The World Today for November 07, 2022
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A Difficult Friendship
Saudi Arabia recently told American officials that Iran was planning an attack on the desert kingdom.
The intelligence came at a peculiar time, as the Associated Press explained. American officials are peeved at Saudi Arabia for reneging on an alleged deal to increase oil production as energy prices have skyrocketed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those prices are threatening to leave Europeans in the cold this winter and ruin Democrats’ chances in the upcoming midterm elections in the US. They also help Russia earn money for its fight in Ukraine.
But the potential attack also comes as American President Joe Biden has been critical of Iran for helping Russia’s military in Ukraine while also voicing support for Iranian protesters who have been demonstrating against the Islamic Republic’s harsh policies, especially against women, Politico reported.
Biden was already reviewing policies toward Saudi Arabia. That move followed Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries cutting production after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had supposedly promised Biden that the kingdom would pump more, according to the New York Times.
Biden reportedly asked bin Salman to delay the production cuts until after the midterm elections, CNBC added. The president’s ask came after he reversed his campaign pledge to “marginalize” the prince over the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and activist who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials determined that he had been murdered on the orders of the Saudi government, the BBC noted.
The American president has vowed that Saudi Arabia will suffer consequences for its actions, but it’s not clear what he can do, a Reuters analysis concluded. Some analysts believe the administration is quietly trying to repair the relationship, the Washington Post reported.
That said, the US isn’t dependent on Saudi oil, which makes up only about six percent of its imports. However, the relationship between the two allies is an integral part of US defenses in the region, with strong security, defense and intelligence ties. Saudi Arabia also buys US weapons, something lawmakers often call into question.
Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, are calling for an investigation into Saudi investors’ role in Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter. They also launched a probe into deals that former Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner and ex-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have made with Saudis.
Now, as Iran appears to be threatening the kingdom, American officials were quick to say they would respond if Iran attacked, Al Jazeera reported. The US already scrambled jets as a show of force. Iran is also planning on sending more than 1,000 additional weapons, including drones and ballistic missiles, to help Russia’s war in Ukraine, CNN wrote. That move alone was enough for US officials to warn that they wouldn’t revive the nuclear deal that President Barack Obama had struck with Iran and that President Donald Trump had rescinded.
Meanwhile, Iranian security forces have killed at least 300 protesters and arrested more than 14,000 people in connection with the recent unrest in the country. Mass public trials and death sentences haven’t dissuaded the protesters, the UK’s Channel 4 reported.
So many motivations. So much intrigue. So much danger.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Wringing the Hands
World leaders and diplomats met in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday to attend the United Nations summit aimed at tackling climate change, even as the world reels from crises including the Ukraine war, high inflation and skyrocketing energy prices, the Associated Press reported.
More than 40,000 participants are attending the latest UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties – commonly known as COP27 – where they will discuss ways to cut emissions and help poor countries cope with the impacts of global warming.
Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the planet was heading toward “climate chaos” unless action was taken.
Egypt said more than 120 world leaders will participate even as Chinese and Indian officials look likely to sit out the conference, raising concerns that the COP27 talks can not result in any major deals to cut emissions if two of the world’s biggest polluters are absent.
British official Alok Sharma, the outgoing chair of the talks, said countries made significant progress at their meeting in Scotland last year. These included setting more ambitious emission-cutting targets, finalizing the rules of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and pledging to phase out the use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.
Even so, he warned that those efforts were being “buffeted by global headwinds,” including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has created political and economic turmoil around the globe, the Associated Press reported separately.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock noted that the talks will be overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the conference has come under scrutiny from human rights advocates, who have criticized the Egyptian government for restricting protests and stepping up surveillance during the summit.
The US-based Human Rights Watch noted that Egyptian authorities arrested dozens of people calling for protests. It added that it had joined more than 1,400 groups from around the world in urging Egypt to abolish restrictions on civil society organizations.
The Big Split
Officials from Kosovo’s Serbian minority resigned en masse this week to protest the government’s implementation of new vehicle license plates requirements, a move that has stoked tensions between the small Balkan nation and neighboring Serbia, Al Jazeera reported Saturday.
The mass resignations saw the departure of officials from the courts, police department and other government agencies following the order that around 10,000 Kosovo Serbs with license plates issued by Serbia must replace them with plates issued by Kosovo.
