Welcome to Monday, where Russia denies then admits to shelling the port of Odessa, Myanmar’s military executes four democracy activists and the pope arrives in Canada for a historic “pilgrimage of penance.” Meanwhile, Global Press Journal looks at Sri Lanka’s ban on agrochemicals and how it has affected the country’s agriculture.
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• Ukraine-Russia update: After Moscow’s first denials of involvement in Saturday’s strikes on the Ukrainian port of Odessa, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed the attack a few hours later, saying they have taken out “military infrastructure” in the port. The attacks came just a day after Moscow signed a deal to end the blockade in the Black Sea that was crippling global grain supplies. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Congo as part of his Africa tour, meant to reassure African nations over grain supplies or inflation.
• Myanmar executes four democracy activists: The Myanmar junta executed four pro-democracy activists accused of “terror acts,” including an ex-lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. According to the UN, this is the first use of capital punishment in the country since 1998.
• Bolsonaro’s re-election campaign: Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro launched his reelection campaign ahead of the October 2 vote, holding a rally at the Maracanãzinho stadium in Rio de Janeiro where he was officially nominated as the right-wing Liberal Party candidate.
• Fear for democracy in Tunisia: Tunisians vote today on a new constitutional referendum that would expand the power of President Kais Saied, who many fear is seeking nearly total power, which would dismantle democracy after the 2011 revolution that set off the Arab Spring.
• Pope’s “pilgrimage of penance”: Pope Francis arrived in Edmonton, Canada on a historic “pilgrimage of penance” visit to apologize for the abuses of Indigenous children committed in Catholic residential schools. The Pontiff will visit the Quebec City, Iqaluit and leave on Friday.
• “Missile alert” in Taiwan: An air-raid exercise has been held in Taiwan to prepare in the event of a Chinese attack on the island, forcing people to evacuate the streets and stay indoors. Tensions have been growing with China, in part over plans by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s planned visit to Taiwan.
• Chess robot breaks boy's finger: At the Moscow International Chess Forum, a chess-playing robot turned violent and broke the finger of a 7-year-old during a match. Video footage show the robot grabbing the finger and people rushing to help the boy, who has been able to continue the tournament.
“Tears of gold,” titles Danish daily Ekstra Bladet, showing Denmark’s cyclist Jonas Vingegaard shedding a few tears with his son after he won the 2022 Tour de France for the first time. The 25-year-old former fish-market worker, who has been a professional cyclist for only three years, had come second last year to Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar.
The Japanese have started referring to surgical masks as “face underpants” (顔パンツ, pronounced kao-pantsu), to convey the feeling that removing one’s mask in public has become as impossible as removing underwear in public. Many in Japan are finding it difficult to remove their masks — even in sweltering temperatures that make it dangerous to wear a mask due to the increased risk of heatstroke — as they don’t want to reveal their “true faces,” having grown accustomed to the way they look with protective masks on.
Nigerian runner Tobi Amusan set a new world record of 12.12 seconds for the women’s 100-meter hurdles at the World Athletics Championships in the United States. The previous record of 12.20 seconds had been held by American Kendra Harrison since 2016 — Harrison arrived second in the semi-finals. Amusan even broke her own record with a time of 12.06 seconds during the final, where she won the gold medal, but this will not be registered due to a strong tail wind.
Sri Lanka: how protecting the environment is killing agriculture
When Sri Lanka banned agrochemicals last year, the law’s impact on the island’s ability to feed itself was immediately evident. As political upheaval continues in the capital, here's a related back story in the countryside with global implications by Thayalini Indrakularasa for Global Press Journal.
🇱🇰 In May 2021, the Sri Lankan government banned agrochemicals, with the professed aim of becoming the world’s first country free of chemical fertilizer. This decision has deeply impacted the production of rice, a staple food for the island’s 22 million inhabitants. The agrochemical ban’s impact on the island’s ability to feed itself was immediately evident. Rice imports in Sri Lanka leaped from 15,770 metric tons in 2020 to 147,091 metric tons in 2021, and more than 90% was imported in the last two months of the year. Nationwide data is not yet available, but experts estimate that the rice harvest could decline by about 33%
🌾 Farmers are not necessarily opposed to organic farming. A nationwide survey of farmers in July 2021 by Verité Research, a Colombo-based research firm, indicated a majority (64%) favored moving away from agrochemicals, but a higher number (78%) requested more than one year to transition. Ninety-four percent of paddy farmers use chemical fertilizer, according to Verité Research, and many don’t have sufficient knowledge of organic alternatives.
🍚 Despite a rollback of the ban, supplies remain limited, partly due to a global spike in prices related to the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the market price of rice has also skyrocketed — from 145 Sri Lankan rupees (40 cents) per kilogram in May 2021 to 230 rupees (64 cents). Sri Lanka’s crisis, albeit aggravated by government missteps, reflects a worldwide emergency. Global hunger has reached unprecedented levels, the U.N. has warned, with the number of severely food insecure people doubling in just two years, from 135 million before the pandemic to 276 million as of May 2022.
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