The World Today for January 28, 2021

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Globalization MENA-Style

The peace accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has created a tourism boom in Dubai, where Israelis now visit the gold markets and other attractions in the wealthy city on the Persian Gulf.

Braving COVID-19 and overcoming decades of suspicion, more than 50,000 Israelis have taken the three-hour flight to visit the UAE since the August deal, the Washington Post reported. Another 70,000 were expected to spend Hanukkah in the Muslim country. “To me this feels like the Iron Curtain lifting,” Adina Engal, an Israeli tourist in Dubai, told the newspaper.

An American rabbi who had been serving the small preexisting Jewish community in the UAE has been overwhelmed helping to accommodate the newcomers, reported National Public Radio. One Israeli visitor asked whether the local Starbucks used camel milk in its coffee, which would not be kosher.

There’s also the potential for Iranian attacks on Israelis in the UAE. Reports of Emirati security forces nabbing an Iranian cell in the country were later denied, however.

The traveling will eventually be both ways. After Israel lifts travel restrictions due to the pandemic, tourism officials expect 100,000 Emiratis to visit the country to see sites in the Holy Land as well as meet with Israeli tech entrepreneurs, the Arab News, a Saudi Arabian news outlet, wrote.

Not everyone likes the cultural exchange. Writing in Middle East Monitor, opinion writer Adnan Abu Amer claimed that too many Israelis brought illegal drugs and patronized prostitutes.

“It has become clear that any Israeli tourist in Dubai can go up to a hotel room to attend a party, pay $1,000 and jump into the pool of iniquity,” Abu Amer argued. “All of this is happening openly, while the Emirati authorities turn a blind eye to tourists spending a week in Dubai for sexual purposes.”

Palestinians were also disappointed. Emiratis can now travel in and out of Israel freely while Palestinians can’t easily do the same, opined writer Jala Abukhater in Al Jazeera. While an Israeli can hop on a plane and fly directly to the UAE, a Palestinian living in Ramallah would first need to cross the border into Jordan and catch a flight from an airport there to Dubai. That journey easily takes a day.

The Emiratis aren’t alone, however. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan also signed deals normalizing relations with Israel last year. Egypt and Jordan had already done so.

Rumors of the death of globalization, it appears, were premature.



Farewell to Arms

Russian lawmakers approved the extension of the New START treaty Wednesday, saving the last nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia just days before its expiration, the Associated Press reported.

The quick approval came one day after US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed to extend the treaty for five years.

Putin hailed the move as “a step in the right direction,” and arms control advocates urged the two rivals to start negotiating follow-up agreements.

The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limited the nuclear stockpile for each nation and implemented on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Russia had previously proposed to prolong the pact without any conditions or changes, but talks for extensions stalled during the presidency of Donald Trump.

The Trump administration said that the agreement put the US at a disadvantage and demanded that China be added to the treaty – an idea that was rejected by Beijing.

New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between Russia and the US, after both countries withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019.


First Come, First Serve

Tensions rose this week between the European Union and pharmaceutical companies, with the multi-nation bloc threatening to take legal action over delayed deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines, CNN reported Wednesday.

The dispute began after the British-Swedish firm, AstraZeneca, said last week it would not be able to supply the bloc with number of vaccine doses they’d agreed upon in the coming weeks, citing production problems at a manufacturing facility in Europe.

EU officials are also trying to assess the impact of Pfizer delivering fewer doses than planned last week of the vaccine it developed with BioNTech.

The European Commission threatened to tighten controls on vaccine exports, while Italy warned it would take legal action. Meanwhile, other European governments are demanding answers over the delays as many are worried that the slow rollout could threaten the bloc’s recovery.

Following the criticism, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said that while the company will try to deliver vaccines on time, it is not contractually committed to a schedule.

He noted that the United Kingdom ordered the vaccines first and said that the drugmaker could not guarantee a strict delivery schedule.


‘Legal and Moral Weight’

Yemeni families submitted a petition to an international human rights body earlier this week to determine whether the deaths of their relatives during US military campaigns in Yemen were unlawful, the Washington Post reported.

The petitioners told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that six drone strikes and one Special Operation in Yemen’s al-Bayda governorate inflicted catastrophic damage on two families and has taken a psychological toll on the survivors.

They allege that 34 relatives died in the operations, including nine children and members of Yemen’s military.

The US military has conducted multiple operations in Yemen to combat al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other militant threats during the administrations of President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

The petition marks the first time such a case was submitted to the commission and has the potential to draw attention to the human costs of US counterterrorism campaigns abroad.

Analyst Lisa Reinsberg said that if the commission concludes that the US is responsible for human rights violations, the decision will carry “legal and moral weight internationally.”

Last year, the Inter-American Commission declared that the US was responsible for the torture of a former inmate at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison.


Shocking Tactics

Messing with an electric eel is not a good idea, especially if it’s the Electrophorus voltai species.

The eight-foot-long creature – which is in fact a species of knifefish – can produce electric shocks of more than 800 volts, which scientists describe as “the strongest electric discharge of any animal on Earth.”

Initially, scientists presumed the eel hunted alone, but a new study found that the eels worked in groups to snatch – and shock – their prey, according to CNET.

Researcher Carlos David de Santana and his team noted that the E. voltai would form parties of up to 10 eels during hunting trips in the Amazon basin of Brazil.

The slithery fish would herd their prey into a ball in shallow waters and then zap them before feasting.

De Santana explained that 10 eels pack a powerful jolt: They can produce enough electricity to power 100 lightbulbs.

He explained that this is the first time this social behavior has been seen in E. voltai, which was described only recently as a separate species.

There are currently three distinct species of electric eels, but the E. voltai was the only social one.

In the future, de Santana’s team hopes to learn more about the eels’ shocking tactics.

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: 25,598,060 (+0.61%)
  2. India: 10,701,193 (+0.11%)
  3. Brazil: 8,996,876 (+0.71%)
  4. Russia: 3,752,548 (+0.98%)
  5. UK: 3,725,712 (+0.69%)
  6. France: 3,165,449 (+0.86%)
  7. Spain: 2,670,102 (+1.53%)
  8. Italy: 2,501,147 (+0.61%)
  9. Turkey: 2,449,839 (+0.31%)
  10. Germany: 2,179,873 (+0.73%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

Correction: In Wednesday’s DISCOVERIES section, we said in our “A Matter of Time” item that the Indigenous Quechua of Peru lived more than 2,500 feet above sea level for more than 11,000 years. In fact, they lived more than 2,500 meters above sea level. We sincerely apologize for the error.

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