September 23, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

ESWATINI

The Absolute

In southern Eswatini – a small, landlocked country bordering Mozambique and South Africa formerly known as Swaziland – grandmothers depend on the illegal marijuana farming industry. They call the weed “Swazi gold.”

As the Guardian reported, elderly women resort to growing the crop because there are no jobs and they live in poverty. The government doesn’t provide services, and often the women are raising grandchildren whose parents died from the region’s ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Those conditions have helped fuel discontent with King Mswati III. Eswatini is not only a kingdom, but the last absolute monarchy in Africa. The law doesn’t recognize political parties. Anyone advocating for reforms is legally a terrorist, according to a blog devoted to Eswatini affairs, Swazi Media, reproduced in the allAfrica news service.

As the economy worsened during the coronavirus epidemic, the death of a law student at the hands of the police prompted protesters to take to the streets to demand law enforcement reform, National Public Radio wrote. The protests morphed into pro-democracy demonstrations for political change. The police crackdown resulted in at least 40 deaths and more than 150 serious injuries.

Mswati III has also arrested members of parliament who have spoken out for government reforms that would alter the king’s power. Freedom House called for the lawmakers’ release as more of the king’s subjects assembled to express their displeasure with his actions.

“Indeed, it’s angering and raging because these are the people’s representatives in parliament,” Vuysiwa Maseko, a 25-year-old protester, told Voice of America. “They are the voices of the voiceless and arresting them means government is shutting 1.1 million voices – the population of Swaziland.”

The headline in New Frame, a nonprofit, South Africa-based publication focused on social justice, put the conflict simply: “The people versus the king.” The story described how the king’s Operational Support Services Unit terrorized the population, including shooting and maiming children for no apparent reason but to display wanton power and cruelty.

At the London-based think tank Chatham House, experts said they didn’t see how King Mswati III could continue to suppress the population and ignore calls for democratic reforms. He was dooming his subjects to never-ending episodes of protest and crackdown-related violence. They noted that Eswatini was declared a constitutional monarchy in 1967, but since then the royal family has expanded its power and reduced that of others.

Some police have already resigned publicly, saying they don’t want to participate in a force that hurts the people, the Mail & Guardian of South Africa wrote.

Not even absolute authority can withstand unlimited pressure.

WANT TO KNOW

LIBYA

No End In Sight

Libya’s eastern-based parliament this week passed a no-confidence vote against the country’s unity government, a move that threatens the United Nations-backed peace efforts and the upcoming general elections, Reuters reported.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives withdrew confidence from the Tripoli-based interim government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah amid ongoing tensions between the two sides.

Parliament Spokesman Abdallah Bliheq said that the cabinet would become “a caretaker government,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The decision throws a wrench into the UN efforts to end a decade of violence that began with the ouster and death of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

In 2014, Libya was split into two warring factions: The internationally recognized government in Tripoli in the west, and the rival administration backed by the House of Representatives and forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar in the east.

In October last year, Haftar agreed to a formal ceasefire with his western opponents after a yearlong offensive on Tripoli.

The UN-brokered dialogue eventually led to the creation of Dbeibah’s unity government intended to unify state institutions and usher the country to presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24.

However, the no-confidence vote and other internal disagreements could stymie those aspirations.

Earlier this month, Parliamentary Speaker Aguila Saleh said the House of Representatives passed a law to govern the presidential election process, though it did not hold a final vote on the bill. However, the High Council of State in Tripoli challenged its validity, as it was passed “without a legal vote or consensus.”

Critics also said the law would allow military officials to run for president as long as they withdraw from their military position three months before elections. This could allow eastern-based Haftar to run for the post.

THE NETHERLANDS

Finding Solutions

A Dutch court ruled Wednesday that border police can use a person’s ethnicity as one of the criteria for selecting people for checks at the border, a verdict that equal rights activists have vowed to appeal, the Associated Press reported.

The case began when two citizens, backed by rights groups, accused the government of discrimination: Both people said that they were singled out for checks by officials from the country’s Marechaussee police force because of the color of their skin.

The Hague District Court, however, found that ethnicity can be one of the criteria when singling out passengers, as long as it is not the only one. It added that the checks carried out by the Marechaussee police “are not contrary to the prohibition on discrimination.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said that the decision “leaves open the door for ethnic profiling.” One of the plaintiffs, Mpanzu Bamenga, said that he will continue to pursue the case. Bamenga is a city councilor in Eindhoven but was born in Congo.

The ruling comes as the Netherlands has begun a broad debate about race, inequality and discrimination, following the Black Lives Matter protests of last year.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has acknowledged that racism is also “a Dutch problem.”

NAMIBIA

The Value of Life

Hundreds of Namibians protested in front of the country’s parliament this week as lawmakers prepare to vote on an agreement with Germany that the European nation hopes will provide a degree of compensation for the genocide committed during its colonial occupation of Namibia, Al Jazeera reported.

In May, Germany acknowledged it had committed genocide against the Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908. It promised to pay $1.3 billion in financial support to the descendants of the victims.

Under the deal, the sum will be paid across three decades and will primarily benefit the Herero and Nama descendants.

However, some of the victims’ descendants and opposition parties rejected the offer as a “fake genocide deal” and said that the amount was insufficient.

Defense Minister Frans Kapofi noted that the government had raised concerns about the amount but described the offer as “an achievement, of some measure, to get the Federal Republic of Germany accepting responsibility” for the genocide.

Germany had ruled Namibia from 1884 until it lost the colony in World War One. The 1904-1908 genocide began when the Herero and the Nama rebelled against their colonial rulers.

Historians estimate that up to 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero and at least 10,000 of the 20,000 Nama were killed.

The German government had previously acknowledged “moral responsibility” for the killings, but to avoid compensation claims it had never issued a formal apology.

DISCOVERIES

When Nature Calls

Potty training isn’t reserved just for house pets – cows can also be taught, according to the Guardian.

German scientists unveiled a new method they called MooLoo to teach calves how to urinate using the toilet in their barn.

Researchers taught the young bovines using a system of rewards and mild punishments: They would reward the animals with a sweet drink or mashed barley when they urinated in the assigned place. But if the calves urinated elsewhere, they received a short blast of water from above.

In their study, they reported that 11 out of the 16 calves mastered the skill in a matter of weeks. The remaining ones needed a little more time to be properly trained, the authors noted.

The experiments weren’t merely to show that large mammals can be potty-trained, but to make cattle farms more environmentally friendly.

The purpose is to collect the urine and prevent it from going into the soil: Cow urine releases ammonia which when combined with the bacteria in the soil can turn into nitrous oxide, the third most significant greenhouse gas after methane and carbon dioxide.

The team hopes that if they can collect 80 percent of cattle urine, the ammonia emissions would be reduced by more than half.

In the meantime, researchers are now planning to create an automated system that could be used to train the large mammals without the intervention of farmers.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 230,101,875

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,719,379

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 5,992,589,707

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 42,545,220 (+0.31%)
  2. India: 33,563,421 (+0.10%)
  3. Brazil: 21,283,567 (+0.17%)
  4. UK: 7,565,758 (+0.45%)
  5. Russia: 7,227,549 (+0.27%)
  6. France: 7,061,323 (+0.10%)
  7. Turkey: 6,932,423 (+0.41%)
  8. Iran: 5,477,229 (+0.32%)
  9. Argentina: 5,245,265 (+0.04%)
  10. Colombia: 4,945,203 (+0.03%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours