The World Today for February 24, 2022

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A Long, Crooked Road

SOMALIA

Al-Shabab terrorists recently killed five people, including two children, in an attack in the Darussalam neighborhood in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a newly developed district that has received much investment in recent years. The violence came on the heels of an al-Shabab suicide bomber blowing up a minibus in the city, taking at least six lives.

The attacks were clearly aimed at weakening the central government during a long-delayed political transition. Parliamentary elections in Somalia that were supposed to end late last year are now slated to conclude on Feb. 25. Lawmakers will then elect a new president.

But the al Qaeda-linked militants aren’t the only forces that have been destabilizing the war-torn country in the Horn of Africa.

“The country’s top leaders have been in a constant political dispute, which diverted the attention from the country’s security,” Hussein Moallim, director of the Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute, a research firm, told Voice of America. “It has been predictable that the militants remobilize and carry out such brazen attacks on police stations in Mogadishu and of course, it is their show of force.”

Late last year, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a former New York State bureaucrat whose term technically ended a year ago but who has remained in office until new lawmakers can elect a new president, attempted to suspend the powers of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, the Washington Post explained. The president’s move represented a dangerous authoritarian turn in the country, Foreign Affairs noted.

Roble defied the suspension but the tensions between the two men led to gun battles in Mogadishu. They then agreed to put aside their differences so the country could proceed with voting, Al Jazeera wrote.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund was warning both leaders that their delays would jeopardize aid that pays soldiers and keeps the government running, Reuters reported. The same aid package is supposed to forgive much of Somalia’s debts, paving the way for the country to invest in infrastructure, education and economic development, rather than debt service, when a new government forms.

United Nations officials have also been warning Somali leaders to stop bickering among themselves and instead focus on fighting Islamic militants and addressing the drought that could lead to 1.4 million children suffering acute malnutrition.

Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries – almost 70 percent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day, according to Africanews. It’s still struggling to recover from decades of civil war, and more recently locusts, droughts and the pandemic.

The good news is that, amid the violence and political contretemps, Somalia is developing a system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches, argued the African Center for Strategic Studies, an institution within the US’s National Defense University. They have worked to create a strong tax system. The IMF forecasts growth of more than three percent for 2022, while areas of the capital are thriving.

The journey to democracy usually takes a crooked road. And sometimes, eventually, it plows straight ahead.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Yanking Off the Gloves

UKRAINE

Russian troops launched a multipronged attack against Ukraine on Thursday, an act Western officials called “a premeditated war” even as President Vladimir Putin discarded international condemnation and threats of sanctions, the Associated Press reported.

A number of large explosions were heard in various cities early Thursday local time, including in the capital Kyiv, with Ukrainian officials saying that Russian forces have been targeting military infrastructure and bases.

The assault came shortly after Putin declared on Russian state television that Russia was launching a military operation for the “demilitarization and denazification” of eastern Ukraine, according to the Washington Post.

Putin’s assault follows a request by Russian-backed separatists in the east for military assistance to fight Ukrainian aggression, which the United States has described as a “false flag” operation to create a pretext for invasion.

The Russian leader said he does not intend to occupy Ukraine but emphasized that he ordered the assault because “Russia cannot feel safe and develop and exist with the constant threat coming from the modern territory of Ukraine.”

He also issued a stark warning that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”

The attacks mark the latest escalation in the Ukrainian conflict, which first began in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula following that year’s Ukraine’s Maidan revolution that deposed a pro-Moscow leader and ushered in a pro-Western government, as protesters demanded.

Russia then fomented revolutions in eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as Donbas. Earlier this week, Putin moved to recognize those territories as independent and ordered Russian forces there for “peacekeeping” operations.

Meanwhile, the US, the European Union, Japan, the United Nations and NATO fiercely condemned the attack and have imposed a series of sanctions against prominent Russians and the Russian economy, including revoking permission for the operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

US and European leaders are expected to impose another round of sanctions but Russian officials have dismissed those threats, saying that “it is able to minimize the damage.”

Despite efforts to prevent the conflict, the assaults could have major consequences throughout the world: Apart from causing casualties in Ukraine, the tense situation could affect energy supplies in Europe, shake up global financial markets and threaten the post-Cold War balance on the continent.

