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NEED TO KNOW

SUDAN

Springtime Again

The Arab Spring appears to have come belatedly to Sudan.

Protests flared in the Northeast African country recently amid a dire economic crisis that many believe could topple President Omar al-Bashir, an alleged war criminal wanted on international charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and other acts he stands accused of committing in Darfur during a civil war in the early 2000s.

“What started in December as a provincial demonstration against rising food prices has morphed into a campaign by opposition activists for Mr. Bashir to go,” wrote the Financial Times in an editorial.

The authorities arrested several faculty members from Khartoum University on Sunday as fresh protests hit the capital and other cities in a response to a call from professional unions for al-Bashir to step down, Al Jazeera reported. Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told parliament on Monday that a total of 816 protesters have been arrested since the demonstrations began last month, Al Jazeera said separately.

Al-Bashir has been in office since 1989, when a bloodless coup swept him into power along with the Sudanese branch of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. “The Arabization and Islamization of Sudan, at all costs,” was their goal, explained Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a Sudanese-Australian writer, in the Independent.

The president has since broken with his militant comrades. Now he’s most interested in holding onto power and avoiding international justice.

Take, for example, a speech he delivered to police officers amid clashes that have resulted in the deaths of scores of protesters.

“It is the duty of the state to maintain security without abuse, and to implement internal security principles using the least possible force,” said al-Bashir, according to a broadcast of the speech carried on the Sudanese government’s news agency, according to CNN. “The purpose is not to kill the people but the ultimate goal is to maintain the security and stability for the citizens.”

The Turkish news agency Anadolu captured more of the speech on video. “But sometimes – as we said and as God himself said – you have, in the exacting of penance, life,” al-Bashir said. “What is exacting penance? It is killing, it is execution, but God described it as life because it is a deterrence to others so we can maintain security.”

Killing equals life. That’s dictators’ logic laid bare.

Al-Bashir has promised to raise civil servants’ wages, reported Al Jazeera. He has called on unidentified countries for funds to stimulate the economy, Bloomberg added. Saudi Arabia undertook the same moves to avoid serious uprisings during the Arab Spring.

Sudanese opposition groups were undaunted. They called for more demonstrations.

“The regime, in its present composition and given its political, economic, regional and international isolation, cannot pull through this crisis,” an alliance of opposition parties said in a statement cited by the Associated Press.

The Arab Spring gave voice to the people’s concerns. It also unleashed terrible, violent forces. The Sudanese are trying to decide which road to take.

WANT TO KNOW

YEMEN

Confirmed Kill

The US military confirmed that an al-Qaeda member suspected in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole was killed in Yemen by an airstrike on New Year’s Day.

“Jamal al-Badawi was an al Qaeda operative involved in the USS Cole bombing. US forces confirmed the results of the strike following a deliberate assessment process,” US Central Command announced via Twitter.

Al-Badawi was indicted in 2003 on 50 terrorism-related counts, including the murder of American civilians and US military personnel, USA Today reported. He had escaped from Yemeni custody twice, once in 2003 and again in 2006, according to the Washington Post. In 2007, Yemeni authorities allowed him to remain free in a secret deal in exchange for help catching other members of Al-Qaeda.

Seventeen sailors were killed in the attack on the USS Cole, in which two suicide bombers drove a small boat loaded with explosives into the hull of the vessel.

NORTH KOREA

Mystery Train, the Remix

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un returned to China for a fourth summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, state media from the two countries confirmed Tuesday.

Earlier, reports had speculated that Kim was once again headed for China aboard a “mystery train”. State-run Korea Central Television said Tuesday that Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, are visiting China until Thursday, at Xi’s invitation, the Washington Post reported.

The meeting comes in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he and Kim are negotiating possible locales for a second summit “in the not-too-distant future.”

In his New Year’s speech, Kim suggested that “multiparty negotiations” should replace the cease-fire agreement that brought an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, an apparent suggestion that China should be party to the future peace deal. While he said he was willing to sit down with Trump any time, he also warned that if the US persists with sanctions and demands that North Korea unilaterally abandons its nuclear program the peace process could break down.

BRAZIL

Battle in the Streets

Newly inaugurated President Jair Bolsonaro is struggling to put down violent riots in northeastern Brazil, with clashes continuing despite the deployment of at least 300 members of the elite, military-style National Police Force.

The authorities say criminal organizations ordered the riots in the northeast state of Ceara – in which cars and buses have been set ablaze and gas stations have been attacked – in response to plans to impose stricter control over the country’s prisons, where criminal gangs now wield tremendous power, the Associated Press reported.

A far-right leader who has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship, Bolsonaro pledged to crack down on crime during his campaign. He has also said he will reduce legal restrictions on guns to empower ordinary Brazilians to defend themselves.

So far, more than 100 people have been taken into custody in connection with the recent outbreak of violence, the news agency said. Police have also killed two people in a shootout.

DISCOVERIES

Holistic Solutions

Living in the world’s largest river delta, Bangladeshi farmers have a hard time growing crops due to devastating seasonal floods.

To surmount the frequent problem, farmers are creating floating farms, a technique previously employed by their ancestors, the BBC reported.

“We live on water for nine months,” said Haripodo, a local farmer identified by only one name who uses the floating beds to grow crops on a large scale.

The beds are made from hyacinth plants that float when water levels rise and provide nutrition to crops, so farmers don’t need chemicals to grow their vegetables.

“The bed acts as a natural compost, so the seedlings grow very well,” he added. “It’s better than any other fertilizer and the crops are very tasty.”

Haripodo is now teaching other Bangladeshis to develop floating beds to boost local agriculture. “When the monsoon arrives, we would be unemployed if our parents and grandparents hadn’t taught us to build floating farms,” he said.

The ingenious technique can help populations in areas where rising sea levels pose a threat to farmlands, such as in Vietnam.

Click here to see the holistic solution.