The World Today for December 30, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

NIGERIA

A War on Children

Chibok became a black mark on Nigeria’s history. That’s where Boko Haram fighters kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls in 2014, a particularly notorious incident in the early years of the Islamic State-affiliated group running rampant in northeastern Nigeria. The school in Chibok only recently held exams again, the BBC reported. More than 100 girls remain missing.

One can understand then why many Nigerians were distressed to learn on Dec. 11 that Boko Haram fighters held 340 boys captive in the West African country’s northwestern region. Luckily, their captors let them go, the Washington Post reported. The government paid the ransom the militants demanded, even as they denied it, the Wall Street Journal added.

One of the liberated boys, Usman Garuba, described how he was beaten and marched through the forest for six days. “I feel so bad, honestly, at that moment I preferred to be killed because it was a terrible experience and I felt I was better not to be alive at all,” he told the Associated Press.

Garuba and his classmates were not the only recent example of Boko Haram kidnapping folks in Nigeria. Less than two weeks after the boys were taken, security forces rescued 80 students from jihadists. Vigilantes helped the security forces, explained Deutsche Welle.

The breakdown of public order, the freedom with which Boko Haram has operated in the northeast and the government’s inability to squelch the terrorist challenges has some questioning whether Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari can control the situation. That’s even though the government has claimed they have defeated the group while the militants, alarmingly, have now moved to secure territory in the northwestern part of the country.

“Nigeria is at risk of becoming a failed state,” warned a headline in the Financial Times.

The British newspaper’s assessment made a splash in the country. Local publications like Punch and the Lagos-based Guardian noted that Buhari did not immediately issue any statements disputing the charge. The fact that Nigeria has oil and other resources has made the situation even more tragic.

It could get worse. Analysts at the Council on Foreign Relations worry that Buhari – a former military dictator – and the army might crack down on citizens and jeopardize human rights in a bid to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.

Already, military officers have told troops to consider anyone found in the proximity of the fights as potential combatants – not a good approach when the enemy likes to use children as human shields. Roving gangs, militias and other groups have also sprung up in northern Nigeria in the vacuum that has been left in the wake of government soldiers gaining and giving ground to the Boko Haram militants.

If the police can’t patrol the streets, the state has indeed failed. Whether or not that makes the state a failure is another matter. Still, some say, a country that isn’t protecting its children is certainly no success.

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WANT TO KNOW

MONTENEGRO

Atonement

Montenegrin lawmakers approved amendments to a controversial law on religious rights and property criticized by ethnic Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church because they feared their property would be confiscated by the state, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

Members of the ruling coalition – comprised of pro-Serb parties – voted to change the Law on Freedom of Religion, a move boycotted by the opposition.

The vote comes in the wake of mass protests against the amendment – the first major demonstration against the new coalition government of Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic – who defeated the long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) during parliamentary elections in August.

Last year, the DPS passed the contentious law, which forces religious communities to prove they have owned their property before 1918. That is the year when predominately Orthodox Christian Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which led to the Serbian Orthodox Church absorbing Montenegro. The latter lost all of its property in the process.

Meanwhile, the Serbian Church and ethnic Serbs say the measure would have allowed the Montenegrin government to impound church property. The government disputes that.

Since its independence from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro has become a member of NATO and aspires to join the European Union.

NEPAL

The Shakeup

Thousands of protesters marched in the streets of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, Tuesday to protest against the prime minister’s decision to dissolve parliament and call for early elections, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli had asked the country’s president to dissolve parliament on Dec. 20, a move heavily criticized by opponents as unconstitutional.

Oli said internal conflicts within his party have paralyzed decision making, prompting him to call for elections in April – more than a year ahead of schedule.

He became prime minister when his Communist Party – which also includes the party of former Maoist rebels – won the 2017 elections.

However, tensions have grown between him and party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal: The two had previously agreed to split the prime minister’s five-year term between them but Oli later reneged on the deal.

His government, meanwhile, has been accused of corruption and poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Oli has also been criticized for embracing China and moving away from Nepal’s traditional partner, India.

SPAIN

A Shot in the Dark

Spain will create a vaccination registry that will include people that refuse to take the coronavirus vaccine, a move coming just days after the country began rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

Health Minister Salvador Ilia said that any person that rejects the vaccine for “whatever reason” will be documented, adding that the information will be shared with the European Union.

He said the registry will not be made public and will respect privacy laws.

The European Commission has not commented on whether the registry reflected an EU-wide initiative or what role the bloc might play in the sharing of vaccine data.

Spain is one of the EU nations hit hardest by the virus: The number of confirmed cases is nearly 1.9 million and the death toll is more than 50,000 as of Tuesday.

Ilia said that the country could be hit by a third wave next year.

Health officials, meanwhile, are also struggling to fight misinformation and soothe concerns about the vaccine: Earlier this month, a poll showed that about 40 percent of people are willing to be vaccinated immediately, while 16 percent said they would do so if the vaccine was shown to be “reliable.”

DISCOVERIES

A Shark’s Soft Side

The enormous Otodus megalodon was a real sea monster, and a big one: The extinct species of shark was nearly 60 feet in length and terrorized the Earth’s seas for nearly 20 million years before going extinct around three million years ago.

But despite their fearsome reputation, they had a soft side: They cared about their young so much, they had “shark nurseries” for their offspring, the Economist reported.

Shark nurseries are shallow coastal areas with abundant food where modern sharks raise their little ones and protect them from other predators.

Scientists have speculated that the megalodon also used these nurseries but the lack of skeleton remains – except for their gigantic teeth – has made it difficult to prove, until now.

But since teeth can also reveal a lot about a shark’s size, a new study analyzed megalodon teeth recently found in northeastern Spain.

Researchers noted that some 16 million years ago, the site was a shallow, protected bay. They said the teeth also belonged to megalodon sharks of various sizes, which also indicated their age.

Their findings show that the sharks in question ranged from between 10 to 45 feet in length, meaning that the area was a nursery housing juveniles and small adults.

The team then conducted a similar study in eight other sites where the ancient monster’s teeth were found and identified five other megalodon nurseries.

It’s possible that land animals back then avoided those areas, just like humans would do today.

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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: 19,515,430 (+1.07%)
  2. India: 10,244,852 (+0.20%)
  3. Brazil: 7,563,551 (+0.78%)
  4. Russia: 3,100,018 (+0.85%)
  5. France: 2,631,111 (+0.44%)
  6. UK: 2,389,963 (+2.28%)
  7. Turkey: 2,178,580 (+0.73%)
  8. Italy: 2,067,487 (+0.55%)
  9. Spain: 1,893,502 (+0.75%)
  10. Germany: 1,695,364 (+1.24%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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