The World Today for November 01, 2018

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Liberty or Croissants

Most Americans don’t know much about the history of the vast French empire or the extent to which France projects its power through its remaining overseas territories.

That power is under scrutiny these days in New Caledonia, an archipelago some 900 miles east of Australia that’s home to around 280,000 French citizens of Melanesian, European and South Asian ethnic origins.

As Hawaiian Public Radio explained, over decades of negotiations, France ceded most domestic responsibilities to local officials while retaining control over foreign and monetary policy. Now, New Caledonians are scheduled to vote on Sunday, Nov. 4, in a referendum on whether they want to remain a French territory or declare independence.

“This date is of capital importance and historic for the Kanak people, because it brings to an end 164 years of uninterrupted struggle for our people,” Daniel Goa, a spokesman for the independence movement, told the Independent this summer.

Other factors are driving the independence campaign.

Some New Caledonians feel like they are colonial subjects even if they send lawmakers to the French parliament. More important, “economic inequality has persisted despite efforts to improve living standards for the indigenous Melanesian Kanak population,” wrote Agence France-Presse. Youth crime is especially a problem.

But polls suggest that 66 percent of voters will opt to remain with France, Radio New Zealand reported. Many of the “remain” voters believe they would be better off with French military protection and economic support.

One anti-independence political party, the Caledonian Republicans, has proposed a new form of government for the archipelago after the referendum that it says would be more stable than the current system, said Radio New Zealand. The Republicans want to scrap a legal provision that would allow additional independence votes in the next few years if this one fails. They call for holding such votes every 25 years instead.

French leaders have maintained their neutrality ahead of the vote and have pledged to respect the outcome, either way. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the referendum would be a “victory” regardless of its result, reported

Philippe plans to travel to New Caledonia the day after the vote for discussions about next steps. The Interpreter, a think tank publication, explained the issues that would arise in those talks.

The first order of business might be dealing with disaffected indigenous youth, who might stage riots if pro-France voters prevail. Extra security has been dispatched and, in a bid to suppress rabble-rousing, alcohol sales are banned for the weekend, too.

What a pity for both sides. Someone will want to uncork a bottle of Champagne.



Accentuate the Positive

A former Saudi Arabia intelligence minister and member of the royal family said Wednesday that the outcry over his country’s alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi threatens to hurt US-Saudi ties.

He meant it as a warning. But for many others, the widening crack represents a golden opportunity.

For Yemen, the killing has put new scrutiny on Saudi Arabia’s role in its long, brutal civil war, especially Riyadh’s claim that its airstrikes are carefully targeted to avoid civilian casualties, the Washington Post reported. It has also boosted pressure on the Saudis to end the conflict altogether, the New York Times noted, citing statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday night and his British counterpart, Jeremy Hunt, on Wednesday.

Riyadh’s troubles have also added another roadblock to US President Donald Trump’s efforts to convince the world to stop buying Iranian oil amid resistance from China and India, the largest buyers, the Times said separately.


Terror and Counterterror

A 17-year-old suicide bomber blew himself up and injured three members of the Russian security service by detonating an explosive device in an office of the FSB federal security service in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk.

Based on a CCTV image and a post he allegedly wrote on an anarchist chat group, the main suspect in the bombing is a student at a local technical college named Mikhail Zhlobitsky, the BBC reported.

The chat room post describes the writer as an anarcho-communist and claims the FSB “fabricates cases and tortures people”.

Unlike a mass shooting at a polytechnic college in Russian-annexed Crimea earlier this month, this incident is being called a terrorist attack by the authorities.

The replacement of the KGB, the FSB was run by Russian President Vladimir Putin before he came to power. It was active in Russia’s war with Chechnya and in preventing pro-Western popular uprisings like Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. It has also faced allegations it operates a hit squad for assassinating enemies of the state, the BBC said separately.


Lovers’ Spat

After the “beautiful letters” that prompted US President Donald Trump to fall in love, Kim Jong-un is apparently souring on the relationship.

He lashed out at the “vicious” sanctions regime against North Korea with some of his most blunt criticism yet Wednesday, according to Bloomberg, signaling that the current standoff over his lack of progress toward denuclearization isn’t going away soon.

Notably, Kim’s evoking of “hostile forces” that are “foolishly keen” on sanctions comes as North Korean state media calls on the South to lift restrictions blocking South Korean citizens and companies from traveling and investing north of the border. South Korean President Moon Jae-in had suggested he might do just that, but took the offer back after a rebuke from Trump last month, the agency said.

The jockeying also comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans a meeting next week with a North Korean counterpart to push for more concrete progress and arrange for a second summit between Trump and Kim, the Wall Street Journal said.


Unconventional Saviors

Mosquitoes are deadly when carrying diseases such as malaria or the Zika virus.

Malaria remains a problem in many African nations, but a village in Burkina Faso is letting genetically modified mosquitoes swarm around its people in a bid to fight the infectious disease.

The genetically modified arthropods are sterile males. Only females transmit malaria. Observing the longevity and behavior of the modified males will allow researchers to collect extensive data for later efforts to wipe out the malaria-carrying insects, the Telegraph reported.

Ultimately, the scientists hope to introduce male insects altered so that 90 percent of their offspring are also male, thus reducing the mosquito population overall and the proportion of females within it that can spread malaria.

“We are using a technology which is called a “gene drive” which will allow us to spread a genetic modification through a whole mosquito population in order to reduce transmission,” Alekos Simoni of Imperial College London told the BBC.

The World Health Organization reported that malaria still remains “a severe socioeconomic” problem on the African continent, despite infection cases declining by 42 percent between 2000 and 2015.

Click here to see the unconventional saviors.

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