The World Today for February 02, 2018



Blurred Lines

To some, she’s a modern-day Joan of Arc. To others, she’s as an instigator of violence against the Israeli state.

Conflicting narratives notwithstanding, 16-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi is intensifying the debate over rule-of-law in Israel.

On Jan. 1, Israeli military prosecutors indicted Tamimi on charges including incitement, assaulting security forces and throwing stones, the Guardian reported.

A video of Tamimi slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier in December in front of her home in the West Bank was live-streamed on Facebook. The incident took place hours after her 15-year-old cousin was shot in the head with a rubber bullet and seriously injured during a protest, Al Jazeera reported.

A mainstay of protests against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank since she was 11, photos and videos of Tamimi’s outbursts against Israeli soldiers often go viral.

The two Israeli soldiers involved in the latest incident barely responded to the teen’s attacks, Israel’s Haaretz reported.

After the soldiers walked away, the video stream continued with Tamimi calling on others to join in protests against the occupation. “Whether it is a stabbing attack or suicide bombing or throwing rocks, everyone needs to do something,” the indictment quotes her as saying, according to Haaretz.

She was arrested in a night raid at her family’s home several days later. Her mother and an older cousin were also arrested in connection with the incident.

Many applauded the move, viewing the family as instigators of violence who are exploiting children for political purposes.

“The pictures are harsh,” Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, told Army Radio, as reported by ABC News. Bennett is the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. “I trust that the incident will be investigated, the lessons will be learned, and those activists who attacked will be tried,” he said.

Others have been more critical.

“When an unarmed child is prosecuted for slapping a larger grown man in army gear equipped with a gun, it’s time to ask questions,” wrote Hiba Khan for the Independent.

As of May, 331 Palestinian minors were being detained by the Israeli military, an advocacy group told NBC News, citing official Israeli statistics. It said that in 2016, an average of 375 minors were in detention each month.

Meanwhile, the legality of other Israeli policies is coming under fresh scrutiny.

The UN Refugee Agency has questioned the legality of the Israeli government’s recent order for thousands of African migrants to leave the country voluntarily or face imprisonment, the BBC reported.

And critics say the United States’ announcement that it would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there is an endorsement of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which Amnesty International said has been widely denounced as a violation of international law.

That has brought hopes for a two-state solution to a new low, which could serve as a reality check that sparks other answers to the conflict.

But in a conflict that often blurs the lines between legal and illegal, teenage activism and terrorism, any vision of a distant peace remains fuzzy for now.



A Castro Departs

As speculation continues about how Cuba will manage the exit of President Raul Castro, the leader’s nephew and son of former President Fidel Castro committed suicide on Thursday.

Fidel Angel Castro Díaz-Balart, a nuclear physicist who was the oldest son of the longtime leader, had been undergoing treatment for depression for several months, the New York Times reported. He was 68 years old.

Castro Díaz-Balart was a science adviser to Cuba’s Council of State and vice president of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba and was instrumental in the island’s development of nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, Raul delayed his exit in February, citing the need to oversee Cuba’s rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Irma. But analysts say what happens next remains murky. Not everybody is sure that Raul’s handpicked successor, First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, has the job locked up. And assuming he does become president, it’s not clear how much independence he will enjoy, as Raul will still head the Cuban Communist Party, the Washington Times reported.


Did Somebody Say Coup?

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that Washington would not be disappointed if the Venezuelan military manages to oust President Nicolas Maduro in a bloodless coup – though he stopped short of calling for one.

Speaking at the University of Texas ahead of a five-nation Latin American tour, Tillerson said the Trump administration is not advocating “regime change,” Reuters reported. But he said “often times” in Latin America the military takes it upon itself to oust a problematic regime when “it just can’t serve the citizens anymore.”

Maduro has faced calls for his ouster for months from critics who blame him for bankrupting the country and say he has undermined the constitution to consolidate and retain power.

The US and other Western governments have imposed economic sanctions as a result. But Maduro has characterized the actions against him as part of a right-wing conspiracy to end socialism in Latin America, Reuters said.


A Frightening Augury

Cape Town implemented new emergency water restrictions on Thursday as the city prepares for the day it runs completely out of water – which could come as soon as April 16.

The city is now asking its 4 million residents to use no more than 50 liters (or about 13 gallons) of water a day, warning that failure to comply will result in fines and the installation of water management meters, CNN reported.

It’s unclear whether the plea (or threat) will be successful. Cape Town is running dry due to a three-year drought that’s the worst it’s seen in a century. But so far only 55% of residents are sticking to their water ration.

Officials are racing to build desalination, aquifer and water-recycling projects to cope with the shortfall. But the city is already adopting tougher tactics, shutting off water supplies to some residents, CNN said.

“We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them,” the mayor’s office said in a statement last month.


A Trip Down Memory Lane

Communist East Germany collapsed just over 28 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but some of its culture remains alive and well at a home for the elderly in the former-East German city of Dresden.

“Remembrance rooms” filled with outdated East German products and furnishings are helping elderly patients suffering from dementia at the AlexA Residence for Senior Citizens in Dresden, NPR reported.

Staff members at the home say visiting the rooms – one of which is a mockup of an East German market popular in the 1960s and 1970s – helps kickstart memories for the residents, many of whom are unable to perform day-to-day tasks because of their mental ailments.

Such memory therapy, in which patients interact with well-known items of their past in order to retrieve older memories, doesn’t cure dementia. But brain function has been known to improve, helping patients become more independent than they were before.

“It’s really fascinating to see how people who basically lay in bed and lacked any motivation to do anything suddenly flourish,” said AlexA’s director, Gunter Wolfram.

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