The World Today for June 29, 2022

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BOLIVIA

Bolivian President Luis Arce and dozens of others recently attended a ritual at the Tiwanaku pre-Inca religious complex near La Paz, one of the South American country’s two capitals. Dressed in the traditional, alpaca-and-llama-wool multicolored ponchos of the indigenous Aymara people, as a Euronews video showed, they raised their hands to celebrate a new year, salute the sunrise and pray for a good harvest.

The move contained potent political symbolism. Two weeks before, the New York Times reported, a court sentenced Arce’s predecessor, former President Jeanine Añez, to jail for 10 years after finding that she illegally became the country’s head of state after her predecessor, Evo Morales, resigned following pressure on prosecutors by Añez to charge him with terrorism, sedition and other crimes.

The Tiwanaku event and the verdict are like bookends on recent domestic Bolivian politics. After she took power, Añez famously walked outside the presidential palace holding the Bible, a clear rebuke to Morales, the country’s first indigenous president who allowed non-Christian religious beliefs to play a larger public role in Bolivian politics, including events at Tiwanaku.

Arce and Morales are not angels. For example, the British government has raised questions about whether Bolivian officials followed due process in the Añez case, TeleSur, a Venezuelan state-supported news site wrote. That said, Washington University Anthropology Professor Bret Gustafson and human rights activist Kathryn Ledebur argued in the North American Congress on Latin America that the US could do more to help Bolivia bring more of Añez’s enablers to justice.

Morales left office amid mass protests against his controversial fourth consecutive term in office that followed a decision by the country’s constitutional court rescinding term limits for the presidency, the Guardian noted. He fled Bolivia to escape facing charges and returned from a year in exile in 2020 after Arce, his former economy minister and fellow member of the Movement Toward Socialism party, won office, the Associated Press wrote. Arce is among a handful of recent leftwing presidential candidates who have won office in the so-called “pink tide” hitting Latin America in recent years, as the British news magazine the Week explained.

Today, the Movement Toward Socialism is in a weakened state due to the controversies surrounding Morales and discontent over how Arce handled the country’s crippling coronavirus crisis, Americas Quarterly reported. Arce is moving to improve the situation by expanding mining for vital and expensive elements like lithium, as Voice of America described, though his progress in this regard has been mixed.

Leaving the past behind could be Arce’s best chance to bring stability to his country. But with a turbulent recent past, that’s a tall order.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Thoughtless Poison

GUADELOUPE AND MARTINIQUE

A court in Paris found the French government guilty of wrongful negligence over the use of a banned pesticide in the French Caribbean Islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique but rejected demands to compensate the victims, the Associated Press reported.

The case centers on the use of chlordecone pesticide on the two islands, which has been linked to a number of neurological disorders, high rates of prostate cancer and premature births.

The United States banned chlordecone in 1976 and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has barred its production since 2004.

Chlordecone was legally sold in France from 1981 to 1990 and used for three additional years in Guadeloupe and Martinique to combat the banana weevil pests under a French government exemption.

But activists and attorneys said the exemption was illegal. They also demanded $15,900 for each person who has lived for at least 12 consecutive months in Guadeloupe or Martinique since 1972.

The Paris court acknowledged that the government’s actions led to the “pollution of certain soils, drinking water and certain marine areas, and that agricultural workers have been exposed to this substance.” However, it denied compensation, saying the plaintiffs failed to provide any specific or precise elements “justifying the damage of anxiety they claim.”

Christophe Leguevaques, an attorney involved in the case, said the ruling could be appealed but noted that the decision marks “a significant step forward” since it acknowledges France’s culpability.

The case is one of at least two lawsuits filed against the French government: The other case – filed in 2006 and still ongoing – accuses the government of failing to safeguard its people’s health and failing to do enough to detect and minimize the impacts of chlordecone contamination on both islands.

According to the French authorities, more than 90 percent of adults in Guadeloupe and Martinique were exposed to chlordecone. The islands’ total population is around 750,000 people.

When the Wind Blows

JORDAN

At least 13 people were killed and 250 were injured Tuesday when a crane lifting gas tanks onto a ship in Jordan dropped one, spewing plumes of deadly yellow smoke into the air, the Washington Post reported.

State media posted a video showing a storage tank slipping from its hoist as it was lowered toward the deck of a ship at the port of Aqaba, Jordan’s only seaport. The incident caused an explosion that released poisonous chlorine gas in the area.

Jordanian authorities said the chlorine was pressurized and cooled into a liquid form to be transported easily. They added that the effects of the gas leak were limited and there was no risk to public health.

Still, Aqaba officials advised residents to close their windows and stay home. Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh also ordered an official probe into the incident.

In its gaseous form, chlorine is considered toxic if inhaled or in contact with skin or eyes, causing burning pain, breathing difficulties and fluid in the lungs. Chlorine-based products are used in many household items, such as bleach.

But the gas had also been used as a chemical weapon during World War One, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Money For Nothing

UNITED KINGDOM

British Prince Charles is facing growing public outrage over a report that found that the heir to the British throne accepted bags full of cash as charity donations from a prominent Qatari official, Fox News reported.

Earlier this week, the Sunday Times reported that the 73-year-old royal received about $3.2 million from former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani between 2011 and 2015. The report alleges that the Qatari official handed over the money during private meetings, on one occasion in shopping bags from London’s Fortnum & Mason department store.

