The World Today for July 07, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

MALI

A Shaky Course

Only a few years ago, the West African country of Mali was the battleground for jihadists’ quest to establish an Islamic State-style caliphate in Africa.

Violence still plagues the country, as shown by the June 19 terror attack at a luxury resort patronized by Westerners near the capital city of Bamako.

Military intervention from France in 2013 and a United Nations peacekeeping mission helped prevent the total collapse of the Malian state and turned the tide against extremists.

France didn’t originally intend for its mission in Mali to last until today, but the country remains deeply intertwined in Mali’s struggle against the insurgents.

Roughly 1,600 French troops are stationed in and around Mali. In recent skirmishes they killed 20 jihadists, wrote ABC News.

In May, France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron even capped off his first week in office by visiting French troops in the country and reaffirming France’s commitment to fight Islamic militants in Mali and the wider Sahel region, which stretches across Africa.

Macron met with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and promised French forces would be “uncompromising” in their fight, wrote BBC.

Many Malians resist the allure of radical Islamists who would ban their thriving music scene, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.

Still, despite the efforts of France and other western powers to drive Islamist insurgents out of Mali, the country struggles with religious extremism.

Militants linked to al-Qaeda are still waging a bloody campaign to establish an Islamic State in the country, wrote the Independent.

An unmarried couple was recently stoned to death by jihadists for alleged violations of “Islamic law,” the paper wrote.

Jihadists recently attacked a UN camp in northern Mali, killing three blue helmets. The Mali deployment is the deadliest active peacekeeping mission in the world, according to the Associated Press. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Mali claimed responsibility for the attack.

Still, recent events suggest the country could be approaching a turning point.

The European Union is allocating $56 million for French forces helping Mali and its neighbors establish a multinational task force to fight terror, wrote Reuters.

The Malian government is also making a move to shore up its own institutions by holding a referendum on the country’s constitution on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Proposed changes include the establishment of a senate and more powers for the Malian president to appoint high-ranking officials. They’re designed to open the government to northern interests who were fighting the central government between 2012 and 2015, added Bloomberg.

Now it’s up to the Malians themselves to decide their future course.

[siteshare]A Shaky Course[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

JAPAN

Trading Places

On the eve of the G20 summit that begins today, Japan and the European Union inked a massive free trade deal that will cover nearly 30 percent of the global economy, 10 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global trade.

It’s also certain to irritate US President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported.

Trump arguably began his political career by blasting Japan’s unfair trade practices. And he’s been making similar noises recently.

He backed out of the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) immediately after taking office, and on Wednesday he tweeted: “The United States made some of the worst Trade Deals in world history. Why should we continue these deals with countries that do not help us?”

Now, he risks being left out in the cold. Japan plans to continue with TPP negotiations without the US in meetings with the remaining 11 countries next week. Meanwhile, though it could still falter, the Japan-EU deal would make US-made goods more expensive and less competitive in the major markets of Japan and Europe.

[siteshare]Trading Places[/siteshare]

CHINA

Rules, and Rules

Innocuous-sounding rules can be as difficult as draconian ones, international NGOs operating in China have found.

Various foreign NGOs are suspending operations, cancelling events and losing partnerships after the Chinese government introduced a law requiring them to register with the police six months ago, Reuters reported.

While the rule sounds simple enough, various groups told the agency that in practice it was a “bureaucratic nightmare” that appears to be aimed at curtailing their activities in China.

In order to register with the police, NGOs must first get a government ministry to agree to become a “supervisory body” that oversees their finances and activities and reports to the Ministry of Public Security.

Not only pro-democracy or religious groups have been affected. Animal welfare activists from Humane Society International (HIS) were unable to attend the annual Yulin dog meat festival to rescue dogs from being killed and eaten this year.

Similarly, the National Geographic Society has said it cannot accept applications for grants to do research, conservation or exploration projects in mainland China or from Chinese applicants due to the new law.

[siteshare]Rules, and Rules[/siteshare]

CANADA

Unsettling Payoff

Canada paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner after a court ruled that his rights had been abused, but many are outraged that a man they still consider a terrorist has received a reported $8 million from the government.

Two Canadian officials confirmed that Canadian-born Omar Khadr – who was 15 years old when he was captured by US troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic – had received the payment after news of the deal leaked earlier this week, the Associated Press reported.

Suspected of throwing the grenade that killed the US medic, Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada in 2012 to serve the remainder of that sentence, but was released in 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.

Even before his conviction, Khadr spent 10 years at Guantanamo. While some still consider him a terrorist, others say he was a child soldier, and therefore as much victim as perpetrator.

[siteshare]Unsettling Payoff[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Clouds in my Coffee

Truly astounding works of art energize their audiences. A jolt of caffeine from your favorite cup of java can have a similar effect.

But the two combined? That’s a work of art in and of itself.

That’s exactly what barista Lee Kang-bin hopes to accomplish at his café in central Seoul, the Guardian reported.

Using healthy doses of dyed heavy cream atop cups of coffee as his canvas, Lee, 26, recreates classic works of art like Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Edvard Munch’s The Scream with tiny brushes and spoons.

Lee started combining his passions for art and coffee while in the military, where he ran a small café not far from the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

One time he took a stab at drawing The Starry Night and “after that, lots of people ordered that coffee,” Lee said.

Now, “customers usually ask me to draw their favorite artworks,” he added.

But if you’re looking to score your daily fix of caffeine in a pinch, Lee’s works of art may not be for you. It can take upwards of 15 minutes for him to finish a drinkable masterpiece.

Click here to see photos of Lee’s creations for yourself.

[siteshare]Clouds in my Coffee[/siteshare]

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.

Fish, Police and Mother Mushroom

When Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh tried to visit an imprisoned political activist in the Vietnamese city of Nha Trang in October, the blogger was arrested and, along with the activist’s mother, forcibly driven to Quynh’s home.

Quynh blogs under the name Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) and writes for Vietnamese outlets abroad.

Mother Mushroom was handcuffed as police raided her home and confiscated placards adorned with slogans calling on the government to file a legal case against the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics steel plant for its role in a toxic spill that caused mass fish deaths off the coast of Vietnam, according to reports.

The spill sparked rare public protests in Vietnam.

Police accused Quynh of being a member of Viet Tan, an outlawed political party officials often blame for organizing and carrying out anti-government public protests. They accused her of “hostility toward the police force,” for posting what they described as anti-state news reports, including one on 31 cases in which civilians died in custody.

The blogger was held incommunicado for more than eight months before her trial began. Last week, in a one-day hearing, a court sentenced Quynh to 10 years in prison for distributing propaganda against the state.

Quynh was one of at least eight journalists jailed in Vietnam at the time of CPJ’s last prison census. The country has consistently ranked among the 10 worst jailers of journalists in the world, CPJ research shows. 

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