The World Today for March 23, 2017


Attention Please!

Another bleaching event is already striking Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on the heels of the one that just ended – its third and most severe die-off in 20 years.

Last year’s unprecedented event killed or reduced 90 percent of the reef’s corals to “barren white skeletons,” wrote the LA Times. The damage is likely permanent, as coral bleaching becomes the new norm in the world’s oceans, say scientists.

It’s also a sign that climate change could already be pushing the world’s ecosystems past the point of no return.

The stress may have already accelerated the disappearance of many species from the planet. Some scientists have already dubbed this the “sixth mass extinction.”

That extinction will likely upend the natural order of many ecosystems, especially as large predators at the top of the food chain seem more vulnerable to extinction than those further down the chain, wrote the Washington Post.

Environmental regulations have helped in the past.

In the US, many species like the Florida Manatee have been able to stave off extinction thanks to programs like the Endangered Species Act.

Unfortunately, the situation is more severe elsewhere.

On Wednesday, scientists published a study finding that human-caused climate change was threatening to permanently melt glaciers that have been around since the Ice Age, CBS reported.

After a brief period of respite, deforestation has picked up again in Brazil, where rates of rainforest destruction have returned to heights not seen in a decade.

Nearly 2 million acres of rainforest were lost in Brazil between August 2015 and July 2016, an increase of one and a half million from the previous year, according to the New York Times.

Neighboring countries like Bolivia, where regulations on land clearance are less strict than in Brazil, have likewise experienced accelerated deforestation as agricultural firms move deeper into the Amazon jungle, the report added.

Part of the problem is that many of these changes have occurred without people taking notice.

They might not always be able to look the other way, however.

Deforestation, for example, has hampered the rainforest’s ability to retain and redistribute water in the air as rain – unleashing unprecedented drought episodes on the region, noted Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.

When droughts and food shortages become recurring phenomena, people start moving, too. As the Huffington Post wrote, studies are already predicting an increase in migration thanks to climate change.

That mass migration could in turn lead to a spike in hate crimes, as has already happened in Germany last year, they added.

What to do? A key thing, say scientists, is to start paying attention.


A Grim Anniversary

World leaders from across the world expressed solidarity with their counterparts in Britain, following an apparent terrorist attack that killed five people and injured 40 others in London on Wednesday – the anniversary of coordinated suicide bombings that struck Brussels one year ago, killing 32.

Noting that the attack was the first item discussed during his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Thursday morning in Canberra, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that “together, we send our condolences to the prime minister of the UK and together we condemn terrorism and we stand against all forms of terrorism,” the Associated Press reported.

An as-yet unidentified man plowed into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge with a car before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament on Wednesday. Three civilians, as well as the police officer and the assailant, were killed in the incident.

Turning Right, Again

The lower house of Brazil’s Congress passed a landmark labor reform on Wednesday in another signal of the country’s more conservative swing following the impeachment and ouster of former President Dilma Rousseff.

The lower house voted 231-188 on Wednesday in favor of allowing companies to outsource any job they see fit and extending the maximum term for temporary work contracts to nine months from three months, Reuters reported.

President Michel Temer’s government views the increased flexibility, which will lower costs for employers, as vital to creating jobs and pulling Brazil out of its worst-ever recession. But the country’s unions say that the measure will reduce job security and increase unemployment.

The leftist Workers Party of Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, opposed the bill. It now moves to the Senate, where Temer’s government also enjoys a comfortable majority.

If it passes there, Temer has the power to veto the bill or sign it into law.

A Drawn-out Fight

The latest offensive in the battle to take back Raqqa, Syria, from the Islamic State featured an “unprecedented” air assault.

US helicopters carrying about 500 local US allies and coalition military advisers landed behind enemy lines so they could attack an IS-controlled dam, a neighboring town and an airfield, CNN reported.

Despite what a coalition public affairs officer characterized as “a daring assault,” however, the terror group remained in control of the area after the attack. Retaking the Tabqa Dam, about 25 miles west of Raqqa, is seen as vital to recapturing the self-declared capital of the caliphate, as the dam supplies electricity to a wide area of Syria.

On the other hand, its destruction “could lead to a severe humanitarian crisis,” warned public affairs officer Col. Joseph Scrocca.

Earlier this month, another US official said the pressure on Raqqa is already causing some IS leaders to flee the city. But the fight is likely to be drawn out and will “probably not be the final battle,” they said.


Holy Works

As one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is home to plenty of sacred sites.

Now visitors to the Holy City have one more landmark to add to their itinerary: the restored tomb in which Jesus’s body was supposedly interred after his crucifixion.

Also known as the most sacred monument in Christianity, the tomb – located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the heart of the Christian quarter of Jerusalem’s walled Old City – was unveiled after a nine-month renovation this week.

The restoration work – which cost roughly $4 million – focused on a small structure known as the Edicule located above the burial chamber.

The much-needed renovations were carried out by a team of about 50 experts from the National Technical University of Athens who worked mainly at night so pilgrims could visit the Church during the day.

“If the intervention hadn’t happened now, there is a very great risk that there could have been a collapse,” Bonnie Burnham of the World Monuments Fund, which managed the project, told the Associated Press. “This is a complete transformation of the monument.”

Check out some pictures of the tomb here.


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