October 13, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

FRANCE

Laws of God and Man

An 18-year-old born in Pakistan recently attacked two people in Paris with a meat cleaver. The man was looking to target the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. The magazine’s offices are now secret, the BBC wrote, so the man staged his attack at the company’s former offices in the French capital.

The incident occurred as the trial over the 2015 terrorist attacks on the magazine was underway. Twelve people died when militants entered the magazine’s offices and opened fire. France 24 devoted a segment to exploring the connections between the recent violence and the 2015 attacks.

“This is something I will live with the rest of my life. I felt so powerless, so guilty,” caricaturist Corinne Rey who testified at the trial that she had been forced at gunpoint to let in the assailants, according to the Associated Press. “I expect justice to be done here. It is the law of men that rules, and not the law of God, as the terrorists would have it.”

French President Emmanuel Macron appears to share Rey’s sentiments. This month, Macron unveiled legislation to prevent “Islamist separatism” in the culturally Christian but technically secular country.  As the Washington Post explained, Macron designed the long-awaited law to regulate Islam in France.

Describing Islam as “a religion that is in crisis all around the world,” Macron said he wanted to end the “parallel society” of radical Muslims within France. Relegating Muslims to “ghettos,” he added, was France’s way of exacerbating the problem, Voice of America reported.

The new law would compel every French child to attend French school. It would also introduce jail terms and fines for doctors who provide the “virginity certificates” necessary for traditional religious marriages among West African Muslims, added the BBC. Other details are expected in December.

French Muslims felt as if the proposals were stigmatizing them, Al Jazeera wrote. Arab News op-ed writer Nabila Ramdani argued that drawing a connection between the botched Hebdo attack and the West’s war with Islam was foolish: French officials spoke as if a clueless man with a meat cleaver was an existential threat to the republic, she added.

The proposals stirred international tensions as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Macron’s comments. The two are now at odds diplomatically over Libya and other security issues in the region.

Attempting to “regulate” a religion may or may not be a good idea but people are fed up with killers. Even so, some say further alienating folks isn’t the way to draw them closer.

WANT TO KNOW

NIGERIA

Say His Name

Nigeria dissolved an infamous police unit this week following mass protests over the unit’s alleged abuses and extrajudicial killings, the BBC reported.

President Muhammadu Buhari said Monday that disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) was the “first step” in a series of police reforms. He also promised justice for the victims of police abuse and a probe into the death of a protestor in Oyo state.

Massive demonstrations have taken place in Nigerian cities for nearly a week after a video showed police officers taking two men out of a hotel in Lagos and shooting one of them, seemingly without provocation. Protesters demanded the dissolution of Sars, which has been accused of shakedowns, unlawful arrests, torture and extra-judicial executions.

They have also asked for a complete overhaul of policing in Nigeria, including an independent body to investigate and prosecute misconduct, and psychological evaluations for dismissed Sars officers.

Despite the government’s announcement, activists and demonstrators have continued to protest to ensure that the government keeps its word, as past attempts to dissolve the controversial police force have failed.

RUSSIA

A Rap on the Knuckles

The European Union said it would impose sanctions on Russian officials and organizations accused of poisoning Russian government critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The move would freeze the assets of those suspected of involvement and ban them from traveling to the EU. It’s unclear who will be targeted by the sanctions or when they might come into force.

Navalny fell ill in August during a domestic flight in Russia and was flown two days later to Germany for treatment. Last week, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that the Kremlin critic was the victim of Novichok poisoning.

Following the OPCW’s results, German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said that Navalny’s poisoning was “a breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention, one that cannot remain without consequences.”

Western officials have asked the Russian government to investigate the poisoning, while Navalny and his supporters say the Kremlin is responsible.

The Kremlin has denied involvement.

IRAQ

Safety Guarantees

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq agreed to a temporary ceasefire against the US-led coalition forces on the condition that Washington presents a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops, the Washington Post reported Monday.

A spokesman for the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group, Mohammed Mohie, said attacks would halt while militias wait for the timeline. He also warned that militia factions would use “all weapons available to them” if the US-led coalition did not provide clarity on its withdrawal plans.

Militias have been targeting US-linked embassies and bases for months, prompting Washington to threaten to shutter its diplomatic mission in Iraq. The attacks have escalated following the death of top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani during a US strike on Baghdad in January.

The strike exacerbated the tensions between the US and Iran, prompting Iraq’s parliament to demand the removal of US troops.

Since then, the number of troops has decreased from 5,200 to 3,000. The coalition attributed the decline to an increased ability to handle the remnants of the Islamic State militant group by Iraq’s military.

Senior officials, however, acknowledge that the reduction comes in response to concerns over increased attacks from militias.

DISCOVERIES

Not So Cool

Tattoos have become ubiquitous among the younger generation but scientists say that’s not a good thing for the skin: A new study pointed out that inked areas affect the sweat glands and can reduce the body’s ability to cool off fast, New Atlas reported.

Researcher Maurie Luetkemeier has conducted two studies on how tattoos affect sweat glands, the first rigorous scientific studies on the subject.

In 2017, he and his colleagues used a specialized tool to apply a small electric current on tattooed skin to induce sweating. They wrote that sweat produced on inked skin was saltier and about half the amount produced on clear skin.

Luetkemeier remained cautious about the results because the process to extract sweat was simulated, not natural.

Last month, Luetkemeier returned with another study: This time he placed 10 tattooed individuals in a special suit that would thermally induce sweat.

The new results confirmed that ink affected the sweat content and amount but not the body’s sweat response.

Luetkemeier new study came after Australian scientists challenged his earlier paper last year.

The Australian team recorded individual sweat rates on people – both tattooed and non- tattooed – that exercised after 20 minutes and this time found no difference in sweat volume.

While it’s still debatable how ink affects the sweat glands, Luetkemeier and his colleagues suggest that tattoos aren’t so cool.

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: 7,804,336 (+0.53%)
  2. India: 7,175,880 (+0.78%)
  3. Brazil: 5,103,408 (+0.17%)
  4. Russia: 1,305,093 (+1.04%)
  5. Colombia: 919,084 (+0.85%)
  6. Argentina: 903,730 (+1.07%)
  7. Spain: 888,968 (+3.23%)
  8. Peru: 851,171 (+0.21%)
  9. Mexico: 821,045 (+0.43%)
  10. France: 776,097 (+5.96%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours