The World Today for August 07, 2017



The Ballot and the Machete

Kenyan anti-corruption activist Boniface Mwangi once loosed pigs in front of parliament to draw attention to the greed of his country’s leader.

Now he’s running in Kenya’s general elections under the banner of his new Ukweli Party on Tuesday to join the legislature in hopes of improving politics in his country.

Under normal circumstances, Mwangi’s chances would be slim against incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee Alliance, and also against the opposition National Super Alliance and its candidate, Raila Odinga, CNN noted.

But the activist’s participation illustrates how Kenyans are getting fed up, even as they also fear violence erupting during or after the vote, wrote Kenyan commentator and cartoonist Patrick Gathara in a Washington Post op-ed.

Already, the country’s top election official was found tortured and murdered last week, while Nairobi has become a ghost town.

“People are moving their families away from ethnically mixed neighborhoods in areas anticipated to be flashpoints of violence, and into tribal enclaves where there is safety in numbers,” wrote Gathara.

Most Kenyan voters cast ballots according to their tribe rather than candidates’ policies or personalities, Deutsche Welle explained. Corrupt elites who perpetuate and benefit from that system have absconded with the country’s riches, rewarding their allies while letting others struggle and go without, exacerbating a yawning gap between rich and poor and stoking resentment.

At the same time, voters younger than 35 comprise 51 percent of the electorate, yet politicians are failing to address the needs of youth, wrote Kenyan journalist John-Allan Namu in an op-ed for Al Jazeera.

In the 2007 election of President Mwai Kibaki, those resentments came to a boil amid allegations of vote rigging that led to protests where more than 1,000 people died. Elections in 2013 were relatively peaceful, but vote rigging was rampant and police cracked down on protesters, the Guardian wrote.

Today, a similar environment prevails in the country, wrote Newsweek, reporting that some Kenyans were stockpiling machetes to prepare for fighting.

Polls show Odinga with a slight lead, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Mwangi is making headway, too. He has 700,000 Twitter followers and 250,000 likes on his Facebook page, for example. He’s been crowdfunding his campaign, too.

But already, there’s talk of a vote postponement due to problems with vote printing that would likely help Kenyatta, who is running for reelection.

The Carter Center said Kenyan authorities were doing their best to make sure the election goes off without civil unrest.

But clearly there are much larger forces that leaders, not bureaucrats, should be addressing with voters.

And because they haven’t, many in Kenya are waiting to exhale.

[siteshare]The Ballot and the Machete[/siteshare]



Soft Warnings

China on Sunday warned North Korea not to overreact after the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions against Pyongyang over its missile-testing program.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, urged his North Korean counterpart to remain calm and not provoke the international community with more tests, wrote the BBC, reporting on their meeting in the Philippines at the ASEAN Regional Forum. Yi urged dialogue, acknowledging that the situation is at “a critical point.”

He did not give the response of North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, the agency said.

The new US-drafted sanctions could cut the Hermit Kingdom’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third, with bans on such items as coal, iron and seafood, Reuters noted. It also bans all new joint ventures with North Korean companies, among other measures.

Meanwhile, in addition to joint US-South Korean military drills, the US has also deployed the THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea, which has added to the region’s escalating tensions.

[siteshare]Soft Warnings[/siteshare]


The Bandwagon

The Israeli government said on Sunday that it plans to pull the plug on the Qatar-funded news network Al Jazeera, accusing it of bias and inciting violence in its reporting, Reuters reported.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said the government will initiate legal steps to close the network’s Jerusalem bureau and revoke its journalists’ media credentials.

Al Jazeera called the measures “undemocratic” and said it will take legal action to counter the move, according to the Associated Press.

Israel’s charges against Al Jazeera echo those made by a Saudi Arabia-led quartet of nations that launched a trade embargo against Qatar two months ago in response to its alleged support of terrorism. The group wants Qatar to shut down Al Jazeera, among other demands, which it has resisted.

Israel has long accused Al Jazeera of bias in its reporting of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the BBC noted. But its coverage last month of violence at a holy site in Jerusalem especially rankled the government, the agency said.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel criticized the move, saying the decision “to shut down a media organization for political reasons is a slippery slope,” Reuters wrote.

[siteshare]The Bandwagon[/siteshare]


Desperate Measures

Venezuelan authorities on Sunday quickly quashed an attempted uprising in Venezuela by a small group of rebels who tried to steal weapons from a military base near the central city of Valencia, Reuters reported.

Authorities arrested seven men in what was called “a terrorist attack.” The plotters managed to inspire protesters in the nearby town to take to the streets, but they were soon dispelled by tear gas, the agency said.

Flanked by a dozen men in military uniforms, the alleged leader of the group, a former National Guard captain, made a video that was posted on social media in which he demanded “a civic and military action to reestablish constitutional order.”

While Sunday’s incident failed to trigger the revolt its organizers intended, it underscores the volatility that still engulfs the country.

Meanwhile, President Nicolas Maduro is moving to keep hold of the institutional reins of power and root out critics. On Saturday, its first day of operations, the newly elected legislature made its priorities clear by removing the dissident chief prosecutor from office and ordering her to stand trial.

[siteshare]Desperate Measures[/siteshare]


Sugary Sadness

Before you reach for that second donut on your coffee break, gentlemen, take a second to think about the consequences of that moment of sugary goodness – including an increased risk of depression.

According to a new, comprehensive study on the relationship between sugar intake and common mental health problems by researchers from University College London, men who indulge in sweets stand a significantly heightened risk of developing common mental health disorders – such as anxiety and depression – as compared to those who don’t.

The study, published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, analyzed the diets of 5,000 men and 2,000 women, originally recruited for a study in the 1980s.

Researchers then cross-referenced subjects’ consumption habits with the prevalence of common mental health disorders later in life.

According to the study, men with the highest sugar intake of more than 67 grams per day were 23 percent more likely to develop a common mental health disorder after five years than men with the lowest sugar consumption.

Scientists are still unsure as to why the same pattern didn’t reveal itself among the women sampled, but say the results don’t indicate that men are simply eating more sweets when they’re depressed.

[siteshare]Sugary Sadness[/siteshare]

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