The World Today for July 15, 2016

Need to Know

An Eye for an Eye

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” is one of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s most famous aphorisms. But events in Kashmir this week suggest that the army and police have read the words of the Mahatma like an instruction manual, rather than a statement about the futility of revenge.

Compelled to use supposedly non-lethal pellets and rubber bullets to put down protests in an area many locals describe as “occupied” territory, Indian security forces seem to be aiming for the face.

Ophthalmologist Sajjad Khanday told the Indian Express that the Shir Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital has already performed nearly 100 eye operations over the past week, and the central government has been forced to send a special team of eye surgeons to Srinagar to deal with the crisis. The youngest of several child victims was a five-year-old girl.

Nearly 40 protesters have so far died as a result of such firings over six consecutive days of demonstrations. Some 450 police and paramilitary troops have also been wounded.

The continuing skirmishes, which began with the killing of a young separatist fighter named Burhan Wani in a gunfight with the Indian army last Friday, threaten “to open a new chapter of violence and agitation in the long-troubled region,” writes the Christian Science Monitor.

Gun battles like the one that killed Wani aside, it should be obvious that a country’s security forces should endeavor to avoid maiming its citizens rather than purposely setting out to do so. But the iron fist approach to the ongoing protests is also the opposite of what is needed to prevent the return of a full-fledged militant separatist movement like the one that bled the region in the 1990s.

There have always been two fights in Kashmir. One is the fight between India and Pakistan over ownership of the territory and the placement of the so-called “Line of Control.” The other is the fight against separatists vying for independence.

In the 1990s, the two conflicts were virtually inseparable. Local militants received training and arms from Pakistan. And many in the Indian-administered zone were even deluded enough to say they’d prefer to be governed from Islamabad – though their kinsmen in Pakistan have been known to stage their own bids for independence.

Now, though, the Indian Kashmiris’ struggle for independence – right or wrong – has little to do with Pakistan and everything to do with India. As Human Rights Watch points out, many young Kashmiris now adhere to a “global Islamic identity that endorses violence.” But that allegiance has been spurred by the ham-fisted implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in place in Kashmir since 1990 – which has also alienated the general population in and around Srinagar.

Granting the army the right to search homes, rough up suspects and shoot down alleged militants on the slightest pretext and without fear of the legal system, the law has been egregiously abused. Despite hundreds of documented complaints and accusations of torture, enforced disappearances and more than a thousand extrajudicial killings, “not a single member of the security forces deployed in the state has been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court,” Amnesty International charged.

Wani’s killing — which Indian officials described as one of their “biggest successes,” according to the Christian Science Monitor – likely doesn’t belong among those crimes. But as Gandhi would have warned, this week’s attempts at mass blinding will only inspire more hate.

Want to Know

Vehicular Horror

At least 84 people were killed and 50 more injured in Nice on Thursday when a truck driver plowed into the crowd at a Bastille Day celebration in what French officials are calling a terrorist attack.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and it is too early to speculate about the motivations of the driver, a 31-year-old French-born Tunisian who was shot and killed at the scene.

The man was not on French intelligence services’ watch list according to Reuters, although he was known to police for his involvement in common crimes like theft and violence.

But French President Francois Hollande implied it was the work of “fanatics.” The truck was loaded with explosives, and the driver opened fire on the crowd before he was killed.

“Horror again has struck France,” Hollande said in a televised speech Friday morning, according to USA Today. “France has been struck on the day of her national holiday, the 14th of July, Bastille Day, the symbol of liberty, because human rights are denied by fanatics and France is quite clearly their target.”

In the past decade, there have been around 20 significant ramming attacks using vehicles, according to the Globe and Mail. Most have occurred in Israel. But there have been at least four such attacks in France itself since 2014, according to USA Today.

Strange Bedfellows

Devastating photos illustrate the human cost of war in Syria – where President Bashar al-Assad’s latest air strikes have stranded thousands without access to food and other basic materials.

Is a solution of sorts in sight?

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held marathon talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to re-establish a shaky ceasefire. On the table: Greater U.S. military cooperation with Russia in the fight against terrorists if Moscow agrees to ground the Syrian regime’s air force. The discussion ended without a firm deal, the Wall Street Journal reported. But Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Friday to try to push forward.

With Moscow set on keeping Assad in power and Congress putting together a tough set of sanctions to punish his regime for the mass killing of civilians and other atrocities, however, Kerry won’t have much wiggle room.

A Fragile Peace

A fragile ceasefire is holding in South Sudan – where 272 people, including 33 civilians, were killed in renewed fighting between the rival factions of President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar last week.

But the violence has already created a humanitarian crisis, as around 36,000 people have fled their homes and the impoverished country doesn’t have facilities to handle them, said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s representative in South Sudan.

They have every reason to run. Civilians recounted stories of mass rape, murder, and forced cannibalism at the hands of soldiers on both sides of the conflict during the height of a civil war that killed more than 50,000 and displaced millions since in began in late 2013, Foreign Policy reports.

Meanwhile, many fear fighting will resume. Businesses, embassies and other foreign personnel have been evacuating Juba, the capital city. This week, the U.S. announced it would send troops to protect its embassy.


Do Farm Subsidies Make Us Fat?

Correlation is not causation. But a new study showing that Americans eat more of subsidized foods like corn than other crops suggests agricultural policy may be making us fat.

Tracking the diets of 10,000 people, the study found that Americans get 56 percent of all the calories they consume from subsidized crops, National Geographic writes. Those crops include soybeans, rice, sorghum, corn and wheat – many of which are processed into sweet syrup or cooking oils – as well as meat and dairy products.

The people who ate the most subsidized food had a 41 percent greater risk of belly fat, 37 percent high risk of obesity, 34 percent higher risk for elevated inflammation, and 14 percent higher risk of abnormal cholesterol.

It’s not clear how much the subsidies encourage people to eat more of certain foods, however, lead author K.M. Vankat Narayan said.

Lower prices at the cash register encourage people to buy more. But subsidies for farmers “are unlikely to have much impact on consumer prices,” Tufts University agricultural policy expert Parke Wilde told NatGeo.

Correction: In Wednesday’s news item, “Selective Transparency,” we wrote, “Described as a ‘transparency law,’ the measure passed in Tel Aviv this week will require NGOs to give details of overseas donations if more than half their funding comes from foreign governments or bodies such as the European Union.”

The Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, is in fact located in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv. We apologize for the error.


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