Same Sex Marriage

Japan Courts Say Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional 

A Japanese court ruled this week that a ban on same-sex marriage is not considered unconstitutional, marking a major setback to LGBTQ rights in the only Group Of Seven nations that does not allow same-sex marriages. 

Three same-sex couples filed the original suit in a district court in Osaka. The courts rejected the claim that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, as well as rejected the couples demands for 1 million yen ($7,600) in damages. Machi Sakata, who was able to marry her partner legally in the US, spoke to the media about the ruling. 

“I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working. I think there’s the possibility this ruling may really corner us in the community.”

Embed from Getty Images

Japan’s constitution defines marriage as “being based on the mutual consent of both sexes.” There’s been a major rise in LGBTQ advocacy throughout Japan as of late, leaving many citizens hopeful that this court case would rule in favor of the community.

However, the Osaka court ruled that “marriage is defined as being only between opposite genders,” and not enough debating has occurred within Japan to make a proper ruling over same-sex marriage. 

“We emphasized in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things as regular couples,” said lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa, who also claimed they would be appealing the court’s decision. 

While Japanese law in general is considered to be fairly liberal when compared to other Asian law standards, Taiwan is the only country to have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in the continent. 

The current law in Japan states that same-sex couples cannot get legally married, are not allowed to inherit each other’s assets, and cannot gain parental rights over each other’s children. 

Embed from Getty Images

Partnership certificates in the country allow same-sex couples to rent property together and have hospital visitation rights, but it doesn’t compare to the full legal rights granted to heterosexual couples in the nation.

The Tokyo prefectural government made some strides in protecting LGBTQ rights last week when they passed a bill that would recognize same-sex partnership agreements. This means more than half of the population in Japan will have the ability to gain recognition for their partnerships from local governments. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida claimed that the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage needs to be carefully considered, however, his party has made no set plans to review the matter or propose new legislation. 

Masa Yanagisawa is the head of prime services at Goldman Sachs and a board member for the LGBTQ activist group “Marriage For All Japan,” who stated that legalizing same-sex marriage would have “far-reaching implications both socially and economically, as well as help attract foreign firms to the world’s third biggest economy.” 

“International firms are reviewing their Asian strategy and LGBTQ inclusivity is becoming a topic. International businesses don’t want to invest in a location that isn’t LGBTQ-friendly,” Yanagisawa stated before the verdict this week.

Covid

China Slowly Recovering From Worst Surge Of Covid-19 Since Pandemic’s Start 

The capital city of Beijing, China took a step towards Covid-19 recovery by allowing restaurants to resume in-store dining this week, after a hiatus of nearly a month. Most other businesses are also able to restore in-person operations. 

Shanghai, which has been locked down for nearly two months, also announced reopening plans for their restaurants and in-person businesses, as well as outdoor activities like camping and local parks. 

Embed from Getty Images

The traffic rates in both major metropolitan areas increased this week after weeks of nearly no congestion due to lockdown procedures. Virus testing in both cities has relaxed from every two days to every three days as well. 

Surges of Omicron cases have been spiking throughout China since March, prompting the nation to reinstate many of their “dynamic zero-Covid” policies. The nationwide daily Covid case cound has now fallen to well below 50, according to official data.

“The unsynchronized lockdowns and reopenings across major cities suggest that China’s ongoing post-lockdown growth recovery should be less steep than the V-shaped one in spring 2020.”

“Our high-frequency trackers suggest that barring another severe Covid resurgence and related lockdowns, mobility, construction and ports operation could recover to pre-lockdown levels in around one month,” said Goldman Sachs China Economist Lisheng Wang in a report.

Embed from Getty Images

Local authorities have been enforcing strict travel bans and stay-home orders to control the spread of the virus, a method they’ve been using since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. 

The report from Goldman Sachs also stated that “businesses in the service sector that involve close human contact would find it challenging to achieve a full recovery any time soon.”

