International news: law repeals, sculpture housing, and long-awaited rescues

Published 10:29 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

There is a lot of news happening all around the world every single day. The conflict in the Middle East is getting the most attention at the moment, but there are plenty of other things going on elsewhere too.

Here is my semi-regular check-in with international stories that caught my attention this week, courtesy of the Associated Press:

The UK and Greece are currently having a somewhat petty diplomatic spat that resulted in canceled meetings and statements that “express annoyance” over the situation. The crux of the issue seems to be the “Parthenon Marbles,” a collection of sculptures that were taken from Greece back in the 19th century and are now housed in the British Museum.

UK’s Prime Minister abruptly canceled a meeting with the visiting Greek Prime Minister, who said his counterpart wanted to avoid talking about the return of the ancient artwork. As of right now, half of the sculptures are at the museum and the rest are at a museum in Athens, Greece. But the Greek government said the continued separation of the sculptures is akin to “cutting the Mona Lisa in half.”

The British Museum, however, says they’re “the right place” for the Marbles. So I don’t think this problem is getting resolved any time soon. Hopefully, they’re not missing out on any other important conversations by deciding not to talk to each other.

Speaking of prime ministers, New Zealand just swore in a new one, and he has some ambitious plans for the first 100 days in office. Most of it involves repealing stuff that his predecessor put into place, and he’s also called for doubling renewable energy production.

But some of his ideas are a little more contentious among his constituents. He wants to ban cellphone use from schools (to which I say a skeptical “good luck with that”) and will disband the Maori Health Authority, a move that’s being criticized as racist against the country’s Indigenous people.

The strangest idea to me, however, is his plan to repeal tobacco restrictions, such as requirements for low nicotine levels in cigarettes and fewer retailers. The new prime minister promised to drive down smoking rates in New Zealand, but I’m not sure how he plans to accomplish that if he just did away with the restrictions that were supposed to help.

Across the globe, in Algeria, advocates are celebrating a repeal of a law that supports better freedoms for the press, but say there are more laws that need to be taken off the books too.

The repealed “press offense” law gives new protections to journalists so they won’t be arrested for doing their jobs. The country’s parliament has been considering repealing the law for a decade, but in the past, those discussions were put on hold so that journalists who were critical of the government could be prosecuted and imprisoned.

Perhaps I’m a bit biased here, but I think it’s great to hear that journalists will be able to continue their work without worrying about retaliatory arrests now. Our job as journalists is to report the news, whether or not that makes the people in power angry.

But Algeria still has other laws that can be used to imprison journalists, so hopefully this is the first of more wins for press freedom.

As I was reading through the news headlines, I discovered many that reported on the effects of climate change around the world. But there was one in Peru that particularly caught my attention. Scientists say that the country has lost more than half of its glacier surfaces in the past 60 years. They only have about 405 square miles left, which is just 44 percent of what was there in 1962.

It’s only gotten worse in recent years. Between 2016 and 2020, a total of 175 glaciers melted completely away (became “extinct”) because of climate change.

Many people wouldn’t think of Peru as a country that even has glaciers – it is located in South America, after all – but there used to be many across its mountain ranges. Some are even the source of the first waters that feed into the mighty Amazon River.

It would be a shame if Peru’s glaciers disappeared completely in the future, and no telling what kind of negative effects it will have on the environment and the people who live there.

Lastly, on a somewhat happier note, 41 construction workers were all finally rescued this week from a collapsed tunnel in northern India. They had been stuck there for 17 days after a landslide blocked off part of the tunnel, which was part of a road construction project.

The workers were “in good health” after the rescue thanks to being provided with food, water, and oxygen through pipes while they waited. The rescue wasn’t supposed to last so long, but equipment digging through the rock broke down with about 10 meters left to go. So rescuers had to dig the rest of the way by hand.

Families of the trapped workers camped out nearby to watch progress each day until they were finally reunited with their loved ones.

I’m sure it had to be a scary experience for everyone involved, but I’m glad everyone made it through okay in the end.

These are only a few samples of what’s happening with our neighbors around the world. These stories don’t directly affect us like local ones do, but it never hurts to be informed. I encourage everyone to take a few moments to read a few more international stories this week too.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.