The World Today for November 01, 2021

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Leadership in Retrograde


After widespread protests and violence, President Omar al-Bashir stepped down as president of Sudan in 2019. In his wake, a power-sharing government of military and civilian officials ruled the country. The arrangement was difficult, but it pointed to a better future for an African country that faced political instability, a refugee crisis, economic trouble and environmental challenges that include food insecurity, as the World Bank explained.

Recently, however, the military staged a coup, dissolved the Sovereign Council that included civilian leaders, detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and ending his transitional government, CNN reported. The coup occurred shortly before the military was scheduled to cede powers to civilian authorities.

Protests erupted in response. “Demonstrating the resolve of many Sudanese to resist rather than return to military-led, authoritarian rule,” at least 10 died and more than 100 were injured in clashes with police, the New York Times wrote. Sudanese security forces have also arrested pro-democracy activists and other critics, according to the Associated Press. Some soldiers even asked for doctors at a hospital to hand over wounded protesters, the Guardian added.

American, European and other world leaders condemned the military’s actions. The World Bank halted operations in Sudan and the African Union suspended the country’s membership, Africanews wrote.

As the BBC explained, coup leader General Abdel-Fattah Burhan might be acting out of desperation to save his own skin.

Civilians in the Sudanese government support the idea of handing over ex-President al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face charges that include crimes against humanity and genocide related to the war in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.  Al-Bashir might be willing to identify Burhan and other coup plotters as also having committed atrocities.

Geopolitics are also at play, noted the Washington Post. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates support Burhan because he represents the kind of security and stability they like. The leaders of those military and monarchical autocracies aren’t big fans of democracy and aren’t hesitant to meddle in countries they consider in their sphere of influence (read: Libya).

Egyptian leaders especially feel that a military-run government in the Sudanese capital in Khartoum would be friendlier regarding a dispute between the two countries and Ethiopia over a major dam on the Blue Nile River, Voice of America reported.

Meanwhile, General Burhan has pledged to continue the process of preparing for democratic elections in 2023 even as he says he has suspended several articles in the 2019 constitutional document that governs the transitional period, Al Jazeera wrote.

Almost no one in Sudan believes he plans to honor the transition plan.


Honey-Do List


Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies agreed to set a minimum global corporate tax rate of 15 percent on multinationals and to prevent them from shielding their profits in tax havens in the first in-person G-20 summit in two years, Reuters reported.

During the summit, held in Italy, G-20 leaders also attempted to address pressing topics related to the pandemic, including pledging to extend debt relief to many poor nations and vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population against Covid-19 by mid-2022.

Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union also agreed to temporarily ease tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe, a tax imposed by former President Donald Trump that had strained trade relations between the allies, Politico reported.

And just in time for the beginning of the COP26 UN climate conference in Scotland, the leaders reached a consensus Sunday to achieve carbon neutrality “by or around mid-century,” the Associated Press noted. They agreed to stop financing coal-fired power generation overseas but set no target for completely phasing out coal – a move aimed to appease China and India, which were initially reluctant to approve the ambitious plans.

The COP26 in Glasgow opened Sunday and will involve two weeks of intense negotiations over measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

COP26 President Alok Sharma urged world leaders to “banish ghosts of the past” and commit to lowering emissions as the world runs out of time to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius – the level scientists have said is necessary to avoid disastrous new climate patterns, according to the Guardian.

Slap in the Face


Japan’s governing coalition secured a majority in the parliamentary elections Sunday but lost a number of seats in a vote considered a referendum on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that has led the country for nearly nine years, Kyodo News reported.

Exit polls showed that the LDP and its ally Komeito secured at least 261 of the 465 seats in the lower house of parliament. Before Sunday’s polls, the LDP held 276 seats. Final results are expected over the next few days.

The ruling coalition’s victory paves the way for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to remain in power after he took office last month following the resignation of his predecessor, Yoshihide Suga.

