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World roundup: November 10 2022
Stories from Lebanon, Ethiopia, Brazil, and elsewhere
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: For paid subscribers there will be no roundup tomorrow and no “Week in Review” this week as I will be traveling. I’m also going to forego my voiceover this evening for time reasons. Things should be back to normal on Sunday.
THESE DAYS IN HISTORY
November 9, 1799: In what became known as the Coup of 18 Brumaire, a group of plotters including Napoleon Bonaparte forces the Directory and its legislatures to disband and replaces that government with the French Consulate, with Napoleon as First Consul. The plotters manufactured a phony Jacobin coup attempt and used that as cover to undertake their own coup. Napoleon was able to overthrow the Directory and sideline his fellow coup plotters, leaving him as the most powerful man in France.
November 9, 1989: A (botched, as it turns out) announcement by the East German government that it would open checkpoints along the Berlin Wall leads a throng of East Berlin residents to the wall in an attempt to get into West Berlin. Amid the crowds of people trying to cross, some began chipping pieces off of the wall, and over the next several weeks what had been the most in-your-face symbol of the Cold War was torn down.
November 10, 1444: The Battle of Varna
November 10, 1659: The Maratha leader Shivaji and his outnumbered army defeat the Adilshahi under Afzal Khan at the Battle of Pratapgarh. It was the first major victory Shivaji would win over a Muslim kingdom, but it would definitely not be the last. His kingdom grew rapidly in the wake of the battle and became the nucleus of the Maratha Empire, which subjugated the Mughal Empire in the middle of the 18th century and became India’s dominant political entity until it was defeated by the British East India Company in the early 19th century.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
The new “Global Carbon Budget” report, released during the ongoing COP27 summit in Egypt, shows that humanity is on pace to emit 1 percent more carbon dioxide this year than it did last year. That may not seem like much, but given that humanity should be reducing its year-on-year carbon emissions any increase is undesirable. Another COP27-related report issued by three NGOs—Corporate Accountability, Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness—found that there are at least 636 fossil fuel corporate reps at the summit, which is larger than any national delegation other than the UAE’s (and I think it’s safe to assume some portion of the Emirati delegation could be classified as fossil fuel reps as well). I’m sure they’ve all got the best of intentions but the flood of industry reps doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the summit.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels carried out a drone strike on Wednesday against the port of Qena, in southern Yemen’s Shabwah province. The strike apparently prevented an oil tanker from docking at the facility. The rebels are claiming that the strike was necessary to prevent “an attempt to loot” Yemeni oil, but as far as the internationally recognized Yemeni government is concerned they blocked a legitimate transaction. This is not the first time the rebels have conducted an attack like this against a Yemeni port in recent weeks. Given that Yemen’s previous ceasefire expired last month, these drone attacks threaten a return to widespread conflict. But analysts seem to think the Houthis aren’t looking to reignite the war but rather are trying to increase their leverage in negotiations over a new ceasefire.
Lebanese parliamentarians tried for the fifth time to elect a president on Thursday, and for the fifth time they were unsuccessful. Michel Moawad once again led with 44 votes, which is swell except insofar as he needed 86 votes for the two-thirds majority required for election on a first ballot. He’s not even all that close to the 65 votes he’d need for a simple majority on a second ballot, though MPs opposed to his candidacy have typically been walking out of the chamber after these first ballots in order to deny the quorum required for another round. Former President Michel Aoun’s term ended on October 31 so Lebanon is currently without a president.
Palestinians in Gaza held a major demonstration on Thursday to mark 18 years since the death of former Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. This is interesting in that Arafat was also leader of the PLO’s Fatah party, which has been in a sometimes-violent feud with Hamas for…well, really since Arafat died, if not before that. Hamas regularly suppresses pro-Fatah demonstrations in Gaza, and while the anniversary of Arafat’s death could be considered something of a special case this definitely seems to have been a pro-Fatah demonstration. It’s unclear why Hamas decided to allow this protest to take place, but the two parties did sign another in a series of “reconciliation” agreements last month in Algeria. These agreements invariably collapse, but this one hasn’t yet so maybe that explains Hamas’s lenience.