The Dragon Boat Festival holiday weekend in China indicated to the government that overall economic recovery will likely be slow. Spending on domestic tourism during the holiday dropped 12.2% when compared to last year. 

The Purchasing Managers’ Index in China showed continuous declines in business plans for hiring new employees as well due to a lack of income overall. 

Even with Beijing and Shanghai reopening, many specific apartment complexes and neighborhoods could remain closed off due to contact with Covid cases. 

Russian Flag

EU Agrees On Partial Ban Of Russian Oil Imports

According to European Council president Charles Michel, the European Union has agreed to enact a partial ban of as much as 90% of Russian crude oil imports and petroleum products delivered into member states over the next six months.

Michel announced the news on Twitter. “This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war,” he said.

According to Michel, the package also includes de-swifting Russia largest bank, Sberbank, banning three more Russian state-owned broadcasters, and sanctioning individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

Embed from Getty Images

As the Associated Press notes, this kind of action against Russia was unthinkable months ago. World leaders have worked to increase the difficulty of the Kremlin’s ability to finance the war by targeting Russian officials and oligarchs.

However, the energy industry was seen as a last resort and the hardest to conquer, since the European bloc relies on Russia for 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas. Some countries, like Germany, rely on Russia for nearly half of its gas needs. According to Ukraine, the sanction could cost Russia tens of billions of dollars.

Oil prices saw jumps following the agreements. U.S. crude features rose to $119.42 per barrel, a 12-week high. Brent crude oils rose up 1.44% at $123.42 (a change of +1.34%), while WTI crude jumped 1.72% to $116.18 (a change of +1.49%).

This sanctions package is now the sixth levied by the EU against the Kremlin as the invasion of Ukraine enters its 96th day with no signs of a resolution in sight. The attack has resulted in at least 46,000 deaths and 13,000 non-fatal injuries, while displacing 15 million Ukrainians.

Meeting at a summit in Brussels, EU leaders had previously failed to find common ground on an oil ban Sunday before reconvening Monday. Doubt that a deal would be reached by the summit’s end was expressed by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Embed from Getty Images

The package needed the approval of all 27 EU members, and has yet to be formally ratified. A press release by the EU stated that an exception to the oil ban would be crude oil delivered by pipeline so that Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic can continue to receive crucial fuel.

The European Council will revert to the issue of the exemption “as soon as possible.” Given the magnitude of the role Russian oil plays in the bloc, emergency measures will be enacted to ensure a security of supply in the event of “sudden interruptions of supply.”

“This is a topic where we will come back to and where we will still have to work on, but this is a big step forward, what we did today,” von der Leyen said. In response to the ban, Russia — the world’s third-largest oil producer behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — has promised to find other importers for its oil.

“As [von der Leyen] rightly said yesterday, #Russia will find other importers. Noteworthy that now she contradicts her own yesterday’s statement. Very quick change of the mindset indicates that the #EU is not in a good shape,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, said on Twitter.

If China Invades Taiwan, Biden Confirms U.S. Military Would Intervene

While United States government officials already have set opinions on how to proceed in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, it appears not everyone is on the same page. On Monday, President Joe Biden stated that if such a situation developed, the U.S. would intervene military.

Biden gave his remarks during a joint press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida when asked if the U.S. would go further to help Taiwan in an invasion than it did with Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

“Yes. That’s the commitment we made,” Biden stated. “We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is [just not] appropriate.”

Embed from Getty Images

Biden gave further thoughts on the rising tensions between the two territories, saying a conflict would dislocate the entire region, similar to how Russia’s attacks have had shockwaves throughout Europe. Biden also stated that China is “already flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the maneuvers they’re undertaking.”

However, the White House downplayed his statements, saying they don’t reflect a change in policy. It’s the third time in past months Biden has made a comment about Taiwan protection, only for the White House to give opposing views.

“As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

According to the One China policy, the U.S. recognizes China’s position that there is only one Chinese government and that Taiwan is a part of China, but the U.S. hasn’t recognized the country’s claim to the self-governing island. China, meanwhile, believes a reunification between Taiwan and the mainland is a necessity – one that would likely take an armed conflict to make happen.

According to administration aides speaking to CNN, several of Biden’s top administration officials were caught off caught by his remarks. Biden running off-script and giving unexpected statements has become a running occurence in recent weeks. In late April, the President said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” causing a media stir. The White House and allies backtracked those claims afterwards.

Responding to Biden’s comments, China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition,” noting it would not allow any external force to interfere with its internal affairs. Speaking to reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that Taiwan is an “inalienable part of China’s territory.”

Embed from Getty Images

“On issues touching on China’s core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise or concession,” Wenbin said. “No one should underestimate the firm resolve, staunch will and strong ability of the Chinese people in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

As CNN noted, the U.S. has supplied Taiwan with defensive weapons, similar to the help it has given Ukraine throughout the Russian invasion that is now in its third month. Taiwan — which consists of a population of over 23 million — would certainly need help in a conflict.

China’s armed forces dwarf any potential resistance thanks to its expected 2022 spending of 1.45 trillion yuan ($230.16 billion USD) on defense. In terms of activity duty personnel, China possesses around 2 million while Taiwan boasts just 163,000.

NATO Russian Flags

NATO Chief Says Ukraine Can Win War With Russia After Finland And Sweden Military Alliance

Ukrainian forces have been able to push back the Russian military around Kharkiv as a part of their counter offense that has caused Russian troops to withdraw from the nation’s second-largest city. 

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made a statement on Sunday stating that “Ukraine can win this war” following the news that Finland was applying to join the military alliance. This is a historic move, as Finland traditionally remains neutral. 

Sweden’s President Sauli Niinisto said that “joining the military alliance will maximize Finland’s security after Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine in February.” 

Sweden is also expected to apply to join NATO, which is likely going to make tensions worse with Russia, who warned last week that it would be taking “retaliatory steps” should Finland join the military alliance. 

Embed from Getty Images

Additionally, Ukraine President Volodymyr Selenskyy took to Twitter to discuss his conversations with International Monetary Fund Director Kristalina Georgieva about receiving financial support for his country. 

Zelenskyy wrote that he and Georgieva “discussed the need for financial support for the Ukrainian economy,” and that they were looking forward to the “further fruitful joint work in maintaining financial stability of Ukraine.” 

Back in April Zelenskyy and Georgieva discussed Ukraine’s economic stability and preparations for post-war reconstruction. 

In a reply to a tweet from Zelenskyy in April, Georgieva said that “continued economic support by Ukraine’s partners is essential to lay the foundations for rebuilding a modern competitive Ukraine.”

In the US, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, one of the nation’s biggest security and aerospace companies, was awarded two contracts worth $309 million for its Javelin missiles. These missiles are anti tank weapons that have helped Ukraine in their fight against Russian invaders. 

Embed from Getty Images

Demand for these missiles has remained high throughout the entire war, but have seen an increase in demand as conditions worsen in Ukraine. The missiles have so far been used to stop Russian tanks from advancing on the capital.

The US has sent more than 5,500 Javelin systems to Ukraine. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet will be leading a delegation group to Moldova, Georgia, and the United Kingdom as a means of furthering their collaborative efforts to help Ukraine. 

Moldova is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the war with Russia. Chollet is planning to meet with government officials in the nation to “reinforce US support for Moldova’s democracy, prosperity, and security.” 

“Chollet will then head to Georgia, where he will meet with government, opposition, and civil society representatives for discussions on Russia’s continuing occupation of parts of Georgia, on the Kremlin’s brutal war against Ukraine, and on how to advance the people of Georgia’s aspirations for a democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and Euro-Atlantic future,” according to the state department.

Chollet will then travel to the UK to discuss the countries’ response to the war in Ukraine and other global security concerns.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Vows Nation Will Emerge Victorious From War With Russia 

Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to their citizens to acknowledge Victory Day, an annual celebration of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. 

Zelenskyy recounted Ukraine’s role fighting Nazi invaders who took over the western Soviet Union. 

