The World Today for December 04, 2017



A Spark, A Fire

When President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, took office in March 2015, he became the first opposition candidate in Nigeria to successfully unseat an incumbent in a democratic election since the nation’s independence in 1960.

But four years out, the optimism of Buhari’s election in Africa’s largest economy has largely subsided, the Financial Times reported.

Instead of spearheading major security and corruption efforts, Buhari’s tenure has mostly been defined by his ailing health and frequent medical trips abroad, along with his attempts to put out political fires.

One such blaze has burned slowly for decades and is threatening to spread into an all-out wildfire: Demands for a breakaway state of Biafra in the nation’s southeast.

Even though Nigeria’s national elections in 2019 are more than a year away, political elites are already drumming up long-dormant ethnic tensions.

Between 1966 and 1970, the Nigerian government fought a brutal civil war against the breakaway Republic of Biafra, the geographic core of the nation’s Igbo ethnic minority. The war killed nearly 1 million people.

As a new generation of Igbo comes of age, many are starting to call once again for the region to secede – sentiments fueled by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist movement, an opaque distribution of government funds to ethnic groups, and Buhari’s firm hand in trying to squash the rising movement, the Economist reported.

For now, Buhari has pacified a full-scale uprising by jailing IPOB’s leader and using the military to threaten protesters. During recent local elections in the southeastern state of Anambra, an Igbo stronghold, all was quiet at the polls, despite the IPOB’s calls for a boycott and a referendum on independence, Agence France Presse reported.

After it was announced that the local candidate from the president’s All Progressives Congress had been reelected governor, Buhari used the opportunity to dismiss the IPOB’s attempts to derail the poll and expressed hope that national elections in 2019 would run just as smoothly.

Buhari’s ministers quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

“The people of Anambra have shown there is no alternative to democracy and that they believe in one Nigeria and federal system of government,” Nigeria’s minister of information and culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed told reporters in Abuja. “I think the Anambra election has sounded the death knell on IPOB because they said the election will never hold.”

But the IPOB may yet have an opportunity to gain some footing.

A key ally of President Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, announced he’d likely throw his hat in the ring for the nation’s 2019 presidential elections, signaling dissent in the president’s ranks, Reuters reported.

As the political players begin to emerge for battle in Nigeria, one thing’s for certain, Bismarck Rewane, chief executive of the Financial Derivatives consultancy in Lagos, told the Financial Times: “Effectively, from Dec. 1 this year, Nigeria will be in full campaign and political mode across the country.”



Making Friends

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is bucking the drift toward protectionism on a five-day visit to China where he’s expected to begin talks on a free trade agreement that could alienate Canadian businesses and traditional allies like Japan.

Trudeau has so far stopped short of saying Canada will begin free trade negotiations with Beijing, which would mark an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Japan is pushing, despite the high-profile withdrawal of the United States, Bloomberg reported.

Such a deal could open up strategic industries to Chinese ownership and solidify a trade balance that favors the Asian nation, the agency said. In the past, Canada rejected China’s overtures for such an agreement because “Our view was that China does not – and will not – play by the same rules as everyone else and so free or fair trade is essentially impossible,” said Rachel Curran, a top official for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Meanwhile, Trudeau is seeking to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has ruffled feathers in Tokyo by rebuffing the TPP.


Brace for Impact

Current Arab summit president Jordan is preparing to convene an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation if President Donald Trump makes good on expectations that he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week.

Earlier, a senior US administration official said Trump is likely to make the declaration in a speech Wednesday, Reuters reported. The move would upend decades of American policy and possibly inflame tensions in the Middle East, the agency said: Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and the city is home to sites holy to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions.

“A tremendous wave of anger will spread across the Arab and Muslim world,” a regional diplomatic source said.

Jordan’s King Abdullah warned Trump administration officials of the possible repercussions of the shift in US policy in Washington. Earlier this year, Trump also expressed a willingness to drop Washington’s long-held view that a separate state for the Palestinians is essential to the Middle East peace process.


Secret Ballots

Huge protests snaked through the streets of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on Sunday as demonstrators demanded a partial recount of ballots in the country’s controversial presidential election.

Relative calm has prevailed in the large cities, but the political crisis is escalating, the New York Times reported. Following violence and looting last week, the government responded with a crackdown and sent soldiers into the streets to enforce a 6 pm to 6 am curfew. But that has only granted credence to opposition claims about a lack of transparency.

The electoral commission “has no legitimacy. How can they be counting under a curfew?” the paper quoted a human rights lawyer and former judge as saying.

The furor resulted after counting was suspended for a day and a half last week after partial results indicated that the main opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, had a lead of five points. When counting resumed, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández was reported to be back on top, with almost 95 percent of the polling places counted.


Mightier Than a Sword

The sight of troves of students typing away at keyboards during lectures has become the norm on college campuses.

But the question remains: How effective is digital note taking?

As it turns out, not very.

According to a recent study conducted jointly by Princeton University and the University of California, students who typed out their notes retained less of the material covered in class than their handwriting peers, the Verge reported.

A similar study conducted recently by the United States Military Academy came to the same conclusion.

Researchers believe that students need to carefully process information and summarize what they heard in order to effectively take handwritten notes. In contrast, those toiling away at the computer during class merely transcribe the lecture and don’t process information in their own words.

That could explain why some university professors are banning their students from using laptops or other electronic devices during their classes, the New York Times reported.

Moreover, scientists posit that handwriting actually improves motor skills, memory and creativity.

The pen has always been thought to be mightier than the sword – but it seems it’s mightier than the laptop as well.

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