The World Today for March 06, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

NORTHERN IRELAND

From Divorce to Marriage

Perhaps the greatest fear stemming from Britain’s scheduled exit from the European Union on March 29 is the resumption of violence in Northern Ireland – the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another EU country.

And while little is known about the incident yet, the discovery on Tuesday of three packages containing explosives at Heathrow Airport, London City Airport and Waterloo station, which had Republic of Ireland stamps, is a stark reminder of darker times, the BBC reported.

The Troubles – the term locals use to describe the decades of terrorism and police brutality that plagued the region in the 20th century – came to an end with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Since then, the fighting has subsided. Trade across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has grown thanks to EU rules that streamline commerce. While Northern Ireland’s main political parties have been at odds for more than a year over a power-sharing deal in the local government – as the BBC explained here – life has been relatively good on the island.

Brexit has upended all that. If and when Britain leaves the EU, customs and border checks might go up again between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This so-called hard border would create conditions where violence would be likely to flare up again, the Independent reported.

Still, others see room for a different outcome.

Writing in the Guardian, Irish comedian Patrick Kielty thought that a hard border might lead to the end of the partition that separated Northern Ireland from the south in 1921.

A hard border between the two jurisdictions will be a logistical and political nightmare, said Kielty. Leaders of the Northern Irish, Protestant-affiliated Democratic Unionist Party who support Brexit are doing so only out of solidarity with English conservatives, not because they really want to leave the EU, he argued. They would privately support a ballot to merge Northern Ireland with Ireland, he claimed.

“By trying to be the most British person in the room, the DUP could actually end up the most Irish,” wrote Kielty.

Kielty has a unique perspective on the Troubles. Loyalist paramilitaries killed his father in 1988. The murderers were released under the Good Friday Agreement.

Londonderry City Councilor Gary Donnelly agrees.
“Brexit has highlighted the absurdity of partition. Others had always been brushing it under the carpet,” he told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, many young people in Northern Ireland are adamant about not returning to the days of bombs and assassinations, wrote Euractiv. Powerful figures like Dave Prentis, who leads Britain’s biggest trade union, maintain that EU rules must remain in force across the Irish border – the purported “backstop” that many Brexiters refuse to support because they believe it would compromise British sovereignty.

Brexit has put British officials in an impossible position as they negotiate in Brussels. Citizens of Northern Ireland would be justified if they decided to opt out of the mess.

WANT TO KNOW

NORTH KOREA

Behind Door Number 3

Days after the ballyhooed second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke down, satellite images indicated that Pyongyang has restored part of a missile launch site it had begun to dismantle after the first meeting between the two leaders.

South Korea’s Yonhap New Agency reported that the North was replacing a roof and a door at the Tongchang-ri launch site, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, told the agency that satellite images indicated that structures on the launch pad had been rebuilt sometime between Feb. 16 and March 2, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a new report that North Korea is “pursuing a rapid rebuilding” at the site.

Shortly after that news broke, National Security Adviser John Bolton told Fox News that the US would consider further ramping up sanctions against North Korea if Pyongyang didn’t demonstrate willingness to denuclearize, Reuters said separately.

MEXICO

Cash Versus Safety

Mexico’s plan to cut funding for women’s shelters and distribute cash to the victims of domestic violence directly instead has raised the hackles of human rights activists.

Advocates of victims of domestic violence say the yet-to-be-defined plan risks undoing progress made over two decades and exposing victims to greater levels of risk, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported. They also question how the government will actually get the cash to the victims, since many are forced to flee their homes.

“(The president) doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care) that women are often put in danger when they receive cash in hand,” the director of a reproductive rights organization said via Twitter, noting that the money itself can make victims the target of fresh violence.

The scheme is in keeping with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s earlier announcement that he would cut funding to day care centers and instead offer parents cash they could use to spend on childcare at their own discretion. However, the issues and challenges involved are very different.

BURUNDI

Say Goodbye

Burundi’s long-deteriorating relationship with international rights workers has culminated with the closure of the United Nations’ human rights office in the troubled country.

Burundi asked the UN to close up shop in December, months after the former UN rights chief called the country one of the “most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times,” the Associated Press reported.

In the wake of its forced closure on Tuesday, new rights chief Michelle Bachelet criticized Burundi’s human rights record, noting that the gains made after the devastating civil war between the country’s Hutu and Tutsi ethnicities have been “seriously jeopardized” since 2015.

It was then that President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term – which his opponents argued was illegal – sparking months of violence that the UN estimates has killed more than 1,200 people. And since that date, Burundi first suspended its cooperation with the UN rights office in October 2016, then shut down four of its regional offices in 2017. Also in 2017, Burundi became the first country to quit the International Criminal Court.

DISCOVERIES

Bones to Pick

The Sedlec ossuary church is considered by some a very grim site, straight from a gothic horror movie.

Located near the Czech medieval mining town of Kutna Hora, the site houses four large pyramids, a chandelier and various other decorations all made from real human bones – more than 40,000 of them, Reuters reported.

Now, specialists are restoring the church in what is expected to be an arduous two-year task: They need to dismantle the macabre objects, clean all the bones, and then put the structures back together.

The church’s unusual use of bones is due to wars and plagues. The original bones came from a cemetery near a monastery founded in 1142. Over the next several hundred years the graveyard ran out of space. During the 16th century, the bones were exhumed and placed in a depositary.

A half-blind monk is said to have created the original bone structures. In 1870, Czech wood-carver Frantisek Rint gave them their present creepy appearance.

The church attracts half a million visitors a year, many of whom see it “as some dark spectacle, a house of horrors,” said Radka Krejci, who operates the local parish. But Krejci doesn’t want it to be perceived that way. “It is a place of reverence, a burial place,” she said.

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