The World Today for March 12, 2019

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Today we are introducing a new feature we hope will increase your enjoyment of DailyChatter – a daily map to position the country in our lead feature, Need to Know.

NEED TO KNOW

SUDAN

Sudanese Spring

Demonstrations have rocked Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, since late last year.

In recent protests, members of the Sudanese Professionals Association chanted “Freedom, dignity and justice,” reported the Associated Press.

Video footage of the civil unrest included security forces hauling demonstrators into the backs of pickup trucks then beating them.

Corruption and skyrocketing living costs, including higher bread prices, sparked the protests, a BBC video said. But protesters also began calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir, who’s 75, came to power in a military coup in 1989. “And since then Sudan has endured famines, American missile strikes, isolation and a civil war that led to the independence of South Sudan in 2011,” wrote the New York Times.

The International Criminal Court has issued warrants for his arrest for crimes against humanity during his brutal crackdown on citizens in Darfur who opposed his rule in the early 2000s.

True to character, his response to the recent protests was also heavy handed. He declared a yearlong state of emergency, dissolved federal and local governments and appointed military generals to governorships. Scores of people have been killed while hastily convened emergency courts have sentenced protesters to prison for as long as seven years, Human Rights Watch claimed.

His actions are especially tragic because many of the protesters are young – the country’s median age is 20 – as well as female and socially and politically diverse, the Guardian argued in an editorial. People who have never known any other government are taking to the streets because they are suffering.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Sudan took an economic body blow when South Sudan split off, taking most of the formerly united country’s oil fields with it, Bloomberg explained. The US lifted sanctions in 2017. But al-Bashir’s efforts to diversify the economy have produced few results. Instead, he appears to have doubled down on his incompetent, corrupt rule.

“Al-Bashir does little to hide his contempt for the young men and women who have been protesting,” Reuters wrote.

Al-Bashir has complained to other African leaders like Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that the protesters are seeking to replicate the Arab Spring of 2011, Al Jazeera reported. That wave of discontent produced mixed results, ousting ex-Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, for example, but also paving the way for the Islamist Mohamed Morsi to win Egypt’s first democratic presidential election. El-Sisi ousted Morsi in a coup in 2013.

But the protesters in Sudan likely don’t care about what comes next. They just know al-Bashir’s time should have ended long ago.

WANT TO KNOW

ALGERIA

Stepping Aside

Protesters in Sudan may take inspiration from events in Algeria, where President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday withdrew his controversial bid for a fifth term in office after weeks of protests across the country.

Widely believed to be little more than a figurehead in recent years due to his ill health, the 82-year-old’s bid was also rejected by more than 1,000 judges across Algeria, Quartz reported.

Though many credit Bouteflika with ending Algeria’s civil war and ushering in an oil-driven economic boom, he alienated citizens by distributing state resources to his family even as unemployment ticked upward and through crackdowns on opposition politicians and other dissenting voices.

It remains to be seen how his withdrawal will affect the fate of his National Liberation Front, which has governed Algeria since it gained independence from France in 1962. But it marks a tactical retreat from the regime’s earlier reaction to the protests – which was to arrest journalists, shut down the Internet and prosecute protesters for “disturbing public order.”

BRITAIN

May and Might

British Prime Minister Theresa May secured legally binding assurances from the European Union Monday that her deputy said would prevent the EU from using the so-called “Irish backstop” to trap Britain in its orbit.

Nonetheless, it’s not clear if the three agreements – a joint instrument, a joint statement and a unilateral declaration – will be enough to push her Brexit deal through parliament with only days remaining before the March 29 deadline, Reuters reported.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the vote on the deal slated for later Tuesday represents the last chance to secure an orderly exit. “There will be no third chance,” he said. “It is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.”

If the deal fails to pass Tuesday, May has proposed a vote on a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday. If that fails, lawmakers will vote on whether to ask Brussels for a limited delay.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Methed Up

Despite record high seizures of the illegal drug, methamphetamine production has skyrocketed across Southeast Asia.

The drug known as speed, ice and “ya ba” in its various forms is now the main drug of concern in 12 out of 13 East and Southeast Asian countries, up from five a decade ago, according to a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Associated Press said. Most of the supply comes from Myanmar.

In Thailand alone, the authorities seized 515 million methamphetamine tablets in 2018, 17 times the total amount of the drug seized a decade ago in all 13 countries combined, the agency noted. Elsewhere, meth has displaced heroin as the biggest drug problem.

“In Malaysia, the number of methamphetamine users detected by law enforcement authorities surpassed that of heroin users for the first time in 2017,” according to the report.

One reason for the spike: organized crime groups have taken increased interest in meth and other drugs in the so-called “Golden Triangle” historically known as a source of opium and heroin.

DISCOVERIES

Elixir of Life

Humanity’s quest for immortality might be coming to an end.

Archaeologists in China have finally found the “elixir of life” – or at least an ancient version of it.

While exploring the tomb of a noble family in central China, they discovered several artifacts, including a bronze pot containing the elixir, Gizmodo reported.

The pot contained about a gallon of a yellowish liquid, which archaeologists initially presumed was a type of wine used in rituals and ceremonies during the Western Han Dynasty, between 202 BC to 8 AD.

Tests revealed that the liquid was a mix of potassium nitrate and alunite – the main ingredients used to create life-enhancing potions documented in ancient Taoist texts.

It’s unclear if the combination brought the intended result – or even if it was supposed to be consumed.

Potassium nitrate – which is lethal in high doses – is used in meat processing, fertilizers and fireworks, while alunite is used to make alum, which is used in pickling and baking powder.

The researchers, however, see the find as a milestone in China’s history.

“It is the first time that mythical ‘immortality medicines’ have been found in China,” Shi Jiazhen, head of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Luoyang, told Xinhua. “The liquid is of significant value for the study of ancient Chinese thought on achieving immortality and the evolution of Chinese civilization.”

Map Feature

DailyChatter’s mission is to help our subscribers know the world better. We won’t be successful at that if you don’t know exactly where a country is on the global map. Navigating our complex world of more than 200 countries across seven continents is no easy task even for those of us who spend all of our time devoted to world news.

We hope this new mapping feature will increase your global knowledge and stimulate your curiosity to learn even more about the extraordinary diversity of our world. Let us know what you think at [email protected].

Best wishes, Phil Balboni, Co-Executive Editor and CEO

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