The World Today for November 21, 2022

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Voting with the Feet


Jose Galeano, 35, has a degree in veterinary medicine. In his home country of Nicaragua, however, where poverty, corruption, and the suppression of political dissent are commonplace, he has worked as a farm laborer. So recently he took out a loan on his house to pay smugglers to help him leave, with the hope of getting to the United States.

“I’ve never been on such a long journey and I’m scared,” he told Agence France-Presse.

He may end up becoming another one of the massive numbers of migrants pouring across the US border with Mexico. Officials processed 572,500 Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans in the fiscal year 2022, wrote CBS News, eclipsing the number of El Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans who crossed into the US – historically, that latter triad usually makes up the bulk of migrants crossing the border. A total of 2.4 million migrants entered the country over the same period.

Most migrants flee for better opportunities. Galeano, however, was also fleeing Nicaraguan politics.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front won control of all 153 municipalities in Nicaragua’s elections this month, a success that was incredible because it probably wasn’t true, the Associated Press reported. For one thing, President Daniel Ortega has jailed most opposition figures, making it hard for his rivals to mount campaigns.

Rosario Murillo, who is Ortega’s wife and also vice president, said the elections confirmed how Nicaraguans were united. “We had an exemplary, marvelous, formidable day in which we confirm our calling for peace,” she said. The United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that Ortega’s government has cracked down on free speech, using excessive force against social activists who might have challenged Murillo’s assertions.

Similarly, National Assembly President Gustavo Porras told the Cuban state-owned news outlet Prensa Latina that the elections show how Nicaragua was building a new kind of democracy. Jailed opposition leaders, meanwhile, were on hunger strike in the country’s notorious El Chipote prison while their families feared for their lives. The Catholic News Agency, noting that several priests were held in El Chipote, called it the “torture prison.”

In response, the US has cracked down on the country’s gold and mining industry and barred certain American trade with the country, Al Jazeera explained. The European Union has similarly declared Ortega’s envoy to Brussels to be “persona non grata” after Ortega expelled the EU’s ambassador for criticizing Ortega’s dictatorship. Writing in El Pais, New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires called for the International Monetary Fund and other entities to stop financing Ortega’s rule.

Ortega stands alone. But he’s still standing, even as his people wave goodbye.


Decent Deals


Representatives of nearly 200 countries wrapped up this year’s United Nations climate summit in Egypt with a landmark deal to set up a “loss and damage” fund that would help vulnerable nations handle climate disasters – but little else, CNN reported.

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) ended Sunday following two weeks of negotiations over setting up the special fund and also initiatives to limit the rise in global temperatures.

The COP27 agreement will mark the first time countries and groups have agreed to create a fund aimed at aiding nations vulnerable to the shifting climate and disasters made worse by pollution disproportionately produced by wealthy, industrialized states.

The fund will focus on what can be done to support the loss and damage of resources but does not include liability and compensation provisions. The US and other developed countries have rejected such provisions because they would open them up to legal liability in the form of lawsuits from other nations.

This year’s outcome came in large part because the Group of 77 developing nations remained united, exerting greater leverage than in previous years.

While negotiators and climate advocates welcomed the deal, others noted that many details about how the fund will operate remain unclear.

Another contentious issue remained the limit on global temperatures: Delegates reaffirmed their goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a pledge that was made at last year’s COP26 summit in Scotland.

However, they made no mention of phasing out fossil fuels – including oil and gas – to prevent global temperatures from rising.

Even so, progress was made at the summit for the resumption of formal climate talks between the US and China – the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters.

The two countries had suspended talks over the summer but agreed to restart them.

The Shield


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should receive immunity over a lawsuit filed against him over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to the US government, a move condemned by human rights activists and the late reporter’s fiancée, the Middle East Eye reported.

Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018 in an operation that both Turkish and US intelligence groups have said was sanctioned by the crown prince.

Bin Salman – known as MBS – is facing a lawsuit in a US court over his role in Khashoggi’s murder. The plaintiffs are Khashoggi’s US-based advocacy group, Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), and his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

But in a court filing this week, White House representatives said the crown prince’s recently appointed role as prime minister was grounds for immunity. They explained that this is “a legal determination made by the State Department under longstanding and well-established principles of customary international law.”

