The World Today for February 08, 2021

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Making Peace, Making War

Asmelash Woldeselassie survived a bombing that cost him his sight during a civil war in his native Ethiopia in the 1970s. Two decades later, he lived through an air attack in a war against Eritrea that resulted in the loss of his arm.

But, as the BBC reported, Woldeselassie, a top official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, ran out of luck recently: He died in the fighting between the Front and government forces in Tigray, a region in the East African country on the border with Eritrea and Sudan.

Ethiopian troops captured the Tigrayan capital of Mekele in November. But Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is still rooting out Front rebels who, the Atlantic Council explained, controlled the country until a popular revolt against them led to Ahmed’s rise to power in 2018. Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending a war with Eritrea, a conflict the Front leaders began in 1998.

The government now says life in Tigray has returned to normal, the Associated Press reported. Folks on the ground disagree.

Some fighting continues. Tigrayan leader Debretsion Gebremichael accused Ahmed of committing genocide in the region. Violence has even occurred at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, a remarkable Christian pilgrimage site in Tigray where the Ark of the Covenant is reputedly kept, wrote the Guardian.

The Ethiopian government, long criticized for suppressing human rights, has moved to stop journalists from covering the region, too, Bloomberg reported.

Additionally, even in areas where peace reigns, around 2 million people have been displaced and 4.5 million face starvation. Hospitals are short of critical supplies, leading to fears of the coronavirus and other sicknesses spreading. “When the health system is broken, vaccinations, disease detection, and nutritional programs don’t function either,” Doctors Without Borders warned. “There have been no vaccinations in almost three months, so we fear there will be epidemics soon.”

This internal strife could also destabilize the Horn of Africa.

At Ahmed’s request, Eritrea sent troops into Tigray to help Ethiopian troops fighting the Front. The US has asked them to leave, the Washington Post wrote. Somalia has allegedly sent troops to fight in the region, too, via Eritrea, Voice of America reported. This international element is occurring as Ethiopia fights with Sudan over border issues, as Al Jazeera noted, and an Ethiopian dam that Egypt and Sudan worry could affect their water resources, the Christian Science Monitor added.

A few years ago, globalists were heralding the rise of Ethiopia as its economy grew after the Eritrean war ended. It would be a tragedy if that prosperity was squandered on destruction.




Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Yangon over the weekend to oppose the military coup and demand the release of popular civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Last week, Myanmar’s army seized control of the country. Since then, it has attempted to prevent demonstrations, including ordering an internet blackout. The coup followed months of disputes between Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy and the military-backed opposition over November’s general elections.

The NLD won by a landslide but the opposition said the vote was marred by irregularities and demanded an investigation. The country’s election commission rejected those allegations.

The coup marks the return of the military junta that ruled Myanmar for more than 50 years until 2011, when the country began its transition toward democracy.

Many NLD officials, including Suu Kyi, are under detention, while others are in hiding. Suu Kyi, meanwhile, has been placed under house arrest after soldiers found illegally imported walkie-talkies at her residence and charged her for possession under an obscure law.

Analysts say the military could use the legal proceedings to disqualify her or her party from any future elections.


Enough Now

Mexico has stopped accepting Central American migrant families or children expelled by the United States at one of the busiest sections of the borders, garnering praise from UN refugee officials and human rights organizations, the New York Times reported.

In November, the Mexican government passed a law that would prohibit the detention of immigrant children and families. The law, which took effect in January, does not apply to the entire border and only prevents Mexico from accepting families expelled from South Texas, an area particularly susceptible to illegal crossings

It isn’t clear how this new law will apply to other parts of the border.

The move has alarmed US officials and the Biden administration, which is trying to overhaul the immigration policies of his predecessor Donald Trump.

In March, the Trump administration began turning back migrants entering the US and sealed the border to stop asylum seekers, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic: More than 390,000 migrants have been sent to Mexico or their home countries since March.

On Saturday, the Biden administration ended Trump-era agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which were meant to drive down the number of asylum seekers at the US border, NPR reported.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, however, that ending these pacts “(does) not mean that the US border is open.”

Meanwhile, Mexico, for its part, drew praise for enacting restrictions on who is detained.

“Mexico is making a decisive step to end immigration detention for children and we are encouraged by this promising development,” said Gillian Triggs, the assistant high commissioner for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


A Chill Wind Blows

Dozens of civil rights activists took to the streets of Beirut over the weekend to protest the killing of prominent Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim, which sent a chill across the dissident community, Reuters reported.

Slim, a Shiite publisher, was found murdered last week in south Lebanon. His death marks the first killing of a high-profile activist in years.

He was a vocal opponent against the Iran-backed armed group, Hezbollah, which is accused of using intimidation and attempting to monopolize Lebanese politics. Hezbollah is labeled a terrorist group by the US and the European Union.

He was a proponent of normalizing relations with neighboring Israel and blamed Hezbollah for the Aug. 4 blast in Beirut that killed more than 200 and injured thousands, according to the Washington Post.

Hezbollah condemned his murder and urged authorities to investigate but the Shiite group has not taken kindly to dissenters in their own sect, observers say.

Analysts said that the killing was a message to other activists – especially Shiites – that targeted killings are no longer necessarily bound to “household names but people who have influence in shaping public opinion, shaping ideas.”


A Kitty Magnet

Catnip can make even the pickiest cat act like a jolly kitty.

Once a cat takes a whiff of the plant, it usually starts rolling around the floor and rub its face and head on the plant, before spacing out in a state of intoxication.

But apart from putting felines in a state of euphoria, catnip also holds insect repellent qualities, Agence France-Presse reported.

To understand the plant’s health benefits, a science team recently studied catnip and silver vine, an even more potent herb found in the mountains of Japan and China.

In their study, researchers found that silver vines contained nepetalactol as the key psychoactive substance, whereas catnip had a similar compound known as nepetalactone.

The team noted that nepetalactol gave felines their euphoric state and activated the brain’s opioid reward system.

They tested this on various cat species, including big ones, such as jaguars, and found that none of them could withstand the ecstasy from silver vine.

Meanwhile, the authors also discovered that silver vine leaves also repelled mosquitoes: When cats would rub against the leaves, only a few mosquitoes landed on them.

Their findings have encouraged researchers to start patenting a new mosquito-repellent from catnip or silver vines.

It would be a product that cat lovers would definitely invest in.

Holiday Promo

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: 27,007,397 (+0.33%)
  2. India: 10,838,194 (+0.11%)
  3. Brazil: 9,524,640 (+0.82%)
  4. UK: 3,957,177 (+0.40%)
  5. Russia: 3,939,162 (+0.40%)
  6. France: 3,395,981 (+0.58%)
  7. Spain: 2,941,990 (+0.00%)**
  8. Italy: 2,636,738 (+0.44%)
  9. Turkey: 2,531,456 (+0.26%)
  10. Germany: 2,292,281 (+0.06%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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