The World Today for November 01, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

A Furry Election

DENMARK

In November 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was still raging, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen faced an agonizing decision. Covid-19 had been detected in some of the 17 million minks in the Nordic country’s massive fur industry. As Bloomberg reported, scientists were telling her that the virus could mutate in the weasels and spread a vaccine-resistant form of the sickness to humans.

Frederiksen, now 44, ordered officials to cull all the minks, a decision that could bring down her government and even lead to a robot replacing her when Danish voters go to the polls on Nov. 1, the Guardian wrote.

The government killed three million minks. The move was technically illegal, though authorities decided the prime minister hadn’t intentionally broken the law. The mink industry was devastated. Then, added the Washington Post, officials announced they would need to dig up millions of minks and burn them due to concerns that the rotting bodies of the buried animals could contaminate the groundwater.

It wasn’t a popular policy.

Today, polls suggest that Frederiksen’s Social Democrat Party is neck and neck with its rivals, noted analyst Corinne Deloy of the Robert Schuman Foundation. But even if the Social Democrats win the largest share of the vote, the prime minister might not be able to form a coalition with other groups, explained Politico. For example, she needed to call an election around seven months earlier than planned after one of her coalition partners threatened a new confidence vote. Meanwhile, the opposition’s center-right Liberal Party and the Conservative People’s Party would likely be able to form a government.

The election comes as Denmark faces serious challenges. Explosions have crippled two natural gas pipelines that carry energy from Russia to Europe via Denmark, further driving down supplies and spiking costs, Reuters wrote. Danish officials recently ordered three coal- and oil-fired power plants to remain open due to the energy crisis when they were scheduled to be closed to fight climate change, the Local added.

Immigration is also a hot-button topic in Denmark. But, as Euronews reported, parties from the right and left agree on the solution: They have proposed shipping asylum seekers thousands of miles away to Rwanda in south-central Africa, a plan that former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also unveiled earlier this year.

The moment has birthed a peculiar political response: Leader Lars, an artificial intelligence chatbot that is programmed to reflect the values of the 20 percent of Danes who don’t vote, represents the Synthetic Party. Founded in May, artists and techies in collectives and non-profits teamed up to create the software, which learns as more people interact with it, according to Fortune magazine.

One wonders what Leader Lars would have done if it had learned that minks were spreading Covid-19. Perhaps it would have shown a little more humanity.

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