The World Today for January 01, 2024

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A Decisive New Year


2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year.

First, the new year will usher in some crucial elections, according to the Economist.

The United Kingdom, India, and the United States are slated to hold general elections that will determine the new leaders of the free world. In Russia, in contrast, when voters head to the polls, few expect anyone but incumbent Vladimir Putin to win – but no one knows how the ballot will affect how Russia prosecutes the war in Ukraine.

Other important votes will be rematches that pit reformers against the entrenched interests they defeated in the past. In Indonesia, for example, popular President Joko Widodo must step aside due to term limits, but he has vowed to make sure the country’s entrenched interests won’t secure sufficient power to reverse his policies, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote.

In Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador similarly can’t run for reelection, but hopes his successor will win office to continue his progressive policies, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas noted.

In other countries, corruption is playing a big role in determining who will lead.

Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan will run in parliamentary elections from prison, where he is being held on corruption charges that he denies, according to the Associated Press.

South African voters might choose to oust the African National Congress, the organization that helped end the country’s racist Apartheid regime in the 1990s, explained Al Jazeera. Conflicts between the Congress and former President Jacob Zuma, who resigned due to corruption allegations in 2018, could especially hurt the party on election day, added Semafor.

Other elections could have far-reaching consequences globally.

In Taiwan, leaders who advocate for closer relations with China will square off against those who believe Chinese officials, who view Taiwan as a breakaway republic, are a threat to the island, the Brookings Institution explained. Whoever wins will play an important role in deescalating or fanning tensions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, of course, doesn’t need to seek the support of his people. As the United States Institute for Peace detailed, he has concentrated power in his office in recent years by eliminating rivals and installing loyalists in key offices throughout the vast country.

Lastly, the fortunes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are uncertain as he prosecutes a war against Hamas – but also has come under withering criticism for the country’s lack of preparedness before the terror attacks of Oct. 7, CNN reported.

These politicians will be dealing with trends that they can’t control, wrote Chatham House, a British think tank. In addition to war in Ukraine, violence in the Middle East, tensions in the South China Sea and elsewhere, economic uncertainty, the rise of AI, climate change, and other non-political developments are likely to challenge world leaders.

Whether they rise to these challenges will determine if some of them win office again.


We’ll be back tomorrow with the latest from around the world. Happy New Year!


The Melting Point

Scientists have long wondered about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) – specifically, the last time it collapsed.

If it melts completely, this ice sheet packs enough water to raise global sea levels by more than 16 feet.

Now, a new genetic study of Antarctica’s octopuses unveiled some new clues to the frozen continent’s history and possibly its future, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Recently, a research team looked into the genetic history of Turquet’s octopuses, a small cephalopod species that has been living around the icy landmass for four million years.

The populations of Turquet’s octopuses in Antarctica’s Ross Sea and Weddell Sea are separated by the impassable WAIS. As a result, they rarely move far from where they live. But genetic testing shows that at one point, the two populations interbred, which means they were able to mix due to the collapse of the WAIS.

After sequencing the DNA of 96 octopuses, researchers found that the populations in the Weddell Sea and Ross Sea interbred between about 139,000 and 54,000 years ago, during a period known as the Last Interglacial, according to a new study.

Their findings fit with scientists’ suspicions that the collapse of the WAIS had occurred during that time when the was about 0.9 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than pre-industrial averages.

Other researchers praised the study as the “first biologic evidence that’s being used for past collapse,” noting that further investigation can reveal more about ice sheet’s melting in modern times.

Current global average temperatures linger around 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the pre-industrial average and the warming oceans have left WAIS in a precarious situation.

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