The International Atomic Energy Agency issued its quarterly report on Thursday, headlined by an estimate that Iran has increased its stockpile of 60 percent enriched uranium by 6.7 kilograms, to a total of 62.3 kilograms. Uranium enriched to that level is close to weapons grade (90+ percent enriched) in terms of the amount of centrifuge time needed to get it there. The Agency estimated that Iran’s overall stockpile of enriched uranium decreased by 267.2 kilograms over the quarter, which could be explained at least in part by the additional enrichment. The IAEA can only estimate these things because the Iranian government has limited the activities of its inspectors in protest over the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
IAEA Director Rafael Grossi expressed “concerns” on Thursday over a new claim by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace commander Amirali Hajizadeh that Iran has developed a “hypersonic” missile. There is no evidence that Iran has ever tested such a weapon, which would be difficult though not impossible to conceal, but even if it hasn’t it may have acquired hypersonic missiles from an outside source. There’s nothing in this claim that directly impinges on negotiations over reviving the nuclear deal, but it does raise the political stakes around such negotiations. On the bright side, I guess, no negotiations are happening at present and they’re unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The Afghan government has banned women from public parks and fairgrounds in Kabul, after apparently deciding that it was too hard to keep those spaces gender segregated. At this point women have been almost completely excised from public spaces since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan last year. This decision has drawn criticism both from women and from fair operators, who see their businesses failing without mothers (and therefore children) being allowed to patronize them.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party resumed his “march on Islamabad” on Thursday as planned. Khan, however, hasn’t rejoined it yet as he’s in Lahore, still recovering from last week’s assassination attempt. He released a video address to the marchers on Thursday telling them that he would meet them in Rawalpindi, which is just outside Islamabad, and the plan is apparently for him to deliver a daily video address as the march progresses. Khan is still alleging that Pakistani government and military officials were behind the assassination attempt and is promising to reveal more information about the plot.
At least three soldiers and four militants have been killed this week in fighting between Philippine security forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters in Basilan province. At least 13 soldiers have been wounded along with an unspecified number of militants. The MILF signed a permanent ceasefire with the Philippine government back in 2014 so clashes like this are quite rare and it’s unclear what sparked this confrontation, which as of Thursday morning was still ongoing despite calls from senior MILF leaders for an end to the fighting. If it continues there could be political implications for the implementation of Bangsamoro regional autonomy, which was part of the 2014 ceasefire.
US President Joe Biden will have a chat with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week during the G20 summit in Indonesia, with Biden hoping to establish a “floor” for bilateral relations according to “a senior administration official” quoted by Reuters. What that seems to mean is that he wants an airing of grievances, on both sides, along with a discussion about the “rules of the road” for the glorious New Cold War. The administration still seems to believe it can maintain a low-level state of hostility with China on most issues while working together on a few specific things like climate change and, optimistically, ending the war in Ukraine. There’s been no evidence yet that this approach can work but there’s no indication that Washington has decided to alter it in any way.
Al Jazeera reports on flooding-induced food crisis that’s impacting much of central and western Africa:
Souloukna Mourga waded through his flooded millet and cotton field in northern Cameroon, uprooting soggy stems that had a few bolls on them. All six hectares of mostly dead crops were under water.
The 50-year-old father of 12 is one of an estimated 4 million people, many of them small subsistence farmers, in more than a dozen countries in West and Central Africa that have seen their crops decimated by unusually heavy flooding.
Floods have destroyed this season’s harvest, while nearly 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of farmland across the region remain under water. Soil nutrients are being washed away, setting the scene for an even worse crop next season.
Representatives of the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front have extended their current round of peace talks in Kenya, which began on Monday and were supposed to have wrapped up on Wednesday. They apparently need more time to work out the details of the TPLF’s disarmament, which was mandated in the peace deal they reached earlier this month.
The TPLF is concerned, one might say understandably, about the prospect of disarming while there are still armed third parties in the Tigray region whose status was not covered in the peace accord. Specifically that means the Eritrean military, which has yet to withdraw after helping the Ethiopians encircle the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and thus force the TPLF into what is essentially a surrender. It may also refer to the presence of Amhara regional security forces in what is currently western Tigray. The delay in settling these issues has meant a corresponding delay in bringing desperately needed humanitarian assistance into the Tigray region.
