While Western powers undermine Haitian sovereignty, Venezuela continues to show solidarity

Owen Schalk

The Canadian Files | August 27, 2021

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez raises his fist.
Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez raises his fist.

On August 14, Haiti was devastated by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake originating from the southern Tiburon Peninsula, 150 kilometres from the capital, Port-au-Prince.  World leaders issued statements of solidarity, international charities began encouraging donations, and the United Nations started organizing emergency aid funds to assist the country.  Articles on this ongoing tragedy often emphasis two prior catastrophes which have compounded the quake’s impact on the Haitian people: the COVID-19 pandemic and political instability following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 

In such analyses, it is taken for granted that Global North countries and the United Nations should lead the international response to the disaster.  One Global News piece quotes numerous United Nations officials and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan as authorities on the situation, while an article from BBC quotes both UNICEF and USAID.  What is not emphasized is the nefarious role that groups affiliated with the United Nations and the US have played in Haiti in the past, and the positive role that other countries in the Global South, particularly Venezuela, have had on Haiti’s development.

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Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19

Rob Wallace

Monthly Review Press, New York, 2020. 260 pp, $17.00 pb

ISBN 9781583679029

Reviewed by Jordan Liz

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of who bears responsibility for the outbreak has been hotly contested. Several media outlets and politicians, including former President Donald Trump, contend that China is responsible. One argument blames the pandemic on ‘exotic’ Chinese eating habits and ‘unhygienic’ wet markets. Another argues that the SARS-CoV-2 virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Driven by an underlying xenophobia, Trump and his supporters have routinely referred to COVID-19 as the ‘China virus’, ‘Wuhan virus’ and even the ‘Kung flu’. Others have argued that ultimately no one is responsible for the emergence of the virus. Because viruses are naturally occurring phenomenon, the possibility of epidemics and pandemics is always present. On this view, questions of responsibility should be limited to how corporations, governments and the public respond to the pandemic. China is not responsible for the virus’ emergence, but the Chinese government is responsible for not altering the global community of the outbreak sooner. Similarly, the US government is responsible for underplaying the severity of the virus and failing to properly prepare in light of the information that they did have available.

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Afghanistan’s terrified scientists predict huge research losses

Smriti Mallapaty

Nature | August 27, 2021

Afghans make their way through a flooded street towards a nearby airport entrance
Afghans who hope to be evacuated head through flooded streets towards Kabul’s airport.Credit: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

On Sunday 15 August, geologist Hamidullah Waizy was interviewing job candidates at the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum in Kabul when he was told the Taliban had entered the city, and he must evacuate. The next morning, he saw armed militants on the streets.

Waizy, a researcher at Kabul Polytechnic University who was recently also appointed director-general of prospecting and exploration of mines at the ministry, was shocked by the city’s rapid fall. Since then, he’s lived in limbo, mostly shuttered up in the relative safety of his home.

Across Kabul, most universities and public offices remain closed. The Taliban says it wants officials to continue working, but it is not clear what this will look like. “The future is very uncertain,” Waizy told Nature.

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Climate change implicated in Germany’s deadly floods

Holly Else

Nature | August 26, 2021

Cars are seen floating in a flooded street in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
Record rainfall caused severe flooding in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands (pictured) this year. Credit: Patrick van Katwijk/BSR Agency/Getty

Extraordinary downpours such as those responsible for deadly flooding in Western Europe last month are becoming more frequent, and more intense, as a result of climate change. That’s the finding of a rapid attribution study by researchers involved in the World Weather Attribution initiative, which assesses whether global warming is a factor in extreme weather events.

The research adds to a growing list of attribution studies that demonstrate the current impacts of human-caused climate change. “This happened in highly-developed Germany, which is not regarded as particularly vulnerable to climate change compared to most countries in the world,” says Ralf Toumi, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research. “It shows us nowhere is truly safe as we continue to roll the dice of extreme weather.”

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Carolyn S. Shoemaker (1929–2021)

Co-discoverer of first comet known to collide with a planet in modern times.

David H. Levy

Nature | August 26, 2021

Black and white photo of Carolyn SHoemaker standing nest to a telescope in 1985
Credit: University of Chicago Library

For many years, Carolyn S. Shoemaker held the record for the largest number of comets discovered by an individual, but by far her most famous discovery was comet Shoemaker–Levy 9. From 16 to 22 July 1994, fragments of this comet, travelling at some 60 kilometres per second, collided with Jupiter, resulting in the most dramatic explosions in the Solar System ever witnessed by humanity. The dark spots left by the impacts were visible for almost a year. This singular experience had begun almost 16 months previously at the Palomar Observatory, California, when Shoemaker stopped scanning her photographic plates, looked up and said, “I do not know what I have, but it looks like a squashed comet.” In the following few minutes, her husband Gene and I confirmed the sighting.

