The World Today for June 28, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

LIBYA

All the King’s Horses

Literally and figuratively, Libya is a minefield.

Russian mercenaries fighting in Libya’s civil wars left behind booby-trapped teddy bears and soda cans as they fled when warlord Khalifa Haftar failed to conquer the capital of Tripoli. Children who “playfully” crush the cans or grab a toy have been blown up.

“They studied us, even how our kids played,” said Rabie Aljawashi of the Libyan demining group, the Free Fields Foundation, in an interview with the Washington Post. “They know how we think.”

Some of those and other explosives in the North African country date back to the war to oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi 10 years ago. Others are from the battles between Haftar, who still controls much of eastern and southern Libya, armed groups that include Islamic State, and the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the violence are also fraught with danger.

Russia has given Haftar military support. France allegedly has done the same, France24 wrote. Turkey sent Syrian fighters to support the Government of National Accord, as Voice of America explained. The three countries have pledged to stop meddling in Libya’s internal affairs. But an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters remain in the country.

Libya’s neighbor, Egypt, recently called for their removal, Arab News noted. Egyptian companies are looking to benefit from the massive reconstruction efforts that presumably will begin once peace is restored. Turkey is similarly eyeing economic opportunities in the oil-rich country, wrote Middle East Monitor.

They might be in for a long wait. Negotiators planned to meet in Berlin to discuss a framework for peace ahead of elections in December that would establish a new government to run Libya, Agence France-Press reported. But Libyan leaders and foreign diplomats have yet to agree on the constitutional changes necessary for the vote to proceed, added Reuters.

The security situation remains unstable. Libyan officials, for example, recently banned non-approved military movements in the country after some renegade Haftar forces seized a border crossing with Algeria, Al Jazeera wrote.

The humanitarian situation is unstable, too. North African migrants seeking peace and job opportunities in Europe are flooding into Libya, Politico wrote. Hunger is a major problem. Migrants stuck in Libyan detention centers have complained about sexual assaults perpetrated by camp guards and the human traffickers who moved them through the region, the Associated Press reported.

It’s easy to break a country. It’s much harder to put one back together again.

WANT TO KNOW

CHINA

Partial Eclipse

China slammed the United States’ decision to block imports of materials used to make solar panels following allegations that Beijing has been using forced labor by persecuted minorities in the Xinjiang region to make the exports, the Associated Press reported.

The Biden administration imposed a “withhold release order” for polysilicon products manufactured by the Hoshine Silicon Industry and blacklisted four other Chinese entities over allegations of human rights abuses against the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, according to Bloomberg.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the US was using “human rights as a disguise” to “suppress (the) industrial development of Xinjiang.” He added that China will “take all necessary measures” to protect its companies but gave no further details.

Hoshine is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of polysilicon. Direct imports from the Chinese company over the past 30 months totaled about $6 million while finished goods that include material from the company were about $150 million.

Even so, analysts told Bloomberg that the move will only have a “mild” impact on the Chinese industry as the US only buys a small portion of China’s solar module output. Meanwhile, the ban could hinder the US’ ability to make solar capacity additions and marks a potential hurdle for the Biden administration’s goal of promoting solar power.

Still, they noted that the main risk for China’s solar industry is if other major buyers – including the European Union – decide to follow the US ban.

BURKINA FASO

Tiny Soldiers

A group of children carried out a massacre in Burkina Faso earlier this month that killed more than 136 people, one of the deadliest killings in the West African nation, Axios reported.

Government officials said the attack in the northeastern village of Solhan was mostly perpetrated by children between the ages of 12 and 14. It remains unclear which group instigated the attack.

The announcement comes as 10 percent of Burkina Faso’s schools have closed as a result of the insecurity, which has made children more vulnerable to abuse, human trafficking and military recruitment, according to the Washington Post.

The United Nations reported that more than 300,000 children have lost access to education as a result of the instability and also the pandemic.

Burkina Faso is currently handling multiple insurgencies, including from groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State: Since 2015, the conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 1.2 million, 61 percent of whom are children, according to UNICEF.

Burkinabe authorities told the Post that children as young as seven are kidnapped to become soldiers: “They start fighting around the age of 12.”

In 2020, the UN found that more than 3,000 children were recruited into armed groups in Central and West Africa.

That accounts for more than a third of the world’s documented child soldiers.

CANADA

Three Percent Off

Canada officially named the US right-wing militia group Three Percenters a terrorist entity, the latest organization to become criminalized in the country following the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, Reuters reported.

Officials cited the riot as playing a role in their decision. Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the group was active in Canada and planned to recruit members of the police and those with military training.

The designation will allow banks and financial institutions to freeze the group’s assets and make it a crime for Canadians to knowingly deal with assets of the listed entity. It will also ban people belonging to such a group from entering Canada.

The designation comes weeks after a man killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, in what police described as a racist attack.

Founded in 2008, the Three Percenters is a loosely organized anti-government group named after the contentious theory that only three percent of Americans took up arms and served in George Washington’s Colonial Army in the American Revolution against the British, according to CBC.

In 2020, members of the group were believed to be involved in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer – a plan that allegedly included detonating explosives and executing public officials by hanging them on live television.

US authorities obtained a conspiracy indictment against six men associated with the Three Percenters this month.

Earlier this year, Canada named the far-right Proud Boys a terrorist entity, saying it played a “pivotal role” in the attack on the US Capitol.

DISCOVERIES

Phono-Sapiens

Public officials constantly warn people not to use their phones while driving or walking – most don’t listen in spite of the dangers.

Enter a South Korean designer who recently developed a gadget to resolve this modern problem, Al Jazeera reported.

Paeng Min-wook created the “Third Eye,” a device that would allow the so-called “smartphone zombies,” or “smombies” to avoid potential mishaps while staring at their phones.

His device is equipped with a gyro sensor that detects when the user bends their head and an ultrasonic sensor to warn users of obstacles. Paeng’s “Third Eye” can be worn on the head and trials have shown it to be effective in preventing accidents – even as it looks decidedly odd.

“I thought he looked like an alien with an eye on his forehead,” said Lee Ok-jo, a resident of Seoul, South Korea’s capital.

Still, Paeng says his device is part of a work of art called “phono-sapiens” aimed at raising awareness about the smombie phenomenon.

He hopes that the absurdity of the device will encourage smartphone addicts to change their habits.

“I want to warn modern folks who are addicted to smartphones,” 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: 33,625,036 (+0.01%)
  2. India: 30,279,331 (+0.15%)
  3. Brazil: 18,420,598 (+0.18%)
  4. France: 5,831,972 (+0.03%)
  5. Turkey: 5,409,027 (+0.09%)
  6. Russia: 5,387,486 (+0.00%)**
  7. UK: 4,748,644 (+0.31%)
  8. Argentina: 4,405,247 (+0.28%)
  9. Italy: 4,258,069 (+0.02%)
  10. Colombia: 4,158,716 (+0.78%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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