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Jack of all Trades 10 Pentribution Club
Open source software developer. Digital nomad bouncing between Italy, USA and Germany.
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Regional News • Americas • United States
5 White House Staffers Fired Over Marijuana Use
5 White House Staffers Fired Over Marijuana Use
Credit: Diego Cambiasso (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday five White House staffers were "no longer employed" over their use of marijuana as part of a vetting process for security clearance, as the Biden administration comes under fire over reports that numerous young staffers have been penalized for past marijuana use (including in states where it’s legal) even though they were told they wouldn’t be.

Team New Zealand beat Italy's Luna Rossa to retain America's Cup
Team New Zealand beat Italy's Luna Rossa to retain America's Cup
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / EmiratesTeamNZ

Team New Zealand have won the 36th America’s Cup, beating Luna Rossa 7-3 in the best-of-13 series with a dominant 46-second victory in race 10 off the coast of Auckland. The defender retained the Auld Mug, international sport’s oldest trophy, four years after beating Oracle Team USA 7-1 at the 2017 match in Bermuda. It was their fourth America’s Cup triumph after winning in 1995, 2000 and 2017.

Regional News • Americas • Mexico
Mexican Government Bans Glyphosate and GMO Corn Cultivation and Importation
Corn crop
Corn crop Credit: Jo Zimny Photos (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year’s Eve decree to phase out the use of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn. His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years. The ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock. Under NAFTA, the United States has seen a 400% increase in corn exports to Mexico, the vast majority of genetically modified yellow dent corn.

The bold policy moves fulfil a campaign promise by Mexico’s populist president, whose agricultural policies have begun to favour Mexican producers, particularly small-scale farmers, and protect consumers alarmed by the rise of obesity and chronic diseases associated with high-fat, high-sugar processed foods.

America's Cup 2021: Italian Luna Rossa wins Prada Cup Final against Ineos Team UK
America's Cup 2021: Italian Luna Rossa wins Prada Cup Final against Ineos Team UK
Credit: Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada

Luna Rossa wrapped up a comprehensive 7-1 win over Ben Ainslie's Ineos Team UK to win the America's Cup Challenger Series in Auckland.

The Italian boat won both of Sunday's races to set up next month's contest against holders Team New Zealand for the 36th America's Cup.

In January, Luna Rossa edged the USA boat American Magic out of the Prada Cup Semi-Final.

Starting from the 1980s Italy has seriously launched the challenge to the America's Cup. On two occasions, in 1992 and 2000 it won the Challenger title, but coming out defeated on both occasions. In 2021 it re-launched the challenge again with Luna Rossa, winning the final at Prada Cup that gives away the title of Challenger 2021.

Despite being a serious challenger to the America's Cup repeatedly since 1983, this is the first time Italy

Regional News • Americas • United States
US could have averted 40% of Covid deaths, says panel examining Trump's policies

The US could have averted 40% of the deaths from Covid-19, had the country’s death rates corresponded with the rates in other high-income G7 countries, according to a Lancet commission tasked with assessing Donald Trump’s health policy record.

Almost 470,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus so far, with the number widely expected to go above half a million in the next few weeks. At the same time some 27 million people in the US have been infected. Both figures are by far the highest in the world.

The commission condemned Trump’s response to Covid, but emphasized that the country entered the pandemic with a degraded public health infrastructure. Between 2002 and 2019, US public health spending fell from 3.21% to 2.45% – approximately half the share of spending in Canada and the UK.

The commission also noted that historical advances usually follow a period of conflict and struggle and included recommendations for healthcare workers to advance progress in the wake of Trump’s presidency.

Regional News • Europe • Italy
Mario Draghi accepts mandate to form new Italian government
Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi Credit: INSM (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief, has accepted a mandate to try to form a new Italian government as the country seeks a way out of the political crisis triggered by the collapse of its most recent coalition. Draghi was summoned on Wednesday to meet Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, after ruling coalition partners failed to form a majority following Giuseppe Conte’s resignation as prime minister last week. Mattarella ruled out calling early elections, adding that a “high profile” technical government was needed to steer the country.

