The World Today for November 08, 2023

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Importing a War


Police in Europe recently arrested alleged terrorists for supposedly planning attacks in connection with the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Germany recently, police nabbed folks who had been previously convicted on terror charges, reported the Times of Israel. One suspect told a friend in Syria that he might attack a pro-Israel demonstration. Another said the violence in Gaza was inspiring him to die as a martyr in an explosion.

The arrests were a sign of the times. For example, Europol’s executive director Catherine De Bolle recently told ABC News that Islamic terrorism was among the biggest threats to Western Europe. She noted that young Muslims alienated and shut out of Europe’s secular and often closed societies were especially vulnerable to radicalization.

In Arras in northern France, for instance, French officials recently mobilized as many as 7,000 troops after a former student fatally stabbed their teacher and injured three others, the Associated Press wrote. The student was suspected of Islamic radicalization. A few days before the attack, French authorities closed six airports after they received terror threats, noted France 24. The Palace of Versailles, the Louvre and other landmarks and airports have also been closed repeatedly recently due to similar fears, annoying tourists, added the Local.

At around the same time, two masked men threw firebombs at a synagogue in Berlin, Politico reported. Nobody was hurt. The building was not seriously damaged. But the would-be arsonists escaped.

Last month, a gunman, a Tunisian immigrant slated for deportation from Belgium since 2020, killed two Swedish citizens who were in Brussels to watch a soccer match.

The killer posted a video where, speaking in Arabic, he said he was on a jihad to kill Swedes, the BBC reported. Belgian police later found and shot the man. The shootings could have been reprisals for a series of Quran burnings that occurred in Sweden earlier this year, explained Al Jazeera. More Swedes are becoming increasingly Islamophobic, according to the Berkeley Political Review as more Muslim immigrants have entered the country.

In the wake of the attacks, European leaders vowed to tighten border security, Reuters wrote. Millions of migrants fleeing war or seeking economic opportunities have been attempting to venture to Europe since 2011 when the Syrian Civil War sent the first large groups to the West. More than 36,000 migrants entered Southern Europe in the first three months of 2023, CNN reported.

The European Commission is even pushing a deal, similar to one with Tunisia, to provide aid to Egypt in return for halting migration flows to Europe, Politico reported.

The problem, some say, is that tightening up borders and increasing deportations will only do so much: Many of Europe’s terrorists are home-grown.


Choking Along


India’s top court ordered authorities in states surrounding the capital to stop farmers from burning crop residue, as the air quality in New Delhi has continued to plummet in the past week to hazardous levels, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes at the time of year ahead of winter when air quality normally drops in the capital, when winds trap pollutants from various sources, such as vehicles, and industrial and agricultural waste.

To fight pollution, New Delhi stopped local construction, closed primary schools until Nov. 10 and is planning to impose restrictions on the use of vehicles next week.

But farmers in the adjacent states, including Punjab and Haryana, have been burning crop stubble left behind following a rice harvest in late October and early November. For the farmers, the burning is necessary in order to clear their lands before planting wheat crops.

Burning crop residue has been practiced for years, but the resulting smoke has accounted for 30 to 40 percent of New Delhi’s October-November pollution.

On Tuesday, the city’s air quality index stood at 306, a level considered ‘hazardous’ by Swiss group IQAir.

In its ruling Tuesday, the court ordered state officials and local police to ensure that farmers stop burning the crops. It also recommended a gradual switch-over from rice crops to less water-intensive crops.

However, the court has issued similar orders in past years with mixed results. State authorities noted that they are unable to completely halt the burning despite issuing fines. Some lamented that farmers are also hostile toward officials.

Both federal and state governments have been providing subsidies for improved harvesting equipment and stubble decomposers. These initiatives aim to assist farmers while raising awareness about hazards arising from the practice, which has reduced over the years but is still a major issue.

Revolving Doors


Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa resigned Tuesday, following a police raid on his official residence as part of an inquiry into corruption allegations involving government energy deals that has also led to the arrest of other members of his administration, the BBC reported.

Prosecutors are examining concessions made by the Socialist government involving lithium mining exploration schemes and a hydrogen production project, which were funded by the European Union.

Investigators carried out 43 raids on government buildings and private homes, said the Financial Times, resulting in an arrest warrant for Vítor Escária, the prime minister’s chief of staff. Prosecutors also charged Infrastructure Minister Joao Calamba in the probe.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said in a televised address to the country that he was surprised by the corruption probe, denied the charges, and added that he would cooperate with the judiciary. He resigned, he said, because it would be impossible to do the job properly while the inquiry was underway.

The probe is the latest in a series of scandals impacting the Socialist government since it won an absolute majority in last year’s general election, Politico noted. Costa, who has led the country for eight years, said he would not run for prime minister again.

Now, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa will talk with party leaders, likely Wednesday, before deciding whether to either appoint a new prime minister or call a snap general election – the second in two years.

Meanwhile, the opposition has demanded that the entire executive branch step down.

Giving Up


Mexico’s Zapatista rebel movement dissolved its “autonomous municipalities” in the country’s south this week, almost 30 years after it launched a brief rebellion demanding greater Indigenous rights, the Associated Press reported.

In 1994, the group – officially known as Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) – launched an armed uprising in the southern state of Chiapas, bordering Guatemala. Since then, the Zapatistas have remained in their “autonomous” townships and have refused government aid programs.

In a statement Monday, the group alluded to waves of gang violence in the areas close to the Guatemalan border – but did not clarify whether that was the reason for the dissolution.

The group said it will elaborate “in upcoming statements,” adding that they will also “begin explaining what the new structure of Zapatista autonomy will look like.”

The group is known for its cryptic statements, but Gaspar Morquecho, an anthropologist studying the EZLN, suggested that the group has become increasingly isolated over the years.

It has cut off ties with other organizations and many young people have moved out of the townships to search for employment or more education opportunities.

Others suggested the dissolution could be tied to next year’s presidential elections. Zapatistas have run candidates in the past.

Even so, the announcement comes at a time when Chiapas has seen an increase in human trafficking involving migrants, narco-trafficking and violence among drug cartels. The movement has warned that many of the areas in Chiapas are not safe for residents or outsiders.

Despite the government sending thousands of soldiers to the state, the Zapatistas said crime goes on unabated.


The Chatty Turtles

Scientists studying giant South American river turtles found the animals have a remarkable ability to communicate even before hatching, the Washington Post reported.

Locally known as arrau, the freshwater turtles are found throughout the Amazon River and its tributaries. During dry seasons, thousands of females go to beaches along the river to lay their eggs.

But while other turtles usually leave their younglings to fend for themselves after hatching, arrau moms remain on the shore for two months until their little ones emerge.

Using microphones planted on nests, a research team noticed that turtle hatchlings emit soft, almost inaudible popping or chirping sounds within their eggs, enabling them to synchronize their emergence with other hatchlings. This synchronized hatching ensures they can make a coordinated dash to the safety of the river and evade potential predators, challenging the belief that turtles are solitary and non-communicative creatures.

Even the mothers appear to respond to these calls during their long stay nearby, a behavior akin to parental care, which was previously underestimated. Meanwhile, the young turtles migrate with the moms instead of finding their own way.

This newfound understanding of arrau turtles’ social dynamics and behaviors emphasizes the need for further research on turtles overall, including how noise pollution affects their communication.

Many turtle species, despite their ancient lineage, are at risk of extinction due to factors, such as climate change, habitat destruction and hunting. Today, illegal trade in turtle meat remains a significant threat.

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