The World Today for April 10, 2017


The Confidence Crisis

In the short run, the Islamic State’s attacks on two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday appear to have spurred solidarity between Muslims and Christians – who comprise around 10 percent of the country’s 91 million people.

“Your terrorism brings us together” became a popular hashtag on social media, CNN reported.

But one has to wonder how much violence and discrimination Copts will endure before becoming restive.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been trying to tamp down anti-Christian sentiments that have metastasized in recent years, Religion News Service reported recently.

He faces significant opposition, though.

Ex-President Mohamed Morsi, who became Egypt’s first democratically elected leader in 2012, claimed he respected the rights of Copts. But he pursued a vigorous pro-Islamist agenda that critics said emboldened his Muslim Brotherhood allies to wage a campaign against Christians. Coptic Church leaders were among those who ousted the power-hungry Morsi.

Since the Egyptian military jailed Morsi, however, attacks against Copts have increased.

Four months ago, explosions killed 23 people in a Coptic cathedral in Cairo. That incident garnered headlines. In August, USA Today reported that Copts claim they’ve suffered one attack every month for the past three years.

Many Copts are understandably growing frustrated.

“Now what, Father?” a man yelled at a Coptic priest after the explosion at St. George’s Church in Tanta, around 80 miles north of Cairo, according to the Washington Post. “Until when is our blood going to remain cheap? We are fed up! Do something, Father!”

Sisi has declared a state of three-month emergency.

It’s probably not enough time.

Egyptian forces have been battling against, and failing to counter, the Islamic State’s insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, the Economist wrote last week.

National Defense University fellow David Des Roches said Egypt’s lack of success in part reflects the weakness of the central government’s appeal to folks in the Sinai. “The insurgency reflects a breakdown in fundamental relationships between a portion of the people in Sinai and the Egyptian government,” Des Roches said in an interview with VOA.

The militants, meanwhile, seem to be growing bolder.

Last month, Islamic State released a video of an execution of two men accused of “witchcraft and sorcery,” a euphemism for Sufism, an Islamic sect that has been around for centuries, Reuters reported.

Sisi can afford to lose the confidence of some villagers in the remote Sinai. If he loses the support of the Copts, he would arguably cease to be a secular leader running a religiously diverse Egypt. If he wants to beat the fanatics of the Islamic State, he must avoid that fate at all costs.


New Leader, Old Fight

A suicide bomber killed at least 10 people in Somalia but failed to assassinate the newly installed commander of the country’s army.

The bomber attempted to ram a vehicle into a convoy carrying Gen. Ahmed Mohamed Jimale in Mogadishu on Sunday, the New York Times reported. General Jimale and other defense officials escaped unscathed, but 10 civilians traveling in a nearby minibus were killed.

Somali officials blamed the militant group al-Shabaab for the attack.

The strike came three days after Somalia’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, replaced the leaders of the army, the police and national intelligence as part of a renewed effort to wipe out the militant group.

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, has been waging an increasingly deadly campaign of bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government, Reuters reported.

At the end of March, US President Donald Trump declared parts of Somalia a war zone, potentially setting the stage for air strikes against al-Shabaab.

‘The Right Choice’

As a US Navy strike group heads to the region, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs is headed to Seoul to discuss North Korea’s increasing defiance of international efforts to constrain its nuclear weapons program.

The US and various regional players fear North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un may now be preparing a fresh nuclear test, while the US strike on Syrian government forces last week has opened the possibility of a similar response to such a test, Reuters reported.

Regional leaders are more confident that that response won’t happen than they are that Kim will stand down. But US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held out a military strike as an option and claimed Chinese President Xi Jinping understands that the situation has “reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken,” following Xi’s meetings with US President Donald Trump in Florida last week.

Meanwhile, North Korea called the US strikes in Syria “an unforgivable act of aggression” that showed its decision to develop nuclear weapons was “the right choice.”

To the Streets

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s battle against billionaire financier George Soros prompted one of the largest anti-government protests of the controversial leader’s seven-year rule on Sunday.

Organizers estimated that as many as 70,000 Hungarians took to the streets of Budapest to protest Orban’s Fidesz party’s passage of a bill setting stringent new conditions for Central European University that might force it out of the country, the New York Times reported.

The prestigious university was founded by Soros as part of his efforts to build democratic institutions after the fall of communism in Europe.

The protesters urged President Janos Ader, who must sign the bill by Monday to make it law, to reject the measure and refer it to a constitutional review.

The move to crack down on the university follows other measures by Orban to constrain international NGOs – many of which also receive funding from Soros – as well as moves to consolidate power by amending the country’s constitution.


Counting Calories

For our ancestors, cannibalism doesn’t seem to have been the best way to fill up in a pinch – as it turns out, humans are just not very nutritious.

That’s the conclusion one scientist made in a paper published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

Cannibalism has been documented repeatedly throughout the course of history, the New York Times reported. Scientists tend to categorize the irksome behavior as being ritualistic or nutritional.

James Cole, an archaeologist from the University of Brighton in England and the sole author of the study, set out to dissect the meaning of “nutritional cannibalism” by asking: How nutritional are we actually?

Analyzing a small sample of ancient cadavers, Cole found that all in all we amount to some 125,000 calories.

While that may seem like a stomach-full, it pales in comparison to other animals of the Paleolithic period some 2.5 million years to about 10,000 years ago.

One human body could only sustain a group of 25 adult males for about half a day, according to Cole’s study.

In short: Making a meal out of your fellow man just isn’t worth the effort.

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