The World Today for February 07, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

Keeping the Lights On

MEXICO

Proposed reforms to Mexico’s energy sector are causing ripples throughout North America.

Leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to divert more of the country’s energy market to the public Federal Electricity Commission, canceling contracts with private providers, Agence France-Presse wrote.

The proposal aims to curb prices as inflation in Mexico skyrockets, while the country recently fell into a recession, reported the Associated Press. Mexican officials blamed the coronavirus pandemic, supply chain snarls and related issues for their economic woes.

If finalized, however, López Obrador’s energy plans would jeopardize billions in foreign investment, potentially run afoul of trade pacts with Canada and the United States that limit the role of state-owned enterprises in the economy and undermine efforts to develop clean energy that are necessary to fight climate change, according to a statement by US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. Others claim the reforms could increase Mexican dependence on energy imports.

Still, the electricity play is just one of López Obrador’s left-tilting moves in the energy sector.

The president recently blessed the election of a lawmaker from the former ruling party to lead Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the state oil company. That lawmaker is also a leader in Pemex’s workers’ union and a close ally of the former Pemex boss, who left under a cloud of corruption. As Reuters explained, López Obrador’s critics said he should have exercised more control over who runs Pemex. Others noted how the president was expanding his power base in accommodating the union.

López Obrador has also recently signaled that private companies won’t gain access to Mexico’s lithium mines, added Bloomberg. An important mineral for rechargeable batteries in electric cars and other technologies, lithium is in high demand today. The president’s rhetoric was anti-capitalist when discussing the issue. “Lithium doesn’t belong to the government or the state,” said López Obrador. “Lithium belongs to the people and the nation of Mexico.”

These moves also come as Mexican unions – traditionally allied with politicians and employers rather than rank-and-file workers – have ramped up their organizing efforts in American and other foreign-owned companies’ factories, for example, a General Motors plant in central Mexico, the New York Times wrote.

Lastly, Mexico has also launched a lawsuit against American gunmakers whom Mexican officials blame for fomenting violence south of the border, added Democracy Now! It’s a novel test for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and other countries as well as more than a dozen US states have joined the suit, the Intercept noted.

Voters appear to be embracing such moves. The popularity of López Obrador and his party, Morena, remain high, according to Jacobin, a leftwing magazine.

They might be the only ones who are happy. To politicians like López Obrador, however, they also might be the only ones who count.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

A Wide, Wide Net

FRANCE

A discharge of more than 100,000 dead fish off the French coast sparked an uproar in the country, prompting officials to demand an investigation into the incident, CNN reported Saturday.

The French arm of Sea Shepherd – a global marine conservation activism group – posted images of the spill in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of La Rochelle. Images showed thousands of fish – which were blue whiting, a subspecies of cod – floating in the water.

The organization said the Dutch-owned Margiris trawler was responsible for the incident and that the fish were deliberately discharged.

The Pelagic Freeze-Trawler Association – which represents the vessel’s owner – explained that the marine creatures were “involuntarily released… due to a rupture in the cod-end part of its net.” It added that it fully “understands the emotions such images can bring.”

Meanwhile, French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin described the images as shocking and ordered a probe. She added that “sanctions would be taken against the responsible shipowner.”

European officials said they are also launching an investigation.

Trawlers like the Margiris – described as the second-largest in the world – use giant drag nets nearly a mile long and process the fish on board. Lamya Essemlali of Sea Shepherd France said such vessels have a major impact on the marine fauna, including dolphins and sharks.

Thousands of dead dolphins have washed up on France’s Atlantic coast over the past years, according to Sky News.

In 2012, Australia banned the Magiris following protests by activists against giant trawlers.

A Broken Record

BRAZIL

Thousands of people protested across Brazil over the weekend to denounce the murder of a 24-year-old Congolese refugee, a killing that sparked outrage and mobilized anti-racism movements in the South American country, Al Jazeera reported.

Last month, Moïse Mugenyi Kabagambe was beaten to death by three assailants at a Rio de Janeiro beach kiosk where he was working. Police detained three men in connection with the murder but are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the young man’s killing.

Kabagambe’s family members and protesters said the young shopkeeper had gotten into an argument that night after claiming two days of overdue wages, according to the Associated Press.

The murder prompted condemnation and revulsion in Brazil: Many demonstrators called the Kabagambe’s death an all-too-common scenario when it comes to the killing of Black men.

Kabagambe and his family moved to Brazil in 2011 from their native Bunia in northeastern Congo. The country’s east has been plagued by decades of conflict, with local media reporting that the family had escaped the fighting between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups.

More than 2,500 Congolese have been recognized as refugees in Brazil since 2000. In recent years, Brazil has experienced a rise in the number of Congolese and Cameroonian refugees attempting to cross the border into the United States.

Meanwhile, the murder occurred during an election year, with far-right President Jair Bolsonaro running for reelection. Many protesters noted that the president’s silence on the matter shows how little he has done to address the issue.

Decisions, Decisions

MONTENEGRO

Montenegro’s government collapsed over the weekend after lawmakers approved a vote of no-confidence against the ruling pro-Serbian coalition which came to power just over a year ago, Radio Free Europe reported.

All opposition parties and a junior coalition partner, the United Reform Action (URA), voted against the government of Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Krivokapic’s coalition came to power after winning a slim majority in the August 2020 elections and defeating the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of President Milo Djukanovic – whose party had ruled Montenegro for three decades.

The governing coalition denounced the vote as a “betrayal of the people’s will” and a “betrayal of the historic election victory over DPS.”

The collapse came amid disputes within the coalition over the influence of Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Balkan country’s domestic affairs.

Under Djukanovic, Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia in 2006. In 2017, the small Balkan nation joined NATO and is currently trying to join the European Union.

Even so, Montenegrins remain divided over joining the EU.

DISCOVERIES

War Ponies

Warhorses were once an integral part of battlefields and have long been depicted as large equines rushing into the fray.

But a new study on horse bones in Britain found that the battle-ready animals were more like ponies, instead of towering steeds, the Washington Post reported.

Researchers investigated more than 1,900 bones from 171 archeological sites in England dating between 300 and 1650 CE – considered to be the largest data set of its kind.

The analysis of the bones revealed that horses between the 5th and 12th centuries “were ponies by modern standards.” When measured from the top of the shoulders to their hoofs, these early horses averaged less than 4 feet 10 inches.

The team said that horses as big as 5 feet 4 also existed but they were mostly outliers. Larger equines started emerging after the medieval period.

They also discovered that horse bones became more robust between 1200 and 1350 CE, which could have been influenced by the breeding programs aimed at creating sturdier animals.

However, this robustness declined in the early 16th century, when the British horse trade went into decline.

The authors, however, have yet to find a certain marker for warhorses in archaeological contexts and believe that different warhorses were bred for various purposes. They also suggest that warhorses’ remains are more likely to be found in former domestic settings than in castles.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 395,061,213

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,740,367

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,060,461,204

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

  1. US: 76,505,442 (+0.06%)
  2. India: 42,272,014 (+0.20%)
  3. Brazil: 26,546,399 (+0.23%)
  4. France: 20,887,052 (+0.75%)
  5. UK: 17,923,816 (+0.30%)
  6. Russia: 12,612,259 (+0.00%)**
  7. Turkey: 12,238,501 (+0.72%)
  8. Italy: 11,621,736 (+0.68%)
  9. Germany: 11,147,509 (+0.74%)
  10. Spain: 10,199,716 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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