World news: new species, parliament fist fights, and questionable New Year celebrations

Published 5:52 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

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It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but I think it’s time to check in on what’s happening around the world. There is, of course, plenty of news happening locally and across the state, but it’s interesting to also see how things are playing out with our global neighbors as well.

As in previous columns, I’ve pulled stories from the world news section of WRAL’s website. Here are just a couple of interesting news headlines that caught my eye:

Sri Lanka, an island county located off the coast of India, just recently agreed to work with their neighboring country on redeveloping a “strategic oil terminal” located on the country’s east coast. The facility has 99 useable tanks with a total capacity of 8 million barrels of oil, and is near an important, busy port.

The most interesting part of the story to me was the history of the facility. It was originally built by the British during World War II when they governed the country as a colony. Sri Lanka gained independence a few years later, but the tanks continued to be British property until the government purchased them in 1964. Now Sri Lanka and India will work together to fix up the tanks which have fallen into disrepair.

Over in El Salvador, which is located in Central America, some drug smugglers ended up busted when the country’s navy seized two “semi-submersible” boats off the coast. Those boats apparently contained 4.1 metric tons of cocaine, a total worth almost $104 million. Seven people were detained in the operation.

I’d never heard of a semi-submersible boat before, but it’s not exactly like a submarine, according to the article. Instead, these boats have been modified to keep a very low profile in the water so they’re harder to spot. (I guess El Salvador’s navy has some good eyes!)

In the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, things got a bit heated in Parliament recently while lawmakers discussed a constitutional amendment regarding women. According to the article, a fist-fight even broke out between a few of the more conservative lawmakers “after insults were exchanged and blasphemous remarks were made.”

The subject of the extreme disagreement came from a proposal to change language in the country’s constitution to address citizens in both feminine and masculine tense. Proponents of the amendment said it would help ensure women have a more active role in public life, and perhaps give women citizenship and inheritance rights equal to men.

Imagine getting so angry at the idea of treating women equally that you have to punch the people you work with. How sad!

In South Africa, Bishop Desmond Tutu, one of the people who led the fight against apartheid in his country, is still making a positive impact on the world even after his recent death. Instead of the typical cremation, Tutu’s last wishes made arrangements for “aquamation.”

I’d never heard of the term before, but it’s apparently a greener alternative to cremating a body, using less energy and not emitting harmful greenhouse gases. The aquamation process uses alkaline hydrolysis to break down the body with a mix of water and alkaline chemicals. The article notes that, in addition to his work striving for peace, Tutu was also an advocate for protecting the environment. So this decision makes a lot of sense. He also chose to be laid to rest in the “cheapest available” simple pine coffin. Even in death, he remains a testament to all he fought for during life.

Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London announced a total of 552 new species (some living, some extinct) were discovered in the past year. The museum has a staff of 300 scientists who conduct research throughout the year, though the pandemic has meant that much of their work has to be done remotely.

In 2021, extinct species discoveries included spinosaurs, a kind of carnivorous dinosaur with “crocodile-like skulls” that hunted prey both in water and on land. Other dinosaur finds included a UK iguanodontian, an African ankylosaur, and a Chinese sauropod.

Scientists were also hard at work examining living species too. They discovered 291 new species of copepods (small shrimplike crustaceans) last year, and 90 new species of beetles. And it wasn’t all animals either; there were five new plants species discovered in eastern Africa.

Isn’t it amazing how many different plants and animals have shared the planet with us all these years?

Lastly, a short news article out of France: a reported total of 874 vehicles were set on fire across the country during New Year’s Eve. That number is apparently lower than previous years, with a total of 1,316 burning cars, for example, in 2019. But more people were detained for questioning than usual, with 441 people at the end of 2021 instead of 376 people in 2019. France is under a number of pandemic restrictions which probably affected the numbers this year.

According to the article, setting cars ablaze is “a decades-old tradition” on New Year’s Eve. But there’s no explanation as to why people do this! I have so many questions! How did this tradition get started? How is property destruction a good way to start off a new year? Do you have to set your own car on fire or can you settle for the one owned by your soon-to-be-very-unlucky neighbor down the street??

The news can tell us a lot about what’s going on around the world and teach us plenty of things we never knew before. But every now and then, it can spark the urge to keep looking for more information too.

I hope you all learned some interesting things reading this week’s column. But now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go research strange New Year’s Eve celebrations in France…

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.