The World Today for September 27, 2021

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Divided We Stand

LIBYA

Libya has remained divided since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi following an uprising a decade ago.

Recently, lawmakers based in the eastern part of the country passed a no-confidence vote against the government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah based in the capital of Tripoli in the west, reported the Washington Post. Dbeibah has been in office since March when these same lawmakers approved his appointment after United Nations-sponsored negotiations.

That vote set off protests in the capital over the weekend, the AP reported.

The two sides have been fighting over how to hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this year to end the rule of two governments – one in the east and one in the west. Lawmakers in the east are pushing for an election law that is “clearly tailor-made for Khalifa Haftar, the military strongman who controls eastern Libya,” wrote Agence France-Presse. Officials in the west are resisting that proposal.

As the politicians debate, the fighting rages. Violence in Tripoli recently reached levels that haven’t been seen since eastern and western forces ceased fighting a year ago to reach a political settlement, Reuters reported. Clashes have also been flaring up in other parts of the North African country. Around 20,000 mercenaries and hundreds of Turkish soldiers are in the country, too. The Islamic State is also active in the country.

Many Libyans have taken to the sea in often-dangerous bids to find a safe haven in Europe, as the Associated Press explained. European naval and non-governmental organization vessels have picked up and returned around 24,000 Libyan migrants to their native land.

Meanwhile, women picked up at sea have detailed horrific treatment at the hands of armed militias who run sections of Libya. They told the New Humanitarian how guards in Libyan camps designed to prevent migration to Europe raped women, shot children and extorted others in exchange for basic necessities. Human Rights Watch recently appealed to the UN to renew the mandate of a UN fact-finding mission in the country in order to keep monitoring and documenting the abuses.

Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Chad and Libya’s other neighbors – all grappling with serious internal political, security and economic problems themselves – are also worried that the instability across their borders will be imported into their countries, wrote Yasmina Abouzzohour, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

There is some room for hope. Libya’s public oil company has opened an office in London to partner with other companies that can help boost production, Bloomberg noted. The country has Africa’s largest oil reserves but is only pumping 1.2 million barrels a day. Officials hope to increase that number to 2 million barrels, boosting revenues that are vital to the country’s future.

But first, crucially, come the elections, scheduled for Dec. 24. That is when many hope that two governments can finally become one.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Hostage Diplomacy

CHINA

The Chinese government released two Canadians it had imprisoned for years in retaliation for Canada’s detention of a Huawei executive in a prisoner swap involving the United States, China and Canada, the Washington Post reported.

Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig landed in Canada over the weekend after being detained for 1,020 days by Chinese authorities on charges of espionage and stealing state secrets.

Both men were tried separately in secret proceedings earlier this year. Last month, a court found Spavor guilty and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

Their release came shortly after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, reached a deal with the US Justice Department that allowed her to return to China in exchange for acknowledging wrongdoing in a criminal case.

Canadian authorities arrested Meng in 2018 at the request of US officials, who attempted to extradite her on bank and wire fraud charges over accusations that she misled a bank about Huawei’s relationship with a subsidiary in Iran.

Her arrest prompted China to detain Spavor and Kovrig, a move that Western officials said was in retaliation for Meng’s arrest. China denied a connection between Meng’s arrest and the detention of the two Canadians.

Chinese pundits said that Meng’s return underscores the thawing of relations between China, Canada and the US. However, analyst Julian Ku noted that Meng’s release rewarded China for “hostage diplomacy”: He said the agreement between Meng and US officials did not allow for the prosecution of Meng to prevent future wrongdoing or any other deterrence such as a fine.

The detention of the “two Michaels” was also a thorny issue for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently won reelection. Many prominent Canadians urged Trudeau to release Meng but he rejected those calls, saying that such a move would prompt other foreign governments to gain leverage over Canada by detaining its citizens.

A Most Wanted Man

ITALY

Italian authorities freed former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont over the weekend after initially detaining him on a European-wide warrant for extradition to Spain for leading a failed independence bid in Catalonia four years ago, the Irish Times reported.

