The World Today for July 25, 2017



Reforming Peace

United Nations peacekeepers are charged with protecting the weak and vulnerable.

It’s not an easy job.

On Monday, a Moroccan peacekeeper was killed in the Central African Republic while guarding a convoy of water trucks, the BBC reported. It was just the latest of many deaths that have struck this force.

Meanwhile, back at UN headquarters in New York, the peacekeepers’ advocates are scrambling to try to protect them.

In late June, the United States reduced its payments to the UN’s $7.5 billion peacekeeping budget by 7.5 percent, Reuters reported last month.

That might seem like a modest decrease: The US will still pay 22.5 percent of the peacekeepers’ budget under the deal, CNN explained. The second-highest contributor, China, funds around 10 percent.

But UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the cuts would hobble the peacekeepers. “The figures presented would simply make it impossible for the UN to continue all of its essential work,” said Guterres’ spokesman.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the move would save American taxpayers’ money and help reform a troubled institution.

Giving her ammunition was a string of embarrassing episodes.

A Dutch court recently found that the Netherlands was liable for the deaths of 300 Muslim men in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995, when Dutch peacekeepers expelled them from a military base as Bosnian-Serb troops attacked.

Over the course of a 13-year mission in Haiti that is now coming to an end, Nepalese peacekeepers brought cholera to the troubled country, sparking an epidemic that killed 11,000 and infected 880,000, the Miami Herald wrote. They and other blue helmets are also leaving behind children borne by local women.

Haitians are understandably demanding compensation for combating the sickness and caring for the soldiers’ abandoned kids. But the UN has been slow to help, argued Canada’s former ambassador to the UN, Stephen Lewis, in a CNN op-ed.

Foreign Affairs chronicled other disconcerting episodes. French and Georgian peacekeepers abused young children in the Central African Republic in 2014. Congo this year pulled out its peacekeepers from the country amid similar charges. Last year, the UN released a report that included 41 cases of Burundian and Gabonese peacekeepers committing sexual abuse.

It’s not clear how the UN might police peacekeepers in remote corners of the world with less money.

The Council on Foreign Relations has suggested that more female peacekeepers might reduce some of these heinous activities.

There is no proof that strategy might work. But studies show that deploying peacekeepers to a country reduces the chances of a civil war by almost 70 percent, preserving lives and economic growth, Slate noted.

That’s arguably evidence that the peacekeepers can be cost effective, Now they must learn to treat those whom they’ve promised to protect with respect.

[siteshare]Reforming Peace[/siteshare]



‘Smart’ Checks

Israel removed metal detectors from the Temple Mount (or Noble Sanctuary), in what was interpreted as a concession granted to secure the release of an Israeli security guard who shot and killed two Jordanian citizens at the Israeli embassy in Jordan on Sunday.

Seen as an implicit declaration of Israeli sovereignty over the disputed site – which is as holy to Muslims as it is to Jews – the installation of metal detectors had inspired Palestinian protests and prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to suspend official contacts with Israel on Friday.

Israel will replace the metal detectors with a less intrusive “smart checking” system at a cost of about $28 million, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Though the decision will defuse tensions, it may not go down well with supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party. The government vowed as recently as Sunday that it would not remove the scanners – which were installed at the entrance of the Al-Aksa mosque compound after two police officers were fatally shot on July 14, triggering the bloodiest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in years.

[siteshare]’Smart’ Checks[/siteshare]


Lipstick and Pigs

Polish President Andrzej Duda defied the Law and Justice Party leader who plucked him out of obscurity in 2015 by vetoing two of three bills designed to put Poland’s judiciary under the control of the government.

But then, on Tuesday, he signed a bill into law giving the justice minister the power to hire and fire the heads of ordinary courts, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Duda said he would present alternatives to the other two nixed pieces of legislation in the next few months, the wire service reported. Specifically, he objected to provisions that gave the country’s chief prosecutor and justice minister power over the choice of high court justices.

“It seems that the reality inside the ruling camp is more complex than we might think,” the New York Times quoted a political scientist at the University of Warsaw as saying in an interview with the Polish Press Agency. A showdown between Duda and party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski now looks to be in the cards.

Poland has drifted toward more authoritarian rule under the sway of the nationalist Law and Justice Party – which has gradually placed more and more independent institutions under political control.

Duda’s veto provides some breathing room for the European Union, which had threatened legal action and even sanctions if Poland went ahead with the move.

It remains to be seen, however, if Duda and his party will get that same breathing room on the national stage – tens of thousands of protestors hit the streets over the weekend against the measures.

[siteshare]Lipstick and Pigs[/siteshare]


It’s Complicated

Vietnam arrested a prominent dissident in an apparent move to silence critics whom the internet has freed from state control of the country’s conventional media outlets.

Reuters quoted local police as saying Le Dinh Luong, 51, was arrested on Monday for conducting “regular activities with the aim to overthrow the authority and complicate local security.”

Luong’s arrest follows close on the heels of the June jailing of prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh. Known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), Quynh was sentenced to 10 years in prison for publishing propaganda against the state.

Quynh and Luong had in April spoken out against a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp that caused one of Vietnam’s biggest environmental disasters in 2016 — a spill from a steel mill that contaminated 125 miles of coastline.

On the anniversary of the disaster, protesters carried banners reading, “Who has brought Formosa here to poison Vietnam?” and, less obliquely, “Government takes money, people take disaster,” Reuters reported separately.

At that time, none of the protesters faced any intervention from the police

[siteshare]It’s Complicated[/siteshare]


Wet Side of the Moon

Ever since the first evidence was found of water on the moon, scientists have been scrambling to ascertain how much might lie under its surface.

Now, new research suggests the inside of the moon is even wetter than previously thought, wrote the Guardian.

A new analysis of satellite data – published in the journal Nature Geoscience – has revealed “hotspots” of trapped water across the moon’s surface in deposits from ancient eruptions, said researchers.

These regions of the moon’s surface, which include its impact craters and plains, contain deposits from ancient eruptions that are as large as thousands of square miles.

Ultimately, these findings could change our understanding of how the moon formed, as well as our theories about its internal structure, according to the Guardian.

Nevertheless, researchers said these new findings leave one major question unanswered: where did the moon’s water come from in the first place?

“Whether it is from the Earth or from impact delivery…we are not ready to answer that question,” Shuai Li, a co-author of the study from Brown University, told the Guardian.

[siteshare]Wet Side of the Moon[/siteshare]

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