The World Today for August 31, 2017



Of Zebras and Stripes

In January, during his last month in office, former President Barack Obama temporarily lifted the economic sanctions on Sudan that had been in place for 20 years.

Obama’s rapprochement with the delinquent and violent regime of longtime President Omar al-Bashir was deemed a reward for the president’s “positive actions,” the Economist notes.

Sudan cooperated with the United States in its fight against global terrorism, sought to end its wars with rebels in the country’s west and south, and allowed aid workers to reach destitute civilians in conflict zones.

But with a new American president at the helm, a decision must be made about the permanence of normalizing relations with Sudan and its president. It begs the question: Can a zebra really change its stripes?

Many remain skeptical – and for good reason.

President Bashir seized power in Sudan in 1989 in a coup against a democratically elected government. He then proceeded to ban political parties and consolidate power through a series of sham elections and intimidation campaigns, the BBC reports.

Bashir’s crackdown on rebel groups in the western region of Darfur resulted in the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs and perpetuated a drastic humanitarian crisis that continues today. Bashir is now wanted by the International Criminal Court for orchestrating genocide in Darfur. Many see his actions as simply unforgivable.

At the same time, some are starting to recognize Sudan as a potential partner for regional stability. Khartoum once helped smuggle weapons into Gaza vis-à-vis Iran, but diplomatic relations with Tehran have since cooled. Sudan now says it wants to normalize relations with Israel, Haaretz reports.

The United Nations also believes that Darfur, while still fragile, is reaching a point of stability. It announced in June that it will withdraw more than one-third of the nearly 19,000 peacekeepers it has in the region, the New York Times reports.

Still, human rights activists say that below the surface nothing has changed.

Last year President Bashir’s regime was accused of using chemical weapons against Darfuris. In an open letter to the Guardian, Niemat Ahmadi, president and founder of the Darfur Women Action Group, wrote that Sudanese forces continue to pillage Darfuri villages, rape women and reallocate stolen land to Khartoum loyalists.

And while Darfuri rebel factions have come to the table to negotiate peace with Khartoum, they fear that campaigns to demilitarize Darfur could leave the region at the president’s mercy, reports.

The Trump administration’s opinion on Darfur is still unclear: The White House recently pushed back a decision on whether to permanently end sanctions against Khartoum.

But with inflation on the rise and the Sudanese economy grinding to a halt, the White House needs to decide whether the zebra really has changed its stripes – or whether pretending to see a new pattern is in the best interest of both nations.

[siteshare]Of Zebras and Stripes[/siteshare]



A Rocket-propelled Deal

The timing of North Korea’s test firing of a missile over Japan could be a boon for Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who is hoping to firm up post-Brexit ties on a visit to Tokyo this week.

Britain and Japan will pledge closer cooperation on defense, cyber security and counter-terrorism on Thursday, with North Korea expected to figure heavily in talks between May and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Reuters reported.

But it’s unclear whether the renewed security alliance can help May secure a bilateral trade relationship with Japan comparable to the one the European Union is on the brink of finalizing – the real goal of her visit.

May’s predecessor said the pending free trade pact between Japan and the EU would have added an annual 5 billion pounds ($6.5 billion) to the U.K. economy, Bloomberg reported. And skeptics say it won’t be easy to recast it as a bilateral deal.

[siteshare]A Rocket-propelled Deal[/siteshare]


Green Justice

A federal judge in Brazil stopped a plan to allow mining in a huge swathe of the Amazon forest, saying President Michel Temer exceeded his authority in rescinding its designation as a protected area.

Last week, Temer issued a presidential decree that opened up an area the size of Denmark known by the Portuguese acronym Renca to mining operations, causing a local and international outcry from environmentalists. The court injunction came in response to a suit from Antonio Carlos Fernandes, a lawyer and university professor in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, the New York Times reported.

The government had argued that allowing regulated mining within the zone would curb illegal gold mining and generate jobs, and had offered a more detailed proposal for mitigating environmental damage and safeguarding the rights of indigenous communities after the initial outcry.

It’s now likely to appeal the court’s decision – opposition from model Gisele Bündchen notwithstanding.

[siteshare]Green Justice[/siteshare]


The Bill Collector

Poland once again called on Germany to pay reparations for the mass killings and devastating damage wrought by the Nazis during World War II – Warsaw’s go-to strategy whenever tensions arise with Europe.

This time, Warsaw is bringing up the bill as Germany and the European Union have leveled strong criticism at the ruling Law and Justice Party over new laws giving it greater control over the judicial system, the Associated Press reported.

The government has not named a sum, though local newspapers say it should range from hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars. But Germany says the matter of financial compensation was settled long ago, and international legal scholars agree Poland has no legal claim to compensation.

Still, it’s a hot-button issue that stirs nationalist sentiments.

“For Law and Justice, it’s good to show in this moment that the Germans owe us something,” the AP quoted a Polish expert on German relations as saying. “The point isn’t money. The point is that Germany should not dare lecture Poland.”

[siteshare]The Bill Collector[/siteshare]


Blowing a Fuse

Tesla’s new electric vehicle has garnered attention for its affordable price point.

But energy experts warn that electric vehicles present a challenge that homeowners often overlook when going green.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Grid, which operates the nation’s electricity transmission network, even doing something like boiling water for a cup of tea while charging your vehicle could blow a fuse.

That’s because the average home has a main fuse capable of 60 to 80 amps of current. But the charging port for Tesla’s newest Model S, which charges the vehicle’s battery in about six hours, requires about 48 amps.

That means that while your car is plugged in, you couldn’t use even the most basic devices in your home without tripping a fuse, Quartz reports.

To solve the issue, homes could be re-outfitted with higher capacity fuses, or the government could bolster charging infrastructure to accommodate a growing fleet of e-cars. But both are costly solutions.

Instead, new e-car owners could opt for a standard, less powerful charging port that would fully charge a vehicle in 19 hours.

That’s a long time to wait, but at least you could have a cup of tea in the meantime.

[siteshare]Blowing a Fuse[/siteshare]

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