The World Today for December 11, 2019

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Disillusioned in the Swamp

After tense negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the political factions Fatah and Hamas, Palestine is expected to hold legislative and presidential elections early next year.

It’s about time. Palestinians last cast ballots for their leaders in 2006. The Jerusalem Post explained why.

Thirteen years ago, Hamas won more legislative seats than Fatah, the political party whose core is the late Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO. The US designates Hamas as a terrorist group. But to some Palestinians, Hamas is a political party and independence movement. After the 2006 vote, Hamas leaders refused to work with Palestinian National Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas. Instead, the group took over the Gaza Strip, kicking Fatah officials out of the territory on the Mediterranean Sea.

Since then, Hamas has used Gaza as a base for attacks against Israel, prompting overwhelming responses from the Israeli military and an economic blockade that has helped impoverish Gaza’s residents and fuel anger toward the Jewish state.

Now Hamas believes the time is right for a vote. “There is a national consensus to hold elections,” Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Xinhua.

But Haniyeh might be out of touch. Many Palestinians are sick and tired of their leaders’ politicking and infighting. With graft prevalent throughout Palestinian government and few successes in the fight to stop Israel from absorbing more land, many voters are apathetic about the prospect of casting ballots.

“The Palestinian Authority is swamped in corruption,” Mariam, a 24-year-old unemployed Bethlehem resident, told the Washington Times. “Whether there is an election or not, the entire organization and policies of the Palestinian Authority are mired in corruption. Therefore, the election has no significance; it can’t change anything.”

Polls show that a third of voters won’t even turn out on election day, wrote Al-Monitor. Many would prefer technocrats or other independent figures to run the state rather than political parties, which many believe will work for their own narrow interests rather than the good of the people, pollsters said.

Around 340,000 Palestinians also live in East Jerusalem on territory that Israel has claimed as its own. Israel has yet to say whether it will allow voting stations as well as freedom of movement for campaigners and others who would need access to the city, the New Arab wrote. In an interview with France24, Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Malki insisted that Israel must let the election occur.

Fatah might be hoping Israel throws a spanner into the process. According to the Times of Israel, the party led by President Abbas is likely to lose bigtime in the upcoming vote due to widespread unhappiness in Palestine.

A measure designed to quell discontent might just give voice to more of it.




Peace At Last?

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine agreed to a “full and comprehensive implementation” of a ceasefire in the eastern Donbass region in Ukraine before the end of 2019, but still haven’t agreed on several crucial issues in resolving the long-running conflict, CNBC reported Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy met for the first time in Paris for peace talks mediated by the leaders of France and Germany.

Putin and Zelenskiy agreed to stabilize the situation in Donbass and to exchange all “conflict-related detainees” by the end of 2019.

They also agreed to hold elections in Donbass, which would offer the region self-governing status if they are deemed free and fair.

Both leaders haven’t fully agreed when elections will take place, but said they would organize another meeting within four months to discuss political and security conditions ahead of the elections.

Relations between the two nations collapsed in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and actively supported a pro-Russian uprising in the Donbass region.

Since the talks began, there has been uncertainty on whether the meeting will end the conflict, PBS NewsHour reported Monday.

“I hope something good will come of it, but I don’t have any illusions,” Oleh, a Ukrainian officer, told the news outlet.


Return to Normality

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday agreed to lift martial law in Mindanao by the end of the year, putting an end to the controversial May 2017 order that placed the southern island under military control, Al Jazeera reported.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao more than two years ago after fighters from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf armed groups laid siege to the city of Marawi on the southern island.

More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were displaced during the battle of Marawi.

Originally, the order was given only for 60 days, but it was extended several times, with the government citing security concerns.

Critics questioned the legality of Duterte’s order and criticized the president for failing to fully stop armed attacks in the south.

Marawi community leaders, however, welcomed the decision and urged the government to also lift curfews in the city and the province of Lanao del Sur.


Tip of the Iceberg

An Algerian court sentenced two former prime ministers to prison Tuesday in a landmark trial that comes two days before the North African country holds disputed presidential elections, the Associated Press reported.

Former Prime Ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal were sentenced to 15 years and 12 years respectively over a car manufacturing corruption scandal that involved huge bribes, inflated invoices and suspected loans.

Both former officials served under former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned in April after months of protests, in part because of anger over corruption.

The trial was televised as a way for the authorities to show that they are listening to protesters’ concerns regarding corruption and transparency.

Protesters welcomed the verdict but gave no sign that their demands for a complete political overhaul in the gas-rich nation are satisfied.

Meanwhile, protesters have rejected the upcoming elections as a sham because it’s organized by the existing establishment.


Southern Roamers

Paleontologists discovered for the first time evidence that feathered dinosaurs lived in the Earth’s southern polar region over 110 million years ago, National Geographic reported.

A few decades ago, they found preserved fossil feathers in Australia, but only recently were able to properly study them.

During the Cretaceous period about 118 million years ago, Australia was further south and was connected to Antarctica to form the planet’s southern pole.

In their study, researchers couldn’t determine the species that sported the feathers, but noted that a majority of the feathers were used for insulation and weren’t capable of flight – meaning most belonged to ground-dwelling carnivorous dinosaurs.

The authors argued that the feathers helped the creatures keep warm during the cold and dark periods that would engulf the ancient landmass.

“It makes perfect sense that these feathers would have helped to keep dinosaurs and primitive birds warm at high latitudes during the Cretaceous,” said fossil researcher Ryan McKellar, who was not involved in the study.

The feathers, however, showed that plumed dinosaurs had darker coloring, instead of a whiter or fairer color that is seen in today’s polar animals.

The team contended that maybe the area wasn’t as cold as it is today, but only more fossil studies can solve the puzzle of the type of beasts that once roamed today’s frozen wasteland.

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