The World Today for September 04, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

NIGERIA

Ready to Blow

During British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to the Nigerian capital of Abuja last month, her counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari, vowed to conduct “free, fair and credible elections” in February, when Africa’s most populous nation will elect a new president.

But with the country beset by security problems that have shaken its economy, Buhari is resorting to dangerous tricks in efforts to secure a second term in office, Reuters reported.

The government is reportedly coercing thousands of internally displaced persons to return to ravaged parts of the nation by threatening to cut off their aid – just so they can vote in February’s elections.

The government promises that the security situation has calmed in Nigeria’s north, where armed militant groups like Boko Haram have wreaked havoc for the better part of the past decade.

Reports from the ground say otherwise.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated that 1.7 million Nigerians were internally displaced at the end of 2017.

That’s not only due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, but also to other splinter groups vying for control in the northwest, as well as a turbulent secessionist movement in the south, the New York Times reported.

Buhari, a former military dictator back in the 1980s, was elected president in 2015 on the promise of restoring security. His election marked the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition candidate democratically ousted an incumbent of the ruling party, the Associated Press reported.

However, his multiple declarations of victory against insurgent groups haven’t changed the reality on the ground, the Washington Times reported.

This year, more than 21,000 people have been forced from their homes in Zamfara State in the country’s northwest. Officials say more than 2,000 have died from violence there since 2011 – including 400 in July alone.

Perilous situations like these are why security diplomats told Reuters that herding people back to their homes in the north – traditionally a Buhari stronghold – is a “terrible idea.”

“We were deceived,” one returnee to Guzamala in Borno State, the epicenter of Boko Haram violence, told Reuters.

The developments have led to an unprecedented amount of political shuffling over the past few months, the BBC reported. Nigeria’s opposition People’s Democratic Party announced in July a massive 39-party alliance that hopes to oust Buhari.

Dozens of politicians have defected to the opposition from the ruling All Progressives Congress party, including Nigeria’s third-most senior political official, Senate President Bukola Saraki, who announced his candidacy for president late last month. He only joined the ruling party in 2015 to support Buhari’s presidential bid, Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper reported.

Sakari’s defection prompted a standoff in the National Assembly, during which security forces attempted to prevent lawmakers from entering the building, the AP reported.

Foreign investors and governments have become increasingly alarmed at the volatility in Nigeria, the nation’s Vanguard newspaper wrote, which isn’t doing any favors for the nation’s economy.

With so many converging political and security factors, Nigeria’s elections have already become a powder keg ready to blow – with six months left until ballots are cast.

WANT TO KNOW

MALAYSIA

Cruel and Unusual

Malaysian authorities caned two women for attempting to engage in lesbian sex, delivering six blows to each woman with a rattan cane before witnesses at Shariah High Court in the state of Terengganu.

“Caning is a form of torture, and to inflict this brutal punishment publicly on two people for engaging in consensual, same-sex relations sends Malaysia back to the Dark Ages,” said Amnesty International Malaysia’s interim executive director Gwen Lee, according to the New York Daily News.

The incident sparked memories of Singapore’s infamous caning of 18-year-old American Michael Fay for theft and vandalism in 1994. But in this case, the controversial punishment resulted from the enforcement of Shariah law – which applies only to Muslim citizens in the Muslim-majority nation.

The women were also required to pay a fine of 3,300 ringgit ($800), CNN said.

Homosexual sex is illegal throughout Malaysia under colonial era criminal law, but in recent days the authorities have been more aggressive in enforcement, an indication that the religious right is flexing its muscles, activists said.

BRAZIL

Cruel Irony

It wasn’t the Rio de Janeiro fire station burning down, but it was almost as ironic.

Brazil’s National Museum was ravaged by a rampaging fire on Sunday, just a month before its fire suppression system was due to be upgraded, CNN reported.

As millions of artifacts went up in smoke, firefighters found that two nearby fire hydrants had inadequate pressure Sunday night and were forced to draw water from a pond. Meanwhile, the upgrade had been approved in June and everything was set for the improvements to begin, Roberto Leher, dean of the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, told reporters Monday.

Culture Minister Sérgio Sá Leitão said much of the damage occurred in a building once called the Imperial Palace. But other items, including a library with 500,000 volumes, were saved.

A complete inventory of the destroyed artifacts is still pending. But more than 20 million items spanning 11,000 years went up in flames, likely including Egyptian mummies and historic artwork.

LIBYA

Chaos in Tripoli

Around 400 prisoners escaped from a jail in Tripoli as rival factions fought for control of the Libyan capital over the weekend.

Many of the inmates at Tripoli’s Ain Zara prison were supporters of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed by rebel forces in a 2011 uprising, the Associated Press reported.

At least 47 people have been killed in the capital and surrounding areas in recent days. The UN and several Western countries have called for an end to the violence, and the UN-backed Libyan government has instituted a state of emergency, the agency said.

Fighting broke out last week when rebel militias from Tarhouna, a town some 40 miles south of the capital, attacked the southern part of the city and clashed with other militia groups that support the UN-backed regime.

Amid a little publicized civil war under way since 2014, Libya has two rival governments – the UN-backed one in Tripoli and the so-called “Tobruk government” in the eastern part of the country. Various militias hold sway throughout the country, however.

DISCOVERIES

The Volatility of Youth

Youth is often a wild phase.

Case in point: our sun.

Astronomers recently uncovered that the sun was a “hyperactive hot mess” in its early years, according to Live Science.

Soon after its birth 4.6 billion years ago, the sun entered a period of intense and frequent eruptions, shooting out huge amounts of high energy particles.

This phase lasted only about 50 million years, giving way to the current “mature” stable phase.

Evidence of this volatile past was stored inside microscopic hibonite crystals found in ancient space rocks, like fragments of the Murchison meteorite, which exploded over Australia in 1969.

Scientists recently studied these blue crystals – made from the first minerals formed in the solar system – and discovered traces of neon and helium isotopes formed by the splitting of calcium and aluminum atoms during the star’s hot-temper period.

“These isotope ratios serve as characteristic ‘fingerprints’ of irradiation with energetic particles from the early active sun,” said study co-author Philipp Heck.

Publishing their results in the journal Nature Astronomy, the team told Space.com they hope to uncover how the sun’s youthful growth spurt might have led to planetary formation.

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