Brief #0.5 - okładka

Illegal shark fins trading and special treatment of gangsters in El Salvador

The government of El Salvador has allegedly offered special treatment to the imprisoned leaders of street gangs in return for halting violence and support in elections for President Nayiby Bukele, according to a media report. Among the favors were better food, removal of repressive guards or reversing the decision to put rival gangs members in the same cells. The secret talks were to be made with leaders of Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio-18.

The activity of armed gangs in Haiti provoked protests in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Gang members are allegedly attacking critics of the government. Dozens of people were kidnapped and killed, including a few of the known opposers of the administration of prime minister’s Joseph Joute. Some of the protesters believe that President Jovenel Moïse is an accomplice in murders because of the impunity of the gangs that target his political opponents.

Yakuza gangsters are getting old – more than half of yakuza members are at least 50 years old with one in ten being over 70. That comes as an effect of over a decade long police crackdowns, ageing Japanese population, and diminishing benefits from illegal activity that stand in the way of recruitment. Yakuza members are forbidden from opening bank accounts, obtaining a credit card, taking out insurance policies, or even signing a contract for a mobile phone.

American law enforcing agencies dismantled a criminal organization that dealt – among other activities – with illegal wildlife trading. Six tons of shark fins and eighteen bladders of an endangered totoaba fish were confiscated. Both are considered a delicacy in Asian cuisine. Smugglers trafficked fins from Mexico via the USA to Hong Kong. According to the World Wildlife Fund, around 100 million sharks are killed yearly, often to harvest their fins.

Mysterious deaths of elephants

Every year, some 830 million trees are hit by lightning in the tropical forests, and 200 million of them die, according to the study from Global Change Biology. The research was made thanks to satellite data and a network of ground sensors that helped monitor vast areas and lightning that occur in milliseconds. The observation in Panama revealed that one lightning strike damages on average more than 20 trees. In the following year, five or six of them die. The lightning usually strikes the largest trees.

Neurotoxins in algal blooms or a rodent virus (EMC, Encephalomyocarditis) are probably the cause of mass die-offs of elephants (350 animals) in Okavango delta in Botswana. Deaths of further 22 animals were observed in Zimbabwe. The elephants died suddenly, with many walking in circles, before collapsing.

The United States forensic experts carry out experiments to establish whether decomposing human remains affect the surrounding vegetation, for example by loss of leaves or change in their color – the marks that could be observed via drones. Scientists analyze soil composition, plant species and their light absorption in the woods at the so-called body farm, where the remains of donors were placed. Necrobiome – microbes and chemicals of the decomposing body – should influence the closest environment. If proven effective, drone-searching could help recover bodies. Every year, in the U.S. alone, 100 thousand people go missing.

Climate refugees

There is no commonly accepted definition of who is a ‘climate migrant’ or ‘climate refugee’. Some of the experts claim that those terms cover a spectrum: from people who have to move – even if temporarily – because of natural disasters, through to those affected by the slow-onset impacts of the climate emergency. Moreover, manymore people migrate within the boundaries of their countries, rather than leaving the country entirely,and the migration itself is caused by many factors: social, political, environmental and demographic. Climate change multiplies those threats.

Immediately before and after the Katrina hurricane hit New Orleans in 2005 at least 70% of inhabitants left the city. Today’s population of New Orleans is smaller by around 60 thousand. Between now and 2050 in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia, 143 million people will be internally displaced as a result of climate change, according to the World Bank’s report from 2018.

In Rift Valley, Kenya, thousands of people have been internally displaced and farms submerged due to heavy rains, climate change, and deforestation. Since 2013, the water level of Lake Baringo has been raised by 12 meters, destroying tourism and agriculture in the region.

Floods caused by heavy rains in Sudan destroyed at least 100 thousand houses. Over half a million Sudanese were affected, and 99 people died. The rates of floods and rains exceeded record highs from 1946 and 1988.

