The World Today for July 19, 2019

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Radio Free Sudan

Capital FM is going silent in Khartoum.

The pop music radio station was part of a cultural revolution in Sudan this spring.

“It was just so beautiful, and we were just so proud that we’re soulful,” Ahmad Hikmat, the station’s content director, told National Public Radio. “You’d wake up in the morning, and you’d hear a song on Capital Radio was D’Angelo. Who would play D’Angelo in the morning, you know? It’s just 91.6 FM that would do that.”

In April, the Sudanese military took control of the conservative Islamic country after ousting President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The leader had a record of infamy, overseeing a murderous campaign in Darfur in western Sudan. Still, as Foreign Policy explained, leaders of the junta who succeeded al-Bashir were not exactly nice guys. They were among the so-called Janjaweed who perpetrated the horrors in Darfur.

With Bashir gone, calls for civilian leadership grew into a full-blown political movement. The military began cracking down on the protests in early June, killing scores of people, wrote Al Jazeera.

“Sudan can be better,” Nahid Gabralla, a 53-year-old activist who said security forces beat her and threatened to rape her in the June 3 raid on the main protest camp, told Reuters. “My daughter deserves to live in a nice country. … We will fight for a democratic Sudan, real change and for our rights.”

Recently, the military and civilian leaders signed a deal for sharing power until elections, promising an end to a standoff that had paralyzed the country.

The power-sharing deal creates a council of generals and civilians that will serve for around three years, reported Voice of America. The civilians will select a cabinet of technocrats. Officials will investigate the deadly June 3 crackdown, but the head of the military council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, insists he and other leaders were not involved in the first violent incidents.

Some Sudanese might disagree. Many began uploading videos of harsh security tactics and police brutality as soon as the military junta ended an Internet blackout associated with the crackdown, reported Britain’s Channel 4 News.

Regardless, some expressed hope that Sudan can move forward. Others cautioned that the military won’t give up power – it has been a trend for military dictatorships to follow protests across Africa and Asia, and it is not unusual in Sudan either.

“The military may have wanted to calm the situation following weeks of deadly protests from the oppositions groups,” Nazlin Umar, a political analyst based in Kenya, told the Washington Times. “When the time comes, the military will obviously ignore the peace agreement and refuse to hand over power to civilian rule. That has been the history of the country since independence.”

The crisis took a toll on Capital FM. One staffer died in the military crackdown. More recently, government censors have been periodically taking the station off the air. Employees are leaving, fearing Sudan’s conservative Islamist culture is reasserting itself after the chaos of Bashir’s exit.

Regardless, the tunes linger. Hikmat said he can’t get Marvin Gaye’s “Make Me Wanna Holler” out of his mind.



Strait Flush

President Donald Trump said Thursday that a US Navy vessel shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, while Iran’s military said its Islamic Revolutionary Guard had seized a foreign-flagged ship in the contentious waters.

The Strait of Hormuz has been heating up in recent weeks, as Tehran struggles with crippling US sanctions that have blocked most of its oil sales. That’s because the narrow sea passage between Iran and the United Arab Emirates is the world’s most important strategic chokepoint for oil transport, according to the US Energy Information Administration, NPR reported.

Last year, more than a fifth of the world’s crude oil and other petroleum products passed through its waters, making it vital for the US to protect and also Iran’s best leverage in the ongoing dispute.

So far, the brinksmanship seems to have been carefully calibrated to avoid all-out war. Still, the risks of a misstep remain high, as illustrated by Trump’s last-minute cancellation of a retaliatory strike over the downing of a US drone by Iranian forces last month, CNN noted.


Anime Arson

Japanese anime fans are in mourning following Thursday’s deadly arson attack on an animation studio in Kyoto that killed at least 33 people and injured 36 others.

Allegedly started by a 41-year-old suspect who the authorities have said did not work for the company, Kyoto Animation, the fire was the deadliest to hit Japan in nearly two decades, the Associated Press reported.

“There was an explosion, then I heard people shouting, some asking for help,” a witness told Japan’s TBS TV.

Another witness claimed that the suspect had complained that something of his had been stolen, possibly by the company. Injured in the fire, the suspect was apprehended by police at the scene and taken to a local hospital.

Though not as well known outside Japan as some of the country’s other anime studios, Kyoto Animation is responsible for various hit series about high school girls that are so popular that fans make pilgrimages to the real-life locales where scenes take place.


Indifference and Murder

Hondurans are joining migrant caravans headed for the US due to miserable poverty and rampant crime. But the nation faces another crisis that has made fewer headlines: An epidemic of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people.

Following the murders of three transgender women in the first week of July, the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on Honduras to investigate the escalating violence against trans women and other sexual minorities, Reuters reported.

Twenty-one LGBT+ people have been murdered since January, up from 18 in the first half of 2018, and more than 300 gay and trans people have been murdered over the past decade, according to Cattrachas, a local human rights group.

Marcela Laitano, head of public policy at the Honduran Human Rights Ministry, said the government is working to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes as well as to promote a “culture of respect” for people of varying sexual orientations.

But progress has been slow, said Cattrachas leader Indyra Mendoza, as “there’s a great indifference among society.”


The Odyssey

Arctic blue foxes thrive in the cold.

Now, researchers have discovered that the furry predator and scavenger can travel vast distances in the freezing wastelands of the North Pole, the New York Times reported.

Last year, scientists of the Norwegian Polar Institute equipped a young female fox with a tracking device and set it off into the wild to monitor its movements.

After 76 days, the team was stunned to see that the young fox traveled over 2,000 miles from Norway to Canada, using seasonal ice in the Arctic Ocean.

They explained in their study that the animal’s long journey was probably motivated by food scarcity or the search for a new habitat.

As of February 2019, the tracker went silent and the fate of the fox remains unknown, but its odyssey highlights the impact of climate change in the Arctic. Sea ice plays an important role in the mammal’s migration and survival, researchers said, but rising global temperatures pose a threat.

Norway’s environment minister, Ola Elvestuen, cautioned that action must be taken to protect wildlife in the Arctic.

“The warming in the north is frighteningly fast,” he said. “We must cut emissions quickly to prevent the sea ice from disappearing all summer.”

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