Puigdemont was arrested Thursday after arriving on the island of Sardinia to attend a cultural event. A court released him a day later saying that he must return for another extradition hearing on Oct. 4, according to the Associated Press.

The separatist leader is wanted by Spanish authorities on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds for his role in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum and a subsequent declaration of independence.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium even as Spain’s Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant against the politician: In 2017, a Belgian court refused to honor the extradition request and the following year, a German court also ruled against his extradition.

His arrest caused a stir in Spain, where the topic of Catalan independence remains deeply divisive: Supporters of independence denounced Puigdemont’s detention and questioned its legality while right-of-center parties said he should face justice.

Although Puigdemont remains wanted in Spain, the Spanish government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has pardoned nine other separatist leaders who were also detained following the independence bid. His leftist coalition has resumed negotiations with the Catalan government to resolve the crisis.

Chipping the Ceiling

ICELAND

Iceland briefly became the first country in Europe to have more women than men in parliament following general elections over the weekend.

Preliminary results showed that the Left-Green Movement, the conservative Independence Party and the center-right Progressive Party together won 37 of 63 seats in parliament, Agence France-Presse reported.

But a recount produced results just short of that landmark win for gender parity in the North Atlantic island nation, the Associated Press reported.

Female lawmakers, overnight, had made up 52 percent of the legislature, an amount never before seen in any European country. Only Sweden comes close with 47 percent of parliament made up of women. Now, after the recount, female candidates dropped three seats to hold 30, Still, at almost 48 percent of the total, that is the highest percentage for women lawmakers in Europe.

Five countries worldwide have legislatures where women hold at least half of all seats: Rwanda (61 percent), Cuba (53 percent), Nicaragua (51 percent), United Arab Emirates (50 percent) and Mexico (50 percent).

The three parties in the outgoing coalition government led by Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir won a total of 37 seats in Saturday’s vote, two more than in the last election, and appeared likely to continue in power.

The ruling coalition came to power in 2017 and brought four years of stability in Iceland following a decade of political crisis set off by the 2008 financial crisis and scandals – Icelanders went to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.

During its tenure, Jakobsdottir’s coalition introduced a progressive income tax system and increased the social housing budget. The government has also been praised for its handling the coronavirus pandemic: Iceland has only had 33 deaths in a population of 370,000 people.

DISCOVERIES

Cookie Monsters

Cookiecutter sharks are not choosy about their meals – and they don’t mind taking on the sharks and whales many, many times their size.

These alien-like animals are small in stature – they can grow up to 20 inches in length – but are known for ripping small, cookie-shaped chunks of flesh from great whites and even humans.

Still, a new study has found that the strange fish actually eats everything, big or small, according to Live Science.

A research team studied 14 cookiecutter sharks caught around Hawaii to see whether their diet only consisted of larger animals.

Their findings showed that the creepy-looking shark would mainly feed on smaller species located at lower ocean depths such as squids, crustaceans and small fish. Whales, sharks and other large creatures made up less than 10 percent of its diet.

“They feed on everything from the biggest, toughest apex predators… down to the smallest little critters,” lead author Aaron Carlisle. “There’s not (…) many animals that do something (…) like this.”

Although the sample was small, the study sheds light on the behavior and ecological role of this very odd shark.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 231,851,347

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,748,389

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 6,089,744,442

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 42,931,408 (-0.02%)**
  2. India: 33,678,786 (+0.08%)
  3. Brazil: 21,351,972 (+0.04%)
  4. UK: 7,700,358 (+0.43%)
  5. Russia: 7,313,112 (+0.30%)
  6. France: 7,085,607 (+0.07%)
  7. Turkey: 7,039,470 (+0.37%)
  8. Iran: 5,533,520 (+0.25%)
  9. Argentina: 5,250,402 (+0.03%)
  10. Colombia: 4,951,675 (+0.03%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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