The World Today for January 29, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

CUBA

Intolerable Brutality

Outrage and social media are fueling a popular uprising against the government’s power in Cuba.

Late last year, Cuban police arrested the rapper Denis Solís. It was not the first time officials had seized a free thinker in the communist country. But Solís streamed the incident live on Facebook.

The episode sparked a predominately Black artist collective called the San Isidro Movement (named after the San Isidro neighborhood of Havana) to stage a protest for the rapper’s release, as Global Voices explained. Solis was later sentenced to eight months in prison for “contempt of authority,” a conviction that Pen America denounced.

The police then cracked down on the San Isidro artists, who also shared their arrests on social media, leading to an even larger protest of 200 artists in front of the Cuban Ministry of Culture. “The videos had a huge impact on us,” artist-protester Tania Bruguera told the New York Times. “We saw that any artist in Cuba who decides to speak up, or question what the government says, or make art that asks uncomfortable questions, could receive the same treatment.”

At least one of the San Isidro artists, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, was released after ending a hunger strike in jail, the Art Newspaper wrote. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, meanwhile, called the protest a US-sponsored “imperialist reality show.”

The ratcheting down of tensions between the US and Cuba under President Barack Obama arguably helped the protesters, who now enjoy Internet access that would be unimaginable only a few years ago. Cubans have already developed a mobile app called “Que hay?” – “What is there?” in Spanish – that users can use to find cheese, soap and toothpaste in a poor, state-run economy where people still must sometimes wait in line for hours to enter a supermarket, Agence France-Presse reported.

President Donald Trump reversed Obama’s stance toward the island, going so far as to reinstate Cuba on the American list of state sponsors of terrorism in the last days of his presidency in January, as National Public Radio explained. Tampa Bay-based WFLA described how the change affected Floridians who might travel to and from the island frequently.

Cuba hopes President Joe Biden will reverse Trump’s policies and return to improved ties that greatly help the Cuban economy, added Reuters. An expert who spoke to Miami-based WPLG, meanwhile, predicted that Biden would practice rapprochement with Cuba but likely not drop the American embargo on the country that dates to the Cold War.

Old habits die hard.

WANT TO KNOW

POLAND

Even Stricter

Poland implemented a near-total ban on abortions in the predominately Catholic country on Thursday, a move that drew fierce criticism from activists and sparked mass protests in Polish cities, CBS News reported.

Poland already had one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. It only permitted the procedure if the mother was the victim of rape or incest, if the mother’s life is in danger or if the fetus has birth defects. The latest change eliminates the last condition.

Last October, the country’s highest court ruled that aborting disabled fetuses was “incompatible” with the Polish constitution.

The ruling sparked mass demonstrations last year, prompting the government to suspend its implementation.

However, the government officially declared the ruling legal on Wednesday, which led to thousands of people pouring into the streets to protest the controversial decision.

Protests continued Thursday in other cities, with authorities warning that the rallies risk spreading the coronavirus.

Human rights activists said that the change in laws is nearly identical to a total ban on abortions. They warned that the new restrictions will force women to seek out dangerous illegal abortions, or force them to travel abroad for the procedure.

PAKISTAN

What Justice?

Pakistan’s top court acquitted the man convicted for organizing the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and ordered his immediate release from prison, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Supreme Court upheld a ruling from a lower court that overturned the terrorism convictions for Omar Sheikh. The judges also overturned his kidnapping convictions and said it would explain its reasoning in the future.

Sheikh has spent more than 18 years in prison for the crimes. The court ruled that he should be released immediately from jail.

Pakistan’s government said it would challenge the verdict.

Despite the earlier ruling by the lower court, authorities have refused to release Sheikh. It’s unclear if they will continue to hold him in prison following the high court’s decision.

In December, the acting attorney general under President Donald Trump issued a statement offering that American authorities could take custody of Sheikh to stand trial in the US, as the case concerns the killing of an American citizen, NPR reported.

Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was reporting on militant networks in Pakistan following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He disappeared in the southern city of Karachi and was found dead a few days later.

FRANCE

Ethical Trade

France’s lower house of parliament approved a new bill on animal welfare earlier this week that will bar pet shops from selling young pets if it passes in the upper house, Politico reported Thursday.

Breeders will still be allowed to sell puppies and kittens under the proposed bill against animal abuse. But it will prevent the young animals from being separated from their mothers too early, as well as order breeders to undergo animal welfare training.

Marketplaces and online ads will also need to include animals’ ages, breed information and identification numbers to prevent trafficking.

Lead rapporteur of the bill Loïc Dombreval of the ruling La République en Marche party said that the legislation was important to prevent fake advertisements that put “professional breeders in trouble.”

Critics, however, said that the draft law unfairly targets garden center workers and pet shops and could push sales onto the black market.

Global pet sales amounted to as much as $125 billion in 2020, as many people spent more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The situation also encouraged illegal traders to scale up the activities during that period.

DISCOVERIES

Frozen in Time

Canadian miner Neil Loveless was looking for gold when he came across an archaeological treasure in the Yukon Territory of Canada four years ago.

The strange find turned out to be the well-preserved remains of an ancient wolf pup that had been frozen in time for tens of thousands of years, according to the New York Times.

The local Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin people named the pup “Zhur” – meaning “wolf” in their language – and recently scientists thoroughly studied its mummified body to paint a vivid and detailed picture of the animal’s life.

Researchers described Zhur as “basically the best preserved wolf that’s ever been found,” because her remains were preserved in permafrost for more than 56,000 years.

The team said that Zhur died when her den – which was built in sandy soil – collapsed and killed her. She was about six to seven weeks old and very healthy at the time of her death.

DNA analysis also showed that she was an arctic wolf of the Pleistocene period, the same species as today’s gray wolves, but not a direct ancestor.

Although it sounds far from a positive sign, Zhur’s discovery wouldn’t have been possible without the help of climate change.

The warming temperatures are causing permafrost around the world to melt and expose new well-preserved fossil troves for scientists.

Holiday Promo

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: 25,766,736 (+0.66%)
  2. India: 10,720,048 (+0.18%)
  3. Brazil: 9,058,687 (+0.69%)
  4. UK: 3,754,498 (+0.77%)
  5. Russia: 3,752,548 (+0.00%)**
  6. France: 3,166,145 (+0.02%)
  7. Spain: 2,705,001 (+1.31%)
  8. Italy: 2,515,507 (+0.57%)
  9. Turkey: 2,457,118 (+0.30%)
  10. Germany: 2,194,562 (+0.67%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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