This Week in the World | 3.19.2018
By Rachel Elliott
On Sunday, Russian President Vladmir Putin won the presidential election, granting him six more years in office. The president received three-quarters of the votes in his landslide victory. While turnout rate was high–around 67%–European election observers reported a lack of real competition and restriction on freedoms surrounding the voting. For instance, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running. The win will make Putin the second-longest serving leader of Russia, only behind Joseph Stalin.
President Trump congratulated Putin on his election victory on Tuesday, suggesting that the two would be meeting in the near future. EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker posted his congratulation letter on Twitter, promising to improve ties with Russia in the future. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Putin as well. French President Emmanuel Macron also congratulated the Russian president, but called for transparency in regards to the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.
By: Alex Voisine
On Monday, the world’s last remaining male northern white rhino passed away at the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. The rhino, known as Sudan, died at the impressive age of 45 after developing an infection on his right leg. Sudan is one of only three northern white rhinos in the world; the other two, also housed at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and under armed guard, are females.
Sudan gained celebrity status last April when conservationists made him a Tinder profile, in the hopes of raising money and awareness. Unfortunately, notwithstanding a concerted effort by conservationists, Sudan was unable to reproduce with one of the other female northern white rhinos before passing away, leaving no offspring to keep the species from going extinct. In an effort to keep the northern white rhino from going extinct despite being unable to get Sudan and one of his female counterparts to reproduce, scientists harvested sex cells from Sudan and the female rhinos, and are planning to impregnate another species of white rhino. If successful, it may be possible to keep the northern white rhino species alive.
Scientists, conservationists, biologists, and rhino enthusiasts around the world have reacted with sadness and frustration over the death of Sudan. Ami Vitale, a National Geographic photographer, wrote in an Instagram caption: “Today we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.” Vitale is referring to the fact that for decades, rhinos have been a target of poachers, due to the unconfirmed medical benefits of consuming rhino horn. In fact, in the 1960s, there were over 2,000 northern white rhinos. Conservationists have battled poachers, unresponsive governments, and small budgets to protect the northern white rhino. The story of Sudan brings this valiant struggle to light; in 1975, Sudan was captured by trappers and brought to a zoo in the Czech Republic, where he remained until 2009, when he was rescued and moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy along with two other female rhinos, to try and stimulate reproduction. To protect Sudan, armed guards were hired to keep poachers out.
The good news is that the white rhino species is composed of two subspecies; the northern white rhino and the southern white rhino, and while the northern white rhino is functionally extinct following the death of Sudan, the southern white rhino has thrived, with an estimated 20,000 living in the wild. Still, Sudan’s death presents itself as a critical moment for conservationists to argue for enhanced conservation methods, and will hopefully serve as a wake-up call about the repercussions of hunting endangered animals.
By Rachel Elliott
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been battling a cronyism scandal for the past year, but the controversy has only increased since the original accusations. Allegedly, a plot of land was sold for an almost 85% discounted price to Moritomo Gakuen, a controversial nationalist group, because of their ties to Abe’s wife. The group intended to build a school on the land and Mrs. Abe was named the honorary principal. Documents surfaced earlier this month that had been previously altered to remove the Abes names from the sale. Officials from the finance ministry admitted last week that they had removed the names, as well as the name of the finance minister.
PM Abe had previously denied any connection and even offered to resign if any evidence surfaced connecting him or his wife to the scandal. Since the emergence of the doctored documents, Abe has denied any involvement and blamed low-level staffers for the mistake. However, the Japanese public has not been forgiving. The opposition party and protesters have called for both Abe and his cabinet’s resignation. Abe’s approval rating dropped below 40% over the weekend.
- United Kingdom
By Alex Voisine
Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data analytics company best known for being hired by the Trump campaign, has fired its CEO Alexander Nix after undercover footage was released in which Nix described meeting with Donald Trump throughout the campaign. The footage seemed to suggest that Nix had engaged in entrapment and bribery, in addition to heavily influencing the election by a highly focused research, data, analytics, digital, and television campaign. Alex Tayler, the chief data officer of Cambridge Analytica, was recorded saying, in a separate audio file, that it was the data campaign by Cambridge Analytica that allowed Donald Trump to win the electoral college and thus the election, despite losing the popular vote by 3 million. Cambridge Analytica is currently being investigated regarding allegations that it accessed the private data of over 50 million Facebook users during the U.S. elections, and used that data to manipulate voters.
In a statement about Nix’s being fired, Cambridge Analytica said that “Mr. Nix’s comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 News (a British media company) and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm.”
- United States
By Rachel Elliott
Since March 2, five bombings have occured in Texas. The first four occurred in Austin and all of the bombings involved packages left on doorsteps of residential homes. The most recent attack occurred at a FedEx facility in a San Antonio suburb, though authorities have said that the package there was meant to ship to Austin. Two people have died as a result of the deadly packages and four have been injured. Authorities have expressed concern regarding the increasingly complex methods that the bombers have implemented, and have determined that the attacks have most likely been perpetrated by the same serial bomber or bombers.
- Puerto Rico
Six months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, some parts of the island still remain out of power, making it the longest blackout in U.S. history. An estimated 100,000 Puerto Ricans still do not have power, and most have no idea when their power will be restored. Though power has been restored to the major cities and towns in Puerto Rico, residents of rural villages haven’t been as lucky. For those without power, refrigerating food, cooking, and keeping homes lit after dark have become incredibly difficult.
As winter ends and spring approaches, the urgency to restore electricity to all Puerto Rican residents has increased. The average high temperature in Puerto Rico in the spring is 85 degrees, and the island’s humid climate complicates things even further, not least for those who don’t have electricity to power air conditioners or fans. Many of the Puerto Ricans affected by prolonged power outages have been forced to move, but others have remained resilient: “Life is very sad here, but I’m not leaving. I’m staying right here,” said Yamary Morales Torres in an interview with National Geographic. Torres, a fisherman, has been especially impacted by the power outages because he has no way of refrigerating the fish he catches, so he is forced to sell the fish he catches immediately.
Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory and is thus able to receive relatively more disaster relief funding from the U.S. government than non-U.S.-territories, has appealed for more funding, but following devastating storms in Texas around the same time as Hurricane Maria, funding is limited.