The walkouts followed the dismissal of a senior Serb police officer in northern Kosovo for refusing to change his vehicle’s license plate, according to Euronews.
The dispute is the latest in a long-running fight between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, which is predominantly ethnic Albanian. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Belgrade has not recognized the move.
The new license plate requirement went into effect last week but Kosovo authorities said that enforcement would be gradual. Even so, the government warned that they will start issuing fines to drivers with pre-independence license plates and will confiscate vehicles that have not had their registration numbers changed by next April.
The decision sparked debate about Kosovo’s sovereignty, particularly among the country’s Serb minority, who live primarily in the north and are still backed by neighboring Serbia.
Kosovo’s main supporters, including the US and the European Union, urged Prime Minister Albin Kurti to postpone the license plate change for another 10 months – but he has refused.
Following the resignations, Kurti called on Serbs not to leave the country’s institutions and not “fall prey to political manipulations and geopolitical games.”
Meanwhile, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic countered that her government “stands by our brave and proud people in Kosovo”.
Indigenous protesters in Peru released more than 100 tourists and local residents over the weekend after holding them on a boat for more than a day in an effort to force the government to act over oil spills in the Amazon region, the Guardian reported.
On Thursday, the Indigenous Kukama held a boat full of Peruvians and foreigners – including British and US citizens – in the region of Loreto. The incident occurred amid protests by the group over the spilling of 2,500 oil barrels into the Cuninico River in September.
Kukama leader Watson Trujillo lamented that the spill had affected nearly 1,000 inhabitants and 80 other communities, many of which lack utilities, such as running water, electricity and telephone lines.
Trujillo said the release came following talks with the head of the Cuninico communities. None of the tourists were physically harmed, according to local media.
Even so, Peruvian officials accused Indigenous communities in the Amazon region of cutting the oil pipeline to later “claim compensation.” Indigenous leaders, however, rejected the allegations, saying their communities – which primarily rely on fishing, hunting and farming – have been affected by the spill.
The September spill occurred on the state-run NorPeruano pipeline, which is more than four decades old and has been the subject of much scrutiny over its poor maintenance.
Constant oil leaks have impacted the health of the native Amazonians: According to blood and urine tests conducted by Peru’s health ministry in 2016, children and adults in Loreto’s four main river basins were found to have levels of toxic heavy metals – such as mercury and lead – far above permissible levels.
A Family Portrait
In 2019, excavators found a historical treasure trove at the Chagyrskaya Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, including thousands of stone artifacts, bone tools and 74 Neanderthal fossils.
The cave was located about 60 miles from the Denisova Cave, where a research team previously found evidence of another extinct species of hominin called the Denisovans just over a decade ago.
Radiocarbon dating showed the Neanderthal remains were more than 50,000 years old, while analysis of the area – believed to be a bison hunting camp – revealed that the ancient community lived in a cold environment.
Recently, a new research team looked into the genetic makeup of the former inhabitants of the Chagyrskaya and neighboring Okladnikov Caves. Their findings unveiled an astounding 13 genomes – almost doubling the number of complete Neanderthal genome sequences in existence.
But they also got a better understanding of how Neanderthal familial relationships worked: The prehistoric inhabitants were all closely related and lived in groups of 20 or fewer individuals. DNA models also showed that female migration impacted the community’s organization, as many females were believed to have left their group to join new ones.
At the same time, there was no evidence that the Neanderthals mingled with the Denisovans.
While the study offers some revealing insight into Neanderthal families, the authors cautioned that the Chagyrskaya community might not represent other groups outside the Altai Mountains.
As for what happened to the family, researchers speculated that they died of starvation as a result of isolation, bitter cold and a poor bison hunt.
COVID-19 Global Update
Total Cases Worldwide: 632,616,540 (+0.38%)
Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,600,610 (+0.17%)
Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 12,849,295,684 (+0.13%)
Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*
1. US: 97,741,764 (+0.30%)
2. India: 44,661,504 (+0.02%)
3. France: 37,140,238 (+0.41%)
4. Germany: 35,823,771 (+0.71%)
5. Brazil: 34,849,063 (+0.10%)
6. South Korea: 25,856,910 (+1.17%)
7. UK: 24,155,154 (+0.13%)
8. Italy: 23,642,011 (+0.47%)
9. Japan: 22,702,372 (+1.79%)
10. Russia: 21,158,672 (+0.19%)
*Numbers change over seven days
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