The World Today for July 26, 2016


The Summer of Discontent

After years of disastrous economic policies, Zimbabweans’ patience with 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe appears to be wearing thin.

“The campaign that we are getting into, we are very (sure) that by Aug. 31, Robert Mugabe will be done away with,” Happymore Chidziva, national chairperson of the opposition MDC-T Youth League, told Zimbabwe’s Independent Online Monday.

Cash shortages have citizens waiting hours in lines to withdraw money from the country’s banks. Unemployment remains outrageously high – hovering around 90 percent, according to the BBC. Starvation is rampant due to a deadly drought.

To stop money flowing out of the country, the Zimbabwean government imposed capital controls last month. Hospitals and other basic services have been hit hard by the controls, adding to rising discontent: Ninety percent of healthcare facilities now lack essential medicines, including sorely needed antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients, according to the Guardian.

Last week, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association broke with Mugabe, the New York Times reported. The group was a strong supporter of the president and even committed violence against his enemies. Its members say they can no longer support Mugabe’s politics.

Still, the most prominent symbol of Zimbabweans’ dissatisfaction with Mugabe and his government isn’t cash shortages or empty hospital shelves but 39-year-old Zimbabwean flag-wearing pastor Evan Mawarire.

Virtually unknown a few months ago, Mawarire has risen to prominence thanks to his adroit use of social media to issue calls for Zimbabweans to protest police brutality and the government’s foolhardy economic measures.

Increasingly referred to as “This Flag Pastor” thanks to his use of the #ThisFlag hashtag on Twitter, Mawarire led protests earlier this month that brought the country to a standstill.

Schools, offices and bank were shut down as workers boycotted their jobs. Their demands included sacking corrupt government officials and lifting roadblocks by police set up to extract bribes.

Mugabe and his government are beginning to take notice: Mawarire was arrested on public violence charges even as state prosecutors upgraded those charges to subversion and to attempting to unseat the government.

But a court dismissed the charges against Mawarire only a day later over procedural inconsistencies. Many viewed the move as a rare sign of judicial defiance against Mugabe.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Zimbabweans camped outside the court in a vigil for Mawarire jubilantly welcomed the announcement.

It’s a sign of the appeal – and growing power – that Mawaire currently wields across the country. Some observers say he might be the man to bring Zimbabwe toward democracy.

Since being released, Mawarire has wasted no time calling for more protests, telling the BBC that people should stay at home to show their discontent with Mugabe.

Judging by youth leader Chidziva, it seems increasingly more people are heeding his call.


Terror in Japan

A knife-wielding man killed 19 patients in their sleep and injured at least 25 more residents of a facility for the disabled in the town of Sagamihara outside Tokyo early Tuesday morning.

It is the worst mass killing Japan has seen in decades, say police.

The suspect, who turned himself in, is a 26-year-old former employee of the care facility named Satoshi Uematsu.

Uematsu said he wrote letters in February announcing his intentions to “obliterate 470 disabled people,” Reuters reported. He said he would go on a rampage at the facility and kill 260 severely disabled people during a night shift and not hurt any employees.

“My goal is a world in which the severely disabled can be euthanized,” Uematsu wrote in his letters.

Uematsu was committed to a hospital after he expressed these thoughts but he was released on March 2 after a doctor saw signs of improvement, said officials.

A Purge in China

A former top Chinese general has been sentenced to life in prison for bribery as part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive.

Guo Boxiong, 74, the former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and a member of the Politburo – the main policymaking arm of China’s Communist Party – was also stripped of his rank and ordered to surrender all his assets to the government.

Details on the case are still scarce, but Chinese state media reported that prosecutors had proof Guo accepted bribes and used his influence to arrange “favorable assignments” for others. One unnamed source said Guo accepted more than $12 million worth of bribes.

Guo’s sentence has been expected since last year when his son, Major General Guo Zhenggang, was also investigated for corruption.

Guo is one of the most powerful victims of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign so far. His sentencing also comes at a time when Xi is attempting to consolidate power and tighten his grip on China’s military, the world’s largest, say observers.

Islamic State – Or Not?

Police in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed nine suspected Islamic militants Tuesday after they raided a building being used as a den by the men.

During the raid, police found evidence the men were members of the banned group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB): That group is deemed responsible for the July 1 attack in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter in which armed gunmen stormed a restaurant and killed 20, including American, Italian and Japanese nationals.

Authorities in Bangladesh blame local militant groups like JMB for the numerous attacks in the country against foreigners, atheist bloggers and other minorities recently, rejecting Islamic State’s claims of responsibility. There are no signs that IS has any operations in Bangladesh, say officials.


Saving the Kiwis

Can Kiwis be Kiwis Without Kiwis?

Rampaging rodents are threatening to render extinct New Zealand’s famous wild birds.

As a result, the government has launched the Predator Free New Zealand campaign to rid the islands of rats, possums, stoat weasels and all other invasive mammals in the next 30 years, the Washington Post reported.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world,” said Prime Minister John Key, who wants to rid the country of all the animals that arrived on the islands in the past 200 years – except the humans.

The animals imported by immigrants, meanwhile, have been multiplying ever since the country’s founding, encroaching on native birds and killing 25 million yellow-eyed penguins, black-masked kokakos, kiwis and other exotic birds annually.

It’s not clear if Key can ever achieve his goal. The government allocated $2.3 billion to the plan, the newspaper reported. But the government’s research office estimated that the job would take $20 billion at least.

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