The World Today for November 28, 2018

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Fighting for Peace

Fighting broke out in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah recently, even as both sides agreed to meet in Sweden to discuss a truce to Yemen’s bloody three-year-long war. “We are facing indiscriminate bombing from both sides,” Hodeidah resident Ibrahim Seif told the Guardian.

The pending peace talks, set for December, unfortunately, won’t help Seif much in the short-term.

But Al Jazeera reported that the United Nations envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, believes the Saudi Arabian-led coalition backing Yemen’s government and the Houthi rebels are both growing sufficiently fatigued with the fighting to seriously consider laying down their arms. The rebels recently announced they would halt their rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia and its allies, for example.

“They are committed,” said Griffiths.

That’s potentially big news. As ABC News explained, Yemen is the shame of the Middle East. The Houthis, who are Shiites backed by Iran, captured the Yemini capital of Sana’a in 2015 and forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. Fearing Iranian influence on its doorstep, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries intervened.

Around 10,000 have died in the violence. Today, 14 million Yemenis are also on the brink of famine. Children are especially at risk, the Associated Press wrote, detailing how parents have resorted to feeding their children leaves to survive. Amal Hussein, a 7-year-old girl whose photograph in the New York Times became a symbol of Yemen’s suffering, recently passed away.

Change is possible, however.

First, the world has turned a more critical eye toward Saudi Arabia after the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey. CNN argued that while US President Donald Trump hasn’t criticized Saudi leaders – and the US is not backing a UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire – he might put pressure on them to take a more conciliatory tack on Yemen.

Second, writing in an opinion piece in the Hill, Atlantic Council senior fellow Nabeel Khoury postulated that the US might similarly seek – remarkably – to make common cause with Iran on Yemen in a bid to patch over disputes related to Trump’s pulling out of the nuclear deal that ex-President Barack Obama signed with Tehran.

Lastly, the Yemenis themselves are not giving up. For them, life continues.

The New York Times magazine profiled women’s rights activists who continue to fight for their freedoms despite living in a war zone. “They could have us burned alive or burn our children right before our eyes,” one activist said. “We are willing to die here. We’re demanding some human rights.”

Fighting for peace sounds like an oxymoron. But desperate times call for hopeful measures.



A Deadly Day

Three US soldiers were killed and three others were injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Tuesday, marking the deadliest day of the conflict this year for American troops.

The last time three service members were killed in the same incident was on June 10, 2017, in Jalalabad, ABC News reported. An American contractor was also wounded in Tuesday’s incident.

Five service members so far have died in Afghanistan in November, which was the deadliest month for US forces this year, the news channel noted. That’s a far cry from the nearly 500 US soldiers killed in 2010 – the deadliest year of the conflict for US troops, according to But even one casualty is tragic 17 years into the fight, when the best America can boast is a stalemate, analysts say.

The attack occurred in Ghazni Province, CNN reported, noting that in that area, as is true of the wider fight, the Taliban is unable to capture major cities or hold territory but Afghan government troops are also unable to put a stop to the insurgency.

That means a political solution will be necessary but that is “a long way” from happening, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month.


Drivers of Change

A protest started by French drivers threatens to derail President Emmanuel Macron, again, but so far he’s refusing to buckle.

Launched Nov. 17 against a tax hike on petrol and diesel fuel, the so-called “yellow vest” protests erupted into violence this weekend, as thousands of French police fired tear gas and deployed water cannons against demonstrators who were destroying shops and setting fires along Paris’s Champs-Élysées, Vox reported.

Resulting in injuries to nearly 20 people, including police, Saturday’s clashes could cost Paris $1.7 million. They also brought the total number of injuries from the week-long protests to around 400 people – at least one of whom was killed.

Named for the reflective yellow vests worn by the demonstrators, the protests began over price hike of about 30 cents a gallon for petrol, which currently costs about $7.06 a gallon in France, Vox said. But with a turnout of an estimated 280,000, they appear to be morphing into a more generalized attack on Macron’s leadership.


Everything, in Proportion

China’s ambassador to the US warned that Beijing would respond to any sanctions related to its treatment of its Uighur minority in the same fashion it has answered US tariffs – “in proportion.”

Comparing China’s activities in Xinjiang to the US fight against Islamic State, Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai said Beijing is working to “re-educate terrorists” and warned obliquely of serious repercussions if the US imposes sanctions on companies and officials linked to the crackdown, Al Jazeera reported.

“We’ll see what will happen. We will do everything in proportion,” he said.

US officials have said the Trump administration is considering such sanctions, and weighing the impact of imposing them on Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of the politburo.

A UN human rights panel said in August that it had credible reports that Chinese authorities may be holding as many as a million Uighurs in what it called a “massive internment camp.”

Federal law empowers the US to freeze any US assets, institute US travel bans, and bar Americans from doing business with accused human rights violators. But taking such strong actions against a senior Chinese leader would be unprecedented.


Gallic Treasures

In a revered Franco-Belgian comic series, the ancient Gallic duo Asterix and Obelix protect their village from Roman invasions, thanks to strength potions made by the druid Getafix.

In reality, the Gauls were far more brutal in war and had a reputation of collecting the heads of their enemies as trophies.

Now, scientists say they’ve found proof that the Celtic Gauls also preserved the severed heads by embalming them, the Guardian reported.

In a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers found traces of conifer resins in the remains of several skulls discovered in the Iron Age settlement of Le Cailar in southern France.

The scientists say that confirms previous indications that the warrior tribes proudly displayed the decapitated heads and embalmed them to preserve their facial features.

“The ancient texts said only the most powerful enemies and the most important enemies were embalmed,” said co-author Réjane Roure. “Maybe that was to be able to say, ‘See that face, it was some big warrior.’”

The heads were quite priceless for the warriors, who wouldn’t give them up “even for an equal weight of gold.”

It’s unknown how the embalming process occurred, and if it was only reserved for enemies, but the revelation might change how fans think of Asterix and Obelix.

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