The World Today for February 28, 2019

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Desperation, and Bullets

Three protesters carrying a massive Haitian flag recently squared off against riot police in front of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince.

A CNN photo essay contained that striking image, as well as other photographs of the bloody clashes that have been erupting in Haiti since early February. Several people, including police officers, have died in the demonstrations. The US issued a travel ban, while Canada closed its embassy.

The demonstrators want President Jovenel Moise, in office for two years, to resign for failing to investigate corruption scandals and halt double-digit inflation. Senior officials in the government of the previous president are suspected of misappropriating $2.3 billion in loans that Venezuela and other Caribbean countries made to Haiti. No one has been charged.

While politicians allegedly made out like bandits, fuel prices rose 40 percent this past summer, putting enormous strains on residents of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

“Everything is more expensive now, the country is on lockdown, you can’t go uptown or downtown to buy anything,” merchant Frederique Gamaniel told Al Jazeera.

Responding to the latest protests, Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant recently announced measures designed to crack down on corruption and cut perks for public officials like government-paid gas and mobile phone allowances, foreign trips and consultants.

Moise refuses to quit, telling the BBC that he “will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers.”

Even if Moise agreed to step down immediately, Haiti would still face a raft of serious problems, wrote University of Miami anthropologist Louis Herns Marcelin in an online essay. The gap between a tiny cohort of rich families and a huge low-income population ensures that economic unfairness will keep the former French colony unstable, Marcelin argued.

“This economic situation is a symptom of a deeper pathology that has crippled the country’s basic institutions and its ability to provide a path for human security and development,” he wrote. “The overall sociopolitical economic structure of Haiti is one of deep fragmentation.”

Some are seeking to exploit the chaos.

Haitian police recently arrested five Americans who were carrying a large cache of guns, the Miami Herald wrote. They were sent back to the US, where they told officials they were a security detail for a businessman working with the Haitian government. Their arrest came shortly after a federal court in Florida found a former US Marine sergeant and Orlando gun shop owner guilty of illegally exporting semi-automatic guns and ammunition to Haiti.

One can see why Haitians might want guns for self-defense. But the country is already tense enough without adding bullets to the mix.



Chumminess, And No Deal

President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un failed to strike a nuclear deal Thursday, ending their Vietnam summit hours ahead of schedule and leaving the status of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program unchanged, USA Today reported.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said after two days of meetings with Kim.

The impasse centered on irreconcilable demands: Trump wanted Kim to commit to a specific denuclearization plan in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Kim, on the other hand, wanted sanctions lifted before such a commitment.

Both leaders said they believe they will eventually have a deal. Trump praised Kim from refraining from weapons and missile tests since the first summit last year, calling the relationship between the two leaders “warm.”

Kim, said about a future deal: “I would not say I’m pessimistic,” adding that if he were not willing to denuclearize, “I won’t be here right now.”

Harry J. Kazianis, director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, a nonpartisan think tank, told the newspaper he hopes Trump and Kim keep their rhetoric low-key in the near future.

“As long as we don’t go back to the days of ‘fire and fury’ – and especially no missile tests – there will be time for Washington and Pyongyang to keep taking,” Kazianis said.

Not long ago, both leaders threatened to destroy the other’s country.


Pleas for Calm

The US, China and European Union have all pleaded with New Delhi and Islamabad to step back from the brink after India and Pakistan each claimed to have downed planes, and Pakistan captured an Indian pilot.

The White House condemned the intensifying conflict and urged “both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation.” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that Beijing’s top diplomat had also urged restraint in a phone call with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, said the Trump administration’s failure to condemn India’s earlier airstrike was “construed and understood as an endorsement of the Indian position, and that is what emboldened them even more.”

The facts are in dispute, too, with each side denying the victories claimed by the other and rival videos showing the captured pilot bloodied and blindfolded and then sipping tea and praising the manners of his captors.


Extra Time

British Prime Minister Theresa May convinced parliament to give her another two weeks after legislators threatened to initiate measures to block a no-deal Brexit. But Labour said it would now support a second referendum – the first time a major party has offered up that possibility since the original Brexit vote.

Frustrated members of parliament had pushed for measures to prevent Britain from leaving the European Union without a deal in place while May was sticking fast to a March 29 deadline. But the prime minister avoided a showdown by agreeing Tuesday to a short extension, Reuters reported.

Her tactical retreat fended off a series of votes Wednesday that could have taken the Brexit process out of her government’s hands. Instead, she is hoping to resurrect an amended version of the divorce plan that parliament rejected by the widest margin in modern British history as soon as next week. But she has promised that if the parliament rejects it, members will also get the chance to vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal or ask Brussels to delay the deadline.


Prehistoric Cynophilists

Dogs today hold a special place in many people’s lives. But the bond isn’t a new one. Prehistoric people also loved their pooches, scientists have found.

Archaeologists in Spain have discovered that humans and their canine companions were buried next to each other more than 4,000 years ago.

Researchers found the remains of 26 dogs, ranging in age from one month to six years old, at four burial sites near Barcelona, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

“The fact that these were buried near humans suggests there was an intention and a direct relation with death and the funerary ritual,” Silvia Albizuri, the study’s lead author, said in a news release.

Albizuri’s team also found evidence that pet owners were directly responsible for the dogs’ diets. They found traces of wheat and animal protein in most bone samples, while other samples revealed a mainly vegetarian diet.

“These data show a close coexistence between dogs and humans, and probably, a specific preparation of their nutrition, which is clear in the cases of a diet based on vegetables,” added study co-author Eulàlia Subirà.

This is not the first instance of human-canine friendship, however.

In 2018, scientists, studying the remains of a 14,000-year-old puppy that was buried next to its owners, found clues that the latter regarded the puppy as a pet and tried to care for it during an illness.

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