The World Today for February 17, 2020

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The Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism is proving to be a headache for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada.

The activist group recently shut down Canada’s busiest port, in Vancouver, British Columbia, for a day. “We’re part of a nationwide movement to shut down Canada in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en,” organizer Isabel Krupp told Global News, a Canadian outlet.

The Wet’suwet’en are a First Nations people hailing from the interior of the province. Some of their members have organized camps in northern British Columbia to sustain a constant protest against the construction of a $6.6 billion oil pipeline through their ancestral territory.

The protesters and other supporters of indigenous rights have clashed with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, according to progressive news website Common Dreams. The company building the pipeline maintains that it has rights to the land but the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs dispute those claims, VICE News explained.

The protest in Vancouver occurred around the same time that Trudeau was on a trip abroad, participating in a session of the African Union, forging economic ties with fast-growing Ethiopia and meeting with Canadian forces in Kuwait.

Perhaps his agenda was ambitious because he enjoys lackluster support at home.

Around 44 percent of respondents to a recent poll said Trudeau’s Liberal government was performing very or somewhat poorly, the Globe and Mail reported. Twenty-seven percent said its performance was good or somewhat good. Another 27 percent said it was average. In 2015, after a then 43-year-old Trudeau first won the premiership, he enjoyed a “good or somewhat good” rating of 60 percent.

Trudeau gets flak if he goes out and buys doughnuts, as the Deseret News reported.

The Wet’suwet’en protest especially presents a challenge for Trudeau because, while he has supported carbon taxes and other initiatives that environmentalists applaud, he has also promised to increase Canadian energy exports to China and elsewhere, Politico wrote. His government is negotiating a delicate balance. The protesters are putting a wrench in the works.

More issues are coming. This month, Trudeau faces a highly controversial choice about approving a massive $20 billion oil-sands mine in northern Alberta that is putting more pressure on him from both sides. The mine, proposed by the firm Teck Resources, is expected to produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen a day.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney of the rival Conservative Party implored Trudeau to approve the mine. “A decision to kill the project at this late hour, after all that Teck has done to satisfy regulators and social-environmental concerns, would echo in global markets like a slamming door,” he said in a letter published in Bloomberg.

Speaking to foreign heads of state must seem like a break.



Another Impasse

South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar on Saturday rejected the peace offer by President Salva Kiir aimed at creating a national unity government, lowering hopes of a speedy end to the six-year civil war that has killed at least 340,000 and left millions in poverty.

Kiir’s proposal would again divide South Sudan into 10 states rather than the current 32 states and create three “administrative areas” of Pibor, Ruweng and Abyei, Al Jazeera reported.

Machar welcomed the plan to revert to the original number of states, but he rejected the idea of three administrative areas. He argued that the three regions could cause further problems, calling the issue a “Pandora’s box.”

The subject of states is important in South Sudan because the borders will determine the divisions of power in the country.

The oil-rich area of Ruweng remains an important issue for both leaders, since oil provides most of the governmental revenue in the new African nation.

Both leaders are under increasing international pressure to implement a power-sharing deal by Feb. 22.



Azerbaijan security forces detained three opposition party leaders and more than 100 activists Sunday to prevent them from participating in a protest against the results of last week’s national elections, Reuters reported.

Riot police also surrounded the building of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in the capital, where the protests were slated to occur, and put anyone arriving to take part in the demonstrations on a bus.

Last week, the CEC said that the ruling New Azerbaijan party won 72 of the 125 seats in the single-chamber parliament last Sunday, with nearly all the rest of the seats going to smaller parties or independents loyal to President Ilham Aliyev.

International monitors noted that there were widespread violations in the poll and expressed doubts about the fairness of the elections.

Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, called the elections last year in a bid to secure his authority and speed up economic reforms.

Western nations see Azerbaijan as an alternative to Russia in supplying oil and gas to Europe, but human rights organizations have criticized how Aliyev’s actions in curbing dissent and jailing opponents.


Para bellum

Venezuelan armed forces and civilian militias held combat drills around the South American nation on Saturday aimed at preventing “terrorist aggression” from the United States and its allies in the region, the Associated Press reported.

President Nicolas Maduro called for the two-day exercises, despite no indications that the US has any plans to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

“The purpose of this exercise is to keep us prepared,” said militia member Carmen Ferrer.

Since last year, Washington and dozens of nations have been backing opposition leader Juan Guaido to force Maduro to step down.

On Saturday, Guaido called on the military to abandon Maduro and join him in rebuilding the country. His previous attempts to encourage the armed forces to switch sides have fell on deaf ears.

Last week, Maduro threatened to arrest Guaido, who recently returned from a three-week international tour aimed at boosting support for the opposition campaign.


Appetite for Destruction

Fungi can grow almost anywhere, including places with high levels of radiation, according to Popular Mechanics.

Back in 1991, scientists discovered a species of fungi that grows in the irradiated Chernobyl complex in Ukraine, where the tragic nuclear meltdown occurred in 1986.

The scientific community has since studied the peculiar fungus and found that it can actually “eat” radiation.

In a 2007 study, researchers reported that the species can decompose radioactive materials, and that it grows toward the hottest and most radioactive spots in the complex.

The authors explained that the fungus carries a lot of dark melanin pigment that absorbs radiation and processes it in a harmless way to produce energy.

They suggested that this novel ability could be used to make substances that block radiation and convert it into a renewable energy source.

NASA has also studied the fungus and plans to observe it in the International Space Station, to confirm whether it can absorb and process radiation in space.

If it retains its radiation-eating properties there, the fungus could become a key part of future space travel, where deadly amounts of cosmic radiation hinder human exploration of the final frontier.

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