The World Today for October 30, 2018

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For We’re Bound for the Rio Grande

President Donald Trump was expected to send troops to the Mexican border to help stop a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants from entering the US.

“If the troops carry arms, it will be solely for self-defense,” wrote CNN.

That’s good: The vast majority of the migrants, who were mostly from Honduras and walking on foot and even pushing baby strollers, are probably not dangerous. A few thousand had already given up when they were still 1,000 miles away from the US border.

“Many caravan participants have suffered from dehydration, exhaustion, insect bites and other ailments,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mexican citizens, church groups and others were providing the migrants with food, water and other supplies, according to Al Jazeera, even as others in Mexico were worrying about a surge in crime and newcomers taking their jobs.

Sound familiar?

“There is a big social divide when it comes to this flow of immigration, between acceptance and support for them and a total rejection,” Claudia Masferrer, a migration expert at the Colegio de Mexico, a Mexico City university, told the New York Times. “This caravan confronts Mexico with what we as a country have demanded of the US vis-à-vis our own Mexican migrants.”

The situation has put Mexico in a tough position: On one hand, it’s struggling to assimilate thousands of migrants. On the other, it’s unsure of what to do with those who don’t want to stay in Mexico. As the New York Times wrote, “Do they apprehend thousands of migrants, creating a humanitarian crisis — not to mention a public relations one? Or do they simply accompany the exodus to ensure an orderly passage? It seems, for the moment, that the government has chosen the latter.”

Meanwhile, the migrants argued they have little choice but to leave corrupt, crime-ridden and impoverished Honduras, explained Victoria Moll-Ramírez, a Honduran ABC News producer, in a first-person article. The country has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Gangs and racketeering are rampant.

After Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins took it on himself to foil an attempt by a group of Hondurans to illegally cross the border in Texas, he asked them why they were coming into the country. They echoed Moll-Ramírez. “The situation of Honduras,” said one woman. “You cannot work there because the criminal always will get your money.”

Kevin Maldonado, 20, told USA Today that he picked coffee beans but then their price fell, so he was earning less from his back-breaking labor. He hails from western Honduras, a region that produces many migrants, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

“We’re tired,” he said while resting in the shade on a sidewalk in Huixtla, Mexico, near the Guatemalan frontier. “But the caravan is going to continue.”

Mexican leaders are divided over the issue calling for a “new policy.” So too are Americans. The Economist, meanwhile, didn’t believe Trump’s claims that criminals and terrorists were among the caravan. The right-leaning British magazine also opined, however, that Democrats were waffling on the issue out of fear of taking a position that would hurt them politically before Election Day.

Politicians can ignore reality. But if Maldonado is to be believed, they can’t do so forever.



Look Hands, No Mutti!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stunned the country on Monday, announcing that she would step down as leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in December and would not seek re-election in 2021.

Known as “Mutti” or mother, Merkel has been the most powerful politician in Germany, and in Europe, for more than a decade. But back-to-back election setbacks in Bavaria and Hesse recently have shown her party badly weakened by the erosion of the center and the fallout of her open door policy toward refugees, the Washington Times reported.

The big question now is whether she will serve out the rest of her term, with some speculating that new elections could be held as early as next year. Still, other analysts believe her actions were to prevent new elections.

“I am trying to do my part to ensure that the federal government finally gets the strength to focus on doing good for the country,” a sober Ms. Merkel said. “I am convinced that this action offers many more opportunities than risks.”

Both Merkel’s CDU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) saw their vote share drop around 10 percent in Hesse compared with the previous state election. The far-right Alternative for Germany won seats in the regional assembly for the first time but the party making the real gains in both states were the leftist Greens.

While some worried about Europe’s most powerful country moving into a period of instability, others said it was time for change, with both governing parties out of touch with voters.

Regardless, added Hesse voter Stefan Baumann, 51, who supported the SPD. “People will miss Angela Merkel once she’s gone.”

“She is the last among German politicians to have a strong conviction for Europe,” he told the newspaper. “The rest have no understanding nor respect of and for our historical responsibilities.”


On Sale: Rhinos and Tigers

Just as a major new study warns that humanity has wiped out nearly two-thirds of the world’s mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, China announced that it would allow the “strictly controlled” sale and use of rhino and tiger products for medical, scientific and cultural purposes.

Conservationists called the move an “enormous setback” in the effort to protect wildlife, saying it “will have devastating consequences globally,” NBC News reported. China’s State Council said Monday in a statement that only horns and bones from farm-raised rhinos and tigers would be allowed for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

But conservationists fear the regulations will be difficult to enforce, thus spurring more poaching in Africa and India.

The discouraging news comes as a new report from the World Wildlife Fund found that human population growth and industrial development has reduced the wild animal population by a stunning 60 percent since 1970 – with a sizable portion of the destruction coming over the past four years.


Hub and Spokes

Istanbul is staking its claim to become an even bigger hub of air traffic with the $11.7 billion airport unveiled outside the city by President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

The airport will be able to handle 90 million passengers a year, and can be expanded to accommodate as many as 200 million, Erdogan said, according to Reuters. That could make it one of the world’s busiest airports when it becomes fully operational in January – and perhaps eventually the world’s largest, according to the Telegraph.

Saying it will be called “Istanbul Airport,” Erdogan said the new hub would further Turkey’s role in the integration of global economies.

“With the operation of Istanbul Airport, European airspace will have to be restructured,” the president said. The city’s Ataturk Airport is already one of Europe’s five busiest.

The project has faced criticism over working conditions and safety standards, with the labor ministry announcing in February that 27 workers had died since construction started in 2015.


20,000 Leagues…

Archaeologists recently discovered the world’s oldest known intact shipwreck at the bottom of the Black Sea off the coast of Bulgaria. It is believed to have lain there, more than a mile below the surface, for more than 2,400 years.

The Guardian reported that the 75-foot vessel still had its mast, rudders and rowing benches in place – well preserved, thanks to the lack of oxygen at that depth.

“A ship surviving intact from the classical world, lying in over 2 km of water, is something I would never have believed possible,” said Jon Adams, chief investigator with the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project.

Historians speculate the vessel originated from ancient Greece, and it’s strikingly similar to the ships portrayed on ancient Greek pottery like the “Siren Vase,” which shows the mythical Odysseus tied to a ship’s mast in order to resist the sirens’ songs.

Expedition team member Helen Farr told the BBC that further study is needed, in part because the ship’s cargo remains unknown.

“Normally we find amphorae (wine vases) and can guess where it’s come from, but with this, it’s still in the hold,” she said.

The ship wasn’t the only vessel the researchers found in the depths of the Black Sea.

The team uncovered more than 60 shipwrecks, including a 17th-century Cossack raiding fleet and Roman trading vessels, complete with amphorae.

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