The World Today for October 11, 2017



The Risky Burden

More than half a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have flooded into neighboring Bangladesh since late August, when the Burmese military began its crackdown on the Rohingya in their native Rakhine State in response to a rebel attack against government forces.

With the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh now approaching a million souls, this latest exodus has precipitated one of the worst refugee crises in decades, presenting a heavy burden for this politically unstable country, one of the poorest on the planet.

To be sure, many Bangladeshis support the government’s open-door policy toward the Rohingya. It’s not the first time members of this persecuted Muslim minority group have sought shelter in Bangladesh, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been praised for her government’s humanitarian response.

But this newest refugee situation is straining the delicate balance between secular and pro-Islamic factions in Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Hasina’s secular government is being forced into a corner by pro-Islamic groups that have gained ground since the Rohingya’s arrival. Some even call for Bangladeshi military intervention in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the New York Times reports. In response, Hasina has sought to consolidate power, threatening the country’s fragile democratic order.

Outside of the political bubble, both Bangladeshis and Rohingya on the ground are suffering.

Impoverished Bangladeshis in the nation’s border region with Rakhine state lament that the cost of basic goods has more than doubled with the new influx of people and that crime is on the rise, USA Today reports.

Bangladesh already has one of the highest population densities in the world – some 3,000 people per square mile – and the average citizen earns less than $1,500 a year. With overcrowding and poverty already an issue, the government is now felling thousands of acres of forest to build new tent cities to accommodate the newcomers, Reuters reports.

But more tents won’t alleviate the squalor, hunger and lack of resources already gripping the camps, National Geographic wrote.

International aid agencies are already at wits end: 281,000 people are in emergency need of nutrition. Among them are 145,000 children under five and more than 50,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to PRI.

Many are calling for the Burmese government to repatriate the Rohingya, finally guaranteeing them basic civil liberties and citizenship, and halting an already dire humanitarian situation from becoming even more catastrophic.

But for many Rohingya, who have spent countless resources fleeing persecution, returning isn’t an option.

“If we go there, we’ll just have to come back here,” said Amina Katu, 60, a Rohingya refugee who’s fled violence in Myanmar twice already. “If they give us our rights, we will go, but people did this before and they had to return.”



Won’t Back Down

The US flew two strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula on Tuesday amid allegations from a South Korean lawmaker that North Korean hackers stole highly classified military documents that described potential US-South Korean strategies in the event of war with the North.

The US show of force came as President Donald Trump met with top defense officials to discuss ways to respond to threats from the North, Reuters reported. Earlier, Trump tweeted that “only one thing will work” to rein in North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, prompting Republican senator Bob Corker to express worries that Trump’s actions could precipitate World War III.

South Korean Rep. Lee Cheol-hee said defense sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole classified plans that included schemes for a decapitation strike on the North’s leadership, the Associated Press reported.

The stolen plans add fuel to North Korea’s earlier claims that the CIA attempted to use a chemical or biological poison to assassinate Kim in May this year.


Wake-Up Call

Iran-backed Hezbollah is “determined” to put sleeper cells in place to execute terrorist attacks in the US, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen told reporters this week, in an apparent effort to drum up support for Washington’s tougher stance on Iran.

“It’s our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook,” Rasmussen said, citing the recent arrests of alleged Hezbollah operatives in New York and Michigan, according to CNN.

“The Iranian regime has built and bankrolled Hezbollah to foment instability throughout the region and across the world,” added State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan Sales.

Following the June arrests of Ali Kourani and Samer el Debek on charges of providing material support to Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization, the crackdown comes amid President Donald Trump’s efforts to walk back the 2015 pact that freed Iran from international sanctions in exchange for its promise to abandon its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Tuesday also marked 20 years since the US designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist group.


Splitting Hairs

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga deepened the country’s ongoing political crisis with the surprise announcement that he’s backing out of the nation’s do-over presidential elections just two weeks before votes are slated to be cast.

Odinga said we was dropping out because he couldn’t be sure the Oct. 26 poll would be free, fair and credible. He also demanded new elections, citing a 2013 Supreme Court decision that calls for the cancellation of polls if a major candidate dies or drops out, NPR reported. But lawyers for President Uhuru Kenyatta say other regulations mandate that if one of only two candidates drops out of the race, the remaining candidate is automatically declared the winner.

NPR quoted an expert on Kenyan constitutional law as saying that the document clearly supports Kenyatta’s position. That means the issue is less of legality than legitimacy – which could prove dangerous.

More than 30 people were killed during protests following the disputed Aug. 8 election, and post-election tribal violence left more than 1,000 Kenyans dead in 2007 and 2008.


Support Your Spouse

Supporting the weight of one’s partner through the obstacles of life has never been so literal.

Last weekend, dozens of married couples from across North America attended the annual North American Wife Carrying Championship in Maine, Euronews reported.

Under the cheers of eager onlookers, participating couples carried each other through a treacherous, 278-yard-long obstacle course that included log rolls and a massive water pit, aptly referred to as the “widow maker.”

This herculean sport sprouted from the legend of Herkko Ronkainen, a 19th-century thief who wreaked havoc on Finnish villages with his gang, stealing food and kidnapping unsuspecting women.

Those interested in joining Ronkainen’s gang had to prove their worth by snatching up local wives and bringing them back to the group – all the while traversing the stones, stumps, fences and babbling springs along the way.

The tradition has obviously carried on in Finland and spread across the world.

The winners of this year’s North American festivities, Jake and Kirsten Barney, received a humble prize of 12 cases of beer and a check amounting to five times Kirsten’s weight in pounds, or $630.

The couple also qualified to put the strength of their marriage on display at the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland later this year.

Click here to see what this year’s contestants were made of.

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