The World Today for February 01, 2021

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Dissidents in the Desert

Saad al-Jabri saved hundreds of lives in 2010 when he warned British authorities of a bomb al Qaeda terrorists had placed on a flight from East Midlands Airport bound for Chicago. The former Saudi intelligence officer worked closely with Western intelligence agencies in the war against terror, explained the BBC.

Today, al-Jabri, who holds a doctorate in artificial intelligence, lives in exile in Toronto. He claims that his life is in danger because he was courageous – or foolish enough – to voice his opposition to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war. A major proponent of that war was then-defense minister Mohammed bin Salman, who is now the crown prince and de facto leader of Saudi Arabia and set to ascend to the oil-rich desert kingdom’s throne one day.

Bin Salman, also known as MBS, is allegedly responsible for the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. An Associated Press review recommended a recently released film, “The Dissident” as “essential viewing” for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating case of international crime and intrigue.

These days, al-Jabri is accusing MBS of ordering Saudi authorities to kidnap his children to force him to return home where he will face crooked justice and imprisonment for speaking his mind about Saudi Arabia’s meddling in Yemen, the Washington Post reported. Left-leaning Nation magazine described how wars in Yemen and elsewhere have dragged on for years with few tangible successes.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump had considered giving MBS immunity in a US federal court case that al-Jabri has brought against the Saudi leader, the New York Times reported. That didn’t happen. MBS says the court should have no jurisdiction over him, wrote Reuters. Some thought President Joseph Biden could use immunity as a way to convince MBS to lift a Saudi blockade of Qatar, a rival in the Persian Gulf where the biggest American military base in the Middle East is located, the Atlantic Council wrote in a blog. However, that blockade was lifted in January.

Biden is reportedly considering taking a different approach, in any case. He is considering making public American intelligence that would provide insights into Khashoggi’s death, reported Al Jazeera. Foreign Policy magazine did not think that concerns about national security should preempt the release of that intelligence. On the contrary, keeping it hidden protected Saudi’s violent, autocratic regime. Releasing it would surely embarrass MBS, added Bloomberg.

MBS has little to lose or fear but his reputation – once that of a reformer – could be further tarnished, say observers. His enemies and victims, in the short run, will take what they can get.



The Vaccine Wars

The European Union faced a strong international backlash over its decision to set up controls on vaccine exports outside of the bloc, following a fight with pharmaceutical companies over delays in vaccine doses, Financial Times reported Sunday.

Canada, Japan and South Korea voiced concern at the bloc’s decision and warned it could fuel “global disunity.

The new export controls will allow the EU and its member states to restrict vaccine shipments from companies that still owe the EU doses. Even so, EU officials insisted that a large number of vaccine exports would end up exempted from the restrictions.

The move follows a dispute between the EU and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over the latter’s failure to meet its vaccine delivery schedule. The firm says its agreement with the EU to provide millions of doses of its vaccine is not binding.

The bloc has secured advance orders of more than two billion vaccine doses – enough to vaccinate the EU’s 446 million people. Still, vaccination programs across the bloc have rolled out far more slowly than those in the UK or the US.


Open Arms

Britain opened a new visa scheme Sunday that will allow Hong Kong residents to move to the United Kingdom, a move that drew fierce criticism from China, the BBC reported.

The visa will allow holders of a British National Overseas (BNO) passport and their immediate dependents to settle in the UK, as well as facilitate their path to British citizenship.

Applicants who get the visa will be able to apply for permanent residency after five years and then British citizenship after another 12 months.

There are 2.9 million citizens eligible to move to the UK, with an additional 2.3 million dependents.

China condemned the move as an attempt to meddle in its domestic affairs and said it will no longer recognize the BNO document starting Sunday.

The BNO status was created before Britain handed Hong Kong to China in 1997.

In July, Britain launched the new visa scheme after China imposed a national security law in Hong Kong in response to the 2019 mass protests against the mainland’s crackdown on dissent.

The British government condemned the law as a violation of the Joint Declaration agreement, which would guarantee the territory, among other things, rights such as freedom of assembly and free speech.


No Quarter

Russian authorities arrested more than 5,100 protesters across the country over the weekend after thousands protested the detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, Politico reported.

For two weekends in a row, police have detained thousands of pro-Navalny demonstrators, following the opposition leader’s arrest last month as he returned to Russia from Germany.

Navalny was being treated in a German hospital after he was poisoned by a deadly nerve agent during a trip to Siberia in August. He blames the Russian government for the assassination attempt.

Navalny is currently awaiting trial in connection with a 2014 embezzlement case: Authorities say he violated the terms of his suspended sentence when he went to Germany.

Navalny said that the arrest was politically motivated. It has provoked outrage internationally.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the arrest of protesters, a move that marks a major shift in tone from a much more hands-off US policy toward President Vladimir Putin during the administration of Donald Trump, the news outlet noted.


Eco-Friendly Hunting

When thinking about plastic pollution, plastic bottles – and more recently, facemasks – are the usual culprit.

However, hunting also contributes to the global plastic problem: Shotgun cartridges used by hunters are primarily made of plastic casing and wadding – the layer that separates the powder from the shot.

Once fired, the ammo gets discarded and – if not properly recycled – could contaminate the planet for hundreds of years.

Spanish entrepreneur Enrique López-Pozas recognized the ecological impact of these bullets and sought to tackle the matter with new ecological ammo.

“I realized we were leaving plastic in the environment that would remain there forever,” he told the Guardian.

His company, BioAmmo, is producing 100 percent plastic-free, biodegradable and bio-compostable shotgun cartridges to replace traditional plastic ones.

The unique munition’s casing and wadding is made out of a vegetable biopolymer, while its metal base is a non-toxic alloy of copper and zinc designed to oxidize and disappear.

The company said that the fired cartridges can be consumed by microorganisms within two years, or even used in making compost heaps.

BioAmmo has customers from more than 20 countries. Its biggest market is the United States.

It hopes to ramp up production after slowing down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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: 26,186,815 (+0.43%)
  2. India: 10,757,610 (+0.11%)
  3. Brazil: 9,204,731 (+0.30%)
  4. UK: 3,828,183 (+0.56%)
  5. Russia: 3,825,739 (+0.46%)
  6. France: 3,255,920 (+0.59%)
  7. Spain: 2,743,119 (+0.00%)**
  8. Italy: 2,553,032 (+0.44%)
  9. Turkey: 2,477,463 (+0.27%)
  10. Germany: 2,225,659 (+0.03%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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