The World Today for May 08, 2023

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Eldorado’s Slums


French authorities have dispatched more than 1,800 police officers and gendarmes as well as 500 prosecutors, social workers, and others to the island of Mayotte, a French territory lying between Madagascar and the coast of Mozambique. Called “Operation Wuambushu”, or “take back” in the local Maore tongue, the security forces’ deployment is part of a crackdown on immigration that stirred controversy in Europe and throughout the Indian Ocean.

As the Local explained, French officials want to move thousands of illegal immigrants from Mayotte to nearby Comoros, an archipelago nation that is the origin for many of the migrants who have come to Mayotte over the years. Protests recently sprung up in Paris against the policy. But the response closer to the island has been more serious. Migrants have clashed with police in Mayotte. In Comoros, leaders have told French leaders that they will refuse to accept the expelled immigrants, reported Punch, a Nigerian news magazine.

Half of Mayotte’s population of around 350,000 people are foreigners. Most are Comoran. Three islands form Comoros, a sovereign nation that was formerly a French colony. Mayotte is the fourth island in the chain but is now considered a French department, or state. Its infrastructure has benefits as a result. “Boasting schools, hospitals, roads, and a social safety net, Mayotte is an eldorado that every year thousands of impoverished Comorans risk their lives trying to reach,” wrote Agence France-Presse.

Madagascans are among those who undertake the journey, too, often at great peril. Speaking to the BBC, human rights activists described the lagoon around the island as an “open-air graveyard.” The promise of moving to Mayotte and potentially becoming a French citizen, however, lures people to the country.

Residents of Mayotte heartily support France’s moves to stop the influx. A mass demonstration in favor of the crackdown recently occurred in Mamoudzou, the territory’s capital. Their support reflects how crime has increased on the island recently, including a 16 percent increase in murders last year and a 30 percent spike in violent thefts, according to French officials, the Jurist added.

“The citizen mobilization is important, it supports the action of elected officials who called this operation to claim our security and our freedom,” Mamoudzou’s mayor Ambdilwahedou Soumaila told Agence France-Presse. “Mamoudzou has the largest slum in France. We are not proud of this record. A slum is first of all (promoting) sanitary and ecological insecurity, it is the indignity of the nation.”

Late last month, a court in Mayotte ordered French authorities to pause Operation Wuambushu on civil liberties grounds, Al Jazeera noted. The authorities vowed to appeal.

Justice, prosperity, and borders don’t necessarily overlap.


The End


The World Health Organization declared an end to the Covid-19 emergency over the weekend, a move that marks the official conclusion of one of worst pandemics in modern history, the Wall Street Journal reported.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the end of the emergency, saying that the pandemic has seen a downward trend in infections for more than a year because people have built up immunity to the virus.

He noted that the trends have allowed countries to return to normal, adding that the death rate has decreased and there is less pressure on health systems.

The WHO chief and many health officials described the announcement as a major milestone for the world – more than three years after the pandemic began.

The pathogen was discovered spreading in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Since then, nearly seven million people have died around the world and many others continue to suffer long-term health problems related to the infection.

The pandemic’s impact reverberated around the globe: It shattered the illusion that humanity had control over its environment, affected politics and international relations, and prompted questions about global public health systems.

But it also saw the advancement of new scientific and healthcare breakthroughs, including faster vaccine development and better global disease-monitoring systems to prepare for future pandemics.

Still, a rise in misinformation about health and medicine, and an increasing distrust in science and vaccines have raised concerns among scientists about what might occur if there is another pandemic.

Meanwhile, epidemiologists say that Covid-19 is not endemic yet, which means that it hasn’t settled into a predictable or stable pattern. Instead, new, more dangerous variants may emerge.

The XBB.1.16 variant, a recently discovered strain of Covid-19, caused a significant increase in cases in India and is now spreading across more than 30 countries, including the United States. In April, the WHO designated this strain of the pathogen as a “variant of interest.”

In his announcement, Tedros cautioned that Covid-19 is still present and announced the creation of a committee to develop guidance for countries to manage Covid-19 in the long term, including handling new variants.

“Covid has changed our world, and it has changed us,” Tedros said. “If we all go back to how things were before Covid-19, we will have failed to learn our lessons, and we will have failed future generations. This experience must change us all for the better.”

The Heat Stays On


Thousands of people demonstrated across Israel over the weekend for the 18th consecutive week, with protesters attempting to keep up pressure on the government over its controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary, the Times of Israel reported.

