January 06, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

UGANDA

Against All Odds

Ugandan presidential candidate Bob Wine, a reggae star-cum-opposition leader, recently accused the driver of a military police truck of deliberately running over and killing Wine’s security guard.

It wouldn’t be the first time Wine has been targeted since he decided to use his name recognition and anger to stand up to President Yoweri Museveni, who has held office for more than 30 years, in the East African country’s January 14 presidential election, Wine told CNN.

The Uganda-based Daily Monitor detailed the many times Wine encountered government crackdowns and oppression. Wine accused Museveni supporters of attempting to kill him twice. He claimed police killed 27 of his supporters.

In November, Quartz wrote, police arrested and held Wine for violating COVID-19 rules banning rallies. He was released on bail. Wine claimed the charges were trumped up, and he could be right. Experts at the United Nations said the government was abusing health restrictions to crack down on expression.

“We are gravely concerned by the election-related violence, the excessive use of force by security personnel, as well as the increasing crackdown on peaceful protesters, political and civil society leaders and human rights defenders,” said the experts in a statement.

In the same vein, Museveni shut down campaigning in the capital of Kampala and 10 other large regions, supposedly to stop the spread of the virus. Critics told Al Jazeera that the real reason for the suspension was that Wine was popular in those districts.

Wine speaks to the youth in a country where 80 percent of the population is 35 or younger. They don’t remember 1986, when Museveni assumed power after a five-year guerrilla war that sowed fear, division and insecurity throughout the country. They only knew Museveni’s stifling grip on power, his “unquestionable ‘order from above,’” argued Ugandan journalist Patience Akumu in the Guardian.

Deutsche Welle editor Daniel Gakuba didn’t envision Museveni going anywhere. Rather than publicly condemning his security force’s harsh techniques, Museveni has doubled down on violence, vowing to crush anyone who maligns him. With an iron grip on power, he has the resources to live up to his authoritarian aims, too.

In an interview in Time, University of Wisconsin political scientist Aili Mari Tripp agreed, describing Wine’s campaign as quixotic. Tripp viewed the contest as a test to see whether Wine’s populism could overcome Museveni’s entrenched dictatorship despite the president’s grip on the levers of the country’s electoral system.

Still, doors only open when they are pushed.

WANT TO KNOW

NORWAY

The New Order

Norway became the first country in the world where the sale of electric cars has overtaken sales of those powered by fossil fuels and hybrid engines, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Battery electric vehicles (BEV) comprised more than 50 percent of all new cars sold in the country in 2020, marking a global record and a substantial increase from a mere 1 percent of the overall market a decade ago.

German carmaker Volkswagen Audi took the lead last year as the top BEV producer, replacing US manufacturer Tesla.

The oil-producing nation is seeking to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025 and has exempted fully electric vehicles from taxes imposed on those relying on fossil fuels.

Analysts suggested that the sale of electric vehicles is expected to rise in 2021, but there are still questions as to how many vehicles producers will allocate to Norway as European demand is increasing.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

No Respite

Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera emerged as the winner of the disputed Dec. 27 presidential elections amid an armed rebellion that engulfed the coup-prone nation last month, CNN reported Tuesday.

Provisional results this week show that Touadera secured more than 53 percent of votes in the first round, although voting did not take place in 29 of the country’s 71 sub-prefectures and thousands were prevented from casting ballots or never received their voting cards, France 24 reported.

The victory comes a day after armed rebels captured the southern city of Bangassou earlier this week.

Last month, a coalition of rebel groups that control two-thirds of the country launched an offensive, intending to disrupt the elections and “march to Bangui.”

The government and the UN have accused former President Francois Bozize of backing the armed groups after the constitutional court refused to allow him to challenge Touadera in the presidential vote.

Bozize’s party denies the allegations, but some party members have suggested they might be true.

So far, the rebels have been kept at bay by federal soldiers and UN peacekeepers, as well as Russian and Rwandan troops.

The resource-rich nation is one of the poorest in the world and has suffered coups and wars since its independence from France in 1960.

INDIA

Sending a Message

Tens of thousands of exiled Tibetans around the world voted this week in the first round of elections for a new political leader of their exile government in Dharamshala, India, Radio Free Asia reported.

Voters selected two candidates for Sikyong – or president – of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), as well as 90 candidates for the 45 parliamentary seats. The second and final round of voting will take place in April.

Current Sikyong Lobsang Sangay told the Associated Press that the vote sends a clear message to China that Tibetans in exile are free, though their homeland remains under Beijing’s control.

China has been ruling the Himalayan region since 1951 and says that Tibet has historically been part of its territory since the mid-13th century.

The CTA was formed in 1959, after a failed uprising that year forced many Tibetans, including their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee to Dharmsala.

China doesn’t recognize the CTA and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010. India considers Tibet as part of China, despite hosting Tibetan exiles.

DISCOVERIES

Ancient Big Macs

Fast food venues are not a modern phenomenon. In fact, the ancient Romans had their own version of McDonald’s nearly 2,000 years ago, according to NPR.

Archaeologists in Italy recently excavated a complete Roman food counter in the ancient city of Pompeii, which was devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The volcanic ash, however, has helped preserve most of the city and allowed researchers to come across a myriad of findings, including the recent food counter.

Known as a thermopolium, the old stall offered a very rich menu: Researchers found remains of duck, goat, pig, fish and snail in earthen pots, sometimes mixed together in the same dish.

While there was no written menu, the team found drawings of animals – such as roosters and ducks – which could have served as a type of indicator of what foods the customers could order.

Researchers also uncovered a depiction of the stall itself, which might have served as a logo or trademark.

This is the first time archaeologists have uncovered a thermopolium in its entirety, but they were actually very common in the Roman period. About 80 others have been discovered in Pompeii.

The archaeological team hopes that further analysis of the area can reveal more about the Roman diet and what these ancient fast food stalls sold.

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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: 21,050,707 (+1.09%)
  2. India: 10,374,932 (+0.17%)
  3. Brazil: 7,810,400 (+0.73%)
  4. Russia: 3,274,615 (+0.74%)
  5. UK: 2,782,709 (+2.24%)
  6. France: 2,737,884 (+0.77%)
  7. Turkey: 2,270,101 (+0.64%)
  8. Italy: 2,181,619 (+0.71%)
  9. Spain: 1,982,544 (+1.21%)
  10. Germany: 1,816,985 (+1.06%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours