The World Today for April 24, 2017


Herd Mentality

The shooting of conservationist Kuki Gallmann on her ranch in northern Kenya was a high-profile example of a widespread and underreported trend in Africa: violence related to grazing rights.

Gunmen ambushed the Italian-born, 73-year-old author of the bestselling I Dreamed of Africa on Sunday. After receiving medical attention, she was in critical condition, the New York Times reported.

The incident was shocking. But it was not the first of its kind.

A month ago, herdsmen shot a British rancher in Laikipia, the same region north of Nairobi where Gallmann lives.

“That’s not just grass,” Gallman’s daughter, Sveva, told NPR. “That is heavily politicized violence. And that is what’s much more worrying about this situation.”

The problem is a major factor in the advent of the civil war in South Sudan, where arguments over grazing between tribal groups loyal to the government and those who support the rebels has contributed to that bloody conflict.

Around 5,000 civilians have died in grazing-related violence in South Sudan since the country achieved independence in 2011, Al Jazeera reported.

In Nigeria, the government has offered incentives to nomadic herders who anger locals when they come through with their cattle, another Al Jazeera story found.

Some have blamed global warming for the tensions. Less water means less grass, after all. Punishing droughts have forced pastoralists to venture farther and wider in search of water.

But the BBC reported that politicians have incited pastoralists to burn ranch homes and seize land their herds need for survival. White Kenyans own most of the large farms, making them an easy scapegoat. But small Black-owned farms have also been targeted.

Unfortunately, wildlife has suffered, too. Herdsmen kill large animals like elephants that might act as obstacles in their herds’ path. Their cattle also wind up clearing out the vegetation that wild animals need to survive.

In Kenya, the government has responded to the herdsmen’s actions with crackdowns that have escalated the cycle of violence in the remote regions in question.

“The ranchers and the police are colluding to intimidate us,” a tribal elder in Kenya told the Economist.

The elder admitted that he was grazing illegally on someone else’s property.

Police caught him and fined him the equivalent of two cows – enough to anger him but not enough to force him to go somewhere else.

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‘Deadly Serious Now’

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and independent Emmanuel Macron won the first round of voting in France’s two-round presidential election on Sunday, prompting calls from virtually all of the country’s major political parties to unite to stop Le Pen from winning the run-off.

“This is deadly serious now,” the New York Times quoted Benoit Hamon, who represented the governing Socialist Party on the ballot, as saying.

Macron won 23.7 percent of the first-round vote, compared with 21.5 percent for Le Pen – an anti-immigration candidate whose campaign probably received a boost from a terrorist attack on the Champs-Élysées shortly before voting began.

This is the closest the far right has come to taking power in France since World War II, say analysts. Polls show Macron beating Le Pen easily in the run-off. But after the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the US, many remain skeptical of such surveys. Other analysts said that Le Pen’s vote share in the first round will be disappointing to her National Front, based on earlier polls that showed her garnering more support.

Is the Celebration Really Over?

South Korea is still worried that the North’s Kim Jong-un has plans for the country’s sixth nuclear test or its maiden test launch of an ICBM on Tuesday – the founding anniversary of its military.

There were rumblings of such a demonstration of power in the lead-up to the celebration of North Korea’s national day earlier this month, but in the end the event featured the usual parades and songs.

Still, recent US commercial satellite images indicate increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, and Kim has said that the country’s preparation for an ICBM launch is in its “final stage,” the Washington Post reported.

Meanwhile, the Hermit Kingdom detained a third US citizen as he sought to leave the country over the weekend, the paper reported separately. Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, had taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology for about a month.

No details are available yet about the real or ostensible reason for his detention.

Holy Cow

India’s Hindu nationalist-led government has announced plans for cow preserves like the wildlife sanctuaries devoted to protecting the country’s endangered tigers and other animals.

“We need to stop cow slaughter, but the biggest stumbling block is who will take care of these cows… We need to make cow sanctuaries for this, and need to make arrangements for fodder also. Each state should have cow sanctuaries,” the Indian Express cited a government minister as saying.

Cow slaughter is illegal in all but a few Indian states already. The sanctuary proposal comes amid a crackdown on unlicensed slaughterhouses for buffalo and a broader campaign by “cow protection” vigilantes that has resulted in the beating and killing of several people accused of transporting cattle for slaughter. Though there are no laws against killing buffaloes, three men were attacked and beaten by such vigilantes for transporting those bovines in Delhi on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a columnist for the Indian Express points out that feeding 10 million or so superannuated cows that are abandoned each year when they no longer give milk would cost the government more than $3 billion a year – and mount annually as more cows retired.


Transformative Artwork

An innovative new product is looking to reduce air pollution by transforming vehicle exhaust into something beautiful.

Engineer Anirudh Sharma has perfected an exhaust filter that can capture as much as 95 percent of carbon exhaust from cars and trucks and turn it into inks and paints, aptly called Air-Ink.

Here’s how it works. A patented device called Kaalink is hooked up to a vehicle’s tail pipe, where it catches dirty carbon exhaust before it’s released into the atmosphere.

Then, a team of scientists concentrates and purifies the exhaust, removing any carcinogens and metals in the process, until all that’s left is pigment that, once mixed with vegetable oil, can be used as a beautiful and quick-drying ink.

One Air-Ink pen contains as much air pollution as is produced by running a car for around 45 minutes, while one spray can hold up to 2,000 minutes of exhaust, the Guardian reported.

“There’s a massive potential here,” said Sharma. “If each of the 20,000 black cabs in London had our product, we could clean 30 trillion liters of air a year.”

Click here to check out the process in action.


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