The World Today for August 06, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA

It’s Getting Hot in Here

As Americans and Turks worry about hazy skies from fires in the western US, Turkey and southern Europe, and deadly floods strike northern Europe and China, the Middle East is facing one of its hottest summers ever.

Temperatures in the town of Sweihan in the United Arab Emirates, for example, rose above 125 degrees Fahrenheit in early June, a record in the Persian Gulf country, according to NASA.

In the suburbs of Algiers, the capital of Algeria, shortages are forcing citizens to live without water service, prompting demonstrations. Similar protests have erupted in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen in recent weeks. Civil unrest in Iran has resulted in casualties. But activists are undaunted. Without water, there literally is no life.

“If the water stops flowing, so will everything else,” an Algerian journalist told the Economist.

In Lebanon, a power shortage is occurring at the same time water supplies have dried up, harbingering the potential total collapse of the Lebanese state, the Times of Israel wrote. Power shutoffs can last for 22 hours.

Experts were worried that pilgrims who journeyed to Mecca to perform the Hajj would suffer health problems, as Yale Climate Connections explained. Luckily, the heatwaves eased, Bloomberg reported. Coronavirus fears also led Saudi officials to reduce the number of pilgrims who could travel to the holy city to 60,000 from the normal two million or more.

The sense that the heat is likely to grow worse is driving speculation about the geopolitical consequences of climate change.

Water stress could cause more tensions in the region, the New Arab argued. Low precipitation, fast urbanization, rapid desertification and frequent droughts are already endemic to the Middle East. Meanwhile, the World Bank predicts that water scarcity will reduce global gross domestic product by six percent. The region can expect to see the worst of that decline. Mass migration, higher food prices and local unrest, wars over resources and other destructive trends are possible.

The challenge is also a chance for new alliances to form. Israel and the United Arab Emirates have been cooperating on water and sustainability since they normalized diplomatic relations last year, Foreign Policy magazine explained.

The irony, of course, is that the Middle East is suffering from climate change while also producing a large proportion of the carbon that produces greenhouse gases that cause the phenomenon. As the Brookings Institution wrote, however, Middle Eastern leaders have not “decoupled” their country’s income growth from carbon exports.

Scientists, meanwhile, are seeing more and more evidence for the need to take radical action to reduce emissions.

Anyone who doubts that need can visit the Arabian Desert to see for themselves.

WANT TO KNOW

MEXICO

Blame Game

Mexico is suing American weapons manufacturers in federal court, accusing the companies of facilitating the arming of Mexican cartels and other criminal organizations, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The lawsuit marks the first time that a foreign country has sued gunmakers in the US.

Mexico said the companies – including Colt and Smith & Wesson – produce more than 68 percent of guns smuggled each year into Mexico – about 340,000 weapons.

It also estimates that more than half a million guns are trafficked illegally across the border each year, which contributes to the violence from drug cartels and gangs that has plagued Mexico in recent years.

The Mexican government is seeking economic compensation of at least $10 billion.

American gun manufacturers called the allegations “demonstrably false.” Analysts said the case will face major legal hurdles and could take years to resolve.

Since 2006, gang violence in Mexico has resulted in the deaths of more than 150,000 people and the disappearances of tens of thousands. The country’s homicide rate jumped to 29 per 100,000 people in 2020 from eight per 100,000 in 2007.

AUSTRALIA

Back to the Future

Australia will pay reparations to Indigenous Australians who were forcibly removed from their homes as children as part of a wider government initiative to address the disadvantages that the community has faced, Al Jazeera reported.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told lawmakers Thursday that the government will earmark nearly $280 million for a fund designed to remedy the damage from the country’s past assimilation policies.

Thousands of young children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin were taken from their homes and put into foster care under a policy that Australia implemented into the 1970s.

The move comes a few months after more than 800 survivors launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government seeking compensation for claims filed between 1910 and the 1970s.

Morrison called it a “long called-for step” and that the government aims to “take responsibility.” Indigenous advocates welcomed the fund as a “major step.”

The reparations are part of a $739.2 million federal program to help Australia’s 700,000 Indigenous people.

Currently, the Indigenous community ranks near the bottom on almost every economic and social indicator in comparison with other Australians. Indigenous life expectancy is eight years less than non-Indigenous. The community has far higher arrest rates and is overrepresented in prisons.

During the global anti-police demonstrations in 2020, thousands of Australians protested, demanding an investigation into the deaths of dozens of Indigenous people who have died in police custody.

CHILE

The Source of Life

Chilean lawmakers voted this week to amend the country’s dictatorship-era water code to resolve contentious questions over water rights in the South American nation, Reuters reported.

The reforms would replace the decades-old water code passed during the regime of Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s. That code largely privatized water rights.

The new code will prioritize human consumption and the environment. The proposed law would require that new water concessions be temporary, ban water rights over glaciers and protects water in Indigenous territories.

Lawmakers had delayed any changes to the code for a decade. But pressure to amend the code began in 2019 when thousands of Chileans marched in the streets to protest inequality in the country.

The bill will now head to Chile’s lower house for procedural votes but the final say will come from the country’s recently formed constitutional convention. Many of the convention delegates have called for public water rights to be enshrined in the country’s founding document.

Copper-rich Chile has been facing severe droughts for nearly a decade, forcing mines to reduce water use and build desalinization plants.

DISCOVERIES

Smart Plants

Plants don’t display pain like animals or humans, but they are conscious of injuries, a recent study found.

Scientists found that tomatoes can send electrical signals to the rest of the plant, similar to the way the human nervous system flares up when it experiences injuries, New Scientist magazine reported.

Unlike most animals, plants lack neurons, the specialized cells that send electrical signals throughout the body. Yet, they are equipped with long, thin tubes called xylem and phloem to move sap between roots, leaves and fruits.

Previous research has suggested that charged ions flowing around these tubes can transmit electrical signals throughout the plant.

In their paper, lead author Gabriela Niemeyer Reissig and her colleagues investigated the phenomenon by placing cherry tomato plants inside Faraday cages, which block external electrical fields. They then inserted electrodes in the stalks and placed caterpillars on the fruits, which would feed on them.

In their findings, the team detected patterns of electrical activity during and after caterpillars started eating. They noted that the tomatoes would send messages to release hydrogen peroxide to protect against microbial infections.

The study provides evidence that tomatoes are – in some way – “smart.” Now, the researchers hope this ability can be found in other plant species.

“Understanding how the plant interacts with its fruits, and the fruits among themselves, may bring insights about how to ‘manipulate’ this communication for enhancing fruit quality, resistance to pests and shelf life after harvest,” Niemeyer Reissig said.

Weekly World Quiz

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: 35,440,509 (+0.31%)
  2. India: 31,856,757 (+0.14%)
  3. Brazil: 20,066,587 (+0.20%)
  4. France: 6,299,138 (+0.43%)
  5. Russia: 6,296,570 (+0.36%)
  6. UK: 6,010,896 (+0.50%)
  7. Turkey: 5,846,784 (+0.42%)
  8. Argentina: 4,989,402 (+0.28%)
  9. Colombia: 4,821,603 (+0.14%)
  10. Spain: 4,566,571 (+0.47%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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