The World Today for November 05, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

When Might Is Right

NICARAGUA

Nicaraguan law enforcement recently arrested two prominent businessmen on charges of “money laundering, acts that diminish the country’s independence and inciting foreign interference,” according to the Associated Press.

Similar charges have been levied against scores of others for similar crimes in recent weeks as authorities have rounded up and detained political and student leaders who might criticize – or run against – President Daniel Ortega in the Nov. 7 presidential election.

The two men had called for the release of political prisoners, earning Ortega’s attention and presumably his ire. Both were likely allies of Ortega and his Sandinista National Liberation Front until he proposed changes to the Central American country’s social security system in 2018, triggering streets protests and a police crackdown that further divided the nation.

The Organization of American States passed a resolution condemning Nicaragua for the detentions. The US has slapped sanctions on Nicaraguans in Ortega’s regime, too. American officials are considering harsher sanctions, leading University of Maryland Professor Richard Kohn to argue in a Baltimore Sun op-ed that the US can cause unintended damage to Nicaragua when it meddles in the country’s affairs.

“Forty-two years after the overthrow of the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza inspired punk band The Clash to celebrate the revolution in their hit album Sandinista, the Ortega administration is now internationally vilified for its crackdown on the opposition and a critical media,” wrote the Sunday Post, a weekly newspaper based in Dundee, Scotland.

Ortega ran Nicaragua from the early 1980s to 1990 as a leftist rebel who was a freedom fighter or violent communist depending on one’s perspective. When he won the election to the presidency in 2007, he no longer was espousing socialist views, however, noted the Canada-based Geopolitical Monitor.

As Turkish state-owned broadcaster TRT World reported, Ortega routinely deploys anti-Western rhetoric, accusing American and European forces of meddling in his country’s affairs. He still blames foreigners for inciting the 2018 riots that besmirched his administration. And he has accepted Russian influence in the country as he has snubbed American efforts to talk and reconcile, Politico wrote.

Still, compared to how Ortega was the bogeyman of the Western Hemisphere in the 1980s, American leaders don’t care much about him anymore, the left-leaning Nation magazine noted, even as he has suppressed human rights on non-ideological grounds. Journalists, for example, are preparing for imprisonment, surveillance, newsroom raids and other forms of repression in the run-up to the Nov. 7 election, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Regardless, when Ortega was a bogeyman to some decades ago, he was still considered a hero by others in his country. But those days are gone.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

A ‘Gamechanger’

UNITED KINGDOM

British health regulators approved an antiviral pill that fights Covid-19 on Thursday, becoming the first authority in the world to approve the drug that officials have described as a “gamechanger,” NPR reported.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said that the drug – called molnupiravir and developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics – reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by about 50 percent for at-risk adults.

So far, it has been approved for people with mild to moderate cases of the virus, as well as people with at least one risk factor, such as obesity or heart disease.

Officials added that it prevents the pathogen from replicating and keeps, “virus levels low in the body.” The drug can be taken orally and works best if taken soon after infection – optimally within five days after the first symptoms.

The approval comes as the United Kingdom struggles with soaring infection rates: It has recorded more than 1.1 million cases over the past 28 days – the second-highest number of cases in the world after the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the drug has yet to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.

Of Torture and Microscopes

VENEZUELA

The International Criminal Court will begin an investigation into Venezuela’s socialist government over allegations of rape, torture and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the country’s security forces, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

The move marks the first time the ICC is opening a formal investigation into a Latin American government for possible crimes against humanity.

It also deals a blow to President Nicolas Maduro as he attempts to establish international legitimacy, amid an ongoing political and economic crisis worsened by the pandemic and international sanctions.

A United Nations fact-finding mission said last year that Maduro and his top officials were responsible for potential crimes against humanity, including the extrajudicial killings of more than 5,000 people since 2014 and the use of torture.

Human rights advocates welcomed the decision as “a powerful wake-up call not only for those who committed abuses or covered them up but also for military and civilian leaders who knew or should have known what was happening and failed to act.”

Maduro disagreed with the decision, but said he would respect it.

The socialist president was re-elected in 2018 in a controversial vote that was widely considered a sham and boycotted by the opposition. A year later, Western nations and many Latin American countries tried to oust him by imposing sanctions and recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.

However, Maduro has been able to circumvent sanctions with the help of Russia, China and Iran and secure his hold on power. Meanwhile, the European Union dropped its recognition of Guaido and is urging negotiations between the opposition and the government.

Justice, At Any Cost

SINGAPORE

Singapore is preparing to execute an intellectually disabled man for smuggling a small amount of heroin into the country, a decision that has sparked outrage from Singaporeans and human rights advocates around the world, the Washington Post reported.

The case centers on Malaysian national Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, 33, who was caught in 2009 entering Singapore from Malaysia with 1.5 ounces of heroin. Singaporean law punishes drug smuggling with the death penalty and an attempt to reduce his penalty to life in prison failed in 2019.

Dharmalingam is set to be executed Wednesday, becoming the first person to be put to death in the city-state since 2019. His case has garnered criticism from many activists, Singaporeans and Malaysians, who say the man has an IQ of 69 – a level recognized as an intellectual disability.

During his trial, an independent psychologist diagnosed him with mental and intellectual impairment. But Singaporean authorities maintain that the convicted man “clearly understood the nature of his acts, and he did not lose his sense of judgment of the rightness or wrongness of what he was doing.”

Singapore is one of four countries in the world that execute people convicted of drug offenses. The government has defended the practice as an effective deterrent and says there is support for the death penalty.

However, a 2018 survey found that only about one-third of respondents supported the mandatory sentence of death for drug traffickers and firearm offenses.

Weekly World Quiz

DISCOVERIES

Beyond the Milky Way

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets – planets outside of our Solar system – in the Milky Way galaxy.

Recently, NASA scientists came across the first exoplanet located in a galaxy far, far away, NPR reported.

Using the agency’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, researchers said that the unnamed planet was found in the Messier 51 – or “Whirlpool” galaxy – which is about 28 million light-years from Earth.

The team explained that they were able to detect the exoplanet by studying its transit – when a planet passes in front of a star and blocks the latter’s light.

They described the exoplanet as being roughly the same size as Saturn and possibly having a “violent past”: The planet is currently orbiting a neutron star or a black hole with a companion star nearly 20 times the size of the Sun, according to Sky News.

“An exoplanet in the system would have had to survive a supernova explosion that created the neutron star or black hole,” NASA suggested.

There is still much to learn about the new celestial body but the space organization hopes that the find provides a beacon of hope for many looking for planets outside the Milky Way.

“We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies,” Rosanne Di Stefano of the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 248,671,425

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,030,811

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,157,798,328

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

  1. US: 46,334,961 (+0.18%)
  2. India: 34,333,754 (+0.04%)
  3. Brazil: 21,849,137 (+0.06%)
  4. UK: 9,252,646 (+0.40%)
  5. Russia: 8,533,706 (+0.46%)
  6. Turkey: 8,150,678 (+0.36%)
  7. France: 7,292,220 (+0.13%)
  8. Iran: 5,964,824 (+0.17%)
  9. Argentina: 5,293,989 (+0.03%)
  10. Spain: 5,022,546 (+0.07%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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