The World Today for April 14, 2017


The Lost Children

Three years ago, Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in northern Nigeria.

Nearly 200 are still missing, USA Today reported Thursday.

The fate of the missing Chibok girls isn’t the only sad tale in Boko Haram’s long reign of terror.

Human Rights Watch claimed recently that hundreds of other children are still missing.

UNICEF knows the fate of many of them. As Al Jazeera explained, the jihadists brainwash the children into hateful ideology, then task them to conduct suicide bombings against Nigerian and other forces that oppose the group.

Others become child soldiers, sex slaves or laborers.

The Chibok incident garnered the Islamic State-affiliated group international attention and cast a light on the fecklessness of Nigerian officials who couldn’t bring the jihadists to heel despite the country’s vast resources.

President Muhammadu Buhari – who formerly ruled Nigeria as a military dictator in the 1980s and was elected democratically in 2015 – has waged a more concerted campaign against Boko Haram.

Under Buhari, Nigerian and other troops from neighboring countries rooted the militants out of their last stronghold in the Sambisa Forest near the Cameroon border. Now Boko Haram fighters are on the run, meaning they’re still killing, raping and looting in northern Nigeria but can no longer lay claim to controlling territory in the name of their supposed caliphate.

The Chibok girls who escaped captivity are now in government “rehabilitation.” Many are traumatized. Some were pregnant when soldiers found them.

Other Nigerians formerly living under Boko Haram’s yoke should be so lucky.

Many Nigerians shun their fellow citizens who were in contact with the jihadists, fearing they might be sleeper agents for the militants.

Others who escaped now must survive in landscapes that have been decimated by Boko Haram activity. Already impoverished areas are now facing famine as fields have been untended for seasons under the jihadists.

Chibok girls who managed to escape on the night of the kidnapping couldn’t go back to school. Sympathetic observers offered some of them scholarships to study elsewhere, PRI reported.

Many Nigerians are angry.

“The general attitude is they wish everybody to keep quiet about it and move on because they get angry whenever the missing Chibok girls are mentioned,” Seshugh Akume, a spokesman for Bring Back Our Girls, an organization that advocates for the lost Chibok girls and other Boko Haram victims, told USA Today.

Buhari is struggling with Nigeria’s recession, widespread corruption and a host of other issues.

He can’t allow those important challenges or his successes so far against Boko Haram keep him from dismantling the group once and for all – and bringing back the Chibok girls and the other lost children.


The Cost of Corruption

Brazil’s fight against corruption took a bite out of President Michel Temer’s efforts to rein in spending and reboot the flagging economy on Thursday.

After a Supreme Court judge ordered a probe into a third of Temer’s cabinet and dozens of senior politicians – raising fears that legislative gridlock would derail his agenda – Temer agreed to water down his proposed austerity measures, Reuters reported.

Among the changes, his planned pension reform proposal will now likely set the number of years of work required to retire with full benefits at 40 years, instead of 49, the agency quoted the congressman who heads the pension reform commission in the lower house as saying. It will also set a minimum retirement age of 50 for women and 55 for men, which would gradually increase to reach 65 – the age set in the proposal Temer unveiled in December.

Due to demographic changes, Brazil’s present pension system – which already costs 12 percent of GDP – threatens to bankrupt the country in the near future, the Economist noted.

The Legacy of Attaturk

A constitutional referendum in Turkey on Sunday could arguably be more important than Britain’s recent vote to exit the European Union.

Turkish voters are effectively deciding whether to replace a parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful president, undoing much of the country’s halting progress toward democracy over nearly a century since the founding of the republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Reuters reported.

The outcome will also have repercussions for the rest of the world, due to Turkey’s growing importance in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and its role in dealing with Europe’s migrant crisis. Erdogan’s domestic critics fear a victory will mean a broader crackdown on dissent and a drift further from the secular ideals laid down by Ataturk.

Erdogan remains popular with support from as many as two-thirds of voters, according to a poll conducted after the attempted coup in July. But pollsters say the referendum will be much closer. Voters are expected to approve the amendments to boost Erdogan’s powers by 51 to 49 percent, though there may be a hidden “No” vote the polls couldn’t capture.

Oh Canada!

Canadian Prime Minister (and internet heartthrob) Justin Trudeau channeled his inner Peter Tosh on Thursday, introducing legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana across the country.

If passed into law, as expected, the measure would make America’s northern neighbor only the second nation, after Uruguay, to completely legalize marijuana as a consumer product, the New York Times reported.

The plan proposes allowing storefront sales of the drug, as well as a separate medical marijuana system, the Toronto Star noted. But it would also create tougher impaired driving laws, not just for drugs, but also for alcohol. However, leaders in Canada’s provinces warned that much more work is required before the move can be implemented safely.

The basics: It will be legal to possess 30 grams, or about an ounce, for adults over the age of 18. Households will be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants. The federal government will license and supervise commercial growers. And the provinces will set their own rules for where, how and for what price marijuana may be sold.


Knot Another Shoelace Undone

For many, the undone shoelace is a daily annoyance. No matter how firmly they’re tied in the morning, shoelaces always become undone as the day drags on.

Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley said they’ve untangled the mystery of “shoelace knot failure” in a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

The force of a foot striking the ground – which can be seven times the force of gravity while running – both stretches and then relaxes the knot. At the same time, a second force caused by swinging legs tugs on the ends of laces.

The result can be the rapid unraveling of a shoelace in as little as two strides.

All types of shoelaces suffer from this type of failure, but scientists said studying them could lead to a better understanding of knotty structures.

“When you talk about knotted structures, if you can start to understand the shoelace, then you can apply it to other things, like DNA or microstructures, that fail under dynamic forces,” lead researcher Christopher Daily-Diamond told BBC.

“This is the first step toward understanding why certain knots are better than others, which no one has really done.”

Threats to Press Freedom around the World.

The following selection is part of a new, regular feature on press freedoms brought to you in conjunction with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Pen and the Sword

At least 48 journalists around the world were killed in direct retaliation for their work in 2016, and the Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the motives behind the murders of an additional 29 that year—sobering statistics that underscore the serious nature of threats journalists received in Kenya and France.

On April 6, the French investigative news website Mediapart and the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné received threatening letters. The letter to Mediapart contained a bullet and featured an image of a coffin with the initials of the website’s founder, Edwy Plenel. The letters were signed “Collectif d’Epuration 2J” (Collective for Purification 2J).

Meanwhile, in Kenya recently, police threatened and assaulted Isaiah Gwengi, a correspondent for The Standard daily newspaper, according to the journalist and media reports. Gwengi told CPJ that seven officers from the national Administrative Police force beat him and left him briefly hospitalized, in retaliation for stories he had written alleging police extortion, sexual assaults and other crimes.

“They told me they will ensure I am dead – (that) I cannot fight them using a pen or a notebook, I can only fight them by acquiring a gun,” he said.

Gwengi told CPJ that he had filed a complaint with local police: Administrative Police officers then denied the allegations and filed incitement charges against him.

Police told CPJ that they are investigating both Gwengi’s complaint and that of the officers.

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