June 04, 2019

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly

NEED TO KNOW

IRAQI KURDISTAN

The Kurdish Question

Two Turkish soldiers died in northern Iraq recently.

They were fighting in Turkey’s “Claw Operation” against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group fighting for an independent Kurdish state in the region, or at least equal rights and political autonomy within Turkey, the Associated Press reported.

Turkey, the United States and other Western countries have classified the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Yet, last month, for the first time in eight years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allowed lawyers to visit the party’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in his island prison, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Erdogan might have allowed the visits because Kurdish voters were key in handing an opposition candidate a narrow victory in the election for Istanbul mayor in March, the Economist wrote. Around 2 million of the city’s 15 million residents are Kurdish, a significant voting bloc. Turkish officials have overturned the Istanbul election over corruption allegations. Some Kurds might change their mind in the repeat vote on June 23.

The Turkish president also might have loosened the restrictions because Ocalan wields influence with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-supported, Kurdish-led multi-ethnic militia that has been key in the fight to oust the Islamic State from northern Syria.

Erdogan considers one component of that militia an extension of the PKK. As a result, Turkish troops have attacked its positions in Syria, putting Turkey in the awkward position of potentially fighting American troops who fight alongside the Kurds. That scenario has become less likely, though, after President Donald Trump called for the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

During the chaos of the Syrian Civil War and the Islamic State’s rise in war-torn Iraq in recent years, the Kurds mounted competent fighting forces that successfully defeated jihadists and troops associated with the tyrannical regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. As Reuters explained, after years of oppression in Syria, Iraq and Iran, the Kurds have carved out an autonomous state in northern Syria called Rojava.

In Rojava, justice is relatively civilized compared to other systems in the region. National Public Radio wrote about Kurdish courts trying and sentencing thousands of ex-Islamic State fighters to a maximum 20 years in jail. The goal of the courts and prisons is to rehabilitate people. “Revenge is for the weak,” a Kurdish attorney told the broadcaster.

Other aspects of Rojava’s government are relatively progressive, the Economist wrote. Government offices have men and women as heads. A Christian church was allowed to open there.

Congress has called on Trump to keep US forces in Syria to counter Iran and prevent the revival of the Islamic State, according to Politico.

Helping the Kurds might be reason enough.

WANT TO KNOW

SUDAN

Sudden Brutality

Sudanese troops killed at least 35 people in a sudden and brutal crackdown on the protest movement opposing the ruling military council’s grip on power on Monday.

Witnesses and protest leaders told the Associated Press that security forces strafed the protesters’ makeshift camp with gunfire and burned their tents in a bid to end the long-running demonstration once and for all.

Hundreds of people were wounded, many by gunfire, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, so the death toll is likely to rise. Meanwhile, hundreds more were arrested, activists said.

The protesters have been camped outside the military headquarters for months as the movement’s leaders negotiate with the ruling generals over what form the government will take following the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in April.

The protesters want the military to relinquish power to a civilian government, while the generals have used maintaining public order as a justification for delaying such a transition. For its part, the military leadership said troops were sent in to clear an area next to the protest site and the violence erupted when those people tried to escape through the long-established sit-in.

In light of the protests, the military council announced it would cancel all agreements with protest groups and called for snap elections within nine months, Reuters reported.

CANADA

Soul Searching

An inquiry tasked with investigating the thousands of indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or simply disappeared across Canada in recent decades labeled them victims of a “Canadian genocide.”

The report blames “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies” for disproportionate violence so extreme its writers opted for the controversial term, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The $92 million effort has taken two-and-a-half years to complete and runs to 1,200 pages, based on 24 hearings and events to gather statements conducted across Canada since 2017.

“This is an uncomfortable day for Canada but it is an essential day,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the release ceremony, according to the New York Times. “To the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls of Canada, to their families and to survivors – we have failed you.”

In addition to recognizing wrongs that lie further in the past, the study shines a harsh light on the murders of an estimated 4,000 indigenous women and girls over the past few decades, calling for measures such as treating homicides involving a partner as first-degree murder.

ITALY

Stop This Car

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has threatened to quit – likely triggering snap elections – unless the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and far-right League pull together and take responsibility for running the country.

“I am asking both these political forces to make a choice and tell me if they still want to honor the government’s obligations,” he told reporters, according to Deutsche Welle. If that doesn’t happen, “I will simply end my mandate.”

The two coalition partners have been wrangling for months over various issues, including everything from migration policy to infrastructure projects, the news agency noted.

But the split has grown wider as the far-right League gains in popularity at the expense of the left-leaning 5-Star Movement. In the recent European Parliament elections, for instance, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s League won 34 percent of the vote. In contrast, 5-Star’s  performance of 17 percent was so dismal that the party called a vote on whether to oust Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio from his post as party leader.

DISCOVERIES

The Sweet Cure

Vaccines need to remain constantly refrigerated in order to ensure their effectiveness, but that’s not always possible in hot climates and remote regions of the globe.

Exposure to high temperatures can make vaccines useless.

Many nations and charities are using imaginative ways to safely transport them, such as putting solar-powered refrigerators on camels’ backs.

One research team recently discovered that the simple addition of sugar can make vaccines more resistant to hot temperatures, according to Science Alert.

The researchers reported in their study that they mixed vaccines with the food preservatives pullulan and trehalose and dried them into a sugary film that can be transported without continuous cooling.

Local clinicians only have to add water before administering the vaccines to patients.

The method proved successful in tests on two vaccine types, which worked effectively when administered in mice.

The team still needs to test the method on humans, but if successful it can cut a lot of costs for vaccine transportation and preservation.

“This, to us, is the ultimate application of this technology,” said lead author Vincent Leung. “To imagine that something we worked on in the lab could one day be used to save people’s lives is very exciting.”