Bee species drop by 25%
The number of wild bee species recorded by an international database of life on Earth has declined by one-quarter since 1990, a global analysis of bee declines found. Researchers analyzed bee records from museums, universities and citizen scientists collated by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, a global, government-funded network providing open-access data on biodiversity. They found that about 25 percent fewer species were reported between 2006 and 2015 than before the 1990s. Although this does not mean these species are extinct, it might indicate that some have become so scarce that they are no longer regularly observed in the wild. “With citizen science and the ability to share data, records are going up exponentially, but the number of species reported in these records is going down,” said Eduardo Zattara, the lead author and a biologist from the Universidad Nacional del Comahue and Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council. “It’s not a bee cataclysm yet, but what we can say is that wild bees are not exactly thriving.”
Nukes ‘priority for NK’
The top intelligence officer for North Korea on Friday said that the country sees diplomacy only as a means to advance its nuclear weapons development, even as President Joe Biden’s administration said that it would look for ways to bring Pyongyang back to talks. National Intelligence Officer for North Korea Sydney Seiler told the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank that Pyongyang’s weapons development had been a consistent policy for 30 years. “Every engagement in diplomacy has been designed to further the nuclear program, not to find a way out... I just urge people not to let the tactical ambiguity obstruct the strategic clarity about North Korea that we have,” he said. “So we should not be overly encouraged if suddenly [North Korea leader Kim Jong-un] proposes dialogue tomorrow, nor should we be overly surprised, or discouraged, if there’s an [intercontinental ballistic missile] launch by Sunday.”
Taliban pact to be reviewed
President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday said that it would review a landmark deal with the Taliban. Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year, to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to begin peace talks with the Afghan government, but violence across Afghanistan has surged despite the two sides engaging in those talks since September last year. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with his Afghan counterpart, Hamdullah Mohib, and “made clear the United States’ intention to review” the deal, US National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.
Rio calls off carnival
Rio de Janeiro has canceled its famous carnival this year due to a deadly revival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, city Mayor Eduardo Paes announced. Rio’s samba schools, which organize the parades, had hoped to hold the signature event in July after it was postponed from its usual slot in February or March, but this depended on a national vaccination campaign being well under way. Brazil’s inoculation drive only started on Monday with an initial 6 million doses available for the country’s 212 million inhabitants. Brazil has been in the grips of a second wave of infections since November last year, with more than 1,000 daily deaths and an overall of more than 215,000 deaths.
A senior UN official has said he is “alarmed” that a peaceful Australian climate protester has been jailed for 15 months — and refused bail before her appeal — amid global outrage at her “disproportionate” punishment. On Friday, Deanna “Violet” Coco was sentenced to 15 months in prison for blocking a single lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in April in a protest staged to draw attention to the global climate emergency. “I am alarmed at a NSW court’s prison term against climate protestor Deanna Coco and refusal to grant bail until a March 2023 appeal hearing, ” UN Special
SECOND ATTEMPT: An overhaul of the criminal code is expected this month, after a similar move was in 2019 stymied by large-scale protests in the Muslim-majority country The Indonesian parliament is this month expected to pass a new criminal code that would penalize sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail, officials have said. The legislative overhaul would also ban insulting the Indonesian president or state institutions, and expressing any views counter to the country’s state ideology. Cohabitation before marriage is also banned. Decades in the making, the new criminal code is expected to be passed on Dec. 15, Indonesian Deputy Minister of Justice Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej said. “We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he told Reuters
CARROT-AND-STICK: Authorities tightened control over virtual private networks, which protesters used to access banned non-Chinese news and social media apps Chinese authorities have initiated the highest “emergency response” level of censorship, according to leaked directives, including a crackdown on virtual private networks (VPNs) and other methods of bypassing online censorship after unprecedented protests demonstrated widespread public frustration with the “zero COVID” policy. The crackdown, including the tracking and questioning of protesters, comes alongside the easing of pandemic restrictions in an apparent carrot-and-stick approach to an outpouring of public grievances. During an extraordinary week in China, protests against “zero COVID” restrictions included criticism of the authoritarian rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) — which was further highlighted by the death of
EASING RESTRICTIONS: China has not approved any foreign COVID-19 vaccines and is opting for those produced domestically, the US Director of National Intelligence said Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is unwilling to accept Western vaccines despite the challenges China is facing with COVID-19, and recent protests could affect his personal standing in the Chinese Communist Party, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Saturday. Although China’s daily COVID-19 cases are near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen testing and quarantine rules after Xi’s “zero COVID” policy triggered a sharp economic slowdown and public unrest. Despite the social and economic impact of the virus, Xi “is unwilling to take a better vaccine from the West, and is instead relying on a vaccine