The World Today for October 26, 2020

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To the Tune of Politics

Music has been politicized in Tanzania, where presidential and parliamentary candidates have been on the campaign trail ahead of general elections on Oct. 28.

The ruling Party of the Revolution launched incumbent President John Pombe Magufuli’s campaign in August with a stadium spectacle of more than 100 artists in the Afro-pop music genre called Bongo Flava. Meanwhile, the Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley’s “One Love” has become the rallying tune of the Chadema opposition party and presidential candidate Tundu Lissu.

Meanwhile, the campaign hasn’t been a party.

Opposition politicians allege that the Magufuli administration has harassed them and unfairly disqualified dozens of parliamentary candidates from running, weakening their chances when polls open, Al Jazeera wrote. They have filed hundreds of complaints with election officials who have, in turn, criticized the supervisors and assistants who ruled on the disqualifications, reported the Citizen, a Tanzanian newspaper. Lissu, for example, returned to Tanzania this year after going into exile in 2017 following an assassination attempt targeting him.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of repression in the East African country, says Amnesty International, explaining how Magufuli’s regime has “weaponized” the law to make it extremely difficult to speak truth to his power. Foreign Policy magazine described it as “creeping authoritarianism.”

Authorities have also cracked down on nongovernmental organizations and the media as the campaigning has grown more heated. Tanzanian broadcasters aren’t allowed to work with the foreign press without a government official present. Social media and online posts that organize civil disobedience, “ridicule, abuse or harm the reputation, prestige or status of the United Republic of Tanzania” or “promote homosexuality” have been declared illegal, Quartz added.

“Instead of upholding the right to free expression at this critical time, authorities have instead adopted measures that raise concerns about the elections being free and fair,” said Human Rights Watch Africa Researcher Oryem Nyeko.

Known as “tinga,” a term in the Kiswahili language for “the bulldozer,” Magufuli has secured a number of large infrastructure projects in Tanzania, including new oil pipelines, seaports, airports, dams, railways and bridges. The projects create jobs and economic development but also fantastic opportunities for corruption. The country has not gone into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, which would halt any resulting economic crisis that would quickly sow discontent among the population, the Namibia-based Southern Times wrote.

Magufuli is blunt, framing the election as a choice between the economy or civil rights, according to the Institute for Security Studies, a South African think tank. He’s betting most voters in the developing country are more interested in food than free speech.

Tragically, Magufuli might be right.



Shrinking, and Shrinking

Protests broke out in Poland over the weekend after the country’s constitutional court ruled to ban abortions in cases of fetal defects, a verdict that shrinks reproductive rights in the European Union nation, Vox reported.

The court found that allowing abortions of malformed fetuses was unconstitutional. It added that abortions will remain legal in the case of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Poland, a predominantly Catholic country, already has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe: About 98 percent of legal abortions there are conducted due to fetal defects.

The ruling was condemned by human rights groups and European officials, calling it a “sad day for women’s rights.” They said that the decision could force women to go abroad for abortions or undergo illicit abortions, which are dangerous and expensive.

Critics say the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has undermined judicial independence by packing the court with partisan judges.

Analysts, meanwhile, say the court’s decision helps the PiS party particularly at a time when its governing coalition with a smaller, hard-right party is in a state of crisis.


Brought To Heel

Sudan’s transitional government agreed to normalize relations with Israel over the weekend, a move fiercely opposed by most Sudanese political parties, Al Jazeera reported.

Dozens protested in the capital over the weekend, and some questioned whether Sudan’s current transitional government was authorized to make the deal. Opponents said that the agreement “contributes to the elimination of the peace project in the Middle East and to preparing for the ignition of a new war.”

Sudan’s government, consisting of both civilian and military leaders, was formed following the ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir during mass protests last year.

The normalization agreement makes Sudan the third country to normalize relations with Israel, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The move follows one by US President Donald Trump to remove the African nation’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The delisting and normalization agreement will allow Sudan to receive international aid and funds to support the country’s reeling economy, the Wall Street Journal reported.


On Deadline

More than 100,000 Belarusians protested against President Alexander Lukashenko Sunday as the deadline set by the opposition for him to step down or face nationwide strikes passed, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

Belarusians took to the streets despite warnings from officials and the heavy presence of security forces. Ahead of the demonstrations, authorities disrupted internet connections and closed a dozen subway lines.

Belarus has been gripped by mass protests since August, following a disputed election which saw Lukashenko – in power since 1994 – win another term. The opposition has accused the president of rigging the elections and tens of thousands have taken to the streets to demand his resignation.

Sunday marks the deadline set by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya for Lukashenko to step down: She has urged her supporters to participate in a nationwide general strike on Monday if Lukashenko refuses.

Since August, Lukashenko has launched a violent crackdown against protesters: The government has detained more than 12,000 people and tortured hundreds.

The United States and the European Union have refused to recognize Lukashenko as the country’s legitimate president, and have imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible for the crackdown and the rigged vote.


It’s the Weather, Stupid!

A new study found that sudden climatic shifts had a significant impact on the extinction of the early human species, according to New Scientist.

Scientists recently analyzed more than 2,000 fossil records of prehistoric humans over the past 2.5 million years, including Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and the current Homo sapiens.

They then cross-referenced the data with climate records over the past five million years to understand the climatic niche – known as the optimal conditions for the species to survive – and how widely distributed the niche area was through time.

The results showed that the Neanderthals and the H. erectus lost a significant portion of their climatic niche area just before they disappeared.

Researchers explained that our human ancestors entered into an extinction vortex when livable areas became scarce from climatic shifts. They noted that the H. erectus went extinct because it couldn’t handle the freezing temperatures during the last glacial period some 115,000 years ago.

Even the Neanderthals weren’t spared from weather shifts, despite being able to control their local environment – by making fires or wearing additional layers.

Other researchers, however, questioned whether climate change was the primary driver of extinction.

Researcher Corey Bradshaw, who was not involved in the study, said that a species’ range declines as it approaches extinction – regardless of the cause.

“No species that we know of has ever gone extinct from a single mechanism,” he said. “It’s always a combination.”

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: 8,636,168 (+0.68%)
  2. India: 7,909,959 (+0.57%)
  3. Brazil: 5,394,128 (+0.25%)
  4. Russia: 1,520,800 (+1.14%)
  5. France: 1,130,143 (+0.01%)
  6. Argentina: 1,090,589 (+0.86%)
  7. Spain: 1,046,132 (+0.00%)**
  8. Colombia: 1,015,885 (+0.81%)
  9. Mexico: 891,160 (+0.49%)
  10. Peru: 888,715 (+0.63%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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