Kishida has pledged a “new capitalism” vision aimed at increasing growth in the world’s third-largest economy. He added that the government is working on securing more hospital beds in preparation for a possible sixth wave of infections and establishing a stimulus package to help people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

The LDP-led government is also planning to boost spending to two percent of gross domestic product on defense to deal with threats from China and North Korea. It is looking into obtaining the capability to launch strikes on enemy bases in an effort to boost deterrence.

The opposition, meanwhile, has criticized the government over its handling of the pandemic and economic policies implemented by former LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which they say have caused income inequality in the country.

A Dangerous Game


Indian authorities arrested at least a half-dozen cricket fans on anti-terror and sedition charges this week after they were spotted cheering for the Pakistani team during a game that pitted the two nations against each other last month, the Washington Post reported.

Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir – a restive Muslim-majority region claimed by both India and Pakistan – detained an unknown number of students who cheered for Pakistan on anti-terrorism charges. In the northeastern Uttar Pradesh state, authorities arrested five people for sedition for doing the same.

The detentions came after Pakistan defeated India during the Twenty20 World Cup competition, the latest match between the rival neighbors, which is always underlined by geo-politics. As the Post wrote, “Since the countries first faced off in 1952, each match has been fanned by nationalist passions and framed by the history of one of the world’s most dangerous and long-running geopolitical feuds.”

India is a majority Hindu country while Pakistan is a majority Muslim country.

Similar arrests have also occurred in the past: In 2017, more than a dozen men in central India faced sedition charges for shouting slogans supporting Pakistan during a cricket final.

Even so, many Indians said that the crackdown in various Indian states has sparked concerns that the country is moving away from its liberal values and sense of national confidence – features that many believed made India superior to Pakistan.

Analysts and journalists warned that Indian states are engaging in “competitive nationalism” and criticized government officials for scoring a “self-goal [against] democracy.”

Relations between the two countries have been tense since the British left South Asia in 1947, particularly on the issue of Kashmir – which currently remains unsolved after three wars between the two nations.

Tensions rose after India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in an effort to stabilize the region in August 2019. Pakistan denounced the move and since then flights and trade between the neighbors have been suspended.


New Neighbors

Otters are running amok again in the bustling city-state of Singapore to the amusement – and dismay – of many residents, the Washington Post reported.

The cute, carnivorous creatures have made a return to the small country in recent years after being driven away in the 1970s due to pollution and deforestation.

However, the subsequent cleanup and reforestation have turned the island into a home for more than 10 otter romps – or families.

The mischievous mammals can be found in various parts of the city, including the expensive Marina Bay, the financial district, as well as frolicking around university campuses and hospital lobbies.

Meanwhile, their shenanigans have been continuously recorded on social media and created legions of fans. Among them are the “otter watchers,” a group of people that spend days tracking and monitoring the life and wellbeing of different families.

“It’s like ‘Game of Thrones,’” said Marjorie Chong, who runs the Ottercity Facebook group. “You realize everyone is just trying to survive.”

The otter watchers cooperate with Singapore’s parks department and authorities to help any stray or injured otter.

Even so, some residents have grown annoyed with the animal encroaching on their homes or eating their koi fish. Some have even called for the animals to be shot with rubber bullets.

But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong countered that Singaporeans “must find ways to coexist and thrive with our local flora and fauna.”

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 246,721,929

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,999,970

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 6,947,883,074

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

  1. US: 45,970,881 (+0.04%)
  2. India: 34,285,814 (+0.04%)
  3. Brazil: 21,810,855 (+0.03%)
  4. UK: 9,100,442 (+0.42%)
  5. Russia: 8,377,984 (+0.48%)
  6. Turkey: 8,032,958 (+0.30%)
  7. France: 7,268,527 (+0.09%)
  8. Iran: 5,924,638 (+0.14%)
  9. Argentina: 5,288,807 (+0.01%)
  10. Spain: 5,011,148 (0.00%)**

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country

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