The World Today for November 19, 2020

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The Speak-Up Generation

Nigerian activist Aisha Yesufu helped establish the Bring Back Our Girls movement to push for progress in helping the nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted in the northeastern town of Chibok six years ago. Now she’s at the forefront of a movement against police brutality in the massive West African country. She and others accuse law enforcement of kidnapping, murder, rape and torture.

“Death is when you are afraid to speak the truth,” she told France 24. “We’re simply asking for police brutality to stop.”

As the Washington Post explained, Nigerians have been complaining about police brutality for years. A worldwide social media campaign to #EndSARS – to eliminate the country’s reportedly brutal and abusive Special Anti-Robbery Squad – has garnered the world’s attention.

Young Nigerians who share their traumatic experiences at the hands of the SARS on social media call themselves the Soro Soke, or the “the Speak Up” generation, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a US-government think tank.

SARS allegedly perpetrated “extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion,” according to Human Rights Watch. Speaking to a special inquiry on police abuse in Nigeria recently, one victim said SARS officers tortured him, including extracting his teeth, after his boss claimed he had been stealing, the BBC reported.

Under intense pressure, President Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled Nigeria as a military dictator from 1983 to 1985 and was elected in 2015, announced he would disband the unit in late October, the Associated Press reported. But the protests didn’t stop. People wanted more, and not just because he merely created the same unit under another name, the Washington Times wrote.

On Oct. 20, Nigerian police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in the capital of Lagos, signaling a new escalation of protests and subsequent crackdowns. “The ‘giant of Africa’ is trying to crush its people,” Washington Post Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah wrote.

The shootings only increased the tensions as mobs destroyed police stations, courthouses, TV stations and a hotel in Lagos. The police responded with bullets and gas, only to be met with the looting of shops, malls and warehouses. “Peaceful protests over police brutality gave way to widespread vandalism and looting,” wrote the New York Times.

Now, the government is teaming up with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide training in human rights law, the use of force, police conduct in conflict and other issues that Nigerians have said need improvement, Reuters reported.

Nigeria has enormous challenges – poverty, ethnic strife and a militant insurgency, to name a few. The Guardian wrote a fascinating story about how Boko Haram terrorism has emptied out regions of people, creating a refugee crisis but also attracting elephants that locals fear could destroy their crops, leading to famine.

As soon as people can trust those charged to serve and protect them, they can focus on meeting those challenges.



Coming Home

US allies expressed concern Wednesday after President Donald Trump announced the return of thousands of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, the BBC reported.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will cut the number of troops in Iraq by 500 to 2,500, while the number of soldiers serving in Afghanistan will decrease from 4,500 to 2,500.

The president has vowed to bring US troops home and has criticized US military involvement abroad.

In Iraq, rockets were launched on Baghdad’s Green Zone and landed near the US embassy following the withdrawal announcement. It was the first such attack since Iraqi militias linked to Iran agreed to stop targeting the embassy last month.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said “the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.” He added that the pullout could threaten Afghanistan’s fragile security situation and turn it once again into a haven for international militants.

Analysts argued that a quick withdrawal could weaken the Afghan government’s ability to fight the Taliban.

In February, the US and the Taliban agreed to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for Taliban security guarantees.

The Afghan government is currently negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan, but progress has been halting.


The Rubber Duck Revolution

Thai protesters returned to the streets of Bangkok Wednesday even as lawmakers soundly rejected proposed constitutional amendments which include curbing the powers of the country’s revered king, CBS News reported.

Thailand has been gripped by anti-government protesters for months in a show of force against the military-backed cabinet of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the country’s untouchable monarchy. Demonstrators want Prayuth’s resignation, changes to the country’s military-drafted constitution and limits to the power of the royal family.

On Wednesday, lawmakers approved two out of seven proposed changes to the constitution but stopped short of passing measures curtailing the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The Thai king is considered untouchable in the Southeast Asian nation. However, since the king’s ascension to the throne four years ago, some have started questioning the monarchy and also calling him “a playboy” and corrupt, according to CBS.

Meanwhile, the protests have seen escalating violence: Police fired live rounds at demonstrators Tuesday and shot two people trying to enter parliament while 50 were injured in what is considered the worst night of violence since the protests began, CNN reported.

Demonstrators have started carting umbrellas and giant inflatable ducks to the protests to protect themselves against water cannons and tear gas. On Wednesday, in spite of the violence Tuesday and official warnings against gatherings, protestors came out in large numbers wearing goggles, gas masks, shields and wet wipes, the Independent reported. Check out the video here.


Sturm und Drang

Thousands of protesters clashed with police in Berlin Wednesday as German lawmakers began debating a new bill that would allow the government to impose new restrictions against the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

The demonstrations followed a ban on protests in front of parliament imposed by authorities Tuesday due to security concerns. More than 100 people were detained during the clashes.

The bill would allow the government to issue social distancing rules, enforce the wearing of masks in public and issue closure-orders for stores and other businesses to curb the spread of the virus.

While such measures are supported by a majority of Germans, a vocal minority in the country has staged regular demonstrations, claiming the restrictions are unconstitutional.

Critics of the bill say it’s similar to the “Enabling Act,” a 1933 law that allowed the Nazis to create new laws without parliamentary approval.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned the comparison, saying that “whoever relativizes or trivializes the Holocaust has learned nothing from our history.”


A Naked Life

A year ago, fishermen trawling around the Mediterranean accidentally caught a mutant shark that lacked two important features for its survival – teeth and skin – prompting scientists to name it the “naked shark,” according to Live Science.

Even so, the blackmouth catshark was very healthy, researchers reported.

“Our first reaction was, ‘A shark without skin can’t survive,'” said lead author Antonello Mulas. “But, as Shakespeare said, there are more things in heaven and Earth than you can imagine.”

The mutant was a three-year-old female and had grown at a normal rate like other – more normal – catsharks. Apart from the lack of teeth and an epidermis, the catshark had no dermal denticles – small, fang-like structures found on the skin of sharks and rays – suggesting that it wasn’t an agile swimmer or an effective predator.

Au contraire: The team found a belly full of cephalopods, crustaceans and bony fish in its stomach.

Mulas believes that the “naked shark” is a product of a genetic mutation but hasn’t ruled out the role of chemical pollution. His team is planning to inspect the area where it was found and look for other oddities.

“Maybe we’ll find a two-headed shark, or Blinky [the three-eyed] ‘Simpsons’ fish,” he said.

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: 11,529,807 (+1.50%)
  2. India: 8,958,483 (+0.51%)
  3. Brazil: 5,945,849 (+0.58%)
  4. France: 2,115,717 (+1.37%)
  5. Russia: 1,998,966 (+2.25%)
  6. Spain: 1,525,341 (+1.01%)
  7. UK: 1,434,004 (+1.39%)
  8. Argentina: 1,339,337 (+0.78%)
  9. Italy: 1,272,352 (+2.77%)
  10. Colombia: 1,218,003 (+0.57%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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