The World Today for June 17, 2022

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NEED TO KNOW

No Place Like Home

AFRICA

Khady Sene, 53, has a problem – rising seawater claimed her ancestral home in Saint-Louis, Senegal four years ago. It happened to be located on the Atlantic coast of the country, a place the United Nations has determined is the most threatened by climate change on the continent.

Now she has become a climate refugee.

That’s because even though the Senegalese government wants to relocate Sene and her neighbors into new properties, they refuse to give up their homes.

“They can move us,” Sene told the Washington Post, “but they cannot move our spirits.”

She’s not alone. Millions of people across Africa are becoming refugees due to climate change. Fleeing their homes and living itinerantly not because of war or economic collapse, this new kind of refugee is seeking hospitable regions of the planet.

As the International Rescue Committee explained, the Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing local conflicts, droughts, especially bad swarms of desert locusts, and food and energy price hikes due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine are precipitating a humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn of Africa.

These disasters cause social friction. In South Africa, after attacks on refugees and migrants amid an influx of newcomers, a Catholic bishop called on his congregants to treat their fellow humans with compassion. He stressed to them that climate change was part of the bundle of misfortunes that were bringing people to the country, added Crux.

The lengths people will go to escape inhospitable environments are great. Osman Ali fled Somalia, for instance, when the Shabelle River ran dry, wrote Bloomberg. When his sheep and goats were “skin and bones” and his crops wilted, he sold his land and traveled to Brazil. From there, he journeyed to Mexico intending to cross the US border.

Still, many refugees who might be classified as fleeing war might not have taken to the road if not for climate change, reported Fronteras, a special project of Arizona news station KJZZ. Accordingly, activists are pressuring US officials to treat climate refugees as such, too, wrote Inside Climate News.

Diplomats now say that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for other international crises, as the UN noted. As the Guardian wrote in relation to Ethiopians crossing the border into Somaliland to flee their civil war, for example, refugees might seek to escape bullets only to encounter starvation when they find a safe haven from violence.

If this problem grows, the instability could be monumental.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Bread and Roses

TUNISIA

Tunisia’s main trade union bloc launched a nationwide strike Thursday shutting down the country, and adding pressure to the already embattled president amid an ongoing political and economic crisis, Agence France-Presse reported.

The UGTT confederation called on three million public sector workers to walk off their jobs, halting operations at 159 state agencies and public companies. The strike also affected the capital’s main airport, resulting in empty check-in desks and canceled flights.

The shutdown comes as Tunisia prepares to start negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a new bailout plan for its debt-laden economy. The government is proposing a number of reforms, including a salary freeze in the public sector, gradual cuts to some subsidies, and the restructuring of publicly held firms.

Meanwhile, the trade unions say the strike is aimed at defending workers’ economic and social rights after the “dithering of the government in the face of their legitimate demands.” The UGTT has criticized some of the reforms and had issued a series of demands, including guarantees that state sector firms, including some monopolies, will remain publicly owned.

Critics of the UGTT countered the confederation ignores the country’s deep financial difficulties, including soaring inflation.

The nationwide strike comes as President Kais Saied faces intense criticism following his power grab last year: Last July, Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, moves his opponents have called a coup.

The UGTT initially backed Saied but later became a vocal opponent as the president pushes to hold a “national dialogue” – part of an initiative to overhaul the Tunisian state and consolidate an ongoing power grab, critics say.

The confederation has declined to participate in the national dialogue due to the absence of other parties, saying it was designed to impose “unilaterally chosen in advance outcomes.”

Raiding the Rainbow

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi authorities seized a number of rainbow-colored toys and clothes from shops in the capital this week, the latest effort by the kingdom to crack down on homosexuality, the Middle East Eye reported.

State media showed commerce ministry officials removing rainbow-colored items, including bows, skirts and pencil cases, most of them manufactured for young children.

Officials said the colors send a “poisoned message” to children, adding that the seized objects “contradict the Islamic faith and public morals and promote homosexual colors targeting the younger generation.”

The raids are part of the latest crackdown by Saudi Arabia against objects or depictions of the LGBTQ+ community: In April, the kingdom banned the sequel to the superhero movie, “Doctor Strange,” over the inclusion of an LGBTQ+ character.

In 2016, authorities arrested a Saudi doctor for flying a rainbow pride flag above his home. The detained man said he was unaware of what the flag symbolized and bought it because his children found the colors “pretty”.

