The World Today for November 06, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

HONDURAS

No Place Like Home

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez recently tweeted that he wanted to send officials to Guatemala to help Hondurans seeking to come home.

The irony was that Hernandez was arguably the reason the thousands of Hondurans in the migrant caravan now heading toward the United States fled their home in the first place.

Hernandez, a conservative, took office in 2014, nearly five years after a coup ousted leftist ex-President Manuel Zelaya. He decided to run for re-election in 2017, after a court ruling allowed him to get around the Honduran constitution’s ban on him serving a second term.

Irregularities, including allegations of voter fraud, marred that second election victory. When people protested, Hernandez cracked down with “indiscriminate and excessive use of force,” the Associated Press reported.

Government corruption and incompetence are deeply entrenched in Honduras. Hernandez appears to have done little to combat either.

Two-thirds of Hondurans live in poverty. The elites are doing well, though. In terms of income inequality, the country ranks as one of the worst in Latin America.

In 2015, the UN counted 60 murders per 100,000 people. Today, that rate has dropped to 43 per 100,000, but locals say heavy-handed police tactics account for the decline. The US murder rate last year was 5.4 per 100,000 people, according to FBI statistics.

“Unemployment, danger and violence pushing Hondurans to flee to US,” read the Agence France-Presse headline.

The kicker is that the US is arguably helping Hernandez.

US involvement in Honduras goes back to the early 20th century, when American fruit companies effectively colonized the country, Vassar College geographer Joseph Nevins wrote in the Conversation.

Describing the president as an “impeccably coiffed Latin American politician straight out of central casting,” VICE noted that today Hernandez’s tough-on-crime approach is popular among American leaders. The US has funneled more than $70 million in security assistance to Honduras since Hernandez took office.

Some US lawmakers have asked President Donald Trump to intervene, the Guardian reported.

“By supporting the corrupt and repressive regime of Juan Orlando Hernández, the US is tacitly approving state-sanctioned violence and the complete disregard for worker rights, indigenous rights, and individual freedoms,” Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement.

But the New York Times reported this summer that the Trump administration has been putting pressure on Hernandez to clean up, leading to the appointment of an outside prosecutor to head an anti-corruption commission that Honduran lawmakers have been fighting tooth and nail.

Ending illegal immigration is a laudable goal, some say. But others note that figuring out why it’s happening might be the first step in developing more effective policies to stop it.

WANT TO KNOW

CAMEROON

Bring Back Our Kids

Armed men kidnapped 79 children from a Northwest Cameroon boarding school Monday in an incident reminiscent of similar mass abductions in Nigeria in recent years.

The identity and motive of the kidnappers are not known, said Louis Marie Begne, spokesman for Cameroon’s Northwest government, according to CNN. However, Begne did not rule out the involvement of Anglophone separatists fighting for independence from the mostly Francophone government.

The Cameroonian army, police and military police are looking for the children, who were taken from the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda.

The separatists have been accused of smaller kidnappings in the north and southwest, and in September, seven students and a head teacher were kidnapped by armed separatists from their school in the northwestern town of Bafut, according to Amnesty International.

The long-simmering conflict between English- and French-speakers flared into violence last year, after clashes between protesters and government forces that left at least 10 people dead.

IRAN

Make or Break

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to break the crippling economic sanctions re-imposed on Iran by the US this week, even as European countries said they would explore ways to help businesses circumvent the restrictions.

“We will proudly break the sanctions,” Rouhani told a meeting of economic officials, after saying Tehran would continue selling oil.

Washington is restoring all sanctions lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal in a bid to pressure Iran to renegotiate the pact and stop its “malign” activities – which allegedly include cyber attacks, ballistic missile tests, and support for terror groups and militias in the Middle East, the BBC reported.

Some sanctions were restored in August. But analysts said the sanctions re-imposed this week are the most significant ones so far. They will hit oil exports, shipping and banks, and make it difficult to do business with Iran. More than 700 individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft are now on the sanctions list.

POLAND

Mirror Image

As the US awaits the results of the midterm elections, weekend polls in Poland suggest the Central European nation is facing a deep rural-urban divide of its own.

The ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice party lost all the large cities and most mid-size and smaller cities in some 649 mayoral races, official results showed Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Yet Law and Justice won the most seats in nine out of 16 provincial assemblies and won outright majorities in six of them — up from just one in 2014, the New York Times noted.

The upshot: Its anti-immigration rhetoric, Euroskepticism and social spending resonated in rural areas. But those policies alienated urban voters, along with moves to interfere with the judiciary that have drawn censure from the European Union as undermining democracy.

What may be most significant, however, is the losses suffered by Law and Justice in mid-size cities that are normally slam dunks for the conservatives, said newspaper editor Michal Szuldrzynski, calling the results “catastrophic” for the governing party.

DISCOVERIES

Once Upon an Ocean

Mars probably won’t be habitable anytime soon, but scientists still remain hopeful about the planet’s life-carrying potential.

Recently, a study in Nature Geoscience suggested that pockets of salty water with enough dissolved oxygen to support life may rest under Mars’ surface, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Researchers used computer models to determine the possible existence of these brine puddles and their ability to support microorganisms.

In the best-case scenario, the models suggested the puddles could have enough oxygen to support complex organisms like sponges. Even in the worst-case scenario, bacteria could thrive.

“There are so many abiotic ways of creating small but sufficient amounts of oxygen which then, at the colder temperatures, can be absorbed effectively and could actually maybe trigger evolution in a different way than we got on the Earth,” lead author Vlada Stamenković told Space.com

Judging by landscape features and manganese oxide that must have formed on the surface in wet, oxygen-rich conditions, scientists hypothesize that oceans covered Earth’s neighbor billions of years ago.

The team cannot yet prove the existence of the briny puddles, or if they hold any life, but the researchers plan to further test their results.

For now, it’s just a theory.

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