The World Today for August 16, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

GAZA

The Wasteland

In a region scarred by conflict and crises, the Gaza Strip remains a case of extraordinary hardship.

Life has never been easy for Gaza’s 2 million residents. They live wedged between Israel, the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt – but isolated from fellow Palestinians in the West Bank.

But since the militant Islamist political party Hamas ousted other factions and assumed control of Gaza in 2006, conditions have dramatically deteriorated, the Economist reported.

To weaken Hamas after its rise to power, Israel and Egypt implemented a crippling blockade on Gaza. Since then, constraints have tightened after three wars fought between Hamas and the Israelis.

Infrastructure lies in rubble – three years after the Strip’s last war. Basic services, like water treatment, have stopped. Sewage flows freely into the sea.

Seven in 10 people must rely on humanitarian aid to survive. Electricity in the Strip now only works for a few hours a day. Even hospitals and clinics have stopped critical services, creating life-threatening situations, Al Jazeera reported.

Gaza now boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the world: 40 percent of the population is out of work. The economy simply cannot absorb them.

Closed borders and destroyed factories mean Gazans can neither produce their own goods nor emigrate to seek a better life. In dire straits, Gaza’s youth – highly educated, yet two out of three are out of work – are quickly beginning to identify themselves as a wasted generation, the Washington Post reported.

If things weren’t bad enough, it seems this wasteland has yet to hit rock bottom.

The Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized Palestinian government operating out of the West Bank, administers services and pays public employees in Gaza. The authority is not pleased with Hamas. It has slashed one-third of Gaza’s electricity in yet another attempt to eliminate Hamas once and for all, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Israel has clamped down on border security, too. Israeli troops are building a subterranean wall to cut off Hamas tunnels between Gaza and Israel out of security concerns.

Egypt has cut off fuel supplies in part due to the historic links between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that came to power in Egypt after the Arab Spring. The current Egyptian president was formerly a general who pulled off a coup d’état against the Brotherhood’s elected president.

Now violence is ramping up once again. With none of the involved parties seemingly interested in a viable solution to the tensions, it seems inevitable that another war is on the horizon for Gazans, the New York Times opined.

Should that occur, Gazans might need to prepare for hitting rock bottom.

[siteshare]The Wasteland[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

Lines in the Sand

The government of the United Kingdom aims to exit the European Union without re-establishing border checkpoints between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic – a thorny issue that the European commission has insisted must be resolved before negotiations on the UK’s future trade relations with the EU can begin.

There must be “no return to the hard borders of the past,” the UK’s Guardian newspaper quoted a government policy paper as saying, while the Brexit department hopes to agree upfront that there will be no need for “physical infrastructure” such as border checkpoints.

Whether that’s possible will depend on what new customs deal the UK manages to reach with the EU, the paper noted. The two options the UK has proposed are a “streamlined” border that would be managed by the UK or a customs agreement that so closely mirrors the EU’s that no border at all is needed.

However, nationalists in Northern Ireland worry that “seamless, frictionless” trade won’t be possible.

[siteshare]Lines in the Sand[/siteshare]

ZIMBABWE

Grace Under Pressure

Facing assault charges in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe returned to the safety of her own country rather than honoring a promise to turn herself in to South African police.

A 20-year-old South African woman accused Mugabe of hitting her over the head with an extension cord Sunday evening during an argument at a local hotel, the BBC reported.

Gabriella Engels, a model, accused Mugabe, 52, of hitting her after finding her with her two sons in a hotel room in Sandton, a wealthy suburb north of Johannesburg. South African police said they had been negotiating with Mugabe to convince her to turn herself in, and she had agreed to do so but never appeared.

Born in South Africa, Grace Mugabe married longtime President Robert Mugabe in 1996 after an extramarital affair. Made head of the ZANU-PF Women’s League in 2014, and thus a member of the party politburo, she has been accused of assault in the past, when she allegedly joined her bodyguard in beating up a newspaper photographer in Hong Kong in 2009.

[siteshare] Grace Under Pressure [/siteshare]

MEXICO

Rough Justice, Revisited

A Mexican federal judge ordered the attorney general to investigate possible negligence in a probe of extrajudicial executions allegedly committed by the military in 2014.

Last year, a military tribunal pardoned six of seven soldiers allegedly involved in the killings of 22 people in the city of Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico, Reuters reported. Authorities said at the time that the armed forces acted in self defense, and those killed were members of a drug cartel.

However, international media and the National Human Rights Commission reported there was evidence that the killings were extrajudicial executions, including photographs that indicated that 19 of 22 dead bodies had likely been moved to support the army’s narrative of the encounter.

In a judgment announced Tuesday, judge Erik Zabalgoitia Novales found that the arguments of the human rights body that challenged the verdict were justified “in that they maintain that the claimed omissions infringe on … the fundamental rights in favor of the victims of crimes.”

In recent years, Mexico has surpassed Colombia to become the largest supplier of heroin to the US, and this year the body count in the drug war has spiked to record levels.

[siteshare] Rough Justice, Revisited [/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Cannibals of London

When thinking of cannibalistic societies, the Mayans or the Aztecs often come to mind.

But new archaeological evidence suggests that the Brits had their own form of ritualistic cannibalism to honor the dead.

After excavating an archaeological site called Gough’s Cave in southwestern England, anthropologists with the Natural History Museum in London discovered 15,000-year-old human bones with some pretty irrefutable signs of cannibalism: butchering marks, human tooth imprints and gnawed remains.

But with that evidence they also found what appeared to be a purposeful, zigzag pattern on some of the bones, along with skulls fashioned into drinking chalices.

With no signs of violence and animal bones strewn around the site, researchers believe that those eaten died from natural causes before being consumed.

That suggests that an intricate, cannibalistic funeral was likely conducted as a way of honoring the dead, the researchers wrote in their study, which was published recently in the journal PLOS One.

“There’s a lot more variability in human cultures, and cultural behavior, than we might think,” Pat Shipman, an adjunct anthropology professor at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in the study, told the New York Times.

[siteshare]Cannibals of London[/siteshare]

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