State of the World Bulletin
What in the world happened last week?
For this time of year, influenza is sending people to the hospital in record numbers. According to USNews, the rate of hospitalization in the US was about 16.6 per 100,000 people in October and November while this statistic has ranged from 0.1 to 2 over the past 10 years. In conjunction, COVID cases have risen over the past few weeks, and Boston as well as other cities in the US are beginning to ramp up sewage water testing in order to predict COVID infection levels.
On October 29, Shanquella Robinson, an American who was visiting Mexico as a tourist, was murdered. The FBI and prosecutors in Mexico are investigating her death, which has gained international attention. The murder is now officially considered a femicide: a gender-based homicide. While the US does not differentiate between femicide and homicide, Mexico does, and the country considers female homicide a femicide when there is “evidence of sexual violence prior to the victim’s death; a sentimental, affective or trusting relationship with the perpetrator; and the victim’s body being displayed in public,” according to the Vision of Humanity. From 2015-19, femicides increased by 145% in Mexico.
On December 5th, the United States agreed to share, with Argentina, tax agency information about citizens’ investments and banking in an effort to reveal the approximately $100 billion dollars Argentinians have been estimated to shelter in the U.S. The United States is historically used as a tax haven by wealthy Argentines, obscuring the fiscal transparency their country wants from its citizens. Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, citizens had December 1st off to celebrate the 74th anniversary of the abolishment of the Costa Rican military – ratified in their constitution on December 1, 1948. In Cuba, female boxers are now legally allowed to compete in boxing tournaments after a six decade ban was initiated by Fidel Castro back in 1949. Another decades-old battle has reached the International Court of Justice – Nicaragua vs. Colombia, over their maritime boundaries. Nicaragua has sued Colombia for the 13th time, claiming that the waters surrounding the San Andrés and Providencia islands are within their coastal territory. In Peru, the Cconchaccota lagoon dried up, leaving over 300 South Andean communities water insecure; the local evangelical church claims that drought is God’s punishment for the sins of man.
Japan and South Korea have advanced to the top 16 of the Finals, defying odds. Meanwhile, China is set to announce a further easing of some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 curbs as early as Wednesday (Dec 7), which had originally created much backlash through protests (refer to our previous State of the World bulletin). For instance, it would remove COVID-19 testing requirements for people to enter most public places on Tuesday. Three Chinese astronauts have also left on June 5 and returned to Earth after completing a six-month mission aboard China’s space station (the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft). While in space, the three astronauts oversaw the arrival of the second and third modules for Tiangong and carried out three spacewalks to check and test the new facilities.
The Italian town of Casamicciola Terme struggled to rescue survivors and rebuild after a devastating landslide that killed 11 people and destroyed much of the town. Its efforts are ongoing, and the blame game has just begun. This week, the EU failed to agree on an $18 billion loan it had planned to extend to Ukraine to help the government provide basic services to its people. The primary obstacle was Victor Orban, the strongman Prime Minister of Hungary, who tied his support for the loan to EU economic aid for Hungary that has been frozen out of concerns about the country’s democratic backsliding. More importantly, though, the EU did agree on a cap on the price of Russian oil on December 2, after months of discussions. The G-7 group of advanced democracies joined the EU in this long-anticipated sanction, capping the price of Russian oil at $60 a barrel in a novel effort to reduce the income that Russia receives from energy sales. In war news, Ukraine targeted military bases hundreds of miles within Russia with drones in its deepest strike on Russian targets so far in the war. Putin responded with missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, the continuation of a months-long campaign that has left millions of Ukrainians without power. Meanwhile, other European countries are worrying about their own power outages this winter. Although European countries have amassed more natural gas reserves than many expected and the rationing of power will only come as a last resort, any issues with energy delivery or excess demand for electricity could pose serious problems. The discovery of corrosion in pipes in French nuclear reactors this week constitutes one such issue, and the French government has revealed plans for rolling blackouts this winter in the event that problems persist.
North Africa and Middle East
The world’s attention continues to focus on Qatar for the World Cup. Isreali journalists have experienced repeated interruptions by members of other countries calling for a ‘free palestine’.
In Iran, the government has announced its first concessions by halting the actions of the morality police. This was the initial source of frustration that sparked the protests after the death of Masha Ammi, however it is unclear if this will cool the protest or further embolden them. There is also uncertainty if the government will rollback this change as they attempted to undersell the reform.
China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia soon. The King of Saudi Arabia and de facto ruler/current PM MBS invited the Chinese leader to discuss improving strategic ties.
On December 5th, Australia’s Department of Industry, Science and Resources released a handout showing an artist’s impression of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope. First conceived in the early 1990s, the low-frequency stations to be built in Western Australia will serve as a massive instrument that aims to untangle mysteries about the creation of stars, galaxies, and extraterrestrial life.
The New Zealand Supreme Court ruled last week that the voting age of 18 breached the human rights of the younger people after a group of young campaigners “Make It 16” argued that young people must be able to vote on key issues like climate change. The decision reignited the debate in the neighboring Australia. Independent MP Monique Ryan expressed her plans to introduce a bill next year to push for a lower voting age.
By Hilda Barragan-Reyes, Margaret Hedeman, Irene Kim, Ted Shepherd, Ezana Tedla, and Victory Lee