The World Today for November 04, 2021

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Like Father, Like Son

CHAD

Earlier this year, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno wanted to command his troops fighting against jihadist rebels in his country’s remote north. So he journeyed to the front, where he died in the fight, National Public Radio reported. Deby, 68, had been in power in the north-central African nation for more than 30 years, including in 2008 when France intervened to stop the very same rebels who then attacked the presidential palace in the capital of N’Djamena.

The announcement of the president’s death came shortly after officials declared that he had won reelection for a sixth five-year term. Those results were suspect, however. Freedom House ranks Chad as “not free,” noting that the president has never lost an election.

As Al Jazeera explained, under Chad’s laws, the speaker of parliament was supposed to take over in the event of the president’s death. Instead, the military seized power. Declaring the late president’s son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, 37, as interim president, they created a National Transition Council to oversee the inauguration of a new government. As interim president,  the younger Deby recently issued a decree appointing members of an interim parliament, wrote the Africa Report.

Meanwhile, opposition parties criticized the “institutional coup,” the BBC reported. The rebels who killed the elder Deby issued a statement condemning the move, too: “Chad is not a monarchy.”

Those critics are watching their backs closely now. Amnesty International says that Chadian security forces are suppressing protests and ignoring freedom of expression. Authorities ban public gatherings, throttle the Internet that activists use to organize protests and shoot tear gas and other bullets at demonstrators. At least 16 people died in protests in April and May, for example.

Deby, meanwhile, is acting as a head of state. He recently met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to sign economic and security deals, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

In late July, Deby issued a roadmap that included a national dialogue due to start in November to discuss the country’s future, and elections for a new president and parliament between June and September 2022.

Chad now faces three choices, says Troels Burchall Henningsen, a professor at the Royal Danish Defense College, in the Conversation. Elections planned under the roadmap could yield a flawed but free democracy, elections could occur but Deby and his cronies retain control, or the country descends into violence as powerful actors seek to minimize their losses and maximize their benefits under a new regime.

Deby can choose which option he wants to become reality. But for someone groomed for power, it’s an easy choice.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Isolation, Meet Desperation

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban banned the use of foreign currencies in Afghanistan this week, a move that deals another blow to the country’s devastated economy following the armed group’s takeover and the withdrawal of international aid, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Officials said that Afghan citizens must “strictly refrain from using foreign currency,” and could “face legal action” if they violate the order.

The country’s economy has been on the brink of collapse due to the withdrawal of international financial support that followed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August after the departure of US troops.

Since the takeover, the United States Federal Reserve and European central banks moved to freeze Afghanistan’s overseas assets. Western countries have also refused to recognize the new Taliban government.

The Taliban have been demanding the release of those assets, saying the country is facing a cash crunch. Until this week, many locals have been using US dollars at markets, including areas near the border of Pakistan.

The situation has sparked concern that Afghanistan might be teetering into a humanitarian crisis: The International Monetary Fund estimated that the Afghan economy could shrink by 30 percent this year, forcing millions into poverty and fueling a refugee crisis in neighboring nations, who already host millions of Afghans.

The United Nations has also warned that millions of Afghans could also be at risk of starvation following a severe drought that ruined much of the country’s wheat crop and sent prices soaring.

Yelling By Ballot

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) lost significant support in the country’s municipal elections this week, according to early returns, garnering the worst results the party has seen since the end of apartheid, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

With more than half of polling stations reporting after Monday’s elections, the ANC appeared to have received slightly less than 46 percent of the vote, a new low: The ANC had always won more than 60 percent in every election since Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president in 1994.

The recent polls are seen as a referendum on a party, whose leaders and members, including former President Jacob Zuma, face corruption investigations.

Frustrations toward the governing party grew after rioting and looting gripped South Africa in July following Zuma’s imprisonment on contempt of court charges: He refused to testify during a corruption investigation. The unrest killed more than 354 people.

Meanwhile, ANC representatives have blamed the current results on the coronavirus pandemic, voter apathy and electricity blackouts. Even so, unemployment has hit 34 percent in Africa’s most industrialized nation.

Still, analyst Ralph Mathekga said the elections could be “a predictor for what is looming at the next general election.”

He explained that the party could be forced to govern in a coalition if it fails to go beyond the 50 percent threshold in the 2024 general elections.

Me, Too

CHINA

Professional tennis player Peng Shuai accused a high-ranking former Chinese government official of sexual assault on Chinese social media, an unprecedented charge against a senior official that also prompted an immediate removal of her post and blocked searches related to the allegations, the Hill reported Wednesday.

Peng posted on her Weibo account – China’s microblogging site – that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli assaulted her before the two began a years-long consensual relationship. The tennis star said that she had no concrete evidence to back up her allegations, adding that Zhang had previously voiced concern that she might record their encounters.

The post was then removed within minutes, which highlighted China’s strict online censorship culture. On Wednesday, Weibo users were unable to search Peng’s name, or even the word “tennis.” Netizens that tried to post anything mentioning Zhang or Peng were faced with a notice that they violated “relevant laws and regulations.”

This is the first time in China that sexual misconduct allegations have been made against such a senior political official as Zhang, who served on the country’s top ruling body, the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, from 2012 through 2017, according to the New York Times.

Many Chinese women have come forward with accusations of sexual assault and harassment, but they have been faced with pushback from courts and online censors.

DISCOVERIES

Oh, Vinland!

Vikings landed in the Americas before Christopher Columbus and now new research can pinpoint the exact year they arrived, CBS News reported.

Scientists analyzed pieces of wood from three different trees that had been chopped by Vikings at L’Anse aux Meadows, in current-day Newfoundland, Canada.

Using radiocarbon dating, researchers came across evidence of a massive solar storm – a huge burst of energy from the Sun that hit the Earth – in 992 CE. The blast put additional carbon in the atmosphere and consequently increased the amount of carbon in living things for that period of time.

The team then looked at the tree rings of the wooden pieces and determined that it was Vikings who had chopped them off 29 years after the solar storm.

That dates their year of arrival to 1021 CE – 471 years before Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492.

L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has long been hailed as the first evidence of European presence in North America. The United Nations agency also noted that the timber-framed turf structures at the site resemble those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland from the same period.

Historians have noted that multiple Indigenous tribes lived around the area as far back as 6,000 years ago.

A 2019 study found evidence that the Indigenous tribes and the Viking settlers at L’Anse aux Meadows might have had more interactions than previously believed.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 248,153,789

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,023,046

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,134,693,394

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

  1. US: 46,252,689 (+0.18%)
  2. India: 34,321,025 (+0.04%)
  3. Brazil: 21,835,785 (+0.07%)
  4. UK: 9,215,691 (+0.45%)
  5. Russia: 8,494,589 (+0.47%)
  6. Turkey: 8,121,196 (+0.37%)
  7. France: 7,282,823 (+0.14%)
  8. Iran: 5,954,962 (+0.17%)
  9. Argentina: 5,292,549 (+0.02%)
  10. Spain: 5,019,255 (+0.05%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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