The latest demonstrations saw a number of Israeli figures speaking against the proposed plan, including former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and leading tech entrepreneur, Moshe Radman.

Israel has been gripped by mass protests since the beginning of the year when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his conservative government unveiled a bill that would reform the judiciary.

The draft law would give Netanyahu’s ruling coalition an automatic majority in selecting the first Supreme Court justice appointments in any parliamentary term, as well as the top court’s president.

Critics, however, fear the changes will undermine the independence of the judiciary and weaken democracy by removing part of the system of checks and balances.

Facing pressure at home and abroad, Netanyahu has put the overhaul on hold and the government is negotiating with the opposition to reach a compromise.

Even so, Netanyahu’s coalition and opposition lawmakers remain completely deadlocked on the central issue of the Judicial Selection Committee, the body that selects the judges.

Protest organizers, meanwhile, are urging the opposition to abandon the talks, saying they are “a plot by Netanyahu to waste time in order to pass a budget.”

The weekend demonstrations followed Thursday’s “day of equality” protests that saw protesters carry out acts of civil disobedience, including highway blockades across the country.

The protests were mainly targeting the exemption from military service and other special privileges long granted to the growing ultra-Orthodox community.

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli families benefit from heavy public subsidies that allow boys and men to devote years to religious study instead of working and paying taxes in the mainstream economy, the Washington Post wrote.

Activists also demonstrated outside the homes of cabinet ministers and state religious institutions, and used blood-spattered mannequins to represent Israeli victims, with protesters dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” advocating for women’s rights, and organizing a civil marriage ceremony outside the Tel Aviv rabbinate.

Simmer, Boil


Dozens of people have been killed over days of ethnic clashes between Christian tribes and a Hindu community in the northeastern state of Manipur, Indian officials said Monday, with mobs attacking homes, churches and temples, according to the BBC.

Indian officials deployed army troops and enforced a curfew in Manipur last week after violence broke out Wednesday between the predominantly Hindu Meitei community, which lives in the valley around the regional capital Imphal, and Christian tribes living in the surrounding hills, the Guardian reported.

Local police and paramilitary units were unable to control the violence and India’s home ministry sent in the army Thursday, with troops ordered to “shoot on sight.”

No exact death toll has been made available but scores have been injured, including two local politicians.

The clashes come amid historical ethnic grievances between the majority Meitei community and the Christian tribes.

For 20 years, the Meitei have requested the status of “scheduled tribe,” which would provide them access to government jobs and places at colleges reserved for specific groups. But the Christian tribes – who form 40 percent of Manipur’s population – counter that the Meitei are already an affluent and politically powerful majority, and are advantageously represented in the state’s legislature.

Last week’s skirmishes came a month after the Manipur high court issued an order urging the state government to approve the Meitei’s demand for scheduled tribe status, prompting protests by the Christian tribes.

Since then, authorities have evacuated more than 23,000 people, while around 9,000 have been forced to leave their homes to escape the violence.

The evacuation aims to relocate the Meitei from Christian tribal-dominated areas. Meanwhile, schools, colleges, offices, and shops have been closed and Internet access remains banned.


A Hot Meal

Astronomers believe that the cosmos is full of examples of stars eating their planets, but evidence of the cataclysmic events has remained elusive – until now.

Recently, a research team observed for the first time a star devouring its planet about 12,000 light-years away from Earth, Science News reported.

In their study, researcher Kishalay De and his team were initially looking for binary star systems, when they came across a strange event in 2020.

They noticed a spot of light getting brighter and first suggested that it was two far-away stars that were merging. But a second look using NASA’s NEOWISE infrared space telescope revealed otherwise: The energy released from the bright flash was just one-thousandth what it would have been if two stars had clashed.

The team noted that this low energy showed that one of the mergers was not a star, adding that there was a dusty belch surrounding the two celestial bodies – instead of hot plasma that would also normally indicate a merger among stars.

Their findings showed that a planet about 10 times the mass of Jupiter was being engulfed by its sun.

This was a significant find for scientists because past studies have mainly shown signs of stars preparing to gulp their planets – or gorging on the leftovers of such a meal.

“Planetary engulfment has been predicted for a very long time but their frequency was not well known,” said De. “So it was certainly exciting to realize we had found one.”

De noted that the dramatic end is the fate of many planets, with Earth’s destiny being no different.

However, our planet’s fiery death will come in five billion years when the Sun evolves into a red giant.

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