massachusetts man has tested positive for monkeypox, a non-deadly disease that causes swelling and rashes and is most common in West and Central Africa — although there have been outbreaks elsewhere. The current outbreak was first identified in the U.K. and cases have been confirmed in Portugal and Spain. Most of the new cases seem to be among men who have sex with men, although Maria van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization added that this could be because “we’re finding where we’re looking.” Experts are worried monkeypox might have found a new way of spreading via “intimate contact.”(Source: STAT)
In Bid to Protect Rare Birds, German Town Grounds Cats
Cat owners in Walldorf, Germany, have been ordered to keep their felines indoors until the end of August. The decree is hoped to give the crested lark —which nests on the ground — some respite during its breeding season. The bird’s population has plummeted in recent decades and local authorities say “the survival of the species depends on every single chick.” The new rule, which will apply every summer for the next three years, has left cat owners peeved. The head of the local animal protection vowed to “do our best to stop this disproportionate measure.”(Source: AP)
Rolling Back the Years
Rory McIlroy Leads After US PGA’s First Round, Tiger Struggles
The Northern Irishman started well in his bid to end an eight-year major drought, finishing Day 1 with a 1-shot lead. McIlroy, a four-time major winner, carded a 5-under-par 65 that included seven birdies. Americans Tom Hoge and Will Zalatoris enjoyed a share of second place. “Overall, it was a great day,” said McIlroy, who’s chasing a third U.S. PGA title. “Great to get off to a great start at a major championship for a change.” The same couldn’t be said for his playing partners: Tiger Woods signed for a disappointing 4-over 74, and Jordan Spieth only managed a 72.(Source: BBC)
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