The World Today for July 15, 2020

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COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 3,431,574 (+1.99%)
  2. Brazil: 1,926,824 (+2.22%)
  3. India: 936,181 (+3.25%)
  4. Russia: 738,787 (0.00%)**
  5. Peru: 333,867 (+1.13%)
  6. Chile: 319,493 (+0.58%)
  7. Mexico: 311,486 (+2.32%)
  8. South Africa: 298,292 (+3.65%)
  9. UK: 292,931 (+0.43%)
  10. Iran: 262,173 (+0.97%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country



Delicate, and Combustible

Who is Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed?

Is he, as Axios explained, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who solved a border dispute that paved the way for peace with neighboring Eritrea? The leader who has made serious structural changes including dismantling Ethiopia’s authoritarian structure, liberalizing the economy, releasing political prisoners and welcoming the opposition and separatists back into the fold?

Many think so, and include him on the international speaking circuit: “I consider this painful global pandemic to be a complex, adaptive challenge,” said Abiy at a recent World Economic Forum event. “In a connected and interdependent world, a complex and adaptive challenge cannot be solved by individual countries alone – it can only be addressed through…collective action and global cooperation.”

Or is this prime minister, ushered in on a wave of change in 2018, an authoritarian who appears to be playing hardball with both his people and regional powers?

Some believe so after Ahmed turned off the Internet and sent troops onto the streets recently when protests erupted after the death of iconic musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. At least 166 people died in the civil unrest, Reuters reported. It’s not clear who killed Hundeessaa. The prime minister condemned the murder even as civil rights activists have been raising flags about the Ethiopian government’s harsh treatment of dissidents and opponents.

Analysts say that the answer is more complicated. As the prime minister has moved to transform the country, the changes have unleashed forces that have produced a sharp increase in lawlessness in many parts of the country: Rising ethnic tensions and violence have displaced 3 million people, and rival ethnic groups are clashing over resources, power and the country’s direction forward, the New York Times wrote.

Still, Hundeessaa’s death touched a nerve at a time when the coronavirus and the prospect of an economic slowdown was already making Ethiopians jittery. The pandemic struck as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies was slowing, locusts were invading and outbreaks of cholera, measles, and yellow fever were rising, a United Nations study found.

Hundeessaa sang in the language of the Oromo, the East African country’s biggest ethnic group. His death stoked grievances among Oromos who traditionally have been excluded from power until the last election put Ahmed, who is an Oromo, into office, a first in the country, explained the Conversation.

“In life, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa’s protest songs roused and united Ethiopians yearning for freedom and justice,” wrote the New York Times.

Anti-government protests have erupted around the world over the prime minister’s seeming helplessness to solve the murder of a hero in the face of what most Ethiopians view as inter-ethnic, anti-Oromo violence. Protesters even toppled the statue of the late Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie in London.

While cracking down internally, Ahmed is also butting heads with neighboring powers like Egypt as he presses on with a massive dam on the Blue Nile that will collect water and generate electricity for Ethiopians while giving him more political leverage downstream, Agence France-Presse reported. Egyptian leaders, however, worry that the dam might cause more droughts, the Telegraph noted.

Meanwhile, the country’s first democratic elections set to take place in August were postponed due to the pandemic. The delay has outraged opposition parties, who worry the government will make a power grab.

But analysts doubt that. And analyst Yohannes Gedamu, says that Abiy is on the right track in spite of it all.

“Abiy fumbled, he dropped the ball,” he told the Times of the leader’s recent actions. “(But) revolutionary positive changes actually take some time.”




The British government said it would ban Huawei from supplying any new equipment for the country’s fledgling 5G phone networks, a major shift in policy by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Financial Times reported.

The National Security Council said British mobile providers will be banned from purchasing 5G kits from the Chinese telecom giant after Dec. 31. It added that Huawei equipment must be removed from the 5G networks by 2027.

Last month, the United States imposed new sanctions on Huawei. British officials said the new sanctions mean that the company’s equipment can no longer be trusted for use in Britain’s new telecom infrastructure.

The decision is a major shift for the British government, which earlier this year had allowed the Chinese company to take up to a 35 percent share of the 5G market.

The decision marks a strategic victory for US President Donald Trump, who has been warning allies to refrain from using Huawei’s equipment over spying concerns.

Johnson’s move is also expected to generate retaliatory action from China: Chinese investment is present in many aspects of the British economy, including the nuclear power sector.


Wanted: Peace

Armenian and Azerbaijani troops remained on high alert Tuesday following a two-day border skirmish that led to casualties as peace talks remain stalled, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

Azerbaijan said that 11 members of its security forces have been killed since the clashes erupted Sunday. Armenia said that three of its soldiers and two police officers have been wounded.

The South Caucasus neighbors have been locked for years in a conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The majority ethnic Armenian region declared independence from Azerbaijan during a 1988-1994 war that claimed  30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands. Since 1994, the territory has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces.

The latest clashes occurred a few days after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev threatened to withdraw from stalled peace talks and go to war with Armenia. Meanwhile, the United States, the European Union and Russia urged restraint and called for the resumption of negotiations over the disputed region.


Turning a Page

The National Assembly of Suriname elected Chan Santokhi to be the country’s new president, ending the decades-long rule of President Desi Bouterse, who was found guilty of murder in 2019, the BBC reported.

Santokhi’s Progressive Reform party won the largest share of votes in the legislative elections in May, enough to form a coalition government with the General Liberation and Development Party.

The newly elected leader said that he will inherit a country “on the brink of financial collapse,” and that the South American nation is “balancing on the edge of an international default.”

Santokhi’s election concludes the decades-long rule of Bouterse, who first came to political prominence after he overthrew the elected government of Henck Arron in 1980. Bouterse became Suriname’s de facto leader for much of the 1980s. In 2010, he was elected president and re-elected for a second term in 2015.

Last year, a court found him guilty for the 1982 murder of 15 political opponents and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. An arrest warrant, however, hasn’t yet been issued. Bouterse plans to appeal the verdict.


Gun Dearmad

While it may be common to see Gaelic words in Scotland, the language is not frequently spoken.

Now, it’s at risk of dying, according to a new study.

Researcher Conchúr Ó Giollagáin and his team say Scottish Gaelic will be dead within a decade if no measures are taken, the Guardian reported.

Ó Giollagáin’s team wrote that only 11,000 people were habitual Gaelic speakers. It is mostly used by elderly Gaels living on a few islands in the Hebrides. And even though Gaelic is being taught at Scottish schools, it is rarely used by teenagers.

The team added that the government’s efforts to use the language in public signs and official vehicles were “pyrrhic, symbolic victories,” in which Gaelic is merely given superficial recognition and remained a minor matter for institutions.

Researchers recommend that a policy overhaul is needed to ensure that the language survives and becomes an integral part of day-to-day life for Scots, because it is Gun Dearmad (not to be forgotten).

“The situation is so critical,” said Ó Giollagáin. “The vernacular community is falling apart and those charged with supporting Gaelic need to face up to these issues. More of the same (policies) will give you more of the same crisis.”

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