September 14, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

EUROPEAN UNION

From Peril to Peril

Boubacar Wann Diallo has been giving proper burials to migrants who wash up, dead, on the shores of his community in Morocco. “It’s a joy for me to bury them,” Wann Diallo, a devout Muslim, told the New York Times.

His story is one of millions that have occurred amid the migration of Africans, Middle Easterners and South Asians to Europe in recent years.

As the BBC explained, the flood of desperate migrants, refugees and asylum seekers began around five years ago when more than one million people came to the continent as the Syrian Civil War raged.

The influx might have ebbed at times but it never really stopped. This summer, many migrants have been seeking opportunities as their economies have collapsed due to the coronavirus. As CNN explained, Europeans have been far less welcoming to this most recent wave.

When a chemical tanker picked up migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta and other countries refused to let it dock, the Guardian reported. Since governments aren’t sending rescue boats to help people, the incognito British street artist Banksy funded a ship for emergency pickups, added Agence France-Presse. Other migrants have taken to the Atlantic hoping to go north, according to the Associated Press.

The journey is not necessarily the most dangerous part of the trip. In Libya, migrants face abuse by the smugglers and others who profit off the massive human trafficking rings that have flourished amid the migration crisis and now the Covid-19 pandemic, too, the Financial Times wrote. The United Nations has called for the closure of refugee camps in Libya, citing inhuman conditions and human rights abuses, Al Jazeera reported.

Fearing new mandatory quarantine measures might justify mistreatment, asylum seekers set fire to their camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, displacing 12,500 migrants. The camp was a “symbol of Europe’s failure to safely manage and care for the waves of migrant arrivals on the continent,” the Washington Post wrote.

There’s good news, too, though. Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Constanze Stelzenmüller told Public Radio International that Germany has been far more successful in integrating migrants than naysayers believed. While xenophobic groups have likely expanded and gained supporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Germany could handle the newcomers, has also gained in popularity.

That’s European Union leaders’ chance to reaffirm that their bloc doesn’t discriminate based on “racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief,” as a recent EU statement said.

Growing pains can end – sooner or later.

WANT TO KNOW

BAHRAIN

The Growing Club

Bahrain became the latest Arab Gulf nation to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, just one month after the United Arab Emirates did so – both are joining Jordan and Egypt in a move that could alter the strategic alignment of the Middle East, the New York Times reported over the weekend.

The normalization of ties was welcomed by the United States, the UAE and Oman but firmly rejected by Iran, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey, according to Al Jazeera.

Analysts said the move is an attempt by Washington to score a victory in the region after it failed to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. They argue that Gulf countries and Israel have already had established ties for years, due to concerns over Iran and fears about a vacuum created by the US’ declining role in the region.

The move has also been seen as a way to prevent Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank: The Gulf states consider annexation as a fatal blow to closer ties with Israel.

Bahrain’s decision could become a catalyst for other Gulf nations to recognize Israel, including Saudi Arabia which has already taken symbolic steps, such as allowing Israeli commercial flights to use its airspace.

AFGHANISTAN

Road to Peace

Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government officially began talks in Qatar Saturday to pave the road for peace in Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war, NPR reported.

The Doha meeting marks the first time the warring factions have met face-to-face and comes about six months after the United States reached a peace agreement with the armed group.

The negotiations aim to establish a peaceful postwar society: Gender equality and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities will be pivotal points in the discussions.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the talks present a “major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace.”

Several concessions were made before the peace negotiations began: The US and its allies will withdraw troops in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. Meanwhile, the Afghan government and the Islamist group agreed to exchange prisoners before the talks.

Since it signed the peace deal in February, the US has begun to plan the withdrawal of its nearly 12,000 troops in the country, reducing that number to 4,500 troops by the end of November.

SOUTH AMERICA

‘Hostile’ Takeover

A United States citizen became the head of the Inter-American Development Bank Saturday, the first time in the 60-year history of the region’s top development bank that it will not be led by a Latin American, the Financial Times reported.

The election of President Donald Trump’s advisor on Latin America, Mauricio Claver-Carone, was supported by 30 out of the 48 votes from the bank’s member nations, including Brazil and Colombia.

Claver-Carone pledged to increase lending and improve the bank’s efficiency to counteract increased Chinese lending to the region.

The development bank lends between $12 billion to $13 billion annually to fund infrastructure and public services in Latin American and Caribbean nations.

His election, however, was seen as controversial by many members, who proposed regional candidates to keep the institution in Latin American hands. Claver-Carone holds hardline stances toward Cuba and Venezuela: Five former Latin American presidents feared that his candidacy poses “serious aggression to Latin American dignity.”

Analysts said that the Trump advisor’s election marks a failure by Latin American countries to rally behind a regional candidate and withstand US pressure.

DISCOVERIES

Moon Rust

The evolutionary history of Earth’s natural satellite is about to become more complicated.

Scientists have discovered evidence of rust on the Moon’s surface after studying samples taken by India’s Chandrayaan-1 space mission, Newsweek reported.

In their study, they found hematite minerals in the water samples, a type of rust that requires oxygen and water. Hematite is very common on our planet due to the abundance of those two elements.

Researchers have known for years that there’s water and iron-rich rocks on the Moon but they wondered where the oxygen originated since it’s in short supply.

“The Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in,” lead author Shuai Li said in a statement.

Their analysis revealed that the oxygen came from Earth’s magnetic field: The team explained that most of the hematite on the satellite was found on the side that faces the Earth – since it was the one getting hit by tiny amounts of oxygen.

As for the water, they suggested moving dust hitting the lunar surface might stir up small amounts of water that interact with oxygen and iron to create the hematite.

The authors hope that future lunar missions can shed light on the hematite mystery.

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 6,520,235 (+0.53%)
  2. India: 4,846,427 (+1.94%)
  3. Brazil: 4,330,455 (+0.34%)
  4. Russia: 1,059,024 (+0.51%)
  5. Peru: 729,619 (+1.81%)
  6. Colombia: 716,319 (+1.04%)
  7. Mexico: 668,381 (+0.66%)
  8. South Africa: 649,793 (+0.24%)
  9. Spain: 566,326 (0.00%)**
  10. Argentina: 555,537 (+1.66%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country