The money was eventually deposited into the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund, which gives grants to other non-profit organizations that promote the royal’s interests. The report didn’t allege any wrongdoing.

Charles’ office said that there was “no failure of governance” and that the donor was “a legitimate and verified counterparty.” Still, Charles could face a potential investigation from the Charity Commission, which oversees charities in Britain.

At the same time, London police are currently investigating another of the prince’s charities over allegations that people within the organization offered to help a Saudi billionaire secure honors and citizenship in return for donations.

Neither Hamad nor the Qatari government have commented on the accusations.

During his tenure as prime minister from 2007 to 2013, Hamad was in charge of the oil-rich state’s sovereign wealth fund, which has substantial property interests all over the world, including London’s Shard building, Heathrow Airport and Harrods department store.

UKRAINE, BRIEFLY

  • NATO leaders will formally invite Finland and Sweden to join the alliance on Wednesday after Turkey dropped its veto on their membership, NATO’s secretary-general announced Tuesday evening, opening the way for one of the group’s most substantial expansions in decades, the New York Times wrote.
  • The number of fatalities from a horrific Russian attack on a busy shopping mall in central Ukraine has risen to at least 20, according to NPR. Ukrainian authorities said two missiles were fired Monday afternoon at the Amstor shopping center in Kremenchuk, where up to 1,000 people were reportedly present. Following the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the Russian government as “the largest terrorism organization in the world.” The United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, will meet on Tuesday to discuss the Russian strikes, the BBC noted.
  • American basketball star Brittney Griner is due to go on trial in Russia on Friday for allegedly possessing marijuana, the BBC reported. The three-time WNBA league champion and seven-time All-Star, who is 31 years old, may be forced to spend 10 years behind bars if found guilty. Meanwhile, Russia added 25 US citizens, including first lady Jill Biden, to a “stop list,” as Moscow retaliates against expanding sanctions from the US and European nations, CNN added.
  • The US Treasury Department said Tuesday that it will restrict the entry of Russian gold into the US, two days after President Joe Biden vowed that the US and other G-7 nations will prohibit its import, ABC News wrote.

DISCOVERIES

Icy Hope

Rising temperatures have been threatening the habitats of polar bears for years as the floating slabs of ice they used to hunt began to disappear.

Now, a research team has discovered a group of genetically distinct polar bears living in southeastern Greenland that have been isolated for around 200 years, creatures who eschew sea ice and use glaciers to hunt instead, Live Science reported.

The discovery has upended the way scientists think about polar bears and the looming danger for them as the climate warms.

Until now, scientists had identified 19 known subpopulations of polar bears living in the Arctic Circle. Among them was one population that spans a 1,988-mile stretch of the eastern coast of Greenland.

But new genetic analysis and decades of tracking data showed that these were actually two separate populations each living in the southeast and northeast of the icy landmass, according to a new study.

The team explained that the newly found group, the southeastern bears, numbering about 300, were the most genetically diverse out of all the 20 populations.

But what struck researchers was that this population had seemed to adapt to the warming climate because of its choice of location.

Polar bears need to use sea ice as platforms to stalk their prey from above. Sea ice usually forms during the autumn period and melts by spring. Polar bears can normally survive between 100 and 180 days without food during the summer months.

But the newly found population’s region experiences more than 250 days a year without sea ice – conditions that mimic those predicted for the Arctic by the end of the 21st century.

The authors added that a few northeastern bears –described as “immigrants” – had also acclimated to the warmer environment.

Currently listed as vulnerable to extinction, polar bears number around 36,000 in the wild.

Kristin Laidre, a wildlife scientist at the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington and lead researcher on the study, told Live Science that while the study offers some hope for the world’s largest land predator, it doesn’t mean widespread relief for the bears because this type of glacier ice is only found near a small fraction of other polar bear populations.

“Glacier ice may help small numbers of polar bears survive for longer periods under climate warming, but it is not available for the vast majority of polar bears,” she said. “Loss of Arctic sea ice is still the primary threat to all polar bears.”

Covid Update, Editor’s Note

We want to thank the many subscribers who wrote to us with their comments and suggestions about the Covid Update. We were very impressed by the hundreds who responded, many strongly urging us to continue publishing the coronavirus information. The final count was closely divided with a slight advantage to those who said COVID was still very much a force in the world and that we should continue to offer the Update. You argued with conviction that the Update was still meaningful and valuable to their lives. We read every single message that came in, and have decided to continue to offer the Covid Update but effective next week, we’ll do it on a weekly basis, something many of you recommended. The Covid Update will now appear every Monday morning with the percentage increases measured against the prior seven days. We’ll continue to closely monitor Covid developments and report to you as needed. Thank you again for your engagement with DailyChatter.

The Editors

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 545,473,714

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,332,611

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 11,697,382,541

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

  1. US: 87,221,661 (+0.15%)
  2. India: 43,433,345 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 32,206,954 (+0.24%)
  4. France: 31,027,099 (+0.48%)
  5. Germany: 28,048,190 (+0.48%)
  6. UK: 22,855,565 (+0.09%)
  7. South Korea: 18,349,756 (+0.06%)
  8. Italy: 18,343,422 (+0.46%)
  9. Russia: 18,155,165 (+0.01%)
  10. Turkey: 15,096,696 (+0.00%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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