September 04, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

SYRIA

Woman, Lost

Syrian officials recently began counting and registering thousands of women in camps for detainees connected to Islamic State, the Washington Post reported. Many are Iraqis or other foreigners who came to live under the group’s harsh Islamic codes when they seized a third of Iraq and Syria around six years ago – and they can’t or won’t return home. Australia, Britain, Germany, Denmark, Indonesia and others have stripped some of their citizenship.

Some women undoubtedly regret their actions and would like to find peace. But some also still fly the terrorist organization’s black flag in the camp.

US-backed Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces watch over the families in the camps. They claim that Turkey has been giving aid to Islamic State operatives there, including smuggling out women and children, Voice of America wrote.

Turkey denies the claim but says the inhumane camps should be shut down. American leaders are wary of releasing the detainees, though, saying they wouldn’t want to disperse folks, including women and children, who might go on to create an Islamic State 2.0, the Associated Press reported.

That idea is not so farfetched. Canadian authorities recently arrested a woman recruited into Islamic State. Her husband had already been arrested, too, on terror charges.

Writing in Lawfare, Harvard University Visiting Fellow Vera Mironova, who interviewed women in the camps, said many were disillusioned with Islamic State. They felt as if the caliphate the group tried to construct failed because its leaders were not authentic Muslims.

Another writer, Azadeh Moaveni, in an interview with the Center for Strategic & International Studies, said she found many women in the camps who were merely part of families who were swept up when the thugs swooped into their towns and supplanted the incompetent government officials who preceded them.

But the United Nations recently warned that too few women have faced justice for their crimes committed at the supposed command of the group’s leaders. “We know that women were part of the morality police, policing other women, and also part of the female sex trade of female slaves,” Devorah Margolin, a researcher at George Washington University, told Voice of America.

Just ask women in the Yazidi community – a religious minority in the Middle East – who suffered mightily under the harsh, ultraorthodox rule of the terrorist organization. The group tried to wipe out their existence, killing the men and the elderly, and selling the women as sex slaves. Six years later, many remain haunted and traumatized, like Hanna, 34, who found refuge in Germany, a Time story detailed.

“Maybe I’m going to go crazy, or I’m going to kill myself. Maybe I won’t find a solution for myself except to die,” she told Time. “Now I’m 34, and I didn’t see any hope in my entire life. And for the future also, I don’t have any hope.”

WANT TO KNOW

SLOVAKIA

Derailed

A Slovakian court Thursday acquitted businessman Marian Kocner, believed to be the mastermind behind the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in 2018, Politico reported.

The judges said there was a lack of evidence against Kocner and co-defendant Alena Zsuzsova even as the court convicted another defendant, Tomas Szabo, of involvement.

Prosecutors had argued that Kocner – a businessman with close ties to Slovak officials and judges – was the mastermind behind the murders. Kocner’s business dealings were the subject of numerous articles by Kuciak.

The murders sent shockwaves around the country, resulting in mass demonstrations and eventually the resignation of then-Prime Minister Robert Fico.

The ruling was condemned by the victims’ families, who said they will appeal the verdict to the supreme court. Kocner, meanwhile, will remain in jail on a separate matter.

JAMAICA

Buffalo Soldiers

Jamaica’s ruling party was re-elected in a landslide victory Thursday in an election that was marked by a low turnout due to fears over the pandemic, the BBC reported.

Results show that Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) won 49 of the 63 seats in its race against the People’s National Party (PNP).

The campaign was dominated by issues concerning the economy, which has seen the worst economic slump in decades, as well as a spike in crime and in the numbers of those infected by the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, Holness’ administration oversaw a dramatic economic turnaround in Jamaica: The country slashed its debt to 93 percent of gross domestic product, decreased unemployment and introduced inflation-targeting, Bloomberg reported.

The prime minister campaigned on the party’s achievement and has pledged to boost the country’s economy after the pandemic.

Jamaica’s gross domestic product is expected to plunge seven to 10 percent this year, while its stock market has declined 36 percent in dollar terms since the pandemic hit.

GERMANY

Poisoned Critic, Poisoned Politics

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced pressure from lawmakers Thursday to scrap the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia in light of the poisoning of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, the Financial Times reported.

Politicians from all sides of the aisle said that the project has no future following the discovery that Navalny – who is currently in a coma in a German hospital – was poisoned with the novichok nerve agent.

Novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018 in Britain.

The Russian government has repeatedly said it did not poison Navalny, adding that any decision to cancel the pipeline project was “emotional statements not based on concrete facts.”

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline aims to bring Russian gas across the Baltic to Germany – it has been controversial since its inception. Critics say it will increase Europe’s dependency on Russia for energy exports, while the United States has imposed sanctions on companies involved in the project. Washington is now planning a new round of sanctions that would target any company facilitating the project and possibly German officials.

Berlin expressed outrage over the sanctions but Navalny’s case has added a new layer of complexity to the matter.

DISCOVERIES

Canine Detectives

Dogs can sniff out diseases including cancer, so why not the coronavirus?

That’s a question researcher Cynthia Otto and her team have been trying to answer, while training pooches to spot people infected with the virus.

The program is already showing promising results, the Washington Post reported.

In their experiments, the science team used a scent wheel with 12 spokes, each holding an odor sample for the dog to sniff. One spoke contained a sample from a patient with Covid-19, while the others had samples from patients that tested negative for the virus and other distractive scents – such as banana and rum.

The pups successfully picked the Covid-19 positive samples more than 95 percent of the time.

Otto said there needs to be more tests before the dogs are sent to airports and schools to save lives.

Still, some have already begun using coronavirus-detecting dogs, according to the Conversation. Detector dogs in airports in the United Arab Emirates have helped slow down the virus’ spread, and pooches in other countries are being trained to spot the pathogen.

Click here to see the canine detectives training.

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: 6,150,998 (+0.59%)
  2. Brazil: 4,041,638 (+1.09%)
  3. India: 3,936,747 (+2.16%)
  4. Russia: 1,006,923 (+0.49%)
  5. Peru: 657,129 (0.00%)**
  6. Colombia: 641,574 (+1.30%)
  7. South Africa: 633,015 (+0.38%)
  8. Mexico: 616,894 (+0.97%)
  9. Spain: 488,513 (+1.87%)
  10. Argentina: 451,198 (+2.74%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country