The World Today for January 25, 2017


Don’t Walk Away

Some believe climate change is a Chinese-invented “hoax.”

But the country where citizens sometimes can’t see past the smog in their sprawling cities is working hard to combat Beijing’s supposed fictional creation.

Indeed, as climate change skeptics continue to deny that carbon emissions are leading to melting polar ice caps, longer droughts, more powerful storms and other potentially catastrophic changes, China sees an opportunity to take a lead role on the world stage, The Guardian reported.

China worked closely with American officials to gather support from nearly 200 countries for the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to cut greenhouse gases that scientists claim cause climate change.

Now Chinese leaders are pushing hard to make sure the US and other countries honor the deal. Lack of cooperation on the issue could hurt Chinese-US relations, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech that some took as evidence of Beijing’s desire to play a more prominent role in global affairs – including climate policy.

In addition to extolling the virtues of free trade and globalism, Xi used his speech as an opportunity to urge signatories of the Paris agreement to stick to their guns.

Xi cautioned that the alternative – “walking away” from the pact – would only endanger future generations.

Still, China will have to contend with some considerable obstacles if it wants to become the top dog in climate protection, like slashing its excess coal capacity.

China will also have to step up its performance in providing accurate, transparent statistics on metrics like emissions and coal usage if it wants to shrink its carbon footprint and lead by example – something the Chinese government avoids, reported the New York Times.

Other world leaders share Xi’s global aspirations.

As Bloomberg reported, this year’s Davos summit was packed with sessions in which the political and business elite discussed ways to combat global warming – all while profiting from their good works.

The Los Angeles Times similarly noted in an op-ed that China’s awakening on climate change reflected Beijing’s self-interest as much as its altruism. Chinese leaders believe green, sustainable energy will power the 21st Century. They want their country to be at the vanguard of that revolution.

The newspaper noted that China spent $111 billion on renewable energy in 2015, more than any other country. The US spent $44 billion.

China’s climate change policies could be an example of self-interest benefiting and enriching everyone. That’s an idea any good businessman should love.


Enforcing Peace

The Syrian peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, concluded with a deal to enforce a ceasefire – but no specific plan how to go about it.

After two days of talks, IranRussia and Turkey agreed on Tuesday to compel the warring factions to stop shooting. But neither the Syrian government nor the rebels fighting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad signed the deal, the New York Times reported.

Though the monitoring and enforcement mechanism remains undefined, the deal did bring Iran onto the same page as Russia and Turkey, and it saw Turkey commit to separate the rebel groups it supports from jihadists who are also fighting Assad.

Meanwhile, new battles were reported in Wadi Barada, a rebel-held area that supplies most of the drinking water for Damascus, the Syrian capital. Water has been cut off for weeks due to such fighting.

All that means the biggest takeaway from the talks was that they confirmed Russia’s growing role in Syrian diplomacy at the expense of the US-led peace talks in Geneva.

Swedish Rape

Swedish police have arrested three men in connection with an alleged gang rape that was live streamed on Facebook.

“This rape was broadcast live on a Facebook group and numerous people have been in touch regarding seeing this broadcast,” CNN quoted a police statement as saying.

The alleged crime took place in an apartment in Uppsala, a city about 50 miles north of the capital, Stockholm, and was broadcast over a closed Facebook group where users post “rather special things,” according to police. Even bearing that in mind, the alleged rape video was “not anything normal” for the group – though such videos are disturbingly commonplace on the internet, generally.

Facebook Live allows people to broadcast live from their smartphone. The footage of the Swedish incident has been removed, and a Facebook spokesman told CNN, “This is a hideous crime and we do not tolerate this kind of content.”

Get Out of Jail Free

The new president of The Gambia plans to set free prisoners jailed for opposing ousted strongman Yahya Jammeh as soon as possible.

“All political detainees without trial to be released immediately,” the New York Times quoted a spokesman for President Adama Barrow as saying Tuesday. He did not say how many people might be freed.

A dozen or so of Jammeh’s political opponents were rounded up in the final weeks of his rule, as he tried to cling to power. He finally gave in to regional diplomatic and military pressure, flying out of the country into exile on Saturday. The NYT quoted a human rights activist as saying the speedy release of political prisoners indicates that the country’s security forces have accepted Barrow as the country’s legitimate leader.

Supporters of Barrow and human rights activists believe that an unknown number of political prisoners may have been tortured or killed in jail.


Touches Strong and Soft

Art aficionados who did the rounds of Helsinki’s galleries this week might have stumbled upon an opening for an exhibition by an unusual artist: a 930-pound brown bear named Juuso.

Entitled “Strong and Soft Touches,” the exhibition is a collection of paintings that Juuso made using his body and paws as paintbrushes.

Juuso’s keepers at the Kuusamo animal center in northern Finland said they discovered Juuso’s artistic talents by accident one day while they were painting the center’s facilities.

“Juuso got some paint in his paws and started to make marks with them,” Pasi Jantti, one his keepers, told Reuters. “We noticed that he liked it.”

His keepers said he favors blue and black paints and prefers to paint in his own time as opposed to when he’s told – like any true artist would.

The exhibition in Helsinki features 11 pieces of original work by Juuso, in addition to some prints. Works are priced between 50 to 4,000 euros, with any proceeds used to fund a documentary about bears, said Reuters.

Still, any gallery-hoppers or collectors hoping to meet the artist in the fur himself went home disappointed: Juuso stayed home hibernating.

Check out a video of Juuso at work here.

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