The World Today for November 06, 2017



Diplomats and Bombs

The deaths of four Green Berets and five local soldiers in Niger last month have led many to ask why the United States military is operating in a country that many Americans couldn’t find on a map.

The simple answer is that the US is fighting the global war on terror everywhere. But as more details emerge about the ambush that led to the servicemen’s deaths, a complicated and depressing picture of life in the remote, impoverished country has come into the spotlight.

It turns out, for example, that many Nigeriens are misguided about the role of the US military in their country.

The Daily Beast quoted Daouda Chikoto, who recalled how he and his neighbors last year blamed the US after a grenade exploded and killed six children in their village of Tongo Tongo, near the site of the Oct. 4 ambush.

The US had recently completed a $100 million drone base in Niger. Neither the US nor the drones were connected to the grenade blast. But jihadists spread rumors that Americans somehow caused the explosion.

“Most of the information we got about the US and the Nigerien government came from militants,” Chikoto said. “Everyone believes they have a strong intelligence network and probably know everything that happens in Niger.”

Such rumors might have encouraged villagers to help the jihadists in their deadly encounter with the Americans.

As the New York Times explained, few Nigeriens have much allegiance to Niger’s central government in the capital of Niamey whether or not President Mahamadou Issoufou is an ally of the West.

The jihadists come off as more trustworthy. “They are presenting an alternative to a state that villagers associate with corruption and neglect,” a Human Rights Watch representative told the newspaper.

After prodding from France, the US has pledged to provide $60 million for a new, UN-backed counterterrorism force that would help fight militants in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, reported Newsweek.

But more military aid won’t necessarily stamp out Niger’s many problems, argued Foreign Policy. Niger, with one of the highest birthrates on the planet, is also one of the world’s poorest countries. It also faces militant groups on multiple fronts.

President Donald Trump has proposed boosting the Pentagon’s Africa budget by 9 percent while cutting State Department activities there by 30 percent.

A diplomat might have done a good job of explaining to the villagers of Tongo Tongo that the US drones were only for reconnaissance.

Now it’s too late, though. The Nigerien government has requested the US deploy armed drones in the country, suggesting the violence won’t end anytime soon.



Trudeau in Paradise

A top ally of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau features among the hundreds implicated in a trove of 13.4 million records leaked to media outlets from offshore financial services firms working with tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

Trudeau campaigned on promises of economic and tax fairness. But the leaked documents suggest that the firm of his chief fundraiser Stephen R. Bronfman – private-investment company, Claridge – helped move millions of dollars offshore, where they may have avoided taxes via a family trust, shell companies and accounting moves questioned by experts, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported.

The so-called “Paradise Papers” also feature the names of more than a dozen Trump advisers, Cabinet members and major donors. While stashing money offshore is not always illegal, the documents illustrate how “deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants,” the global network of investigative journalists said.

The 11.5 million documents comprising the Panama Papers, leaked in 2015, sparked investigations and resignations around the world.


Princely Purge

Saudi Arabia arrested billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and at least 10 other princes Saturday night, as well as a number of former ministers, in a stunning purge designed to strengthen Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid his efforts to diversify the country’s economy and promote a more tolerant form of Islam.

The arrests come in the wake of a move to strip the country’s religious police of their powers to make arrests and the detention of dozens of hardline clerics, potentially signaling a historic reordering of the Saudi state, the New York Times reported. But critics worry that the anti-corruption drive is as much a power play as a cleanup effort, Vox noted.

The arrest of Alwaleed bin Talal, in particular, is likely to cause headaches in the US, as he a prominent investor in Twitter, Citigroup, Lyft, the Four Seasons Hotels, and Apple, among other global companies. Asian stocks dipped and oil prices rose to the highest levels since July 2015 on news of the purge.


Rightwing Revolution

Close on the heels of the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution, Russian authorities arrested hundreds of protesters from an obscure group of rightwing nationalists calling for a repeat performance.

Russian authorities detained at least 260 people believed to be associated with nationalist politician Vyacheslav Maltsev’s Artillery Preparation movement, the BBC reported. Reported to be living abroad after Moscow issued a warrant for his arrest for calling for the violent overthrow of the government, Maltsev says a revolution is imminent and last year called for the impeachment of President Vladimir Putin.

Staged on Unity Day – the successor to the former Soviet celebration commemorating the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution – the protests featured only a few hundred people. But some of them were armed with knives, brass knuckles, and non-lethal guns.

The FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, alleged that the group had planned “extremists actions in the form of arson of administrative buildings with the use of incendiary fuel and attacks on the members of police to provoke mass unrest,” Business Insider noted.


Move over, T. Rex

The “king of the dinosaurs” might have a competitor now that a team of paleontologists have discovered footprints of another giant lizard, which 200 million years ago might have roamed around the area that is now present-day Lesotho, Newsweek reported.

Named Kayentapus ambrokholohali, the dinosaur was some 30 feet long, 10 feet shorter than Tyrannosaurus rex, scientists estimate. Both species are megatheropods – large, bipedal dinosaurs with three toes and sharp teeth.

Researchers uncovered “trace fossils” – remains that show an animal’s activity in an area – of the ancient lizard’s footprints, together with parts of other smaller dinosaurs. Trace fossils of footprints are rare, because a specific set of geological conditions are required for them to survive for millions of years.
Due to the fortuitous discovery, scientists also now believe megatheropods developed millions of years earlier than initially thought.

Now, let’s just hope Kayentapus ambrokholohali becomes part of the Jurassic Park roster in the future.

For the published research click here.

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