The World Today for July 30, 2018

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An Olive Branch, and Thorns

It’s been a whirlwind few months for Ethiopia and Eritrea after the election of 42-year-old Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in April ushered in a rapprochement between these two feuding nations.

In just a few months, leaders of the two nations ended a state-of-war that had frozen diplomatic relations between them for almost two decades. Ambassadors have been appointed, political prisoners have been released and citizens of both nations are hopeful that years of isolation, poverty and repression have reached an end.

Both countries stand to benefit from rejuvenated relations, Quartz reported.

For Eritrea – sometimes called the “North Korea of Africa” – the reopening of its ports to Ethiopian trade means a windfall of lucrative investments. And for Ethiopia, long saddled with rebel movements on its border with Eritrea, détente means increased national security and confidence in its booming economy.

But both nations also face steep challenges.

Prime Minister Abiy is a young go-getter seen as a reformer and unifier. He’s the nation’s first Oromo prime minister, an ethnic group that comprises one-third of Ethiopians but often claims it’s repressed by other groups. But he isn’t well-liked by Ethiopia’s political and military elite, who see his reforms as a challenge to the status quo, the Wall Street Journal reported.

His moves to open up state-owned entities to private investment and usher in an era of civil liberty and electoral reform have already sparked criticism – and even violence. A thwarted grenade attack at a rally in the capital Addis Ababa last month is speculated to have been an assassination attempt, the Washington Post reported.

Meanwhile in Eritrea, though leaders have pronounced an end to “hate, discrimination and conspiracy,” questions remain about how revived relations with Ethiopia will affect change on the national level, the Associated Press reported.

Since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of its citizens have fled for Germany, Israel, the United States and elsewhere due to its oppressive government and strict system of indefinite military conscription.

Families in both countries have celebrated the opportunity to be reunited with loved ones.

Some refugees, however, told the AP that there’s still “no trust in the current regime” in Eritrea. They’re wary to leave safe havens in the West and elsewhere while the prospect of peace is still in flux.

Even so, many argue that the potential for peace outweighs any unknown economic, diplomatic, or border demarcation questions both nations face in the future.

“I have never been more hopeful about Ethiopia’s prospects,” Mohammed Ademo, an Ethiopian journalist in exile in the United States since 2002, wrote for Al Jazeera. “For now, my exile and longing for home have come to an end. I am glad that it coincided with this defining and pivotal moment of renewal for Ethiopia.”



Don’t Touch My Money

Thousands of Russians took to the streets this weekend to protest a planned hike in the retirement age.

Organized by the opposition Libertarian Party, the Sunday demonstration in Moscow was estimated to include around 6,000 people, some of whom chanted slogans against President Vladimir Putin such as, “Putin is a thief,” Reuters reported. The authorities detained two organizers.

On Saturday, estimates pegged the number of protesters at more than 12,000.

The proposal to increase the retirement age to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women, along with other unpopular budget cuts, is designed to improve government finances. But it has prompted protests across Russia since it was unveiled June 14. A recent poll showed 90 percent of Russians oppose the measure, the news agency said.

Putin, who won reelection easily in March, has sought to distance himself from the scheme, which is slated to be introduced gradually beginning in 2019.


Cause Without a Rebel

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont traveled to Belgium from Germany to resume his lobbying efforts on behalf of an independent Catalonia, after Spain opted to drop its extradition case against him in Germany.

“This will not be my last stop, this is not the end of my journey,” Reuters quoted him as saying at a press conference in Brussels with current Catalan leader Quim Torra. “I will travel around Europe to the four corners of the continent to defend our cause.”

Puigdemont had been arrested in Germany in March. However, after a German court ruled that he could only be extradited to face a charge of misuse of public funds and not the more serious charge of rebellion, the Spanish court lifted its international arrest warrant. If it had allowed the extradition to proceed, European law would have prevented his prosecution for rebellion.

Puigdemont still faces arrest if he returns to Spain, where new leader, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, like his predecessor, has ruled out an independence referendum. He has, however, tried to relax tensions with Spain’s most economically powerful state.


Guests Are Like Fish

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno confirmed that the country is in talks with Britain to end Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange’s six-year stay at the South American country’s London embassy.

Assange’s legal team is reportedly making preparations for his eviction in “hours, days or weeks,” according to a report in Britain’s Sunday Times. On Friday, Moreno suggested that it might not be too sudden, saying Assange’s expulsion must be carried out correctly and through dialogue, the Telegraph said. But he made clear his sympathy for Assange – if he ever had any – has run out.

“I have never agreed with the interventions in people’s private emails in order to obtain information, however valuable it may be, to bring out certain undesirable acts of governments or people,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

Assange originally sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced allegations of sex crimes. Those claims have since been dropped. But he still faces arrest in Britain for violating conditions of his bail and he still fears he’ll be extradited to the US for publishing diplomatic and military secrets on Wikileaks.


Hunter Bakers

At some point, the prehistoric Natufians decided that hunting and gathering were not all that great, so they decided to dabble with local cereals to make something edible.

Recently, more than 14,000 years later, archaeologists discovered remains of the ancient people’s burnt flatbread leftovers at a site in Jordan’s Black Desert, CNN reported.

Researchers consider the charred remains among the oldest evidence of bread production. And this bread was baked more than 4,000 years before the advent of farming.

In all, the researchers discovered 24 bread-like samples, all made from domesticated cereals and tubers, according to their study.

Lead author Amaia Arranz Otaegui tasted the tubers the ancient bakers used. “They were a little sweet and a bit salty and had a gritty texture,” she said, “but maybe that’s because we didn’t clean them well enough.”

According to historians, the Natufians – a semi-sedentary culture – found flatbreads to be a better option than other breads since they were easier to bake and transport.

“Flatbread presents numerous advantages over ‘high’ and voluminous bread loaves,” food scientist Antonella Pasqualone, who was not involved in the study, told CNN. “In my opinion, a plausible hypothesis is that this kind of bread could be a perfect bridge between hunter-gatherers and stable farmers.”


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