The World Today for May 01, 2018

NEED TO KNOW

COLOMBIA

More Than Words

2018 hasn’t been the best year for the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC.

A November 2016 peace deal with the Marxist rebel group ended a 52-year conflict in Colombia that had left over 200,000 people dead and millions displaced. After the deal was signed, FARC members surrendered their arms for a slot on election ballots. They filed into reintegration centers around the country to rejoin society after being pardoned from past crimes.

But promises spelled out on paper can be difficult to bring to life.

In Colombia’s March congressional elections, FARC secured less than half of one percent of the total vote.

It’s an indication that while the government may have forgiven the group’s reign of terror, citizens certainly did not. At campaign rallies, FARC candidates were sometimes pelted with rocks, the Financial Times reported. Online, they were pelted with hateful comments.

FARC ceased its congressional campaign early as a result, and its presidential candidate withdrew from the May 27 poll, albeit for health reasons, France 24 reported. Despite its lackluster performance, FARC will still be given 10 seats in both houses of Congress per the stipulations of the peace deal.

In the Washington Post, Francisco Toro and Rodrigo Palau Zea opined that it’s good that FARC is being rendered irrelevant. Citing the worthwhile discourse that occurred during the congressional election about topics like health care, the environment and corruption, they wrote that democracy is flourishing in Colombia.

But FARC isn’t just languishing at polling stations. Fighters, many of whom were recruited as children and have no skills outside of guerrilla warfare, aren’t getting the education they need to succeed in society, Al Jazeera reported. Reintegration centers were makeshift, lacking basics like housing and water, and former FARC members haven’t been given access to medical coverage and job prospects as the government had originally promised.

Many are now abandoning demobilization centers and returning to the jungle, some as armed fighters with rebel groups unaffected by the peace deal, or as criminal organizers in the drug trade, analyst Adam Isacson wrote for the New York Times.

It’s why the government would be ill-advised to turn away from the FARC too soon, Isacson added. Homicides may have dropped to a 40-year low, but backed into a corner without room to maneuver, FARC might abandon the peace process all together and turn to old trades.

In an effort to prevent such a breakdown, on Monday Colombia denied reports it is investigating top former rebel commander Luciano Marin for conspiring to traffic drugs, the Wall Street Journal reported. But there are conflicting signals.

Earlier, investigators arrested former FARC leader Seusis Hernández Solarte on accusations he’d returned to drug trafficking after the peace deal. Meanwhile, parties vehemently opposed to peace with FARC did well in congressional elections, and their candidates are polling high in May’s presidential poll, Reuters reported.

Beware the consequences of the Colombian government not sticking to its word, wrote former US Ambassador Daniel Speckhard for the Hill: A Colombia that slips back into war is one that poses huge threats to the region – including the United States.

WANT TO KNOW

IRAN

J’accuse!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday produced reams of papers purported to be Iranian nuclear documents acquired by Israel’s intelligence services, claiming that the files prove Iran covered up its weapons program before signing the 2015 nuclear deal.

“Iran lied big time,” the Associated Press quoted Netanyahu as saying in a speech in which he urged US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal later this month.

In Washington, Trump said the evidence means he was right to criticize the pact all along.

“What this means is the deal was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran’s lies,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Netanyahu’s presentation did not seem to present evidence of violations after the agreement was signed, so it’s not clear how it may affect international opinion as Trump weighs a pullout promised for May 12.

Iran’s foreign minister dismissed Netanyahu’s claims on Twitter, saying, “The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again.”

AUSTRALIA

Vatican Treasurer on Trial

An Australian court ruled Tuesday that Vatican Treasurer George Pell must face trial on charges of historical sexual offences.

The ruling makes Pell the senior-most Catholic official to be tried for sexual offenses, Reuters reported. He pleaded not guilty.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed what Pell’s lawyer has called “the worst of the charges.” But he will stand trial for allegations of offences at a pool and at a church in Victoria state, the agency said.

Pell, 76, is on a leave of absence from his role as economy minister to Pope Francis. The pope has said he will not comment on the case until it is over. But the ruling follows criticism of his handling of sexual abuse allegations in Chile – where in January he sparked anger with his defense of a bishop accused of covering up such incidents.

A month later, he revived the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors he’d created in March 2014 and named to it new members from Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, the Netherlands and Tonga.

PAKISTAN

A Populist Emerges

Former Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan kicked off his election campaign with populist promises and a vow to root out corruption, marking his emergence as a key challenger to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party of Nawaz Sharif.

Khan, who wasn’t taken seriously when he launched his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in 1996, promised to build schools and “world class hospitals” across the country and grant cheap loans to farmers, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported. He also promised to build 5 million homes for the poor, which would create jobs and stimulate the economy.

“It is time to change our destiny and think big,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Considered a playboy when he captained Pakistan’s cricket team, Khan has in recent years projected himself as a pious Muslim and spoken out sharply against American drone strikes. But his attacks on his country’s endemic corruption are paying dividends now, after the Supreme Court last year ousted three-time prime minister Sharif – and this month banned him for life from contesting elections.

DISCOVERIES

Play Hard

Parents unable to keep up with their rambunctious kids shouldn’t feel too bad. A new study shows that many endurance athletes wouldn’t be able to, either.

According to a study published recently in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, young children are able to play, skip, jump and run without tiring because their muscles recover and resist fatigue just like those of endurance athletes.

Researchers started by comparing a group of young boys, a group of untrained adult men and a group of male endurance athletes as they ran a series of endurance and recovery tests.

Specifically, researchers were trying to pinpoint the body’s two ways of producing energy in each group: aerobic, or using oxygen from the blood; and anaerobic, which produces chemicals that cause muscle fatigue, the Huffington Post reported.

In both tests, the children outperformed the untrained adults. But during the recovery portion, a quick bout of cycling after interval training, the kids outperformed endurance athletes as well. Their energy decreased by only 35.2 percent, as compared to the athletes’ 41.8 percent.

“We found the children used more of their aerobic metabolism and were therefore less tired during the high-intensity physical activities,” said Sebastien Ratel, associate professor in exercise physiology at France’s Université Clermont Auvergne, who conducted the study. “They also recovered very quickly – even faster than the well-trained adult endurance athletes.”

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