What’s going on around the world?

round up of global headlines and the biggest news stories. Nov. 2, 2015.


PRIME MINISTERIAL ELECTIONS IN CANADA

Americans take term limits for heads of state for granted. Term limits prevent an incumbent for ruling for too long – something Stephen Harper may be guilty of. Until he was ousted in the recent election on Oct. 19, Harper was the Prime Minister of Canada for three terms since 2006. He consistently attempted to end Canada’s free healthcare policy, make detention mandatory for all refugees and undocumented immigrants while they awaited processing, and freeze all foreign aid since 2010. What he did manage to do was to turn a $16 billion surplus into a $56 billion deficit.

The new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party are much more open to cooperating with the United States on environment and energy regulation, as opposed to Harper’s Conservative Party, which lobbied heavily for the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau also plans to host a leaders summit for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, to support free trade between the North American states. Since Canada is the number one importer of American products, this would boost the US economy, while also making it more difficult for others to enter the market.

The U.S. and Trudeau differ on one critical issue: how to deal with the rise of ISIS. Trudeau is planning to end Canada’s non-NATO military interventions against ISIS, as well as their programs to train Kurdish soldiers. This comes at a time when the U.S. and its allies are increasing their forces. The question for the future is whether the new Liberal Canada will begin pushing the United States to the left, or whether their differences in international and social policy will force them apart.

DESTABILIZATION AND VIOLENCE IN TURKEY

Now is not the best time to plan a vacation to Turkey. After a recent terrorist attack during a peace rally in Ankara on Oct. 10, tensions are high within the region, and foreign travel advisories are beginning to recommend against unnecessary travel to Turkey. This comes amidst a period of escalating violence in the region due to the Turkish government’s conflict with the Kurds, following Turkey’s bombing of Kurdish forces on Sept. 8.

The Kurds are an ethnic minority located in Southeastern Turkey, as well as parts of Iraq, Iran and Syria. They lack the numbers to win federal leadership democratically everywhere, while their requests for statehood have been denied. Despite this, the Kurds remain the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East.

The Turkish government has publicly disapproved of policies by many countries, including the U.S., designed to arm and train Kurdish fighters to combat ISIS. They have especially been concerned about violence from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is one group suspected to have had a role in the attack during the peace rally, but ISIS is also a likely candidate.

However, several extremist groups, including the PKK, have blamed the current Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, for the attack. With elections on Nov. 1, they claim that this attack was an effort to rally voters with fear. Only one thing is clear: with Turkey being pulled further into the black hole of destabilization in the Middle East, the region-wide conflict, with ISIS at its center, shows no signs of stopping.

HUMAN GENOME DISCOVERY IN ETHIOPIA

Digging up the past isn’t something most people enjoy doing – but a team of scientists in Ethiopia were ecstatic to do just that. On Oct. 8, Dr. Ron Pinhasi and his colleagues, a group of archaeologists from the University College Dublin, recovered the genome of a 4,500-year-old ancient African human.

It’s the first time a complete assemblage has been retrieved from a skeleton in Africa, where, for decades, scientists were skeptical that ancient DNA could survive in the tropical weather. The major milestone rides on the heels of another important discovery for science: using bone surrounding the inner ear to find genetic material lost on other bones. Last year, scientists recovered the genomes of hundreds of Europeans by extracting material from the ear bones.

Dr. Pinhasi and his team were able to try this technique on an African skeleton when archaeologists from the University of South Florida discovered the skeleton in the Mota cave, in the highlands of southern Ethiopia. From the inner ear bone, they were able to recreate the ancient human’s entire genome.  By analyzing his genes, Pinhasi and his colleagues guessed that he was probably brown-skinned with brown eyes. from an isolated community, but to prove that conclusion Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues need to search for more skeletons of the same time.

SMOG SEASON IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

It’s smog season in Southeast Asia, due to enormous clouds of smoke originating from Indonesia that have permeated the region. This is because every year, Indonesian landowners and businesses use controlled fires to clear crops and forests in order to make room to grow plants for producing paper and palm oil.

Record numbers of thousands of people have already sought medical treatment for respiratory ailments due to the smog. The temporary climate change of the Pacific Ocean in the region around the equator, a phenomenon known as El Niño, is exacerbating the effects by creating drier conditions for the smoke to emerge from.

Although the smog originates in Indonesia, due to wind patterns, it drifts down into Malaysia, Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia. The residents of these countries are equally affected by the smoke: events and travel plans are cancelled, people get sick and many choose to wear surgical masks at all hours to filter the air.

The greatest problem these people in neighboring countries face is that they have no avenue of recourse to change their condition. They cannot lobby for better environmental policies or vote for different lawmakers. Nor can they change the weather. Though their human rights are being violated by unnecessary and unnatural air pollution, any solution to the pollution lies either within Indonesia or with international cooperation.

AUSTRALIA’S HARSH TREATMENT OF REFUGEES

In July of 2015, more than 40 doctors, teachers, nurses and other humanitarian workers in Australia circulated an open letter deriding the government for its harsh treatment of migrants. This comes after years of hard-lined policies resulting in brutal treatment of migrants, often refugees, by Australia.

Since 2013, Australia has used its navy to block boats carrying migrants from even reaching its soil. For those not forced to turn around, they’re held at privatized detention centers on nearby islands. Reports have uncovered sexual abuse and poor conditions at these facilities. However, what’s even more shocking is the government’s push to hide this information, as they’ve banned people from speaking publicly about the conditions within its detention centers.

The law was passed in May 2015, in the Australian Border Force Bill, with the expressed purpose to prevent leaked information that would threaten national security. However, the wording of the bill provides much leeway. Tony Abbott, Prime Minister at the time, supported the bill. Recently, a new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was elected to parliament. A fresh face might seem like cause for optimism, but Turnbull is from the same party as Abbott and shares his views on the necessity of detention centers. Nearly 27 percent of Australians were born outside its borders, one of the largest percentages for any developed nation, and yet, the treatment of migrants and refugees by the country is deplorable.

By: Jake Villarreal ’16

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