The World Today for April 18, 2016

April 18, 2016


The Responsibility of Welcome

When Pope Francis arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos this weekend, he had a message for the thousands of refugees stuck there.

You are not alone.

He had an equally straightforward message for European officials: He chided them for evading their “responsibility of welcome.”

“Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories and need to be treated as such,” said the pope. “We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity.”

The pope's trip was short – a mere six hours. He met with Greek political and church leaders. He visited refugees at a camp. He commemorated the more than 4,000 who have died trying to reach the shores of the island since January 2015.

And, as he left, he dropped a bombshell: He took three Syrian families back to the Vatican with him.

Some commentators said the pope's decision to host the families was designed to drive home the shame of the deal made last month by European leaders. Some refugees arriving after March 20 will be deported back to Turkey under the agreement.

Others believe he wanted to show the refugees that his visit was more than symbolic. 

The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Francis understands the refugee situation better than most, analysts say. As such, he has made the plight of refugees, the poor and the downtrodden the primary focus of his papacy, denouncing the “globalization of indifference” that the world shows the less fortunate.

Nour Essa, 30, a Palestinian-Syrian scientist, doesn't care about the any of that. She along with her husband and toddler son fled the horrors off Syria and made it to Lesbos. Now she and her family have won the lottery to a new life – they are going to Italy – with the pope.

“We heard of the EU-Turkey deal which would be implemented on March 20 and decided despite the bad weather to get on one of the boats to Lesbos,” she said. “We were very lucky: Friends of ours that were living with us in Turkey that came the next day were not given papers and are still in jail in Moria camp (in Lesbos). Instead, we will be refugees in Italy – it is like a dream.”


Brazil: What's next?

Brazil's embattled President Dilma Rousseff lost a crucial impeachment vote in the lower house of Congress Sunday, throwing the country into further turmoil just before it hosts the Summer Olympics.

The session turned out to be a tense, wild ride, with lawmakers fighting, throwing confetti, and even spitting at moments as the vote proceeded. In the final tally, 367 of the 513 members of the chamber voted in favor of Rousseff's impeachment – 342 votes were required.

The president is now facing almost certain impeachment in the Senate – the decision to try her is expected in May.           

Some locals expressed sadness and disappointment over the results. Others hoped for a new day for Brazil. But most just worried over what comes now, and said that in spite of the outcome, the song remains the same.

“What will happen to us tomorrow?” wondered Rafael Ranieri.

“I don't know what will happen now, but I think this wave of indignation and sadness will transform into a great movement in defense of democracy that will take to the streets,” he said.

“All of my friends in support of the continuance of Rousseff's government are feeling very badly, and are very saddened by what has happened, and about the fact that a group of corrupt politicians continue to command our country.”

Never Forget

In the days following the September 11 terror attacks, Americans became deeply suspicious of Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Al Qaeda boss Osama Bin Laden was the scion of a rich Saudi family with ties to the desert kingdom's rulers. Yet nobody has held any Saudi officials responsible.

Now that could change.

Congress is considering a bill that would allow the families of 9-11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has responded by threatening to dump around $750 billion in Treasury securities and other American assets before a federal court freezes those assets in the event of a case going badly for Riyadh.

President Barack Obama opposes the bill.

Still, an argument could be made that if one has confidence in American justice, neither the Saudis nor the president nor anyone else need fear the fallout from putting a few sheiks on the stand in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania.

Poor Africa

There was a time a few years ago when Africa was doing well. The high price of oil, Chinese demand for minerals and agricultural goods and efforts to diversify the continent's more advanced countries were paying off.

Today, things are different.

The low price of oil is hammering the Nigerian and Angolan economies. Kenyans are now learning that a rapid expansion of the banking industry often precedes the collapse of at least part of that said expansion.

Some of the wounds are self-inflicted. The slump in Chinese demand was hurting South Africa.

Then President Jacob Zuma replaced his finance minister with a nobody. The value of South African rand plunged. Zuma asked the old minister back.

Then news emerged that Zuma had illegally used public funds to renovate his home, leading to impeachment proceedings that fizzled recently but which further undermined confidence in the country. The rand has lost 30 percent of its value this year.

Africa will bounce back. The question now is whether that will happen in a few years or in a few decades.


Butterfly GPS

It's hard to tell what's more amazing about the discovery of how monarch butterflies navigate thousands of miles between Mexico, the US and Canada.

On one hand, the butterflies' “time-compensated sun compass,” or their ability to chart their way using the position of the sun and an internal clock, is clearly an amazing biological gift.

On the other hand, that human scientists have managed through the magic of mathematics and technology to figure out how the bugs' brains work is also pretty stunning.

Published in the journal Cell, the research describes how the scientists used a computer to map out the “oscillating neuronal signal” that the butterflies employ when flying south or north.

Oscillating neuronal signal? This is a tie. The butterflies and the scientists, too, are pretty great.

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

Compiled and written by Jabeen Bhatti

Mon, 04/18/2016 – 06:09

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