The World Today for June 27, 2018

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No Clothes For The Emperors

Pakistan has appointed a former Supreme Court justice to lead a caretaker government until the nation’s July 25 elections, which will mark only the second peaceful transition of power from one elected government to another in the nation’s history.

But while the move displays that “Pakistan’s democracy is showing signs of a pulse,” it’s a “faint one,” Arif Rafiq, a political analyst, told the New York Times.

Pakistani democracy faced a threat after the ouster last year of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was removed from office by judges and later banned from politics for life amid allegations of corruption. He is on trial now and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

Many contend that Sharif’s ouster was motivated by military ambitions to curtail his civilian-led government, which came to power in 2013 with overwhelming support.

There are numerous indications that the military, which ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its post-independence history since 1947, is making another power play, Reuters reported.

Many politicians with Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), report facing intimidation from military operatives to flip to the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by former cricketer and political activist Imran Khan.

Khan denies that the nation’s generals have thrown their weight behind him, but Ijaz Khan, a retired international relations professor at Peshawar University, told Reuters that military meddling is a constant in Pakistan’s politics. “This time,” he said, “it is so naked that everyone is seeing it and everyone is talking about it.”

Meanwhile, the Times wrote in a separate article that the military began blocking one of the nation’s largest cable news networks, Geo TV, in March for being too sympathetic to the PML-N. The nation’s largest English-language newspaper, Dawn, was also banned from circulation in military-controlled regions after it published an interview with Sharif.

“This is somehow far more suffocating than martial law,” Dawn’s editor, Zaffar Abbas, told the Times. “This time, the facade of democracy is there.”

Although voter turnout is notoriously low in Pakistan, polls do show that Sharif’s PML-N party, which has attacked the military for its actions, will likely retain its dominance in the crucial province of Punjab, which seats about half of the nation’s lawmakers, Indian news site Firstpost reported.

But even if elections go off without a hitch, radical parties are bound to enter the National Assembly, only adding another element to Pakistan’s already contentious body politic.

“Given its resources, human and natural, and its geopolitical location, Pakistan has enormous potential for a positive change,” Touqir Hussain, an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University and Syracuse University, opined in the Diplomat. “But it has to realize that elections by themselves do not change societies.”



Red Light, Green Light

Russia officially ended its ceasefire with American and Jordanian troops fighting in Syria, citing breaches by insurgent groups, just as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a major offensive against rebels in the southwest on Tuesday.

Along with America’s warning that rebels seeking Assad’s ouster “should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us,” and Jordan’s that it would not grant entry to any fighters or civilians fleeing the Syrian army offensive, the move seems to position Assad to take control, Newsweek suggested.

Iran and Israel remain potential wildcards, however, as Israel is determined to keep Iranian and Iran-backed forces that support Assad away from its border, Reuters reported. While such groups recently pulled back from that area, Iran says it won’t leave Syria unless Assad asks it to, and suspected Israeli airstrikes on Damascus suggest its playing more than just a border game, Newsweek said.

Meanwhile, the UN said Assad’s latest offensive has already displaced 45,000 people, adding to some 11 million people uprooted since the conflict began.


Coup De Grace?

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa suspects G40, a group that supports former first lady Grace Mugabe, was responsible for an explosion that killed two people and injured more than 40 others at a Mnangagwa rally in Bulawayo.

“I don’t know whether it was one individual – I would think it is broader than one person. I would think this is a political action by some aggrieved persons,” Mnangagwa told the BBC in his first interview since the alleged assassination attempt.

The president emphasized that foreign investors should not worry about instability and said elections scheduled for July 30 would go ahead in a free and fair manner.

Mnangagwa is widely expected to win those polls, the first since long-time leader Robert Mugabe was forced from power last year.

Earlier, the BBC cited sources close to the investigation as saying they believe the explosion was the result of a grenade thrown at the president as he left the stage following an address to his supporters on Saturday.


Scorched Earth

Amnesty International claimed to have evidence that 13 Myanmar officials, including a top military commander, committed crimes against humanity during the campaign against Rohingya Muslims that began in August.

In a nearly 200-page report, the rights group accused Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander in chief of the Defense Services, of such offenses, along with eight other senior officers, a junior officer and three Border Guard Police officers, Voice of America reported.

“We are talking about rape, murder, torture, forced starvation, the use of landmines, and targeted large-scale burning of villages,” said Amnesty’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan.

“The atrocities committed against the Rohingya implicate every level of the Myanmar military,” said Matthew Wells, Amnesty’s senior crisis adviser.

The report also details human rights abuses by the Rohingya militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, including the targeted killings of at least two-dozen supposed government informants, as well as deadly attacks on Hindu communities.


More Coffee, Please

In the future, that morning cup of joe could kick-start more than just a day.

In a trial study involving diabetic mice, scientists in Switzerland showed that caffeine from drinks such as cola, coffee, black tea and Red Bull can be used to trigger the release of a diabetes medication from specialized cells housed in an implant inserted under the skin.

The synthetic cells are designed to release varying amounts of the drug GLP-1 when they detect caffeine. The GLP-1 then stimulates cells in the pancreas to generate insulin to control blood sugar levels.

That means that rather than relying on a shot of insulin after a meal, diabetics might take only a shot of espresso, or consume a similar beverage.

While the results of the study, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, look positive, the implant is still at least a decade away from human use, the study’s lead researcher, Martin Fussenegger, told the Guardian.

Nevertheless, the new technology could revolutionize diabetics’ lifestyles.

“You could completely integrate this into your lifestyle,” said Fussenegger. “You have a tea or coffee in the morning, another after lunch, and another at dinner, depending on how much drug you need to get your glucose back down.”

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