“Today we celebrate the Day of Victory over Nazism, and we will not give anyone a single piece of our history. Our enemy dreamed that we would refuse to celebrate May 9th and the victory over Nazism, so that the ‘deNazification’ gets a chance. Millions of Ukranians fought Nazism.”

Embed from Getty Images

The Times tweeted how “President Zelenskyy vowed that his country would emerge victorious from its war. He said ‘The road to it is difficult, but we have no doubt that we will win.’”

Zelenskyy also argues that Putin is currently emulating the Nazi invaders from 80 years ago. 

“The one who is repeating the horrific crimes of Hitler’s regime today — following Nazi philosophy, copying everything he did — he is doomed. We won then. We will win now. Very soon, there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine.”

Russian President Putin’s speech on Victory Day justified the war as he gave a defense of his country. While Zelenskyy delivered his message through a pre-recorded video located between anti tank barriers in Kyiv, Putin delivered his address to Moscow’s Red Square before a massive military parade.

Embed from Getty Images

“Defending the motherland when its fate is being decided has always been sacred, today you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of Russia, our homeland,” Putin said, comparing the current conflict to the World War II efforts to remove Nazi Germany’s invading armies. 

Putin continued to justify the war with Ukraine, calling it “inevitable.”

“The Kremlin had proposed a treaty to NATO last year that would guarantee Russia’s security. But that was in vain. The NATO countries did not want to hear us. And that means in fact that they had very different plans, and we could see that. They openly were preparing for yet another punitive operation in Donbas for an invasion of our historic lands in Crimea,” Putin explained. 

“NATO has been actively developing countries that border Russia. An expansion of this Western military alliance was an absolutely unacceptable threat. The death of each one of our soldiers and officers is our shared grief and an irreparable loss for their friends and relatives,” he said.

Ukraine Conflict

Ukraine Updates: Mariupol Residents Evacuating, Resolution Could Mean US Intervention 

This Monday the residents of Mariupol, Ukraine began a mass evacuation with Ukrainian authorities assisting thousands of more residents escape the city that once held almost 500,000 citizens. 

Mayoral adviser Petro Andryushchenko told the media that buses were heading toward Zaporizhzhia, which is 140 miles west of Mariupol. Individuals who own cars are being encouraged to evacuate themselves as quickly as possible. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We hope that thousands of our Mariupol residents … will get to Zaporizhzhia tonight or tomorrow morning,” Andryushchenko said Monday.

The Ukraine military said “civilians are already arriving in Zaporizhzhia [a city of about 750,000 people] and are being provided hot meals, physical and psychological examinations and medicines.”

“All evacuees will receive a calm refuge. Finally, these people will be able to feel safe.”

According to some estimates from authorities, about 100,000 people might still be trapped in the port city of Mariupol, with little access to food, water, and utilities. Several hundred of them are thought to be at a sprawling steel plant that is the last major holdout in the Russian-occupied city. 

Embed from Getty Images

More than 100 citizens were evacuated from the Azovstal plant on Sunday before Russian shelling forced a temporary halt to the evacuation efforts. The Russian military claims that 69 individuals chose to evacuate while 57 others asked to stay under Russian control. 

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told media stations that civilians who remain in the plant were likely afraid that the buses they boarded would be taken to Russia, but he has UN assurances that citizens would be going to Ukraine-controlled areas. 

Representative Adam Kinzinger is planning on introducing a joint resolution that would authorize President Joe Biden to use US military forces in Ukraine if Russia uses chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. 

“The legislation of the use of force would be used to protect the national security interests of the United States with respect to Ukraine and assist in defending and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” 

“The authority would terminate when the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been restored,” according to the resolution.

“Putin must be stopped. Accordingly, the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military should have the authority and means to take the necessary actions to do so,” Kinzinger said.

World Military Spending Hits $2 Trillion For First Time In History 

In 2021, global military spending hit an all-time high of $2 trillion, according to a report from a leading defense think-tank in Sweden. This also marks the seventh consecutive year that collective spending on the military has increased from the previous year. 

