The World Today for September 27, 2017



Going Nowhere Fast

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week, officials painted a grim picture of the situation in the besieged and poverty-stricken country of Yemen.

“The prescription for the future at the very best is bleak,” said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s resident humanitarian coordinator in Yemen. “It’s a disaster. I believe I’ll be coming back to [the UN General Assembly] next year with bigger numbers, and more desperate a situation…because there’s nothing on the horizon that looks like it’s going to go anywhere soon.”

This week, the UN is expected to vote on a resolution to send an independent international panel to Yemen to investigate human rights abuses. But Saudi Arabia and its allies have objected, proposing instead that the United Nations send experts to help Yemen’s own human rights commission, the New York Times reported.

Yemen has been fighting a brutal civil war since 2014, when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized large swathes of territory in the country’s north, including the capital city, Sanaa. The conflict quickly turned into a proxy war between regional powerbrokers after a Saudi-led coalition entered the war to reinstate President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, Middle East Monitor reports.

As many as 10,000 Yemenis are reported to have perished, either from the war directly, or from their inability to travel outside of the country to seek medical care. Three million people have been displaced, while as many as one-quarter of the population of 27 million don’t know when they’ll have their next meal, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Indiscriminate bombings by both sides have devastated the nation’s infrastructure and disproportionately affected children, AFP reports. Thousands of schools have been reduced to rubble.

“What that means is you have children obviously skipping their education…but you also have childhoods being stolen,” said UNICEF spokeswoman Juliette Touma. “Across the board, Yemen is not a safe place to be a child.”

In addition to the likelihood of the loss of a generation of young people to the war, half of the nation’s health infrastructure is decimated and out of service. With some 15 million people unable to get care, cholera has run rampant. Nearly 2,000 people have died since the outbreak escalated in April, and now some 500,000 people have been infected, the World Health Organization reports.

Just surviving has become imperative, and those still standing and healthy enough to work are doing everything they can to make ends meet – even if that means self-mutilation.

Some Yemenis, unable to legally make a living, have turned to selling their organs on the black market, often at a fraction of the cost of what they are sold for in the West and elsewhere, Al Jazeera reports.

While Yemenis suffer and turn to drastic measures to survive, human rights groups are condemning the international community for inaction.

The US has pledged to donate millions more in humanitarian aid, Voice of America reports. But it’s an empty gesture for a country still supplying weapons to Saudi-led coalition forces, whom Human Rights Watch has accused of war crimes.

“In the face of these laws-of-war violations, many likely war crimes, the world remains largely silent,” said Kristine Beckerle for the organization.

[siteshare]Going Nowhere Fast[/siteshare]



Rallying Call

In the wake of the re-election of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron made a new pitch to team up with her to lead the European Union – offering an ambitious vision for the bloc despite his own waning popularity.

In a two-hour speech Tuesday, Macron called for the EU to work more closely on defense and immigration and for the euro zone to have its own budget, Reuters reported. But the “earnest” and “high-brow” speech may not play well to his audience, the agency warned.

“The only path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united and democratic,” Macron said at the Sorbonne.

The reactions of the EU were mixed, reflecting the divisions in the bloc, Bloomberg reported. While Merkel said she was open to a common budget and joint finance minister for the euro zone, some of her allies were more skeptical. In Prague, Czech ANO party leader Andrej Babis said Macron “should really concentrate on France.

[siteshare]Rallying Call[/siteshare]


Campaigning on Hope

Popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike announced she is forming a new political party to contest the general election that’s expected next month, but said she will not herself seek a seat in parliament.

Koike’s new Party of Hope adds a new challenge for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said Monday he would call snap polls to confirm his mandate, a tactical move to take advantage of an uptick in his approval ratings, Reuters reported. Abe will dissolve the lower house on Thursday for a vote expected on Oct. 22.

Koike’s center-right party is ideologically similar to that of the Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the right wing of the main opposition Democratic Party, a mixture of conservatives and liberals. But her calls for more open government, a freeze on sales taxes and a phase out of nuclear power give her party a more populist flavor, the agency said.

Of more concern for Abe, she’s also reportedly in merger talks with the opposition Democrats.

[siteshare]Campaigning on Hope[/siteshare]


Split Decision

Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Tuesday the country would hold a referendum next May or June to lift or ease the country’s constitutional ban on abortion, one of the most restrictive laws on the procedure in the Western world.

Polls suggest that a majority of voters approve relaxation of the law, the New York Times reported. However, few people support allowing abortion on request.

In question is the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, passed by a two-thirds majority in 1983, which gives an unborn child a right to life equal to that of its mother, effectively banning abortion — even in cases of rape, incest and fatal or severe fetal abnormalities.

The law has been challenged repeatedly since it was passed, resulting in relaxations that allowed women to seek information about and travel to undergo abortion procedures abroad. Some 3,400 women did so in 2015, according to official figures.

[siteshare]Split Decision[/siteshare]


Under the Sea

It’s not Atlantis, but it will do.

Scientists have discovered a small city of octopuses off the coast of eastern Australia, dubbing it “Octlantis.”

The city is composed of several dens housing 15 cephalopods called “gloomy octopi” that live together and even chase away unwanted octopi interlopers.

Generally, octopuses were previously thought to be solitary creatures, only getting together during mating season and moving on afterwards.

But HuffPost reported that the discovery revealed that the species is not as solitary as previously thought.

Researchers couldn’t describe the origins of the behavior or whether it is common among other octopuses. In 2009, however, they discovered a similar octopus garden that they dubbed “Octopolis.”

One of the researchers mentioned that there is still much to know about octopus behavior, emphasizing that more research should be done “to determine what these actions might mean.”

[siteshare]Under the Sea[/siteshare]

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