The World Today for September 03, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

CENTRAL AMERICA

No Right to Grow Old

Migrants have many reasons for making the long trek to the United States from Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Poverty, crime and corruption, for example, are endemic in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. One the most violent cities in the world, it faces 142 homicides for every 100,000 people, NPR reported.

“The right to grow old has been destroyed,” photojournalist Tomas Ayuso told the public radio network. “One has to fight for their right to grow old, either by migrating out of the country or enlisting in a gang for protection. But it’s not a given.”

Those living in rural Honduran communities, like the Garifuna minority descended from African slaves and indigenous groups, find themselves driven off their land by gangs and palm oil companies, said Reuters.

In El Salvador, a drought is threatening the food security of half the country, adding to strains on an economy already struggling with low growth, high debt and high crime.

So when Salvadoran leaders decided recently to sever ties with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with China, hopes of attracting investment and boosting the economy were clearly part of the motivation.

The move rankled American leaders, who viewed it as unwelcome Chinese meddling in the Western Hemisphere, the New York Times wrote. The United States government might even cut off vital aid to the country as a result. But Fitch Solutions, a newsletter published by the Fitch Ratings agency, said China would likely invest mightily in El Salvador as a result of the decision.

Meanwhile, a budding rebellion in Nicaragua could trigger a new wave of migrants to the US border, warned the Conversation.

Citizens have risen up against authoritarian President Daniel Ortega, who oversees a corrupt regime that seems only to benefit his wife, Rosario Murillo, who happens also be his vice president, and members of his Sandinista party.

Ortega has cracked down in response. The New Yorker described an interview with men in ski masks who toted guns in the western Nicaraguan city of Masaya. They insisted they weren’t police officers or members of the military but rather were law-abiding citizens seeking to cleanse the city of terrorists. There’s another word for such bands of armed men: death squads.

Some call the immigration situation in the US an emergency. The many crises in Central America are a catastrophe.

WANT TO KNOW

IRAQ

Trading Horses

Two rival groups claimed to have cobbled together coalitions broad enough to form a government in Iraq, where political uncertainty continues months after the May parliamentary election.

A faction led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday they had formed an alliance big enough to claim a majority. But shortly thereafter a rival group led by militia commander Hadi al-Amiri and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said they had done the same, after convincing some lawmakers to defect to their bloc, Reuters reported.

Amiri and Maliki are closely allied with Iran. Washington would prefer to see Abadi in the prime minister’s chair. And Sadr presents himself as a nationalist who rejects both American and Iranian influence, the agency said.

The parliament is set to convene Monday and begin the process to form the government.

Because neither alliance yet includes the country’s two main Kurdish parties, which won a combined 43 seats out of the total 329, they could play kingmaker as the horsetrading continues.

PAKISTAN

Tough Love

The US Defense Department on Saturday suspended $300 million in military aid to Pakistan, saying Islamabad has not done enough to rein in terrorists using the country as headquarters.

Hitting the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which is used to reimburse US partners for logistical and military support to US military operations in the region, the move is part of a broader withdrawal of support for Pakistan under President Donald Trump, NPR reported.

The dose of tough love comes just ahead of a visit to Islamabad by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford for talks with newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan. Immediately after meeting the Pakistani leader, Pompeo and Dunford will travel to India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Khan has been a vocal critic of America’s counterterrorism strategy in the region, blaming drone strikes aimed at killing alleged terrorists for civilian deaths that inspire others to turn to militancy.

UKRAINE

No Time To Talk

Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in eastern Ukraine Saturday to honor a slain separatist leader whose killing has put international peace talks in jeopardy.

Alexander Zakharchenko, 42, was killed in the bombing of a cafe in separatist-controlled Donetsk Friday in an attack that the Russian foreign ministry accused the Ukrainian government of organizing, the BBC reported.

Ukraine denied any involvement in the incident. But Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that the killing means it can no longer participate in the so-called Normandy format peace talks with Ukraine, France and Germany – set up to work out a settlement to the conflict that arose when Russia-backed rebels seized large swathes of territory in the region in April 2014.

Zakharchenko, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, is the most senior Russian-backed leader to have been killed since the conflict began, the BBC noted. He survived an earlier car bomb blast in August 2014.

DISCOVERIES

A Rosy Difference

For a long time, scientists assumed that the human brain was just a larger and more sophisticated version of the mouse brain.

But size and complexity don’t tell the whole story, as an international team of researchers recently found out.

The group uncovered that human brains are equipped with a special unique neuron, not found in mice, NPR reported.

Dubbed the “rose hip neuron,” due to its shape similar to a rose after the petals have fallen off, the cell was discovered by chance while researchers were studying inhibitory neurons, which tell other brain cells when to slow down.

Scientists don’t have a clue yet as to the role of the rose hip neuron, but it appears to be involved in the flow of information in areas of the brain.

Regardless of its function, its discovery could change the future of brain research.

“It throws some doubt on the ability to use the mouse to study certain elements of human function and disease,” Ed Lein, one of the study’s authors, told NPR.

He hopes that further study of these cells might help in resolving several mental disorders.

The research was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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