The World Today for March 18, 2019

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Money, Power and Blood

Libyans ousted the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi more than eight years ago with the help of the US and NATO.

Today, amid criticism that the West’s intervention was a failure, Libya is still reeling from the chaotic power vacuum that arose after Gaddafi’s death.

“I cannot regret Gaddafi’s time because what Libya is today is the product of 42 years of systematic destruction,” Marwan Jalal, a 43-year-old oil engineer, told Al Jazeera last month. “Sooner or later, Libyans will find peace but the journey seems long.”

Now there’s a chance Jalal’s prayers might be answered.

For years, the United Nations-supported Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli have governed the capital and most of western Libya, while Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army have dominated the east.

But lately Haftar’s forces have been accumulating territory in southern Libya, reported the Guardian. They now control two-thirds of the country, vaulting Haftar into a position where he might be the most powerful leader in the country.

Among Haftar’s recent gains are important oil fields that could provide his troops with the revenue necessary to run a new government, according to Reuters.

Backed with support from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – Egypt especially is concerned about militants entering its territory across the porous Libyan border – Haftar’s force is modeled after the Egyptian army, the Washington Times wrote. He’s using the military to run civil society and the economy in cities like Benghazi.

The question now is whether Haftar will challenge the central government in Tripoli and seize control of politics – like the Egyptian army did. That would be bad for democracy. It could trigger a resumption of full-fledged civil war.

Or it could restore order to a country whose citizens desperately want to live normal lives. Already, residents have been returning to Benghazi and rebuilding their homes and the city center, the Washington Times reported.

Al-Sarraj and Haftar have claimed they want elections in Libya. But they have delayed votes over disagreements on electoral procedures, including a referendum on a new constitution.

The pressure on both sides to reach a peaceful agreement quickly is mounting.

While Al-Sarraj and Haftar have consolidated power, the North African country’s desert southland has been a dangerous no-man’s land where the Islamic State and other militant groups have roamed. And even though al-Sarraj and Haftar have diminished extremists in the country, the jihadists might return, noted Bloomberg.

A peace deal could also unlock a torrent of foreign investment, the Libya Observer argued, citing interest from German firms looking to plow money into oil and gas facilities that are close to Europe.

One hopes the two leaders choose money and power over bloodshed. Then Libya has a chance.



Web of Hate

Facebook said Sunday it has already removed 1.5 million videos of the New Zealand mosque attacks, most before they could be uploaded. But the company was not able to prevent the attacker from live streaming the mass shooting for at least 17 minutes on Friday.

“We continue to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people,” said Mia Garlnick, spokesperson for Facebook New Zealand, according to CNN.

The video of the attack on two Christchurch mosques, in which a suspected white supremacist gunned down at least 50 Muslims, also rapidly spread to different websites ranging from YouTube to 8chan, making it difficult to eradicate.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved quickly and “sensitively” to pull the country together, even as she pushes for tighter gun regulations, Reuters reported.

She was quick to label the mass killing a terrorist attack, and in a symbolic gesture against prejudice, she donned a black headscarf to lead a multi-party group to visit grieving families and Muslim community members.


Paris Is Burning

French President Emmanuel Macron is taking flak for failing to prevent “yellow vest” protesters from smashing shop windows, setting fire to a bank and torching cars on Paris’ iconic Champs-Elysées Saturday.

The protesters smashed nearly every shop window on the grand avenue on the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations against Macron’s conservative economic reforms, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported.

Macron rushed back from a skiing trip in the Pyrenees to address the situation, but critics said he should have seen the violence coming and not left Paris in the first place.

Calls mounted from the left and right to take tough action to prevent further violence. However, due to concerns over civil liberties, the authorities have yet to implement a law passed by Parliament last week that makes it illegal for protesters to cover their faces and allows police to bar known troublemakers from demonstrations. That reluctance comes in spite of an “emergency” ban on face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women almost a decade ago in the name of public safety and social norms.

Meanwhile, the number of people participating in the protests nationwide has fallen from around 250,000 in December to around 32,000 on Saturday, according to the Interior Ministry.


‘Incitement to Racism’

Israel’s Supreme Court barred the leader of the far-right Jewish Power party from running in next month’s elections, overturning an earlier decision by the electoral committee.

The decision to disqualify leader Michael Ben-Ari rather than his Jewish Power party marks the first time that a single candidate has been banned from elections since new rules were adopted in 2002, the BBC reported.

The case concerned comments Ben-Ari made that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said amounted to “incitement to racism.”

According to the Times of Israel, he suggested that a firing squad is the best way to deal with “anyone who dares speak against a Jew” as that’s the language “Arabs understand.” Ben-Ari has since said he was quoted out of context and was referring to the leadership of Hamas, not Arabs generally.

In a parallel ruling, the court also reinstated Israeli Arab parties that had previously been banned in response to their critical remarks about the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.



Apparently, showing up to a party empty-handed was considered rude even in ancient times.

Historians recently discovered evidence that Stonehenge was a huge party spot back in the Neolithic period, bringing in people – and pigs – from all over Britain, Discover magazine reported.

In a recently published study, archaeologists analyzed the remains of 131 pig bones unearthed in the premises of the iconic monument. Their findings revealed that the animals came from all over the island, brought by guests roughly 4,500 years ago.

While the study confirms human love for pork, it also suggests that ancient people could and would travel long distances to attend huge festivities.

“Results demonstrate that the Late Neolithic was the first phase of pan-British connectivity,” the researchers wrote.

They added that freeloading was probably shunned even then, since guests brought their pigs over very long distances – a difficult task.

“This suggests that prescribed contributions were required, and that rules dictated that offered pigs must be raised by the feasting participants, accompanying them on their journey, rather than being acquired locally,” the authors wrote.

Today’s hosts write, “Bring your own beer.” Little do they know it was once, “Bring your own hog.”

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