The World Today for March 21, 2018

NEED TO KNOW

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Emperors and Old Clothes

Nawa Punyo joined a rally recently with other Roman Catholics in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to demand that President Joseph Kabila resign.

“Kabila has been playing around for long enough; it’s time for him to go,” Punyo, an unemployed laboratory technician, told the Financial Times. “We are all suffering but politicians are doing nothing for us so we are turning to our (church leaders). They are the voice of the voiceless.”

Kabila was supposed to leave office in December 2016, when his second term expired. Instead, he has twice postponed elections and stayed in office. Assuming power in 2001 after the assassination of his father, ex-President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, Joseph Kabila had been in charge for more than 17 years, a typical period among strongmen leaders throughout Africa.

But as Punyo’s comments illustrate, things might be changing.

Led by Moise Katumbi, a former provincial governor, opposition leaders have joined forces to make sure Kabila holds elections in December.

“You have chosen me to lead us to the coming elections,” Katumbi said at a gathering of supporters recently in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to Bloomberg. “I call for unity among the opposition because we have to work together, hand in hand, to go toward free and transparent elections.”

Katumbi has been in self-imposed exile in South Africa since May 2016. A month later, a Congolese court sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison for selling property illegally. The judge who sentenced him said Kabila’s agents pressured her, the BBC reported.

Kabila should fear Congolese voters.

The country is blessed with a fortune in minerals like copper and cobalt. Yet 75 percent of its people live in poverty.

Ethnic strife claimed dozens of lives recently in the country’s northeastern region, Al Jazeera said. Refugees escaped the violence in boats, traveling across Lake Albert to Uganda. They’re part of a total of 4.5 million people who are now displaced due to a variety of conflicts throughout the vast country.

The United Nations is warning that two million children might die from starvation unless they receive aid soon, wrote Voice of America.

Botswana’s Ministry of International Affairs recently assessed the situation with a remarkable statement that dispensed with diplomatic niceties.

“We continue to witness a worsening humanitarian situation in that country mainly because its leader has persistently delayed the holding of elections, and has lost control over the security of his country,” said the statement, as cited by Reuters.

The next nine months will determine whether the tragedies unfolding daily in the Congo will outweigh the president’s ego.

WANT TO KNOW

FRANCE

Bottom Dollar

French police took former President Nicolas Sarkozy into custody Tuesday amid allegations that he received illegal campaign funds from departed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Authorities are investigating whether Gaddafi’s regime provided Sarkozy’s winning 2007 presidential campaign with more than $60 million, a sum that would have violated campaign finance laws regulating spending caps and foreign expenditures.

The revelations are being called France’s most explosive campaign finance scandal in decades, the Guardian reported.

Suspicions about Sarkozy’s alleged involvement with the Gaddafi regime go back to 2012 when an investigative website released documents suggesting Sarkozy received a 50-million euro ($61.4 million) payout from the Libyan dictator made in cash installments. A French court later authenticated some of the documents and greenlit their use in the investigation.

Though Sarkozy has denied the allegations, it’s not the first time he’s been accused of misappropriating funds. In 2012, during his failed run against Francois Hollande, Sarkozy’s team stood accused of fixing its books to conceal grandiose expenditures to hold stadium rallies.

ISRAEL

Mea Culpa

Israel formally admitted it destroyed a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria ten years ago and served notice to others within the region that it would take similar actions again if necessary.

“Israel will not allow the establishment of capabilities that threaten Israel’s existence,” the BBC quoted an official statement as saying, following the lifting of an order banning officials from discussing the operation.

“This was our message in 2007, this remains our message today and will continue to be our message in the near and distant future.”

Israel was widely believed to have carried out the strike on the facility, but this is the first official confirmation of responsibility. Syria has repeatedly denied that the plant in question was a nuclear reactor. In its official statement, Israel said it believes that it was being built with the help of North Korea.

The implicit warning comes amid growing Israeli concerns about Iranian involvement in Syria.

NORWAY

Cyber War

Norway’s Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug resigned Tuesday, defusing the nation’s worst political crisis in years. Listhaug’s firebrand attacks on Facebook had threatened to unravel the nation’s minority government.

Listhaug, a member of the right-wing Progress Party, had accused the opposition Labour Party of putting the rights of terrorists above those of Norwegians. Earlier, Labour, together with the Christian Democrats, helped defeat a government-sponsored bill that would have given the state the right to strip suspected terrorists of Norwegian citizenship without judicial oversight.

Listhaug was projected to lose a vote of confidence in Parliament for her comments, which her anti-immigrant Progress Party leaders said would have left them with no choice but to exit the governing coalition in solidarity, Politico reported.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg had also indicated the entire government would resign if the no-confidence vote succeeded, prompting Listhaug to step down.

Even so, Listhaug was seen as a public outlet for anti-immigrant frustrations in Norway, which has grappled with rising numbers of newcomers in tandem with the influx of refugees into Europe.

DISCOVERIES

Nothing to Celebrate

Scientists recently discovered that krill, tiny crustaceans, are able to digest plastics found in the ocean – but the find isn’t cause for celebration.

According to the study, recently published in the journal Nature Communication, krill convert microparticles of plastic into even smaller units through their normal digestive process.

“They do excrete some of those fragmented microplastics,” but some particles also end up staying inside the krill’s bodies and organs, Willa Huston, a co-author of the study, told Deutsche Welle.

The discovery contradicts past studies that concluded that plastic just passed through their systems. That has researchers concerned that krill-eating marine life could ingest plastics remaining in their bodies, and could in turn then be eaten by humans.

For now, that question remains open.

But as Huston says, “It adds another dimension to how we need to think about the biochemical cycling of plastic in the ocean. It is yet another complexity in the serious problem that we have with plastics in the world’s oceans.”

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