The World Today for December 24, 2021

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Through the Past, Darkly


Muammar Gaddafi was a brutal dictator who ruled Libya for four decades. After rebels killed him in 2011 during the Arab Spring, his death left a power vacuum that resulted in a bloody civil war that continues to this day. Now his son wants to be president.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has said he would help usher democracy into Libya if he wins the presidential election that was scheduled for Dec. 24 but postponed to January this week, the Daily News reported.

But he might return the North African country to conditions that could resemble his father’s reign. As the Washington Post explained, the International Criminal Court sought the younger Gaddafi on charges of crimes against humanity for murders and persecution that he allegedly oversaw. He was never extradited but rebels imprisoned him for several years and sentenced him to death before his release under a general amnesty in 2017.

The younger Gaddafi could portray himself as a third candidate who would not represent either of the two factions that have been warring for control of the oil-rich nation, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Al-Monitor wrote.


Dbeibah runs the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. He’s obviously failed to unify the country. Haftar, meanwhile, controls the country’s eastern region. He has besieged Tripoli to take control but has failed in his military ambitions to take over the country. Meanwhile, both haven’t been able to stop other militants, including the Islamic State, who also operate throughout the region.

Russia, Turkey and other powers have also deployed troops to Libya or are backing local fighters, added Voice of America.

Infighting over election protocols, candidate eligibility and other issues forced officials to postpone the elections, Reuters added, further underlining how the people in charge can’t seem to put the past behind them, govern and move the country forward.

“Libya is in a state of limbo at this point because whatever happens is going to be sub-optimal in this very polarized pre-elections environment,” Andreas Krieg, a security expert at King’s College London, told TRT World, a Turkish state-owned news outlet.

International leaders are divided over the issue. Western and UN leaders want someone, arguably anyone, to win so a single person might run the government, Foreign Policy magazine wrote. Russia, meanwhile, favors chaos because that undercuts the West’s goals. The Center for Strategic & International Studies detailed how Libya is one theater in a larger conflict between East and West.

The sad truth is that many Libyans might associate the Gaddafi family name with peace and prosperity because no one has ushered in those things for Libya in the past decade.


Pillars of Shame


Hong Kong’s oldest university removed a statue commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on Thursday, a move seen as the latest effort by mainland China to completely erode the city’s democratic freedoms and historical memory, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Council of the University of Hong Kong said the removal followed a legal and risk assessment. It said that no party had obtained approval from the university to display the statue on campus.

The “Pillar of Shame” statue had stood on the university’s campus for more than 20 years. The macabre artwork, which shows a contortion of 50 torn bodies and faces, was created by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt to symbolize those who died during China’s crackdown on student protesters on Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The statue’s removal follows an ongoing crackdown on civic freedoms more than a year after Beijing imposed a national-security law on Hong Kong. The legislation has resulted in the arrests of many pro-democracy activists and forced others into exile.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities have also banned an annual vigil of the 1989 event – citing public-health grounds – for the past two years.

Academic Julia Bowes, who previously taught at the university from 2018 to 2021, said that the statue was “a barometer of how free the university was.” She said its removal would be a whitewashing of history and have an impact on the university that was long known as a center of free academic inquiry.

Of Evictions and Koalas


Australian authorities slapped a landowner and two companies with hundreds of animal cruelty charges following a land-clearing operation that killed 70 koalas, which lawmakers have described as a “massacre,” the New York Times reported.

Last year, authorities discovered dozens of dead, injured or starving koalas on private property in the state of Victoria after the landowner had cleared the animals’ habitat.

The state’s conservation regulator said the operation wreaked havoc on more than 200 koalas: About 21 koalas had died and 49 others had to be euthanized. Animal rights advocates said the trees were bulldozed while the animals were still in them.

The event sparked national outrage and officials vowed to punish those responsible.

The property owner and one of the businesses involved in the operation faced more than 250 counts of animal cruelty, including 36 of aggravated cruelty for causing fatal injuries. The other company was charged with a cruelty offense.

A court case is scheduled in February. If found guilty, the maximum penalty for one charge of aggravated animal cruelty resulting in death is $157,000 for a business, and $65,500 or two years’ imprisonment for an individual.

Koalas are a protected species in Australia and they are listed as vulnerable in three states. Their numbers declined following the 2019 bushfires that burned millions of acres in Australia.

The Australian government has launched efforts to count koalas and record their habitat but the operations have proved to be challenging because the marsupials are difficult to spot in the wild.

Sticky, Sweet and Beloved


Canada’s province of Quebec tapped into its emergency maple syrup reserve this month amid increasing demand for the beloved product and an ongoing global supply shortage, Fortune Magazine reported.

The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers association said this is the first time in three years that they have turned to their emergency supply. The organization explained that the move came as the global sale of maple syrup rose by almost 37 percent in the last year.

The province is responsible for nearly three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup production: In 2021, the world produced 182 million pounds of maple syrup with Quebec accounting for 133 million pounds.

The organization said the shortage is the result of a shortened harvest caused by the warming climate: This year’s spring season – when maple trees are tapped for their sap – was warmer than usual. For the trees to provide syrup, the weather must be just above freezing during the day, and below freezing at night.

The QMSP said that production this year dropped by about 42 million pounds, from last year’s record high of 175 million pounds.

Even so, the association noted that there is no reason to panic about supplies running completely dry: It is in the process of creating about seven million new tree taps over the course of three years to compensate for the rising global demand.


Deck the Halls – Early!

Christmas lights and decorations in the US are admired, laughed at and always remarked on, worldwide. They are also a pathway to happiness, psychologists have found.

That’s why some people go all out to deck their homes with bows of holly – gnomes, nativity scenes and Christmas lights – weeks before holidays.

“It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” psychologist Deborah Serani told TODAY. “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out … signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.”

Serani explained that dopamine – our “feel-good hormone” – spikes when people decorate, suggesting that the bright lights and colors offer some kind of chromotherapy: Better known as color therapy, scientists believe the practice is aimed at increasing energy and boosting happiness.

But nostalgia is also at play, she noted.

“For a lot of us, Christmas is a magical time, it’s a time of innocence, it’s a time of joy,” Serani said.

Happy childhood memories of the holidays can sometimes encourage individuals to recreate that feeling sooner rather than later.

Another side effect of decorating early is giving an impression to one’s neighbors of friendliness: A previous study has shown that people interpret Christmas decorations on a home as a sign that the people are open and approachable.

Happy Holidays!

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 278,154,574

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,386,962

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 8,879,489,965

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

  1. US: 51,814,824 (+0.52%)
  2. India: 34,772,626 (+0.02%)
  3. Brazil: 22,230,943 (+0.04%)
  4. UK: 11,836,920 (+1.05%)
  5. Russia: 10,140,429 (+0.25%)
  6. Turkey: 9,249,576 (+0.20%)
  7. France: 8,994,106 (+1.03%)
  8. Germany: 6,978,172 (+0.50%)
  9. Iran: 6,179,817 (+0.03%)
  10. Spain: 5,718,007 (+1.29%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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