“It has nothing to do with the merits of the case,” they added.

MBS, who for years has been Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, was officially elevated to prime minister – a position that is traditionally held by the king, who is both head of state and government. Critics noted that the move was an attempt by the crown prince to protect himself from the lawsuit.

Cengiz and Dawn criticized the Biden administration for the move, saying that it “has single-handedly assured MBS can escape accountability.”

The decision contradicts previous pledges by US President Joe Biden to hold the crown prince accountable. Meanwhile, MBS denied that he ordered Khashoggi’s murder but accepted “responsibility” because it “happened under my watch,” Axios noted.

A US judge will determine whether to grant the prince immunity because the White House’s suggestion is non-binding.

Wake-up Call


Malta plans to loosen its strict abortion laws, the last country in the EU to end a total ban on the procedure, and one that penalized terminations also in cases involving rape and incest, ABC News reported.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said the government will amend legislation to allow abortions if the mother’s life or health is at risk or if the fetus is not viable.

Under the country’s current criminal code, women who terminate their pregnancies or those helping them face up to four years in prison.

The proposed amendment came after a pregnant American woman nearly died in the Mediterranean country because doctors refused to perform an abortion. The woman, Andrea Prudente, had a miscarriage and was at risk of hemorrhaging if she didn’t terminate her pregnancy.

Because Maltese doctors couldn’t perform the procedure, she was flown to Spain where she could get an abortion.

Prudente and her husband, Jay Weeldreyer, sued Malta’s government, saying the ban was unconstitutional and violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The case has yet to go to trial.

Meanwhile, Malta Today reported that her case prompted the review of the law.

The predominately Catholic country would become one of a handful of nations in Europe such as Poland and Andorra where abortions are severely restricted.

A predominately Catholic country, most Maltese favor abortion restrictions: One recent poll found that nearly 62 percent of Maltese do not believe abortion should be decriminalized, while almost 28 percent believe it should be legal in certain circumstances.


Woolly Bulldozers

A female bison gave birth to a healthy baby calf in the English county of Kent in September, the first time in 6,000 years the large animal was born in the wild in the country, the Washington Post reported.

The birth was a major and pleasant surprise for bison rangers at the Kent Wildlife Trust, a UK-based conservation charity.

“It was such a magical moment, and so iconic (for) what it represents for conservation and wilding in this country,” said ranger Tom Gibbs, who had not known that the mother – named Female 2 – was pregnant. “I saw this little face pop out from behind mom … I wanted to scream it from the rooftops.”

He explained that bison naturally hide signs of pregnancy to stave off predators, which led to the female wandering off into the forest to give birth.

Her temporary disappearance gave the rangers a scare, Gibbs noted.

The Kent Wildlife Trust and other conservation charities are taking part in the Wilder Blean project, which seeks to reintroduce the grazing mammals to Kent’s West Blean and Thornden Woods as a way to address climate and biodiversity crises.

European bison were driven to near extinction in the early 20th century because of excessive hunting. Currently, all 9,000 bison living on the continent are descended from only 12 zoo animals.

The project introduced three females in the area which they hope will help to restore their own natural habitats, increase biodiversity, and combat climate change.

Scientists have dubbed bison as “ecosystem engineers” because their fur can debark trees, their large bodies can create pathways through the dense forest and their nutrient-rich manure helps other species flourish.

This is particularly important in the UK, one of the most nature-depleted nations in the world.

“They are quite big and robust, so they can really shape and engineer the landscape around them,” said Gibbs. “Everything they do has this positive impact.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 638,067,226 (+0.46%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,620,842 (+0.16%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 12,860,007,038 (+0.03%)

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

  1. US: 98,308,990 (+0.32%)
  2. 2. India: 44,670,646 (+0.01%)
  3. France: 37,508,185 (+0.59%)
  4. Germany: 36,205,405 (+0.48%)
  5. 5. Brazil: 34,999,495 (+0.26%)
  6. South Korea: 26,581,856 (+1.39%)
  7. UK: 24,203,873 (+0.10%)
  8. Italy: 24,031,538 (+0.87%)
  9. Japan: 23,793,927 (+2.54%)
  10. 10. Russia: 21,230,367 (+0.17%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over seven days.

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