The World Today for November 10, 2021

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Heeding Candide


Algeria recently accused Moroccan forces of killing three Algerian citizens who were driving a truck from the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott to the Algerian city of Ouargla. As Agence France-Presse explained, Morocco’s regional rival, Algeria, supports the rebels who are fighting for independence for Western Sahara, a coastal region on the Atlantic Ocean that Morocco claims as its sovereign territory abutting the Mauritian border. Morocco, meanwhile, alleged that rebels were carrying weapons in the truck. Still, they denied that Moroccan forces had carried out the strike, suggesting instead that the truck hit a mine, the Middle East Monitor wrote.

To say Mauritania is in the middle of things would be an understatement. Mauritania signed a peace accord with the Western Sahara rebels and gave up its claims to the region in the late 1970s, the Washington Post wrote. Now its diplomats are working to bring peace to the region, according to Morocco World News.

An American ally in the war against terror despite the voices of critics who think officials are too quick to compromise human rights, as Middle East Eye wrote, Mauritania criminalized slavery only in 2007. The Forest Park Review recounted a US State Department-sponsored fact-finding mission on slavery with the Chicago-based Abolition Institute in the West African country that noted how slavery is alive and well in the country.

Yet developing Mauritania, a massive but sparsely populated country that is six times the size of Florida but with only 4 million residents, is seeking to avoid conflicts like those between Morocco and Algeria while peacefully growing its economy and navigating the powerful ideological and political forces that sometimes threaten to tear the country apart.

This summer, Mauritanian officials arrested former president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on corruption charges related to offshore oil projects, Reuters reported. The detention was the culmination of a power struggle between Aziz and current President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani in a nation that has a long history of coups and violent power transitions, added World Politics Review.

Ghazouani is trying to make his mark. With Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Britain’s Prince Charles and French President Emmanuel Macron, he’s proposed a massive new reforestation project in the Sahel region of Africa – which also touches Mauritania – for example, to tackle climate change, according to the Daily Maverick, a South African news magazine. He’s trying to steer payments to impoverished people to reduce inequalities originating in slavery, the Economist wrote.

Also, he is working closely with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and looking into natural gas exploration to grow the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, which hit a country that is deeply impoverished.

As its neighbors’ rattle sabers, Mauritania seems satisfied with cultivating its own garden, which is a good thing because that garden is still mostly full of weeds.


When Pawns Breathe


Poland stepped up efforts to seal its border with Belarus to curb the influx of migrants, the latest step in an ongoing crisis at the border that has prompted condemnation and threats of sanctions from the European Union, CBS News reported Tuesday.

Polish authorities said that about 4,000 migrants have gathered along the border. They also reported that a “large group” of Belarusian forces were seen moving toward a migrant camp on the Belarus side.

Belarusian state media reported gunfire on the Polish side of the border but officials in Poland denied there were shootings.

Thousands of migrants and refugees have been camped along the Belarusian border hoping to cross into the EU. Human rights advocates and United Nations officials have been warning about the poor conditions in the camps, saying that many have been sleeping outside in swampy forests under sub-zero temperatures.

Poland has massed thousands of soldiers at the border and has prevented migrants from crossing.

Poland and the EU have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of weaponizing immigration amid a standoff with the bloc. The EU has imposed a slew of sanctions against Lukashenko’s government over the latter’s crackdown on journalists and opposition politicians. Also, they accused Lukashenko of deliberately flying people from Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones to Belarus and then encouraging them to cross the Polish border. Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for further sanctions against Belarus over the border situation.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that he wasn’t looking for a conflict but noted that his country “will not kneel” to Europe.

Moving On Empty


Chile’s lower house of parliament voted to impeach President Sebastian Pinera over corruption allegations that sprung from the Pandora paper leaks, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.

Lawmakers approved the impeachment proceedings, which will now move to the upper house. However, it’s unclear whether Pinera will go to trial since the opposition only has 24 of the 29 votes needed to remove the president, the Associated Press noted.

The call for impeachment began last month when the Pandora papers – a vast trove of reports on the hidden wealth of world leaders, top business folks and celebrities – linked Pinera to the sale of the Dominga mine for $152 million through a company owned by his children.

The sale took place in 2010 during Pinera’s first term as president. It also included a controversial clause that made the final payment of the sale conditional on “not establishing an area of environmental protection in the area of operations of the mining company, as demanded by environmental groups.”

Pinera, one of Chile’s richest people, has denied any wrongdoing and said that a court absolved him of responsibility in a 2017 investigation.

Even so, he is barred from leaving the country while the impeachment process continues, according to AFP.

The impeachment vote comes just ahead of Chile’s general elections slated for Nov. 21. Under Chile’s constitution, Pinera is not allowed to run for another term.

Mea Culpa


France’s Catholic Church agreed to compensate thousands of sexual-abuse victims a month after a landmark report revealed that hundreds of thousands of children had been abused by the clergy over the past seven decades, the Independent reported.

Archbishop of Reims Eric de Moulins-Beaufort announced during a senior clergy meeting that the Catholic Church has decided “to go on a path of recognition and reparation.”

The top bishop said that the church will sell its own properties and assets for funds to compensate the victims. He added that the institution is also considering taking out loans, although he didn’t specify the size of the fund or the properties that may be sold.

The announcement comes a month after the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in Church (CIASE) found that an estimated 330,000 children have been victims of sexual abuse from the French Catholic Church since 1950.

The CIASE wrote that the French church showed “deep, total and even cruel indifference for years” and tried to shield itself instead of helping the victims.

Pope Francis expressed sadness at the report and called the findings “a moment of shame” for the religious institution.


How Strawberries Ensure Forever

Not all strawberries grow to become red so a research team decided to find out what gives the tasty fruit its pale look.

In a new study, they sequenced the genomes of 128 wild strawberry plants in China and found more than just the mutation that changes their color, the New York Times reported.

Researchers discovered a set of genes that were common across all of the 10 species of plants, which they labeled as the core genome of the strawberry. These core genes made up more than 45 percent of a strawberry’s genetic material, suggesting that the remainder helps the fruit adapt to specific situations and locations.

The team also identified the gene MYB10 that gives strawberries their ghostly white look. The peculiar gene controls the production of pigments called anthocyanins: Lower anthocyanins meant paler strawberries.

But what stuck out in their research was the discovery of a previously unknown wild strawberry species: Named “Fragaria emeiensis,” the plant had a different genome and sported thicker leaves with a light green underside.

Lead author Patrick Edger said the new findings open the door for strawberry farmers to develop new breeds, such as plants that can yield more fruit or that can withstand drought.

“It’s something that myself and collaborators in the larger strawberry community are going to start diving into this data set to understand,” he said.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 250,906,922

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,065,635

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,314,697,258

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

  1. US: 46,694,852 (+0.18%)
  2. India: 34,388,579 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 21,897,025 (+0.05%)
  4. UK: 9,412,331 (+0.35%)
  5. Russia: 8,727,817 (+0.44%)
  6. Turkey: 8,290,135 (+0.35%)
  7. France: 7,334,332 (+0.17%)
  8. Iran: 6,004,460 (+0.14%)
  9. Argentina: 5,299,418 (+0.03%)
  10. Spain: 5,032,056 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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