Ukraine Could Lose Half Of Its Economy Due To War, According To World Bank 

The World Bank released a report this weekend that stated Ukraine could lose almost half of its economy this year as a result of Russia’s invasion and the ongoing war between the two nations. 

The bank estimated that the “country’s GDP could decline by 45.1% this year, although the magnitude of the contraction will depend on the duration and intensity of the war.”

Embed from Getty Images

Since Russia invaded, Ukraine’s infrastructure has endured excessive amounts of damage and destruction. Bridges, neighborhoods, and ports have been hit with multiple blockades, and farmland throughout the nation has become the setting for multiple battles. 

Before this conflict, Ukraine was a major exporter of wheat and sunflower oil, however, the growth of both has been interrupted by fighting. Farmers are also finding it difficult to access machinery and other essential products needed for farming that would typically arrive through Black Sea ports. 

“The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis unleashed by the war is staggering. The Russian invasion is delivering a massive blow to Ukraine’s economy and it has inflicted enormous damage to infrastructure,” Anna Bjerde, the World Bank’s vice president for the Europe and Central Asia region, said in a statement.

“Ukraine needs massive financial support immediately as it struggles to keep its economy going and the government running to support Ukrainian citizens who are suffering and coping with an extreme situation.”

Embed from Getty Images

Ukraine Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko has stated that “the government is still functioning, despite the war.”

“About a third of the country’s economy is no longer functioning as the atrocities continue and millions of people flee as refugees into neighboring countries,” he explained. 

Marchenko added that as of late March, nearly 3 million Ukranians have lost their jobs; preliminary reports show the nation’s economy has already lost approximately $565 billion. 

To keep the economy afloat, the government has “leaned on war bonds, as well as less traditional avenues, such as fundraising in cryptocurrencies and the sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” according to Marchenko.

“I think that the true figures of total economic loss would be clear only after the war,” he said.

“The [best] scenario is to end the war as quickly as possible.”

New Report Details Gruesome Russian War Crimes In Ukraine 

Human Rights Watch released a new report detailing a multitude of war crimes committed by Russia within the first weeks of its invasion of Ukraine. The report was published Sunday, and cited the US accusing Russia of war crimes, and Kyiv accusing Moscow of genocide. 

Human Right Watch is a non-governmental organization known for providing updates, resources, and publicity for human rights violations throughout the world. The report detailed instances of war crimes between February 27th and March 14th; including repeated cases of rape, summary execution, unlawful violence, and general threats against innocent citizens. 

10 individuals provided personal accounts of what it’s like to be living in Ukraine territories that have been overtaken by Russia. One witness told the Human Rights Watch that Russian forces in Bucha forced five residents to kneel on the side of the road before shooting them each in the back of the head. 

Embed from Getty Images

Another witness described how she was the victim of rape by a Russian soldier who raped her multiple times in a school in Kharkiv, where she was seeking shelter with her family. She claimed that the man cut her face, neck, and hair with a knife as well. 

“The incidents cited amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Last month, the Biden administration determined that Russian forces have committed multiple war crimes in Ukraine, and labeled president Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky also accused Russia of Genocide on Sunday. 

“Indeed, this is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people. We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities.”

Embed from Getty Images

“We are the citizens of Ukraine and we don’t want to be subdued by the policy of the Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated, and this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation,” Zelensky added.

This Sunday images surfaced online of the violence occurring in Bucha specifically. Images of bodies on the street caused an uproar online, including one image of a person who was tied up with their arms behind their back before they were killed. 

The Russian defense ministry has casually dismissed these images as “fakes staged by the Kiev regime for the Western media.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the images “horrific.”

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed. And it just underlines the importance that this war must end. And that is President Putin’s responsibility, to stop the war.”

Russia has pulled its troops from cities and towns near Kyiv, and it’s believed the nation will be repositioning its invasion to focus on eastern Ukraine.