Going Dark

TURKEY

German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle and their American counterpart, Voice of America, refused to apply for online licenses in Turkey after the country’s media watchdog threatened to block the news organizations from operating if they failed to do so, Reuters reported.

The two broadcasters said Wednesday they will appeal a decision by Turkey’s RTUK media watchdog, saying that it was an attempt to censor and restrict foreign media in the country.

The announcement came a few days after the regulator – whose policy-making board is dominated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party – ordered DW, VOA and Euronews to apply for an online broadcasting license within 72 hours.

RTUK said that the deadline is on Thursday. If the news organizations fail to apply, the council will ask a court to ban access to their websites.

Following the order, the France-based Euronews said it would apply for a license, the Financial Times noted.

The decision highlights Erdogan’s increasing control over the media in Turkey: A majority of outlets in the country are close to the government and most coverage portrays the president in a positive light.

Many Turks have resorted to alternative outlets, including foreign media, for news.

Recently, RTUK fined a Turkish broadcaster for inciting hatred after journalist Sedef Kabas used a proverb that allegedly insulted the president – a crime in Turkey.

Kabas was detained and a court ordered her jailed ahead of a trial, the BBC reported.

Western allies and human rights organizations have accused the government of exploiting a failed military coup in 2016 as an excuse to silence opposition. The government has rejected this accusation, claiming the measures are necessary because of security risks.

Thank God It’s Thursday

BELGIUM

Belgian workers will now be able to opt for a four-day week without a salary decrease as the country’s government is pushing for labor reforms prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian reported.

Under the new regulations, employees can ask their employers for a condensed work week to secure a three-day weekend. Companies also have the opportunity to reject these requests but will need to justify their responses in writing.

The recent overhaul is part of the coalition government’s package of economic reforms, which also includes a “right to disconnect” and new rules on working at night.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the changes are aimed at generating a more dynamic and productive economy. He added that the government wants to encourage more people to work: Currently, less than 72 percent of people between the ages of 20 to 64 are employed.

The government wants to increase that to 80 percent by 2030.

Meanwhile, the reform package also grants gig economy workers – such as Deliveroo couriers or Uber drivers – employee rights more quickly under a new approach to self-employment based in part on European Commission recommendations for so-called platform or gig work.

Elsewhere in Europe, the four-day workweek has become the preference for most employees in Iceland. The country experimented with the shorter workweek between 2015 and 2019.

Next year, Scotland will start a six-month trial of a four-day workweek with the government providing roughly $14 million to participating businesses.

DISCOVERIES

The Long Sore Throat

Scientists have long known that dinosaurs could get arthritis, parasites and other ailments.

Now, paleontologists discovered these extinct giant lizards also caught colds, and sniffled, Cosmos Magazine reported.

An international research team studied the fossilized remains of a young diplodocid – a large, long-necked herbivorous sauropod – that lived in what is now Montana in the western United States about 150 million years ago.

The team wrote that the creature – known as MOR 7029 – had some abnormal bony protrusions in an area of their neck, which was connected to its large respiratory system. Upon close inspection, they determined that these lumps were formed in response to a fungal infection in the dino’s air sacs, which later spread into its neck bones.

Researchers said the sickness resembled aspergillosis, a common respiratory illness that affects modern birds and reptiles, which can lead to bone infections – and can be fatal if untreated.

It’s possible MOR 7029 experienced pneumonia-like symptoms, such as a cough, fever and breathing difficulties. Scientists added that the infection could have also led to the diplodocid’s demise.

Despite its death, the recent paper shows that the study of dinosaur bones can act as a logbook of their lives, including how they grew, aged and healed.

The authors noted that the findings also add new insight into paleopathology – the study of pathological conditions that affected ancient humans and animals.

The field plays an important role in modern pathology: It can help scientists pinpoint causality and track the evolutionary history of illnesses, helping us to better understand and combat them.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 429,741,536

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,917,740

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 10,436,804,412

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

  1. US: 78,730,964 (+0.10%)
  2. India: 42,881,179 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 28,493,336 (+0.46%)
  4. France: 22,639,064 (+0.33%)
  5. UK: 18,867,585 (+0.22%)
  6. Russia: 15,566,425 (+0.88%)
  7. Germany: 14,252,200 (+1.61%)
  8. Turkey: 13,762,181 (+0.63%)
  9. Italy: 12,603,758 (+0.39%)
  10. Spain: 10,914,105 (+0.31%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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