The World Today for November 18, 2022

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Waving Bye-Bye


Shortly before Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi hosted world leaders for the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, he delivered a scornful message to his constituents. He asked them to stop having so many kids.

El-Sissi has come to view large families as a national security issue, the Washington Post explained. Warmer temperatures are already putting pressure on his North African country’s food and water supplies. Egypt, with more than 100 million citizens, can’t afford many more mouths to feed.

Utterly dependent on the Nile River, Egypt is already suffering, noted the Financial Times. Warmer sea temperatures and rising sea levels are pushing salt water into the country’s aquifers, ruining crops. If current trends continue, Egypt’s agricultural base is expected to shrink by as much as 20 percent through 2050. Similar changes are undermining the country’s storied ancient tourist sites, too, the New York Times added.

Egyptian children are already experiencing the worst effects of climate change, wrote Al-Fanar, a publication that covers higher education in the Arab world. Rising heat, air pollution and harsher floods and storms disproportionally harm children’s health. Children also suffer more greatly when families must move due to climate change.

Coincidentally, children were given a pavilion at COP27 for the first time during its run from Nov. 6 to 18. “Every year world leaders and the UN climate summit say that they’re listening to the youth and most affected people, yet we’re still on the path of destruction,” said activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan of the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines in an interview with Euronews. “This year’s youth pavilion will give us the chance to amplify the youth’s voice without the barriers and obstacles we often meet at these official events.”

World leaders don’t appear to be listening closely, though. At a recent meeting of the G-20 in Indonesia, the leaders of the world’s most economically advanced countries reaffirmed their commitment to limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial times, despite some leaders expressing concerns about how that cap would inhibit economic growth, The Hill reported. But, as New Scientist recounted, countries haven’t cut their carbon emissions sufficiently to hit that target. The British magazine wondered if the world should adopt a 2-degree Celsius increase limit as a more realistic goal.

Meanwhile, more than 600 representatives of fossil fuel companies and industry associations attended COP27, according to Global Witness, a British environmental justice advocacy group.

The activists lamented how these folks never have trouble being heard.


The Verdict Behind the Verdict


A Dutch court sentenced three Russia-linked men to life imprisonment for their roles in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, Al Jazeera reported Thursday.

The Hague District Court found the men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – guilty in absentia of murder and intentionally causing the Boeing 777 aircraft to crash, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

A fourth Russian man was acquitted after the court found he had no prior knowledge of the plan to fire the missile, according to Sky News.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the plane was downed by a Russian-made Buk missile that was fired from the pro-Russian separatist region in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic. He added that the court believed that Russia had overall control of the separatist region.

At the time, Russia denied any presence in Ukraine and rejected accusations that it had any involvement in the downing of MH17.

On Thursday, Russian officials said the government would examine the court’s findings.

The verdict comes amid Russia’s nearly nine-month-long offensive in Ukraine, where explosions rocked cities across the country Thursday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the court’s decision as “important” but added that those who “masterminded” the plane’s downing must now be prosecuted as well.

The victims’ relatives also said they welcomed the decision as a start. Meanwhile, it’s unlikely that the three defendants will serve their sentences anytime soon given that they remain at large.

Uniquely Flawed


Berlin’s constitutional court ruled this week that the capital’s parliamentary elections must be repeated, a rerun that could change the political equilibrium in the state legislature, Politico reported.

The court found that election results for the lower house and local district councils were invalid, saying there were “serious systemic flaws” in preparations for the polls.

It added that the rerun must occur within 90 days and described the situation as “unique … in the history of elections in the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Berlin’s elections took place on Sep. 26, 2021, which coincided with Germany’s federal elections. The polls also took place while the city was hosting a marathon.

The rerun could threaten the coalition under current mayor Franziska Giffey of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the lead party in Giffey’s governing political union with the Greens and the far-left Die Linke.

If the state government changes as a result of repeated elections, it may affect the political balance in Germany’s federal upper house of parliament.

Observers noted that while the state elections will not directly impact the votes in the federal one that were cast in Berlin that day, the poll’s flaws could lead to political consequences on a national level.

The German federal parliament voted last week to partially repeat the federal election in the capital. That means voters in 431 of Berlin’s 2,257 electoral districts will have to cast their first and second ballots once more.

Opposition parties may yet appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court to compel a repeat of the general election across all Berlin districts.

As in the Berlin state elections, the court is expected to make the final decision.

Au Revoir


Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian refugee whose saga inspired a famous Hollywood movie, countless articles and no small amount of wonder from travelers and airport staff, died this week at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, his home of 18 years, the Washington Post reported.

