The World Today for October 06, 2022

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The Kingdom and the Chaos

LESOTHO

Born in Shanghai in China, Zhenyu Shao moved to Lesotho 25 years ago and became a citizen in 2006. Now he’s running for parliament in his adopted country when voters go to the polls for a general election on Oct. 7. However, some Basothos, as people from the tiny landlocked kingdom surrounded by South African territory are called, aren’t so keen on a naturalized citizen assuming any power in the country, reported the Standard, an English-language, Hong Kong-based newspaper.

Shao’s unusual candidacy and how people might react to his potential victory are two more uncertainties surrounding the upcoming election in Lesotho. As University of Limpopo law professor Hoolo ‘Nyane showed in the Conversation, the county’s recent history has been replete with instability.

The All Basotho Convention political party has ruled the country of two million for the past five years. But recently, the party split, with the former Health Minister, Nkaku Kabi, supplanting Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro as party leader, Bloomberg explained. Majoro’s former boss, ex-Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, stepped down in 2020 after he became a suspect in his ex-wife’s murder. He was subsequently charged with the crime but the charges were later dropped.

The first item on the new parliamentarians’ agenda is a reform package that former lawmakers couldn’t muster the votes to pass, wrote Africanews. An electoral law would prevent legislators from switching party allegiances in their first three years in office, a move aimed to end fragile coalition governments. Other reforms would make King Letsie III the supreme commander of the armed forces, a measure that advocates hope will end political meddling in the military and vice versa.

As the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies explained, those reforms were part of a long-awaited plan to defuse the political crisis that overtook the country in 2014. At that time, Prime Minister Thabane, claiming that the military was trying to oust him in a coup, suspended parliament under the pretext of protecting the country. The coup fizzled, South African forces entered the country and restored the peace.

Parliamentarians should also look at police brutality and how the government respects human rights, argued Amnesty International. The group listed horrible incidents and injustices that occurred in Lesotho, including when police killed a student and injured others at the National University of Lesotho when students took to the streets to protest against cuts to their stipends.

Elections are important. But the kingdom won’t overcome its chaos until a government can treat its people with respect and receive the same in return.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Something Rotten in the State

DENMARK

The Danish government has been brought to the brink by minks, two years after a scandal that saw millions of the small animals killed over Covid-19 contamination fears, the Local Denmark reported Wednesday.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the country will hold early elections on Nov. 1, saying the timing was not ideal in light of the ongoing energy and inflation crises caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The elections were originally scheduled for next summer.

Frederiksen added that she was ready to form an inclusive government in order to break the country’s ‘bloc politics’ system, which sees left- and right-wing parties in opposing factions.

The early elections were triggered after Frederiksen’s coalition ally, the Social Liberal party, threatened to exit the government over her role in the country’s controversial mink cull in 2020, Politico noted.

At the time, the government ordered the culling of 17 million minks over fears of Covid-19 infection. The controversial decision decimated Denmark’s fur industry – the largest in the European Union.

In July, a special committee investigating the culling ruled that the government’s decision was illegal and that Frederiksen’s comments justifying it were “grossly misleading.”

The uproar grew after it was revealed that Frederiksen’s text messages during the culling decision had been automatically deleted, ostensibly for security reasons.

Although the prime minister avoided an impeachment trial, her approval ratings have declined.

Rehabilitation Redux

COLOMBIA

The Colombian government and the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group are planning to restart peace talks, four years after the initial negotiations were suspended amid disagreements between the two parties, the Associated Press reported.

After meeting in Venezuela’s capital this week, delegates of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) said a start date for peace talks would be announced next month.

Norway, Venezuela and Cuba would be “guarantor states” in the negotiations, they added, saying the participation of civil society groups would be “essential” for the talks to succeed.

The announcement comes shortly after the election of President Gustavo Petro, a former rebel leader and Colombia’s first left-wing president. Petro had promised to make peace deals with the ELN and other armed groups in the Latin American nation.

The new president has been trying to shift away from the strategy of the previous conservative government, which suspended talks with the ELN after the group refused to stop attacking military targets.

The ELN became Colombia’s largest remaining armed group following a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Colombia’s Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda said that ELN had shown willingness to change.

The details of any future deal are unclear but ELN commander Antonio Garcia said the group was looking for political and economic changes.

Founded in the 1960s, the ELN is believed to have around 4,000 fighters and is also found in neighboring Venezuela where it runs illegal gold mines and drug trafficking routes. The group is known for kidnap-for-ransom schemes and attacks on oil infrastructure.

The US and the European Union have listed it as a terrorist organization.

Knocking Off Bunnies

SWITZERLAND

Switzerland’s highest court ordered German supermarket chain Lidl to destroy its chocolate bunnies after the retailer lost a copyright lawsuit brought by Swiss chocolate maker Lindt, Business Insider reported this week.

The case is connected to Lindt’s well-known chocolate rabbits – the company has held a trademark on the shape since 2001. The Swiss chocolatier said it produces 150 million of these golden, red-ribbon bunnies annually, which are sold in 50 countries.

Lidl, meanwhile, is known for producing cheaper alternatives to branded items but found itself in trouble after the Swiss firm sued the German retailer for creating a copycat chocolate bunny.

The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland ruled in favor of Lindt, saying that the chocolate maker deserved protection from copycat products.

The court also recommended that the chocolate used in Lidl’s bunnies could be melted down to create other products.

Chocolate bunny trademark disputes are not new to Lindt: In July 2021, a German court ruled that the bunny’s gold tone had legal protection.

A similar trademark case occurred between another German discounter, Aldi, and British retailer Marks and Spencer over similar-looking caterpillar-shaped chocolate cakes – Aldi’s “Cuthbert the Caterpillar” versus Marks and Spencer’s “Colin the Caterpillar.”

Marks and Spencer’s suit was settled in February and Cuthbert returned to Aldi’s shelves in June.

DISCOVERIES

Celestial Clash

NASA’s Cassini space probe collected a myriad of data about Saturn before its mission ended in 2017.

Now, that data is helping scientists learn more about the planet and how it got its fascinating rings, Science Magazine reported.

Past research has shown that the water-ice rings encircling Saturn are more than 100 million years old. Their formation, however, has been a topic of speculation.

In a new study, a research team initially studied Saturn’s very peculiar 27-degree tilt of its spin axis.

The spin axis has surprised scientists because the planet was supposed to have a small tilt when it first formed billions of years ago – almost the same as Jupiter.

Instead, past research has shown that the spin axis has been affected by the gravitational effects of another planet, Neptune, as well as Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, drifting away from the planet – a process that continues to this day.

But researchers observed that Saturn and Neptune were even then not entirely in sync, and they set on determining how this happened. They ran hundreds of simulations of Saturn’s system, including some involving a hypothetical long-lost moon about the size of Iapetus, the planet’s third-largest satellite.

From 390 simulations, 17 of them showed that this moon – named Chrysalis – approached the gas giant about 160 million years ago and caused this orbital nudge.

Eventually, Saturn’s gravitational forces shredded Chrysalis millions of years ago and resulted in the iconic planetary rings.

Still, the authors acknowledged that more research is needed to determine if the cataclysmic event led to the eye-catching celestial phenomenon.

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