The World Today for April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016


In Nigeria, a Tale of Two Normals

Two years ago today, Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, a town in northeastern Nigeria.

Fifty-seven of the girls managed to escape to freedom. Some are still in custody, according to parents who watched a recent video released by the militants.

Others likely became brainwashed suicide bombers in a global jihad.

The rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, an oil-rich country that is the most populous in Africa, has become part of the new normal that has taken hold of much of the world in recent years. It’s been going on for so long, it’s now taken for granted.

The Islamic State’s dominance of Iraq and Syria and Libya, Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab terrorists controlling much of Somalia, and the Taliban and their ilk running rampant in Afghanistan and Pakistan are other examples. There’s no end in sight to the horrors.

The fate of the Chibok girls illustrates what happens when nobody stands up to challenge the new normal.

Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped around 2,000 women and girls in the past two years – they became sex slaves as well as fighters. Last year, child suicide bombers staged 44 attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – a more than 10-fold increase – according to UNICEF. Seventy-five percent of the bombers were girls. The youngest was 8-years old.

“Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Manuel Fontaine.

Many superstitious Nigerians don’t share those sentiments, however. Instead, they fear the “bad blood” that the women and children bring with them out of Boko Haram captivity.

“As ‘suicide’ attacks involving children become commonplace, some communities are starting to see children as threats to their safety,” Fontaine said. “This suspicion toward children can have destructive consequences; how can a community rebuild itself when it is casting out its own sisters, daughters and mothers?”

After more than a year of stalled campaigns, the Nigerian military in recent months has cleared out regions formerly under Boko Haram’s control. But the terrorist group, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State last year, is still at large. Fighting has displaced around 2.3 million people.

Western officials have been asking why Nigeria has failed repeatedly to stop a small force of militants from terrorizing the countryside.

It turns out President Muhammadu Buhari has been devoting more time to eliminating his political opponents than defeating Boko Haram, the Telegraph reported.

A former military dictator who staged a coup d’état and ran Nigeria in the 1980s until another coup ousted him, Buhari won office last year in a democratic election.

But lately he’s been using British military aid to bankroll witch hunts against his political opponents, the report said, citing how Nigerian officials have arrested prominent members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party without charge recently.

“Nigeria is starting to look more and more like a police state while Boko Haram just goes from strength to strength,” a U.S. official told the Telegraph.

The truth, then, is that Buhari isn’t really interested in ending the new normal. He’s more focused on returning to the old one.


It's the Economy, Stupid

South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s ruling party took a blow in parliamentary elections Wednesday, a sign of voter frustration over rising unemployment and other economic ills the party has failed to address.

The opposition Minjoo Party narrowly edged out the ruling Saenuri Party's majority: That means more gridlock for the president and a likely stalling of her economic reform plan.

Analysts say Park’s tough approach toward North Korea didn't resonate with voters who are more focused on economic issues, Bloomberg reported: South Korea’s youth unemployment rate hit a record high in February and exports have fallen for 15 consecutive months.

Islamic State: Fractured?

The first phase of US-led military operations against Islamic State – stopping the terror group's advances and degrading their military capabilities – has been a “success” and is now moving on to its second phase, “dismantling” the group, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

“Our task is to dismantle the enemy, fragment them in Iraq and Syria,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren. “A year-and-a-half ago, we saw images of IS convoys moving freely into Mosul and throughout Iraq – those days are gone: IS has lost more than 40 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and in Syria.”

The US-led campaign against IS began in August 2014 after the group captured wide swathes of Iraq that summer for its “caliphate.” President Obama at a CIA briefing Wednesday hailed the progress against IS but admitted, “This remains a difficult fight and a complex one.”

Next: Mosul.

UK: Vote Leave Official

The UK's referendum on leaving the EU entered a new phase Wednesday: the UK's Electoral Commission appointed Vote Leave to be the official campaign in favor of the “Brexit” over rival Grassroots Out.

Vote Leave now has access to up to £7 million during the upcoming campaign period, as well as broadcasts and free mail-outs to British households, reported the BBC.

Grassroots Out's leader Peter Bone joked their “green ties” might have worked against them, but the Electoral Commission selected Vote Leave on more technical criteria then an environmental outlook and a catchier name. 

Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission Claire Bassett said the commission went with the group that had greater “depth of representation” of Brexit supporters at regional and local levels and demonstrated better organizational capabilities.

Still, many in the UK – and outside – hope this group will end up the loser.



Making Paralyzed Limbs Move

It once seemed impossible but now 24 year-old Ian Burkhart can again use his hands and fingers six years after he was paralyzed in a car accident thanks to a device called NeuroLife.

As detailed in a study published in the journal Nature, NeuroLife uses thoughts to control paralyzed limbs: The device can interpret brain signals and bypass the injured spinal cord to stimulate muscles controlling arms and hands. 

Burkhart is the first person to make use of this electronic neural bypass, developed by Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which reconnects the brain to muscles to repair spinal cord injuries.

Now, he can complete complex movements like holding a phone to his ear, swiping a credit card, or even playing a guitar video game with his own fingers. 

“It's amazing to see what he's accomplished,” said one of the lead engineers on the project.

Researchers say this technology holds the promise to help patients affected by various brain and spinal cord injuries such as strokes and traumatic brain injury to be more independent and functional.


The DailyChatter staff wishes you a great day. Write to us with tips, feedback and suggestions at [email protected].

Compiled and written by Jabeen Bhatti

Thu, 04/14/2016 – 06:09

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