The World Today for September 05, 2023

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Stumbling To the Starting Line


Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush fled to Turkey last week after the oil-rich country’s prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, sacked her amid protests stemming from news that she had met with the Israeli foreign minister in Rome.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who publicly announced the meeting, billed it as a historic step towards Libya recognizing Israel. At present, Libya doesn’t recognize the Jewish state. Dbeibah likely approved or at least knew of the meeting. But most Libyans, who are Arabs, support the Palestinian cause.

After Dbeibah fired al-Mangoush, Palestinians thanked him for refusing to normalize ties with Israel, the Anadolu Agency wrote. American officials and others, meanwhile, were angry, saying that making the sit-down public would ruin the chances of establishing those ties in the future, according to the Times of Israel.

Libya also has an anti-Semitic past. As the BBC explained, Libya’s Jewish community is ancient. But few Jews remain in the North African country. Many suffered persecution in World War II, and again the under anti-Semitic policies of Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled the country from 1969 until his overthrow in the Arab Spring of 2011.

The civil unrest intensified the political crisis that has been gripping Libya for more than a decade since.

Currently, Libya has two rival legislatures – one in the capital of Tripoli and another in the eastern city of Tobruk. They recently met in Morocco to draft electoral laws with an eye toward holding elections and creating a unified government. But leaders of the two legislatures backed out at the last minute, the Economist reported.

Rules over who can run for president have also bogged down negotiators who are torn over allowing Libyans with dual nationality or military personnel to stand. These rules would affect the political fortunes of the strongman who runs the eastern government, Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy noted.

Meanwhile, fighting between various groups in the country continues, wrote Al Jazeera. Just last month 55 people perished within a one-week period in Tripoli in the battles, for example. Foreign countries, including Western European powers as well as Russia and Turkey, have also deployed forces in the country to support various interests.

The way forward is not clear. The United States Institute for Peace recently argued that elections were not a “panacea for addressing this byzantine conflict’s deeply rooted drivers and the intense, bitter rivalries and factionalism that have surfaced since 2011.”

Libya needs more than democracy. But it could be a start.




Vanuatu lawmakers elected Sato Kilman as the nation’s new prime minister Monday after a court upheld a vote of no-confidence against his predecessor, who had attempted to forge closer ties with allies of the US as the latter vies with China for control of the Pacific region, Reuters reported.

Last month, the archipelago nation was gripped by a political crisis when opposition parties lodged a no-confidence vote against then-Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau for a series of actions, including signing a security pact with Australia.

Opposition lawmakers said the pact compromised Vanuatu’s “neutral” status and could risk the development assistance it receives from China.

The opposition secured 26 out of the 49 votes, but the parliamentary speaker determined that they had fallen short of the minimum 27 votes required for a successful motion in the 52-member legislature, according to Radio New Zealand.

Legislators then appealed the decision to the courts, which last week ruled in their favor. The speaker then brought the matter to the country’s Court of Appeals, which upheld the no-confidence vote on Monday.

That verdict brought an end to Kalsakau’s tenure and triggered the election of the new prime minister.

Kilman, who previously served four terms as prime minister, told lawmakers that he would begin reviewing the country’s foreign policy and seek new export markets.

Vanuatu and a number of Pacific countries have been embroiled in a tug-of-war for influence in the vast region between China and the United States.

The US and its allies have been seeking to persuade Pacific Island nations not to establish ties with Beijing after the latter signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands in early 2022.

Desperate Measures


South Korean teachers staged a mass walkout Monday to protest widespread harassment they face in their jobs from parents and unruly students, which has led to some educators taking their own lives as a result of the bullying and pressure they suffer, the Guardian reported.

Around 15,000 teachers dressed in black marched outside the country’s parliament in the capital Seoul. Demonstrations also took place in other cities and some schools were temporarily closed.

Protesters demanded better rights and protection for themselves amid growing outrage about teaching staff being mistreated, including being accused of child abuse for disciplining students.

South Korean authorities warned that the protests were illegal and threatened repercussions.

In recent weeks, South Korean educators have been holding such protests following the death of a 23-year-old elementary school teacher in July. The young woman was found dead in an apparent suicide after reportedly expressing anxiety over complaints from abusive parents.

Monday’s protests marked the 49th day since the teacher’s death, an important day in funeral rites according to many Buddhist traditions. Even so, recent reports of apparent teacher suicides have further angered the country’s educators.

Government data has shown that around 100 schoolteachers died by suicide in South Korea between 2018 and June 2023.

Amid the outrage, the education ministry has vowed to enforce educational authority and pass legislation to ensure “legitimate educational activities are distinguished from child abuse crimes.”

Fluid Frontiers


Moroccans took to the streets Monday to protest the killing of two vacationers by Algerian forces over the weekend, an incident that inflamed tensions between the two North African neighbors, the Associated Press reported.

Algeria’s Defense Ministry admitted this week that its forces fired upon a group of people who crossed into Algerian waters from Morocco on water scooters. They said that coast guards fired warning shots at the three water scooters, forcing one of them to stop while the others fled.

Algerian officials added that they recovered the body of a man with a bullet wound, but did not provide further details.

Meanwhile, Moroccan media reported that Morocco’s security forces recovered another body and that authorities are investigating the matter.

At the same time, France announced that one of the individuals killed was a French citizen.

Diplomatic relations between Algeria and Morocco are non-existent, and their maritime border has been closed since the 1990s due to ongoing disputes over matters such as the contested territory of Western Sahara.

Even so, deadly confrontations in the sea are unusual.

According to Algerian officials, the coast guard fired warning shots due to concerns about increased drug trafficking and organized crime activity in the area.


Violent Past, Hardcore Future

A newly discovered exoplanet called TOI-1853b has left astronomers scratching their heads, Science Alert reported.

Scientists wrote in a new paper that the outer world is a bit smaller than Neptune but has an astonishingly high density, almost twice that of Earth. This suggests it’s packed with rocks, which is quite unusual for a planet its size.

Researchers proposed that TOI-1853b might have had a very wild and violent past: The exoplanet began as the core of a large gas giant that lost its gassy atmosphere in a dramatic collision with another planet.

When they ran computer simulations, the scientists found that for it to end up with a density “higher than steel,” it needed “to be water-rich and suffer an extreme giant impact at a speed of greater than 75 kilometers per second in order to produce TOI-1853b as it is observed,” according to co-author Phil Carter.

Carter and his team also noted that TOI-1853b lives in a region of space known as the “Neptunian desert,” where Neptune-sized planets closely orbit their host star.

So far, astronomers have found more than 5,500 exoplanets, but only a handful of them fit the description of TOI-1853b. Understanding why this region is so empty could help us learn more about how planets form and evolve.

Next, the team plans to study TOI-1853b more closely to see if it still has any traces of an atmosphere and to analyze its makeup, which could also confirm whether the collision theory is correct.

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