The World Today for January 22, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

CANADA

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses…

Rahaf Mohammed recently shared photos of her breakfast of bacon, eggs and Starbucks coffee on social media.

Mohammed is an 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her allegedly abusive family earlier this month, reported Sky News. She claims they treated her like a slave and threatened to kill her.

While on holiday in Kuwait with her family, she furtively hopped a plane to Thailand, barricaded herself in a hotel room and asked permission via Twitter to seek asylum in a country where she might live freely. Her plea worked: She was granted asylum by Canada.

Mohammed, who dropped her previous family name, Alqunun, is the daughter of a provincial governor, Insider reported. Her bold actions likely reflected the confidence of the upper class.

But that’s beside the point. She hails from an ultra-orthodox Islamic country where adult women can’t travel without the permission of a male guardian, the Washington Post explained. Recently, two Saudi sisters reportedly committed suicide in the US rather than return home.

“I am one of the lucky ones,” Mohammed said at a news conference after she arrived in Toronto. “I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or could not do anything to change their reality.”

A 2015 story in the Independent described crimes in Saudi Arabia that merited punishments like flogging or even the death penalty, including talking about sex and possessing alcohol.

Mohammed’s breakfast was an act of defiance because bacon is banned in Saudi Arabia. The prohibition on women driving cars has been lifted, however.

Her flight was a public relations disaster for Saudi Arabia. It highlighted the brutality of the regime in the wake of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a killing likely orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It was a win for Canada. The desert kingdom expelled Canada’s ambassador in August over criticism of the Saudis’ treatment of women’s rights activists. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can tell voters that he stood up to the theocrats when he runs for re-election later this year, France 24 argued in an analysis.

On Jan. 10, after the United Nations granted Mohammed refugee status, paving the way for her to receive asylum in the West, she tweeted, “Now I can do whatever I want.”

She will discover that is not necessarily true. Some analysts also suggested her special treatment might set a bad precedent in the future, allowing certain claims to bypass others because they get more press attention, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation wrote.

At the same time, some worried that the teenager would become “a prop for our disputes and our concerns with Saudi Arabia,” Dennis Horak, expelled ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the CBC.

Still, politics aside, Mohammed and those who support freedom have reason to celebrate, at least for a little while.

WANT TO KNOW

INDONESIA

Mercy or Respect?

The Indonesian government is reviewing a decision to release the mastermind of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed more than 200 people, many of them Australians, following a request from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo drew widespread criticism after his decision to offer early release to Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, 80, who is still believed to be the spiritual leader of banned group Jemaah Islamiyah, the BBC reported.

However, at a press conference on Monday, an Indonesian security minister said that decision was now under review, at Widodo’s request, just hours after Morrison called on the Indonesian government to “show great respect for Australia in how they manage this issue.”

Indonesia executed three militants for their role in the bombings in 2008, and several others have also been imprisoned or killed by the country’s security forces. Ba’asyir was sentenced to 15 years in 2011 after he was convicted on charges of supporting militants in Aceh province.

VENEZUELA

Jumping the Gun

Forces supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro put down an alleged coup attempt on Monday, just days before opposition leader and National Assembly President Juan Guaido has called for mass protests seeking Maduro’s ouster on Jan. 23.

A cell phone video distributed via social media showed a small group of soldiers who claimed to be members of the country’s armed forces entering the special security unit headquarters, CNN reported. A man who identified himself as Sgt. Wandres Figueroa called on ordinary Venezuelans to take to the streets.

Guaido was quick to claim the incident showed the opposition enjoys widespread support within the military. But only small groups of demonstrators heeded the call, and National Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the “small group of assailants” had been detained, CNN said.

Following the National Assembly’s refusal to recognize Maduro’s election to a second term and the beginning of work on a law that would grant amnesty to such coup plotters, Maduro loyalists on the supreme court ruled Monday that the legislative body is invalid and nullified any actions it has taken after Jan. 5.

BRITAIN

Plan B, C, D and E

British members of parliament are introducing their own Brexit plans after Theresa May offered up a Plan B that looked very much like the deal that was voted down by a record margin last week.

May suggested that a controversial registration fee for European Union citizens who want to remain in the United Kingdom after its withdrawal from the bloc might be waived, CNN reported. And she said she was focusing on changing the so-called “Irish backstop” – which would eliminate the establishment of a hard border between Ireland and Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But she refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit altogether or entertain the possibility of a second referendum – the two key opposition demands.

As the result, members have floated amendments that call for a parliamentary vote on options like Labour’s proposed closer relationship with Europe, with a permanent customs union; a referendum on whatever plan is eventually approved by the House of Commons; and requiring May to seek an extension of the Article 50 deadline to avoid a no-deal Brexit if no agreement can be reached before February 26, the BBC reported.

DISCOVERIES

Ungraded Effort

High school students might complain about their Spanish or French homework, but ancient Egyptian pupils were learning Greek in primary school.

In April, the British Library will display a 1,800-year-old Egyptian wax tablet as part of the “Writing: Making Your Mark” exhibition, Live Science reported.

The tablet – roughly the size of a Kindle – contains reading, writing and math exercises in Greek that provide a perspective of the daily life of Egyptian pupils in the second century AD.

The writing exercises included morality lessons, like taking advice from wise men and being careful when trusting friends.

“It’s not only the hands and fingers but also the mind that is being instructed here,” said exhibit co-curator Peter Toth.

Wax tablets were a common tool for keeping records in the ancient world, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Wax breaks in the presence of moisture but, thanks to Egypt’s dry climate, it remained preserved for more than a thousand of years.

Historians haven’t determined the student’s background, but they speculate that he was a boy from a wealthy family since formal education was mostly reserved for males of privilege, according to the Royal Ontario Museum.

Despite his effort, the teacher didn’t put a grade on the pupil’s tablet.

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