The World Today for November 27, 2023
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As post-pandemic inflation gripped the global economy and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused energy costs to spike, the United States sought to expand the oil available on world markets by easing sanctions on oil-rich Venezuela.
The sanctions date from 2005, when the US slapped them on the South American country for “criminal, antidemocratic, and/or corrupt actions,” explained the Congressional Research Service. They intensified after President Nicolás Maduro won reelection in 2018 in shady circumstances.
The sanctions failed to create conditions that resulted in Maduro’s ousting, however. They also helped undermine the Venezuelan economy, leading around seven million people, or a quarter of the population, to flee to other countries in search of opportunities. Hunger is a perennial problem in the country, wrote Venezuelan political scientist Carlos Villamizar in the Boston Globe.
Now, under a deal reached in October, the US lifted sanctions on Venezuela’s oil, gas, and gold industries in exchange for Maduro holding free and fair elections in 2024 when Venezuelans vote for a new president, the Washington Post reported. But the US didn’t rescind all its sanctions, and the European Union is also maintaining sanctions against the country, added Agence France-Presse.
The oil industry was ecstatic, the Economist reported. About a month after the deal was announced, Reuters wrote about how Venezuela was planning on allowing the United Kingdom-based oil company Shell and the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago to develop an offshore natural gas field, securing a vital source of revenue for the impoverished country.
American leaders have made clear that they will reimpose the sanctions if Maduro reneges on his promise to draft a roadmap for fair elections, noted Bloomberg. Venezuelan leaders, in turn, have said they won’t accept American ultimatums.
Already, the Americans have reason to be worried. Maduro’s administration recently banned Maria Corina Machado, a popular opposition leader, from standing for the presidency in next year’s election, according to National Public Radio.
A proponent of free markets in a country where socialists like Maduro and his mentor, the late Hugo Chávez, hold sway, Machado was banned from office due to alleged “fraud and tax violations,” wrote the Christian Science Monitor. Maduro also alleged that she supported the American sanctions.
Machado, meanwhile, has pledged to ignore the ban and keep running. She won a recent opposition primary vote, for instance, that took place outside of the government regulations. Party members organized polling stations in homes, parks, and offices, the New York Times reported.
Oil revenues sure would help Machado make things right.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
Riots broke out in the Irish capital following a stabbing attack allegedly perpetrated by an individual of immigrant background, an incident that prompted concerns about anti-immigrant and far-right elements in the country, the Washington Post reported.
Protests broke out in Dublin last Thursday after a man stabbed four people outside a school, including three children. Police said victims were being treated for their injuries and that the man, also injured, had been detained.
But rumors spread online that the alleged perpetrator was an immigrant or had an immigrant background. Unnamed sources told the BBC that the man was an Irish citizen who had lived in Ireland for two decades.
Irish police said anti-immigrant protesters marched at the scene of the knife attack before the violence later broke out. The unrest saw the destruction of 11 police vehicles, three buses and the looting of 13 stores.
Authorities blamed a “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by a far-right ideology” for the violence, saying that some of the rioters had been radicalized online. They added that 34 people were arrested and described the unrest as “scenes that we have not seen in decades.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar quickly condemned the riots, noting that the unrest was “not who we are,” and that those involved in them had “brought shame on Ireland.”
The government later announced plans to modernize its laws against hatred and introduce legislation related to CCTV access for police.
Although Ireland does not have any far-right politicians or parties, small anti-immigrant protests have grown in recent years, according to NBC News.
Analysts explained to the Post that demographics in Irish society have changed over the years, with around 20 percent of those living in Ireland having been born in another country.
What further exacerbates tensions is a housing crisis in the country’s booming economy. The crisis has increased calls against refugees and asylum seekers, with critics noting that foreigners are receiving preferential treatment.
Lack of Progress
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Nepal’s capital this week to demand the restoration of the monarchy that was abolished 15 years ago, the Associated Press reported.
Supporters of former King Gyanendra waved national flags and chanted slogans demanding the abolition of the republic. Clashes broke out after riot police prevented protesters from marching in the center of Kathmandu, leaving minor injuries on both sides.
Demonstrators from the “Citizen Campaign” complained that the current government has failed to live up to commitments to develop one of the world’s poorest countries, accusing it of corruption and failed governance, Reuters noted.
Nepal became a republic in 2008, two years after weeks-long protests forced King Gyanendra to abandon his authoritarian rule and introduce democracy.
In 2008, the newly-elected parliament voted to completely abolish the 239-year-old monarchy under an agreement that also ended a Maoist insurgency that had killed 17,000 people between 1996 and 2006.
But the Himalayan nation continues to be plagued by political instability that has seen a number of different governments, ongoing economic malaise and forced many to emigrate from the country.
Since stepping down, Guyanedra has been living as a private citizen with no power or state protection. While he still enjoys some support, observers told the AP there was little chance of him returning to power.
A Hard Pill
Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina won Madagascar’s presidential election this month, a vote that was marked by low turnout, boycotting, and street protests from the opposition, Al Jazeera reported.
The country’s election body (CENI) announced Saturday that Rajoelina had secured a third term in office after winning nearly 59 percent of the vote.
Even so, other candidates decried the outcome, saying that the vote was marred by irregularities, such as intimidation of polling officials and use of public resources by the governing party. Voter turnout was 46.4 percent, which the opposition called the lowest one in Madagascar’s history.
Opposition lawmaker Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko – who came in second with more than 14 percent of the vote – filed two requests to the country’s highest court to cancel the election result and disqualify Rajoelina.
Thirteen candidates initially campaigned before the election, but only three participated in the Nov. 16 poll.
The other 10 opposition contenders – known as “le Collectif des 10” – urged voters not to participate in the polls and launched a series of demonstrations. The boycott came after CENI refused their request to postpone the vote so that the state could appoint independent officials to the electoral body.
The opposition also alleged that Rajoelina should not participate in the race because he acquired French nationality in 2014 – which they say automatically revokes his Malagasy one – and had created unfair election conditions.
It is now up to the constitutional court to confirm the final results within nine days of CENI’s announcement of the provisional results.
Rajoelina first came to power following a 2009 coup. Subsequently, he resigned after nearly five years as the head of a transitional authority, only to reclaim the presidency by winning the 2018 election.
Ancient Egyptians associated baboons with an underworld deity known as Babi, and the god of wisdom and magic, Thoth – who was sometimes depicted with the head of the animal.
They kept the animals in captivity and sometimes mummified them as offerings to the gods.
But baboons are not native to ancient Egypt and historical documents had suggested that the animals were traded from a land known as Punt.
In a 2020 paper, scientists analyzed the teeth of mummified baboons dating back to Egypt’s New Kingdom between 1550 and 1070 BCE. Their findings suggested that the animals originated from a region encompassing modern-day Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia – the first evidence of Punt.
Now, another research team extracted DNA from a mummified baboon dating to between 800 and 540 BCE. They then compared it with the genetics of 14 baboons from the 19th and 20th centuries whose origins were known.
The team wrote that the primate was most closely related to populations from modern-day coastal Eritrea. They explained that the area is close to the ancient port city of Adulis, suggesting that the baboon trade took place there.
“Maybe the earlier Punt was in a similar location to where Adulis was (later) established,” said lead author Gisela Kopp.
Kopp and her colleagues noted that the research only focused on one baboon, but hope that studies like this on other species could reveal more about other ancient Egyptian imports and their impact on wild populations.
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