April 05, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

GREENLAND

Fade to Black

Climate change is turning Greenland black. Algae growing due to warmer temperatures is darkening the ice sheet on the icy Arctic island, reported Business Insider. Since dark colors reflect less sunlight than lighter ones, the algae will likely speed up the melting that is already occurring in the Danish-controlled territory.

Greenland’s ice used to melt for around 50 days in the summer. Now it’s melting for as many as 75 days a year. That’s around seven times faster than the melting of nearly two decades ago. The island’s lakes are vanishing as a result, too, potentially providing lubrication that helps the thick ice slide over the bedrock below, further causing the ice to dissipate into the ocean, added Scientific American.

The disappearing ice has revealed how plants once lived on Greenland, confirming that a deep freeze is not destined to rule the island, Wired wrote. That means, what Eric the Red, a Viking who lied about how Greenland was a verdant paradise to lure settlers more than a millennium ago, might in fact be coming true.

Ancient plants aren’t the only treasures on Greenland, however. A motherlode of rare earth metals is in the territory, too. That’s where things become political.

On April 6, Greenland voters are scheduled to vote on a new government. In February, wrote Quartz, the governing Siumut party collapsed due to disagreements over a rare earth and uranium open-pit mine called Kvanefjeld.

Some are frightened of the ecological effects of such a large resource-extraction project. The critics argued that such a mine could hurt another growing industry on the island: tourism. Visitors to Greenland can see icebergs, primordial tundra and the aurora borealis, Conde Nast Traveler wrote.

“This is a project that probably really would make a difference, in terms of providing jobs and a healthy dose of income to the national purse,” Danish Institute for International Studies Senior Researcher Ulrik Pram Gad told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “But it’s also a very controversial project. Should we sacrifice this beautiful spot and the kind of life that people live there, for the sake of the greater good – in this case, inching toward national independence?”

Proposed 15 years ago, Kvanefjeld’s proponents of the project argue that it will help Greenland become independent. Home to 56,000 people, Greenland is largely autonomous but leaders in Copenhagen dictate its foreign, defense and monetary policy, Reuters explained.

Under Danish law, Greenlanders have the right to secede from the Kingdom of Denmark. But currently, Denmark pays for half the island’s annual budget, Foreign Policy magazine reported. Without the mining project, it’s not clear if the island’s residents can afford their current level of public services.

That’s the kind of hard choice that comes with standing on one’s own two feet.

WANT TO KNOW

JORDAN

Et Tu?

Jordanian authorities arrested multiple high-profile figures including a member of the royal family over the weekend, in what is being called an attempted coup in the usually stable kingdom, the New York Times reported.

The detained individuals include Bassem Awadallah, a longtime confidant of King Abdullah II, and former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein who was placed under house arrest.

Officials said the detentions are linked to an alleged plot to unseat the king with investigations still ongoing and more arrests to follow, according to the Washington Post.

On Saturday, the former crown prince released a video where he denied involvement in “any conspiracy or nefarious organization or foreign-backed group.”

He said that he was being punished for participating in meetings where the king had been criticized and wasn’t himself accused of making any critical remarks. He described Jordan’s leadership as corrupt, incompetent and intolerant of criticism.

However, authorities said Sunday that the detained royal planned to “destabilize Jordan” with foreign parties, according to Sky News.

Hamzah was named crown prince in 1999 but his half-brother Abdullah II, transferred the title to his son Prince Hussein, in 2004. The former crown prince is a popular figure in Jordan and has close ties to the country’s tribal leaders.

The arrest of royals and public figures is extremely rare in Jordan, which is one of the few stable nations in the volatile Middle East and stalwart ally of the West, particularly when it comes to counterterrorism cooperation.

UNITED KINGDOM

Kill the Bill

Thousands marched in the streets of England and Wales over the weekend against a controversial crime bill that critics say will impose severe restrictions on the right to protest, the Guardian reported.

The protests, popularly known as “Kill the Bill,” are the latest in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic regulations have loosened and protests are now lawful across England and Wales.

The marches – which have sometimes turned violent and led to arrests – are aimed at the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, which passed its second reading in parliament last month.

The proposed legislation will make it easier for police to ban – or shut down – peaceful protests if they are considered disruptive or likely to lead to public disorder.

Demonstrators and opposition politicians, however, have described it as an attack on the right to protest and a step toward authoritarianism.

They warn that the bill in conjunction with other contentious laws – including one that allows agents of the state to commit crimes while undercover – will tip the balance of power toward the authorities and erode individual freedoms.

The recent demonstrations come after police in Bristol were condemned for cracking down on three “Kill the Bill” protests last month: Officers were sent in with dogs and riot gear to clear the streets three times in the span of a week.

EGYPT

Make Way for the Kings

Egypt held a grand parade over the weekend to celebrate the move of 22 of its ancient royal mummies through Cairo in a spectacular show aimed at boosting the country’s tourism sector, Al Jazeera reported.

The remains of 18 kings and four queens were transported to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. The spectacular, multimillion-dollar show saw the ancient royalty being moved in climate-controlled cases and loaded onto trucks decorated with wings and pharaonic designs.

The royal convoy consisted of figures that led Egypt’s ancient New Kingdom, which ruled between 1539 BCE to 1075 BCE. They included famous Pharaoh Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s female pharaohs.

The mummies were originally buried some 3,000 years ago in the Valley of Kings near the city of Luxor and were excavated in the 19th century.

Archaeologists and researchers described the spectacle as “extremely moving,” and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called it a “proof of (Egypt’s) greatness.”

The event is aimed to attract more foreign tourists to Egypt: The country’s tourism sector, which plays an outsized role in the economy, has declined disastrously since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak due to political instability, terrorism and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

DISCOVERIES

A Masked Past

Chinese archaeologists recently uncovered the fragments of a sensational ceremonial facemask, along with a trove of other 3,000-year-old artifacts, possibly from a mysterious civilization that existed a few millennia ago, the BBC reported.

Discovered in the Sanxingdui site, in China’s Sichuan province, researchers said the expensive mask was nearly one pound and 84 percent of it was pure gold – making it one of the heaviest gold masks from that period discovered in China to date.

The team believes it might have been used in religious ceremonies held by priests of the highly skilled ancient Shu civilization, Smithsonian Magazine reported. The Shu was conquered by the neighboring state of Qin in 316 BCE and because the people of Shu left behind few written records, historians’ knowledge of their culture is limited.

The mask not only has historical value but also gained internet fame when Chinese netizens began posting memes on social media, superimposing the mask on pop culture figures.

The “Sanxingdui gold mask photo editing competition” turned out to be so popular that even the Sanxingdui museum soon joined in on the fun.

There were 500 other artifacts found with the mask – made of gold, bronze, jade and ivory, as well as two kinds of silk.

Silk was one of the most sought-after fabrics for many civilizations in the ancient world. It also played an important role in the sacrificial ceremonies of Sanxingdui.

The archaeologists noted that “the ancient Shu Kingdom was one of the important origins of silk in ancient China.”

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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: 30,706,129 (+0.11%)
  2. Brazil: 12,984,956 (+0.24%)
  3. India: 12,589,067 (+0.83%)
  4. France: 4,883,178 (+1.68%)
  5. Russia: 4,529,576 (+0.19%)
  6. UK: 4,373,798 (+0.06%)
  7. Italy: 3,668,264 (+0.49%)
  8. Turkey: 3,487,050 (+1.22%)
  9. Spain: 3,300,965 (+0.00%)**
  10. Germany: 2,897,541 (+0.40%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country