September 15, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

The Magic Bullet

Americans aren’t the only ones debating how to put an end to police brutality.

Folks in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have taken to the streets recently to protests against police violence, extrajudicial killings and the unfair application of the law, NBC News reported.

Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission found, for example, that more people died at the hands of police in the early days of the coronavirus lockdown than from Covid-19. It’s not clear if those deaths were justified but the statistics showed that the police were outpacing the pandemic in one sense.

Similarly, police were responsible for more than one-third of all killings in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro in April, Human Rights Watch wrote.

Police violence correlates to poverty, according to Borgen Magazine, a publication of the Borgen Project, which aims to alleviate it.

The good news is that Americans aren’t the only ones coming up with solutions.

Sometimes aggressive action is necessary: Editors at the Gleaner, a major Jamaican newspaper, called for the government to cut 17 percent of police to root out corrupt cops and deter others who cause rather than prevent violence. As Politico explained, the city of Camden in New Jersey abolished its police force and rebuilt a more community-friendly replacement.

Those moves would be impossible on a nationwide level in the US, of course, because the US has more than 18,000 departments spread out among 50 states and hundreds of localities. And that is assuming that there is agreement that there is, indeed, a problem. Regardless, it would be impossible to wave a wand and change all of them overnight, Foreign Affairs noted.

The attitude at the top matters, though. In India, a vast country where localities have ample powers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted Indian cops not to “show off like Singhams,” meaning not to act like “lions” that descend on citizens as if they were predators after prey, reported Outlook, a local news magazine.

Meanwhile, some reforms have worked.

Divided for decades by sectarian violence and the legacy of colonialism, Northern Ireland faced a fraught environment and police reform looked nearly impossible until a 1998 peace agreement. One side wanted to dismantle the police. The other feared anarchy if law enforcement was undermined.

Officials launched a massive and highly inclusive consultative process, gaining input from ordinary folks to experts, in a bid to make sure nobody felt left out of the reconstruction of the local police.

“Where armored cars and long guns were once commonplace, policing now is rooted in the community and based on strong partnerships,” wrote former Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and policing consultant Robert Peirce in a Washington Post Op-Ed.

Listening, it turns out, is the magic bullet.

WANT TO KNOW

BELARUS

The Spider and the Fly

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the embattled leader of Belarus a $1.5 billion loan on Monday, a gesture of support for Alexander Lukashenko who is facing massive – and growing – demonstrations demanding his resignation following a disputed reelection last month, Reuters reported.

Lukashenko flew to Sochi in Russia to meet with Putin and make peace after antagonizing Moscow just before the election by arresting 32 Russian nationals he accused of being mercenaries sent to destabilize the country.

Meanwhile, during the talks, the Kremlin said that the two leaders will focus on key issues of “further development of the Russian-Belarusian strategic partnership,” as well as promote “the integration processes within the Union State” – read: Moscow wants to absorb Belarus.

Putin has been wanting to unify Russia and Belarus for years, and has made its recent offers of military and economic aid with calls for tighter integration. That follows years of Belarus making overtures to the West, the Moscow Times reported.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Belarusians have taken to the streets, prompting the government to launch a massive crackdown – thousands have been arrested since the protest began a few weeks ago when Lukashenko – who has been in power since 1994 – was declared the winner of the Aug. 9 elections.

The opposition has accused him of rigging the elections, a charge he denies.

Analysts believe that in the face of mounting protests, Lukashenko might bow down to Russian pressure for closer political and economic integration – a plan he has previously rejected.

JAPAN

New Emperor, Old Clothes

Yoshihide Suga was elected Monday by ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers as the party’s new president, setting the stage for the former top government spokesman to become Japan’s next prime minister, Kyodo News reported.

Suga defeated his opponents by a landslide and will replace former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who resigned last month citing health reasons.

The new party president is expected to be confirmed as the country’s leader Wednesday: The LDP controls the lower house and holds a majority in the upper house.

The upcoming leader will inherit some of Abe’s challenges, including handling relations with China and the United States. He will also have to decide on the future of the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympic Games, which were postponed to the summer of 2021 due to the pandemic.

Suga, meanwhile, has pledged to continue fighting the coronavirus pandemic, as well as pushing for government reform and deregulation.

Analysts told the Washington Post that Suga’s administration is expected to be “extremely practical” but lacking a clear vision: The successor has promised to continue Abe’s policies including his “Abenomics” package of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reform.

GERMANY

Willkommen

Germany said it will take some families with children left homeless after a huge fire destroyed the Moria refugee camp in the Greek island of Lesbos last week, the Local Germany reported Monday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has already agreed to a European scheme to take 150 of the 400 unaccompanied minors from the camp, possibly more: Merkel is willing to take “hundreds of children and their families, perhaps even thousands,” Germany’s Bild newspaper reported. The government is expected to reach a decision this week.

The announcement has already set off grumbling – Germans remain deeply divided about welcoming more asylum seekers: Merkel’s decision in 2015 to allow almost a million refugees was highly controversial and sparked a surge in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany, which secured nearly 13 percent of the seats in parliament during the 2017 federal elections, a first in post-war Germany.

Even so, the chancellor has been hailed for integrating the refugees. Analysts, who have long speculated on the reasons Merkel – a non-ideological politician credited with superior political acumen and often called “Merkiavelli” – initially opened Germany up to refugees, saying that her imminent departure likely plays a role: She plans to step down in 2021.

DISCOVERIES

Walking Together

In elephant packs, females are bigger social butterflies, known to form tight family groups, while males are mostly seen as loners since they leave the herd at 10 to 20 years old.

But that doesn’t mean they walk a lonely path.

A new study found that young males are far from recluses – they like to hang out with older male elephants, the Associated Press reported.

“Males are more enigmatic. But it turns out they aren’t such loners,” said co-author Connie Allen.

Scientists analyzed sightings of more than 1,260 male African savannah elephants in Botswana and discovered that the older ones most often led groups of mixed ages.

The role of older males isn’t simply to provide company to the young but also to maintain order and preventing them from going astray.

Researcher Diana Reiss, who was not involved in the study, said the behavior is similar to how human societies value the contribution of grandparents.

“We’re now learning this pattern is also true for some other long-lived mammals, including dolphins, whales and elephants,” she said.

Previous research has spotted this similar male group dynamic among Asian elephants.

The study could help develop new conservation strategies in the future that consider the mentorship role of older elephants.

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: 6,554,821 (+0.53%)
  2. India: 4,930,236 (+1.73%)
  3. Brazil: 4,345,610 (+0.35%)
  4. Russia: 1,064,438 (+0.51%)
  5. Peru: 729,619 (0.00%)**
  6. Colombia: 721,892 (+0.78%)
  7. Mexico: 671,716 (+0.50%)
  8. South Africa: 650,749 (+0.15%)
  9. Spain: 593,730 (+4.84%)
  10. Argentina: 565,446 (+1.78%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country