“There is a lot of emotion at the airport in the wake of his death,” a spokesperson of the airport authority told the newspaper about the beloved 77-year-old man who died of a heart attack.

Nasseri’s saga began in the 1970s when he was either exiled or fled political unrest in Iran. He initially settled in Belgium for many years but was reportedly set on finding his British mother and tried to travel to other parts of Europe.

However, he was repeatedly expelled from various countries because he was not carrying the required immigration documents.

In 1988, French authorities stopped him at the Paris airport for lacking identity papers. Officials later released him into Terminal 1 of the airport, where he lived for nearly two decades.

He had set up a makeshift home in the airport and became the subject of numerous articles and at least two movies, including the 2004 Steven Spielberg film, “The Terminal.” DreamWorks allegedly gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars for the rights to his story.

Although French authorities granted him a residency permit in 1999, he continued to live at the airport until 2006.

His departure from the airport, however, proved difficult: The airport spokesperson explained that Nasseri had “psychological problems” and was effectively homeless.

Before his death, he returned to the airport’s 2F Terminal in mid-September after leaving a care home where he had been staying.


This week, in a rare display of public discord, Ukraine and its Western allies are openly clashing over who launched the missile that killed two people in NATO member Poland, NBC News reported. On Tuesday, Russia launched a barrage of missiles hitting a number of Ukrainian energy facilities. Both NATO and Poland said it was likely a Ukrainian-launched air defense missile, intended to shoot down one Russian cruise missile, caused the incident. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that “it was not our missile” that hit Polish farmland. Even so, the United States and its allies condemned Russia in the United Nations Security Council for launching as many as 100 missiles across Ukraine this week, France 24 added.

In other developments:

  • A diplomatic accord that reopened Ukraine’s maritime food shipments will last at least four months, keeping the country’s economic lifeline open as it faces its first full winter at war with Russia, Politico wrote. But the grain deal’s extension came as Russia launched new airstrikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities Thursday, the Associated Press noted.
  • Russia’s international isolation grew Wednesday, as world leaders issued a joint declaration during the G-20 summit in Indonesia strongly condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported. Earlier in the week, Russia reacted angrily to international calls for Moscow to pay war damages for the destruction it has caused in Ukraine, according to the BBC. This follows a United Nations General Assembly vote on a resolution demanding that Russia face repercussions for its actions in Ukraine, including reparations.
  • At the same time, the European Union sanctioned the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, its air force, and a business that manufactures drones used by Russia in its conflict with Ukraine on Monday, Agence France-Presse reported. Russia is accused of deploying waves of Iranian-made drones over Ukraine to strike at power plants and other key infrastructure.
  • The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that both Russia and Ukraine have mistreated prisoners of war during the Ukrainian conflict, citing incidents of beatings, the use of electric shocks and forced nudity, according to Al Jazeera.
  • A Swiss nationalist group launched an initiative last week to safeguard Switzerland’s neutrality and prevent it from joining in future sanctions and defense alliances, the Singapore-based publication Today wrote. Pro Schweiz, a new group with ties to politicians from the country’s right-wing Swiss People’s party, initiated the referendum campaign in response to Switzerland’s decision to abandon its tradition of neutrality and impose severe sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.


The Big Shrink

Hunters kill rhinoceros for their horns, either for trophies or as high-value commodities used in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine.

But rhino poaching hasn’t only threatened the mammals’ lives. It has also changed the size of their horns, Sky News reported.

In a new study, scientists found that the horns of all five surviving rhino species have shrunk over the past 140 years.

Researchers analyzed 80 photographs of rhinos dating from 1886 to 2019, including one showing former US President Theodore Roosevelt standing over a black rhino he had just killed in 1911.

They used imaging software to determine numerous anatomical measurements for each animal and then assessed the size of its horn in relation to its body size.

Their findings showed that the horn sizes within each species had gradually decreased over time.

The team suggested that the shrinking was prompted by hunting, noting that many hunters would go after rhinos with larger horns. Consequently, this allowed the ones with smaller horns to survive and pass their short-horn genes to future generations.

But lead author Oscar Wilson told New Scientist that this big shrink is still bad news for the large animals because hunters will then “have to shoot more rhinos.”

He added that this reduction can also impact the well-being of rhinos because the horns are used for a variety of things, including defending territory and finding mates.

Still, he added that his colleagues also studied thousands of other images – including artistic depictions – that hint that people have developed a more positive attitude toward the big-horned mammal.

“We’re viewing rhinos way more positively than we ever have,” he noted. “We think this is real cause for optimism (concerning) rhino conservation.”

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