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First ancient human DNA found from key Asian migration route

Bianca Nogrady

Nature | August 26, 2021

Fragmentary remains of the human skull.
The compressed skull and teeth of a young woman were found inside an Indonesian cave.Credit: University of Hasanuddin

The 7,000-year-old skeleton of a teenage hunter-gatherer from Sulawesi in Indonesia could be the first remains found from a mysterious, ancient culture known as the Toaleans, researchers report this week in Nature1.

The largely complete fossil of a roughly 18-year-old Stone Age woman was found in 2015 buried in a fetal position in a limestone cave on Sulawesi. The island is part of a region known as Wallacea, which forms the central islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

DNA extracted from the skull suggests the woman shared ancestry with New Guineans and Aboriginal Australians, as well with an extinct species of ancient human.

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Saturn’s insides are sloshing around

Neel V. Patelarchive

MIT Technology Review | August 16, 2021

With its massive rings stretching out 175,000 miles in diameter, Saturn is a one-of-a-kind planet in the solar system. Turns out its insides are pretty unique as well. A new study published in Nature Astronomy on Monday suggests the sixth planet from the sun has a “fuzzy” core that jiggles around. 

It’s quite a surprising find. “The conventional picture for Saturn or Jupiter’s interior structure is that of a compact core of rocky or icy material, surrounded by a lower-density envelope of hydrogen and helium,” says Christopher Mankovich, a planetary scientist at Caltech and coauthor of the new study, along with his colleague Jim Fuller

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Afganistan, The Great Game of Smashing Countries

John Pilger

MintPress News | August 24, 2021

Afghanistan Feature photo

As a tsunami of crocodile tears engulfs Western politicians, history is suppressed. More than a generation ago, Afghanistan won its freedom, which the United States, Britain and their “allies” destroyed.

In 1978, a liberation movement led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the dictatorship of Mohammad Dawd, the cousin of King Zahir Shar. It was an immensely popular revolution that took the British and Americans by surprise.

Foreign journalists in Kabul, reported the New York Times, were surprised to find that “nearly every Afghan they interviewed said [they were] delighted with the coup”. The Wall Street Journal reported that “150,000 persons … marched to honour the new flag …the participants appeared genuinely enthusiastic.”

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Reflections on Events in Afghanistan

M. K. Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

The interior of a US Air Force C-27 Globemaster III transport aircraft carrying Afghans from Kabul to Qatar (File photo) 

5. Putin: Taliban is the reality  

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Moscow visits invariably draw great attention as she has performed a unique role as intermediary between the West and Russia during her 16 years in power. Even in the most trying times in Europe’s ties with Russia, Merkel could get through to Putin, and the western capitals looked up to her for moderating tensions from reaching flashpoint. 

Read Full Article: https://www.indianpunchline.com/reflections-on-events-in-afghanistan-5/

Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, is a natural fortress, a long verdant valley surrounded by towering mountain ridges leading to the Pamir.

6. The untold secrets of Panjshir Valley 

Many Indian analysts are ecstatic that the Taliban’s goose is cooked, as Amrullah Saleh, deposed president Ashraf Ghani’s former deputy, is on the march to marshal an anti-Taliban resistance movement, a la the Northern Alliance of the late 1990s.

The cold air of realism should have taught them the bitter lesson by now that wishful thinking does not translate as reality. 

Read Full Article: https://www.indianpunchline.com/reflections-on-events-in-afghanistan-6/

A panoramic view of Mes Ayna on the gentle hills and craggy mountains in Logar province 40 kilometres south-east of Kabul, Afghanistan, where Chinese firms signed contracts to mine one of the world’s largest untouched copper deposits estimated to contain 450 million metric tonnes of ore worth at least US$50 billion

7. US-Taliban ties on razor’s edge. China is the winner.  

The Taliban has warned that there will be consequences if the Biden Administration were to extend the timeline for its deployment at Kabul Airport beyond August 31. The G7 meeting that Britain has called for Tuesday regarding Afghanistan will take a call on the timeline. 

Britain is pressing for extension (backed by France and Germany) while President Biden remains ambivalent despite the war lobby in America piling pressure on him. 

Read Full Article: https://www.indianpunchline.com/reflections-on-events-in-afghanistan-7/

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