The World Today for August 31, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

The Hemorrhage of Souls

One year into Europe’s refugee crisis, the continent has come to grips with this immense challenge, right?

Wrong.

Refugees are still flooding into the continent. What’s more, those who are arriving often join others stuck in tent cities where they’ve been channeled by officials who are arguably encouraging the world to turn a blind eye to their plight.

“The crisis is as big as ever, and as yet unsolved by governments,” Amnesty International Deputy Europe Director Gauri van Gulik told Reuters.

In fact, European leaders promised action this time last year, only to see the “hemorrhage of human lives” on their doorstep worsen, said Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“(And) instead of taking their share of responsibility, they have participated in a race to a bottom,” he added.

While governments continue to bicker, the wave of arrivals continues unabated: The International Organization for Migration says refugee traffic to Europe has spiked 17 percent since last year, Reuters reported.

That increase is surprising, given how the European Union and Turkey signed an agreement in March to relocate back to Turkey a large portion of the more than one million desperate Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian refugees. Around two million refugees are in Turkey.

Van Gulik suggested that the increase reflects the flaws in the March agreement, which ignored refugees who had arrived in Europe before it was signed or came to somewhere other than Greece.

“European governments are basically saying, ‘We have solved the crisis because we don’t see it, and we can’t smell it and we can’t hear it,’” she said.

At the same time, the fragile deal is being questioned by Turkey, which demanded this week that the terms of the bargain – namely visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe – be implemented by October, Turkish media reported.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that many migrants were now bypassing Greece in order to fall outside the agreement’s parameters. Many are traveling through the Balkans or are risking death by drowning in the Mediterranean to reach Germany and other wealthy northern European countries.

Afghan migrant Zaher Rajawi was stuck in a refugee camp in Serbia near the Hungarian border, where officials were letting a paltry 15 migrants a day apply for asylum. “There’s no toilets, no place to take a shower. It is very difficult for us,” Rajawi told the Associated Press.

Reaching Germany doesn’t end refugees’ problems either. Almost 6,000 refugees are now suing Germany, claiming the government is taking too long to process their asylum applications. The wait is around two years – also because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders are worried about terrorists slipping in among the refugees.

A recent Ipsos poll asked people in 22 countries, including voters in major European states like Britain, France and Germany, if they believed that some refugees were terrorists in disguise. Around a third said yes.

Merkel and her colleagues can’t turn a blind eye to those sentiments so easily – especially in light of recent terror attacks involving new arrivals and also because of local elections coming up in Germany this weekend.

And yet, remarkably, the German chancellor remains steadfast in her course, calling for quotas to divide refugees between EU countries and criticizing member states for refusing to accept Muslim arrivals.

“What I continue to think is wrong is that some say ‘we generally don’t want Muslims in our country, regardless of whether there’s a humanitarian need or not,'” she said on German television earlier this week.

“We will manage,” she reassures, echoing her now-famous phrase from a year ago.

WANT TO KNOW

All Together Now

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi opened a peace conference Wednesday in a bid to end decades of fighting between the military and the country’s various rebel groups.

Suu Kyi urged Myanmar’s more than 100 ethnic minorities to overcome their differences to achieve peace. Myanmar has been riven by conflicts between the military and armed ethnic groups virtually without interruption since 1945.

The peace process is high priority for Suu Kyi and her administration, which faces high expectations after coming to power via a democratic election last year, ending over a half-century of military rule.

But the conference also drew criticism as representatives of Myanmar’s one million Rohingya Muslims, who face persecution and human rights violations from Buddhist groups, were absent from the conference, said Reuters.

Still, the fact that Suu Kyi brought the vast majority of rebel groups together to negotiate within five months of taking office shows progress, say observers.

Musical Chairs

Senior Islamic State (IS) strategist and chief spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was killed in northern Syria Tuesday after a US military drone struck a vehicle Adnani was supposedly traveling in, announced the terrorist group.

US officials confirmed that a “precision strike” took place near Al Bab, Syria, but could not yet confirm Adnani’s death.

If confirmed, it would mean the death of one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, writes the New York Times. Adnani, a 39-year-old Syrian, was a founding member of IS and served as an operational leader for the group, overseeing external operations like recruitment and planning attacks on locations outside the Middle East.

Yet while Adnani’s death would be another setback given IS’s recent territorial losses in Syria and Iraq, analysts caution that IS seems built around the concept of maximum flexibility.

“Adnani is likely replaceable, and the Islamic State will replace him as they have other operatives who have been killed,” one terrorism specialist told the New York Times.

About That Gift Horse

Most governments would likely welcome an unexpected $14.5 billion in tax receipts – particularly after years of austerity and with another election looming.

But not the Irish – the Irish government said Tuesday that it will try to overturn a ruling from the European Commission that calls for Ireland to recoup $14.5 billion (€13 billion) in taxes from Apple Inc. on the grounds that Ireland’s tax arrangements with the company enabled it to pay almost no taxes on its European profits between 2003 and 2014.

The Irish government said it would appeal the Commission’s judgment, which threatens a key pillar of Ireland’s economic model as a low and stable tax environment, in European courts, writes the Wall Street Journal.

Ireland has aimed to make itself an attractive location for investment from US companies interested in selling to Europe, and the Irish government fears that failing to stand up for its practices might deter future investments.

“To do anything else would be like eating the seed potatoes,” said Michael Noonan, Ireland’s minister of finance, according to the Journal.

DISCOVERIES

What Fido Wants

Here’s a find that should warm many a dog owners’ hearts: Most dogs prefer receiving praise from their owners over food.

That was what researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found in a recent study in which dogs underwent brain imaging to assess their reactions in a series of behavioral experiments.

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” said Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory and the lead author on the study, according to UPI news agency.

In the study, the dogs were showed a series of photos and then given food, praise or nothing while their brains were scanned using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Out of the 13 dogs in the study, most preferred praise from their owners over food, or liked both equally. Only two of the dogs tested showed a strong preference for food, said Berns.

The results indicate that dogs pay very close attention to human signals, he added.

Berns said he hopes the test can lead to a deeper understanding of inter-species communications, as well as canine cognition.

“We want to understand the dog-human relationship,” he told Emory Magazine, adding, “From the dog’s perspective.”

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