Meanwhile, Saudi officials have also targeted activists: In 2020, a court sentenced Yemeni blogger Mohamed al-Bokari to 10 months in prison and deportation over an online video supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

The recent crackdown comes as US President Joe Biden plans his first visit to the oil-rich nation in an effort to reduce gasoline prices for consumers and confront Iran’s nuclear weapons program, according to Fox News.

However, critics of the monarchy have encouraged Biden to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its participation in terrorism and human rights violations, while others have expressed surprise at his policy shift.

Agreeing to Agree, Sort of

WORLD

Major members of the World Trade Organization reached an initial deal in Geneva Thursday, winning over India which said it was confident more global accords could be achieved on fishing, vaccines and food security, Reuters reported.

Negotiators managed to create a provisional agreement to extend a moratorium on a digital tax until at least 2023.

Ministers from more than 100 countries met for the first time in more than four years to agree on new trade rules, a feat many thought unlikely in an era of high geopolitical tensions.

Among the contentious issues on the table was a draft text on fisheries that seeks to curb government subsidies to fishing vessels or workers who take part in “illegal, unregulated and unreported” fishing or national subsidies that contribute to “overcapacity or overfishing,” the Associated Press reported.

India has been a chief opponent of this agreement, saying that it does not give developing countries an equal playing field for addressing the desires of their traditional fishermen and protecting their livelihoods, according to the Economic Times.

Western diplomats have also accused India’s delegation of obstructing agreements on a waiver of WTO rules protecting patents behind Covid-19.

India has positioned itself as a voice for developing countries that have resisted calls by Western powers to protect the diversity of ocean wildlife and the innovations of their rich pharmaceutical industries.

Meanwhile, activist groups opposed the proposed changes, noting that they do not go far enough to battle the pandemic or prepare for the next one. Pharmaceutical corporations, however, remain staunchly opposed to any reforms that may weaken protection for their patents.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi landed in Kyiv Thursday, visiting the Ukrainian capital for the first time since Russia’s invasion began, Politico wrote. The three leaders rode a night train to Kyiv, where they were welcomed by air raid sirens as Russia continued its assault on the country. The visit is “a message of European unity toward Ukrainians, and of support, [a message] about the present and the future because we know the weeks to come are going to be very difficult,” Macron said.
  • According to Dutch intelligence, a Russian agent attempted and failed to acquire an internship at the International Criminal Court using the fictitious identity of a Brazilian citizen he had built up over a decade, the Guardian reported. Had the man succeeded, he would have obtained access to the court’s email systems and might have been able to copy, tamper with or destroy documents or evidence submitted as the court begins to investigate alleged Russian war crimes.
  • Russia is scrambling to recruit soldiers to fight in Ukraine after heavy casualties in the early months of the conflict left the army stretched thin and with poor morale, the Washington Post noted. The Kremlin has so far refused to implement the draft, fearing that doing so would signal that the war is not the success the Russian media portrays, and also worrying that a draft order would spark a wide movement against the military effort.

Weekly World Quiz

DISCOVERIES

Ancient Alumni

Say hello to the Greek alumni of the 1st century CE.

British researchers recently translated a 2,000 year-old Greek marble tablet that resembled the yearbook of a graduating class, NPR reported.

According to the translation, the team explained that the inscription was a “class book” listing the names of a group of young men who finished their year-long civic and military training in what was called the ephebate.

The list included 31 names, some of them nicknames which indicates that the graduates had a sense of friendship and camaraderie. The scholars noted that the 31 names were just a part of a full class, which possibly included about 100 men.

The tablet was also marked with the inscription “Caesar” at the end, which possibly refers to Roman Emperor Claudius. He ruled the Roman Empire between 41 to 54 CE – at a time when Greece was part of the empire.

Peter Liddell, one of the translators, said the artifact had been sitting in the National Museums Scotland collection for more than 130 years and it was believed to be a copy of an already-existing inscription in Oxford, England.

He remarked that this inscription and other artifacts help fill in the gaps in ancient history.

“We don’t have objective accounts of ancient history,” Liddel said. “What we have to do is piece together ancient history from the fragments that exist, and this is one of those.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 537,868,812

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,315,784

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,594,696,031

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

  1. US: 86,058,303 (+0.14%)
  2. India: 43,270,577 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 31,611,769 (+0.00%)**
  4. France: 30,228,615 (+0.18%)
  5. Germany: 27,124,689 (+0.10%)
  6. UK: 22,651,908 (+0.06%)
  7. South Korea: 18,263,643 (+0.04%)
  8. Russia: 18,119,934 (+0.02%)
  9. Italy: 17,773,764 (+0.21%)
  10. Turkey: 15,085,742 (+0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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