The World Today for October 20, 2022

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The Quiet Bienvenue


Politicians in Quebec usually use secession from the federal union of Canada as a wedge issue when seeking votes. Incumbent Québécois Premier Francois Legault, however, opted to forgo talk of breaking from the rest of the country for the provincial elections on Oct. 3. Instead, he enlarged his Coalition Avenir Québec’s share of parliament by condemning immigration on the campaign trail.

Proposing a cap of 50,000 immigrants into the province annually in order to prevent the dilution of French-speaking residents, Legault told the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal in late September that more newcomers into the province would be “suicide,” according to the National Post.

Using nameless foreigners rather than English-speaking Canadians as a threat was a surprising twist on the usual Québécois politicians’ approach of appealing to their constituents’ unique French-speaking identity, especially in a country that has an unusual consensus on the need to welcome immigrants, with most complaining that entry is too hard, VOA reported.

“Eighty percent of immigrants go to Montreal, don’t work, don’t speak French or don’t accept the values of Quebec society,” said Quebec’s Immigration Minister Jean Boulet before the election. He later apologized for his remarks.

Meanwhile, Legault signed a law compelling Quebec’s municipalities with few English-speaking residents to only provide services in French, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported, even though businesses have raised concerns about how such a move would harm the economy as it comes into effect in the next few years.

He also signed a law that forbids civil servants, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols. The law might appear to infringe on people’s civil rights but a Canadian court upheld it, added the BBC.

This month’s election appeared to be another step in the 65-year-old former businessman’s campaign to address the wrongs that he sees in the province’s society, the New York Times wrote. And voters embraced him. His party went from 76 seats in the 125-member National Assembly to 90. The two groups that traditionally dominate Quebec’s politics, the pro-business, pro-union Liberal Party and Parti Québécois, a social democratic party that supports independence, came in second and fourth.

The Economist summed up why the party which he founded in 2011 appeals to voters: “The party appeals to Quebeckers’ comfort zone by not requiring them to make a difficult decision,” Jean-François Lisée, a Parti Québécois political strategist, told the British magazine. “It says to them, ‘You don’t have to love Canada but you don’t have to leave it either.’”

Oddly, Legault has presided over an explosion in temporary foreign worker permits, which increased from around 13,000 in 2017 to more than 30,000 last year. The permits reflect how the province is in desperate need of workers, reported the Toronto Star. Retirements among the province’s aging population are expected to make matters much worse in the coming years, added the Montreal Gazette.

Legault appears to have found a balance to the conundrum of needing to attract more people while exploiting them for votes. Canada will see the effects of his approach over the next few years.


Giving Up


The Netherlands will withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), the latest European country to leave the contentious international agreement that has been criticized for the protections it offers to fossil fuel projects, Politico reported.

The Dutch withdrawal comes as the European Union attempts to reform the treaty.

The ECT has come under fire by climate activists and green politicians for allowing investors to sue governments in closed tribunals over policies directed at cutting emissions.

Currently, the Netherlands is facing two lawsuits under the treaty from coal-plant operators who are seeking compensation for lost profits as a result of the country’s strategy to phase out the polluting fuel.

An effort by the EU to reform it was resisted by other members of the 50-plus-country treaty. Instead, the EU and the UK secured exclusions that permitted them to phase out coal, oil, and gas protections over a 10-year period.

Dutch Minister of Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten acknowledged that there had been some improvements. However, he added that the decision was necessary because the Netherlands does not “see how the ECT has been sufficiently aligned” with the 2015 Paris agreement on tackling climate change.

The proposed reform will still need approval from the EU. Jetten said the Netherlands will vote in favor of the proposal, despite the country’s exit.

Meanwhile, French officials said they are assessing the reform process and hinted they could withdraw from the ECT if the changes did not “match our ambitions and objectives.”

Anna Cavazzini, a Green lawmaker in the European Parliament, said the Dutch exit will “create shockwaves through the whole system.”

“The message is clear: The world has changed. States cannot accept a blanket protection of dirty investments anymore,” she added.

A Meta Scandal


A prominent Indian publication is investigating its own reporting after publishing a series of dubious articles alleging that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, was colluding with the government and involved in political censorship in India, the Washington Post reported.

The issue began when the independent outlet, The Wire, published reports alleging that the US-based tech firm had given an influential official from India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the power to censor Instagram posts that he didn’t like and were critical of the government.

The publication said the allegations stemmed from a document leaked by a Meta insider. It later published an article alleging that the company’s executives were looking for the mole.

Meta denied the allegations and accused The Wire of fabricating evidence, prompting the outlet to counter the accusations. However, tech analysts from both countries discovered a number of inconsistencies in videos and emails that the outlet had presented as proof of the allegations.

On Tuesday, technical specialist Kanishk Karan denied that he served as a consultant in one of the stories.

Afterward, the Wire launched an investigation into its own reporting, with observers noting that the recent events have damaged the credibility “of an independent and trusted news platform that India needs today.”

The saga has important significance in India where Meta has been accused of turning a blind eye to hate speech made by Hindu nationalists against other religious communities in the country.

In 2020, a top Meta executive in India resigned after the Wall Street Journal reported that she had advised her workers not to enforce hate-speech laws against Hindu nationalists associated with the BJP.

Same Old, Same Old


Chilean protesters clashed with police in a number of cities across Chile this week, as the South American nation marks the anniversary of the 2019 mass demonstrations over inequality, Euronews reported Wednesday.

In 2019, Chile was gripped by large and often deadly protests over the inequality divide: Demonstrators were demanding improvements to healthcare, education, pension and housing. The violent clashes left 33 people dead and over 400 injured.

The protests were also marked by more than 3,000 complaints of human rights violations.

At the time, the demonstrations prompted officials to push for the drafting of a new and more progressive constitution to replace one dating back to the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, according to Al Jazeera.

But that draft charter was recently overwhelmingly rejected by more than 60 percent of Chile’s electorate as being too far-reaching.

The rejection was a major blow for Chile’s young leftist President Gabriel Boric, who had backed the new constitution.

Boric marked the anniversary by calling for calm and dialogue, vowing that the demands of the 2019 protests will not go unheeded.

Chile is experiencing escalating insecurity as a result of increased crime, unchecked illegal immigration in the north and a wave of arson attacks in the south.


No Borders

Fungi can grow anywhere, including in cancer cells, according to Live Science.

Two new studies found DNA from fungal cells in the tumors of cancer patients.

In the first paper, a research team checked for fungal traces in 35 different cancer types by analyzing more than 17,000 tissue, blood and plasma samples from patients.

While their findings showed that not every single tumor sample tested positive for fungus, researchers did find the microorganisms in all the analyzed types of cancers – although they were in “low abundance.”

They added that each cancer type had its own group of fungal species, with both harmless and harmful ones. Still, scientists couldn’t determine if the fungal presence impacted the cancers’ spread.

But in the second study, another team found evidence that the growth of certain fungi may be linked to worse cancer outcomes. The new analysis specifically focused on gastrointestinal, lung and breast tumors, where the authors discovered that each cancer type respectively tended to host the fungal genuses CandidaBlastomyces and Malassezia.

In one case, breast cancer patients who had the Malassezia globosa fungi in their tumors had lower survival rates than individuals whose tumors did not have the microorganisms.

Neither study, however, could confirm if the fungi are causing these poor outcomes or if aggressive cancers just create a hospitable environment for these microorganisms.

Even so, scientists believe the two papers will serve as a springboard for future research into the colonies of microbes associated with cancers.

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