The World Today for October 25, 2018

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The End of Impunity

Yemenis in refugee camps in the northern reaches of the Middle Eastern country have taken to boiling leaves to stave off hunger.

Sooner or later, of course, such measures won’t work.

Sky News visited a camp and found severely malnourished children in an overwhelmed hospital.

“In one of the beds, we were shown a seven-year-old girl called Amal,” the British broadcaster reported. “She is dangerously thin and her breathing was shallow – medical staff told us she was close to death.”

Heartbreakingly, Amal is not alone.

Around 18.5 million Yemenis, including millions of children, are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, the United Nations said in a statement.

Fighting between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of forces and Houthi rebels, a Shiite group backed by Iran, could add another 3.5 million people to the hungry.

The role of Saudi Arabia is key here.

The horrific death of Saudi citizen, US resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has drawn new attention to the desert kingdom’s role in Yemen’s suffering.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni Muslim-led countries, fearing that Iran was establishing a bulwark in their backyard, launched attacks against the Houthi rebels in 2015 after the rebels had unseated the government in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, explained Bloomberg.

Since then, around 10,000 people have died, millions have been displaced and millions more have survived on aid while on the brink of famine.

A new narrative arises from linking Khashoggi and Yemen: The misogynistic Saudi aristocrats who ordered a truth-teller’s torture and murder to protect their harsh, oil-rich Islamic regime have shown their impoverished neighbor no mercy.

The US is complicit. Washington has supplied the kingdom with most of its weapons as well as crucial military intelligence in the conflict, and Saudi officials have hired American mercenaries to fight in Yemen as well, BuzzFeed reported.

That’s resulted in withering criticism of not only the US but Canada and Europe, too.

“It’s difficult to overstate the rank human evil involved in the prosecution of this war, which has been supported every step of the way by Western governments,” left-wing Jacobin magazine argued.

That’s starting to change: On Monday, Germany announced it would stop weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until there was clarity on what happened to Khashoggi, and someone held accountable.

Many Yemenis find it ironic that the death of one man has triggered a wave of condemnation when they’ve been suffering for years, the Huff Post wrote.

But, while the media and public sentiment can take too long to recognize the full scope of an unfolding tragedy, at least now the world is watching Yemen much more closely.



Good Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is traveling to Beijing Thursday for his first bilateral summit with top Chinese leaders since 2011, as Washington’s aggressive trade tactics push China to reach out to its Asian neighbor.

Japan is keen to maintain a smooth economic relationship with China, its largest trade partner, Reuters reported. But the Chinese defense minister’s vow to defend Taiwan and the South China Sea “at any price” on Thursday also drove home for Tokyo the importance of the US as its key security ally.

Notably, when Abe returned to power in 2012 Japan-China relations were at a low point due to their similar dispute over the East China Sea.

Abe will meet Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday and sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday, Reuters said. Agreements on a range of issues are expected to be announced, while observers will be watching to see whether Xi commits to a reciprocal visit next year.


Border Blues

Guatemala has placed guards and barbed-wire barricades along its border with Honduras in an apparent bid to prevent US President Donald Trump from making good on his promise to cut off aid to countries that fail to stop migrants from making their way toward the US.

Guatemala received an estimated $230 million in US aid in 2017.

Photos show police officers and what appear to be soldiers in combat fatigues blocking the road and checking trucks at the Aguas Calientes crossing point, which was used by the first two migrant caravans to enter Guatemala, the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper reported. The first has since entered Mexico, and the second is still in Guatemala.

Meanwhile, another 3,000-4,000 people are gathered around the border between Honduras and Guatemala, including some who have already crossed and are now heading for Mexico, the paper said.

The apparent crackdown notwithstanding, Honduran migrants have received an outpouring of support from Guatemalans, Al Jazeera reported, profiling shelters that provide rides, food, water and clothing to aid the migrants.


Paying the Piper

Malaysian authorities charged former Prime Minister Najib Razak and one of his top treasury officials with six counts each of criminal breach of trust involving $1.58 billion in government funds.

Both Najib and Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Malaysia’s former treasury secretary-general, pleaded not guilty to all the charges, Reuters reported. Each charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.

Part of a widening crackdown on corruption, the charges add to the 32 money laundering, graft and breach of trust charges Najib faces related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund.

Prosecutors said the two allegedly committed the breach of trust offenses with nearly $60 million of government funds meant for Kuala Lumpur International Airport Berhad and more than $300 million intended for a subsidy and cash aid program, as well as additional government funds.

In the 1MDB scandal, US authorities say some $4.5 billion was siphoned from the fund and about $700 million wound up in Najib’s personal bank accounts.


Stopping the Clock

In the Indiana Jones franchise, the title character was afraid of snakes – for good reason.

Venomous snakebites can kill. But even nonfatal bites can cause decomposition of skin and muscle, a process known as necrosis.

Now a team of scientists has developed a formula to halt the snakebite-venom necrosis, Inverse reported.

The new treatment – made up of nanoparticles – proved effective when injected in mice exposed to the venom of a black-necked spitting cobra. The nanoparticles isolated the proteins in the snake’s poison, preventing them from destroying body tissues.

While the treatment was tailored to the venom of a specific cobra, the concoction can also fight the toxins from other snakes in the Elapidae family, including other cobras, kraits and mambas.

Researchers, however, noted that the new formula is not an antidote. Rather it slows down the poisoning process until the victim can receive proper medical treatment.

They estimated that more than 400,000 people are disabled every year from nonfatal snakebites, a figure they hope to reduce in the near future.

“The results obtained so far are highly encouraging and promise to represent a new approach to abrogate the toxicity of snake venoms,” said study co-author José María Gutiérrez.

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