Draghi said on Wednesday he was confident “unity will emerge” from dialogue with political parties and parliamentary groups. However, it is unclear whether he will win the broad support needed from political forces.

Regional News • Europe
Dutch Court Orders Shell Oil to Pay for Harm Done to Nigerian Farmers
Channa Samkalden, lawyer for the Nigerian farmers, and Donald Pols, director of Milieudefensie
Channa Samkalden, lawyer for the Nigerian farmers, and Donald Pols, director of Milieudefensie Credit: Milieudefensie

Global environmental justice campaigners heralded a Dutch court's ruling Friday that Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary must pay punitive restitution to Nigerian villages for oil spill contamination that brought death, illness, and destruction to Nigerian farmers and communities.

Friends of the Earth said the ruling exceeded all expectations and marked the first time a multinational had been instructed by a Dutch court to uphold a duty of care for foreign operations.

The devastation, as Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) has previously described, has been vast:

Between 1976 and 1991, over two million barrels of oil-polluted Ogoniland in 2,976 separate oil spills. While oil production has ceased, pipelines operated by Shell still traverse the land, creeks and waterways. Leakages—caused by corroded pipelines as well as bandits—mean that the area is still plagued by oil spills.

Regional News • Europe • Italy
Giuseppe Conte quits as Italy's PM in tactical move
Giuseppe Conte
Giuseppe Conte Credit: G20 Argentina (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has resigned in a tactical move aimed at maximising his chances of leading a new government.

Conte officially handed his resignation on Tuesday to the president, Sergio Mattarella, who will begin consultations with party leaders on Wednesday. Mattarella asked Conte to stay on in a caretaker capacity while talks continued.

If Mattarella believes Conte has a strong enough prospect of forming a majority, then he could be reappointed and tasked with forming a new executive with a broader coalition.

Conte’s resignation comes after he survived confidence votes in both houses of parliament last week after the former prime minister Matteo Renzi triggered a political crisis by withdrawing his small Italia Viva party from the ruling coalition. However, the confidence votes left Conte with only a slim majority and he has since failed to strengthen support.

If Conte succeeds in forming a broad coalition, it would be his third administration in less than three years.

Regional News • Americas • South America
Biden will continue Trump's Recognition of Guaidó Coup Regime and Deadly Sanctions in Venezuela, top diplomat says
Juan Guaido
Juan Guaido Credit: Alexcocopro (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

In perpetuation of Trump administration policy and nearly two centuries of U.S. imperialism in Latin America, Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of state, told senators Tuesday that the United States will continue to recognize the coup leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

Reuters reports Blinken told senators during his confirmation hearing that Venezuela needs "an effective policy that can restore... democracy" to the nation of 28 million people.

Although Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has alienated allies and adversaries alike with his government's numerous and serious human rights violations, he was democratically elected in 2013 and reelected in 2018.

Regional News • Middle East
US ‘terrorist’ designation of Yemen’s Houthis comes into effect

Just days before the now-former President Donald Trump was set to leave office, his administration announced plans to label the Houthis a “foreign terrorist organization” – effectively barring US citizens and entities from interacting financially with the group.

The designation came into effect on Tuesday, just as the US Treasury Department released details of limited licensing exemptions to the restrictions. For months, international aid groups providing much-needed aid to civilians hard hit by a devastating conflict in Yemen have warned that their work could be disrupted by the US designation of the Houthis – and urged the Trump administration not to do it. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 said the measure aimed “to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping”.

Human rights and humanitarian groups, as well as US lawmakers, are also urging the recently inaugurated US President Joe Biden to rescind the designation. The United Nations’ humanitarian chief last week called for the US to reverse the decision, saying it could lead to “large-scale famine on a scale that we have not seen for nearly 40 years”.

Biden’s incoming national security adviser also recently criticized the move.