Arctic Archipelago through the eyes of Inuits

Canadian cruise line employs Inuits for its trips to the Arctic Archipelago to encourage visitors to be respectful and responsible and create a connection between them and the locals. Dubbed the “floating university”, an Adventure Canada ship offers guests the chance to see local cultures and the environment through the eyes of people coming from them. While visiting the indigenous communities, the travel operator organizes sports activities between the guests and local communities and offers the latter the  opportunity to take a tour of the ship as well. The population of indigenous people in the High Arctic is about 60 000.

Spanish authorities warned sailors off the coast of Galicia to keep the distance from orcas appearing in the region after encounters of whales with two vessels that left one of them damaged. According to marine mammals experts, such interactions are unprecedented in the region and highly unusual in general. Killer whales are often seen there in September as they move from the Gulf of Cádiz to Bay of Biscay, following tunas.

Four hundred and eighty-four minke whales have already been killed this year in Norway. The number surpasses last year’s total catch and marks a reversal of a trend of decline in the domestic demand for whale meat. It comes together with the relaxation of requirements for the participation in whaling introduced in 2020. Activists warn that it could endanger the welfare of the animals and criticized the policies of Norway – one of the three countries that still allow commercial whaling.

Lack of coins in the US and temporary basic income

Temporary basic income for the poorest was proposed as a solution to the pandemic crisis by the United Nations Development Programme. With 3 billion people living below or just above the poverty line and around 100 million pushed into extreme poverty due to coronavirus, that kind of solution is recommended as many developing countries lack social security that could shield societies from the economic shock coming with the pandemic. “Otherwise people will starve before the virus gets to them”, according to Kanni Wignaraja, Asia-Pacific director of the UNDP. The proposed program would consist of six-month guaranteed cash handout for people in 132 countries and would cost 199 billion USD per month. A UNDP representative claims that spending now could alleviate the costs later.

The global pandemic isn’t a tragedy for everyone. The business is thriving for Kannywood, the Muslim version of Hollywood from the north of Nigeria. Its online streaming platform, Northflix, recently tripled the income and doubled the number of users. It provides work for more than 30 000 people and became a life-saver for film producers once the cinemas and DVD shops were closed.

Record profits are reported by the Indian kite sellers. Traditionally used around the festival of Makar Sankranti in January, kites have become a way of coping with the lockdown, and many people fly them from their terraces and rooftops. Some sellers claimed sales of hundreds of thousand kites with interested customers even from neighboring Pakistan. Tens of thousands of women could earn money while making a popular product from their homes.

The United States faces the problem of a lack of coins. People staying at home and shifting towards online shopping resulted in a circulation bottleneck that pushed the administration to create a special U.S. Coin Task Force. Small change is essential for the existence of many American businesses, like laundromats and restaurants. Some owners consider raising prices to even dollars.

Protests in Hungary, Thailand and China

Thousands of Hungarian students formed a several kilometers long human chain in a protest demanding autonomy for the universities. In recent years, the government transferred control over some of the most important universities in the country to the foundations loyal to the administration of prime minister Viktor Orban. The current wave of protests started with changing the structure of the University of Theater and Film Arts in Budapest – an institution with 155 years of tradition and alma mater of several Oscar winners. In the place of the elected board, the government installed an advisory board, consisting of its supporters. The leadership of the University resigned as well as many of the professors. Hungarian artists and other educational establishments expressed support for the protests. Students have been occupying campus since Tuesday, September 1st.

Students in Thailand are using the three-finger salute from Hunger Games as a pro-democracy symbol as they protest for the reform of the education system. Since mid-July, protesters have been gathering almost every day. They protest against the system that forbids them to speak their mind, against the need to wear uniforms, and strict limitations in behavior. Some are critical of the country’s monarchy – a postulate particularly condemned by the government which otherwise declares the will of dialogue. Several of the activists have been arrested and charged for the protests.

The Chinese government faces public demonstrations in the province of Inner Mongolia after announcing that new textbooks in Chinese will replace the current ones in Mongolian for some of the courses in schools. According to President Xi Jinping, the move is aimed at including ethnic minorities within the labor market and cultural and scientific knowledge. Parents from the Mongolian minority are afraid it will cause children to lose their mother tongue and refuse to let them go to school until the new policy is revoked. Clashes between the parents and police occurred.