World roundup: May 5 2023
Stories from the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Russia, and elsewhere
TODAY IN HISTORY
May 5, 1260: Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, is crowned as the fifth Great Khan (khagan) of the Mongol Empire, a position he held until his death in 1294. Kublai’s accession contributed significantly to the ongoing disintegration of the empire, as it immediately touched off a four year civil war between the new khagan and his brother, Ariq Böke, which in turn helped spark a war between the Ilkhanate in the Middle East and the Golden Horde Khanate in the Eurasian Steppe. That was followed by another civil war between Kublai and one of his cousins, Kaidu, that didn’t end until after Kaidu’s death in 1301. These events weakened the cohesion of the empire, which would eventually strip the “Great Khan” label of any practical relevance. Kublai ruled directly only over the empire’s Mongolian and Chinese regions. In that role, he shifted the imperial court from the Mongolian heartland to the Chinese city of Khanbaliq (modern Beijing) and is therefore considered the founder of China’s Yuan Dynasty.
May 5, 1862: A Mexican republican army commanded by Ignacio Zaragoza defeats a larger French force under Charles de Lorencez at the Battle of Puebla. The unexpected Mexican victory delayed a French march on Mexico City, though with reinforcements the French army eventually did take the capital and installed a Habsburg noble as the short-lived Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. The republican side ultimately defeated the French and overthrew Maximilian in 1867, and this early, morale-boosting victory was made a Mexican national holiday: Cinco de Mayo.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
The World Health Organization on Friday announced that COVID is no longer a “public health emergency of international concern,” a status the pandemic had held for the past three years. While I assume this is of little comfort to anyone who has COVID, or might get COVID in the future, or is dealing with long-term effects from a previous infection, it does reflect the fact that, for example, people are dying of COVID at a much reduced rate compared with the pandemic’s peak. COVID is more endemic than pandemic these days at any rate, and in making Friday’s ruling the organization is following “pandemic is over” statements from, among others, the US and European Union.
The United Nations held another donor conference on Thursday to try to raise the last bit of money it needs to properly deal with the FSO Safer, the decaying tanker that’s been parked in the Red Sea without maintenance since 2015 with over 1.1 million barrels of oil aboard. It raised a scant $5.6 million in new pledges, leaving a $23.8 million shortfall. A salvage vessel is scheduled to start pumping the oil out of the Safer later this month but funding is still needed to secure that second vessel and to pay for properly salvaging what’s left of the Safer. If this project fails and the oil spills into the Red Sea it would be an environmental catastrophe, with cleanup costs in the billions. The US apparently did not participate in Thursday’s conference. Apologies for the non-sequitur but I feel compelled for some reason to mention that the Biden administration has requested $886.3 billion in total defense spending for FY2024.