The Ukrainian military reportedly made significant advances in Kherson oblast on Thursday, one day after the Russian military announced that it was pulling its forces out of the western part of that province. The Ukrainians are approaching Kherson city, but they’re not moving to enter it yet if for no other reason than that there are tens of thousands of Russian soldiers still there and it will likely take days, if not longer, for them to complete their withdrawal to the eastern side of the Dnipro River. Another consideration is landmines—the territory the Ukrainians took on Thursday contains a multitude of them and it’s likely the Russians have scattered explosives over the entire province, or will do so as they’re withdrawing. It remains to be seen what the Russians intend to do once they’ve completed their withdrawal—they could leave the retreating soldiers in position in eastern Kherson or they could redeploy them to other parts of Ukraine.
The European Parliament voted on Thursday to admit Croatia to the Schengen area, the EU’s visa-free travel zone. Croatia is currently one of five EU members that are not part of Schengen, along with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania. The issue will now go to the European Council, where all 27 EU member states will vote. There’s no indication that the Council will reject Croatia’s membership.
A post-election audit from the Brazilian military is apparently fueling pro-Jair Bolsonaro conspiracy theories:
Nearly two weeks after Brazil’s presidential election, government officials and independent security experts have reviewed the results and made a clear determination: There is no credible evidence of voter fraud.
Yet Brazil still finds itself grappling with a wave of rigged-election claims from many supporters of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
On Wednesday, those baseless claims received new fuel from a highly anticipated report on the voting process from Brazil’s military, which the head of Mr. Bolsonaro’s party said would determine whether the party officially accepted the election’s results.
In the report, the military said it found no evidence of any irregularities. It also said that the nature of Brazil’s fully digital voting system meant it could not decisively rule out a specific fraud scenario.
All things considered this is a pretty measured conclusion from an institution that could rightfully have been expected to put its thumb on the scale on Bolsonaro’s behalf. But Bolsonaro fanboys have seized on the possibility that the country’s electronic voting machines were hacked—the scenario the military said it couldn’t decisively rule out—as proof that they must have been hacked because Boslonaro lost. Ipso facto, and so forth.
This is where Bolsonaro’s refusal to concede defeat, even as he hasn’t explicitly claimed fraud and has allowed President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s transition team to begin its work, could be significant. Bolsonaro is the one who ordered the military audit, even though there’s no reason the Brazilian military should be involving itself in electoral matters. He could still decide to use it as the basis for an election challenge.
The Biden administration on Thursday announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status through at least June 2024 for nationals of six countries—El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. The decision affects some 392,000 people whose TPS would otherwise have expired at the end of this year. Most of them (242,000 people) are Salvadoran. The TPS program allows individuals to remain in the US for an extended period of time if their home country is deemed to be suffering from armed conflict or natural disaster.
Finally, TomDispatch’s Frida Berrigan considers the environmental future we’re leaving to future generations:
I have three kids, ages 8, 10 and 15, and they anchor me in a troubling and strange, if still ultimately beautiful, reality. This world, however finite with its increasingly overwhelming problems, is still precious to me and worth a good fight. I can’t turn away from tomorrow. It’s not an abstraction. The headlines now seem to endlessly scream: we are at a potential tipping point in terms of the climate. Did I say a potential tipping point? I meant to make that plural. In fact, an article in the September 8th issue of the Guardian lists 16 of them in all. Sixteen! Imagine that!
Three of the biggest ones that climate scientists agree we’re close to tipping over are:
The collapse of Greenland’s ice cap, which will produce a huge rise in global sea levels.
The melting of the Arctic’s carbon-rich permafrost, releasing staggering amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and so further broiling this planet. (Will it freeze again if we do the right thing? Not likely, as it seems as if that tipping point has already tipped.)
In the face of all of this, in the age of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Elon Musk, and the rest of the crew, how do you change political or corporate behavior to slow, if not reverse, global warming? More than three-quarters of a century of uncertain tomorrows has made the human race — particularly, of course, those in the developed/industrialized world — awful stewards of the future.
“So when we need collective action at the global level, probably more than ever since the second world war, to keep the planet stable, we have an all-time low in terms of our ability to collectively act together. Time is really running out very, very fast.” So said Johan Rockström, a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. As he added tellingly, speaking of the global temperature ceiling set at the Paris climate accords in 2015 (and already considered out of date in the latest devastating United Nations report), “I must say, in my professional life as a climate scientist, this is a low point. The window for 1.5C is shutting as I speak, so it’s really tough.”
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