The World Today for August 10, 2022
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A Tiger’s Tail
WEST BANK & GAZA
Palestinian lawyers took to the streets in Ramallah in the Israel-occupied territories of the West Bank recently to protest against the rule of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
As Agence France-Presse explained, the Oslo Peace Accords established the Palestinian Legislative Council, a kind of parliament, in the early 1990s. But members haven’t met since 2007, and Abbas has been ruling without a legislature since then. The lawyers view the situation as undercutting Palestinian rights and freedoms.
The lack of democracy and accountability comes as Palestine faces other grave challenges.
In 2006, a year after Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, the political arm of Hamas – a group the US labels as a terrorist organization – defeated his Fatah political party in the Gaza Strip. As a result, Palestine is now split between the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank, and Hamas-led Gaza, leading to an impasse.
Meanwhile, Abbas is trying to work with Israel, a neighbor that clearly exerts enormous influence on the non-sovereign nation.
At the end of July Israel cut $176 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, for example, because Israeli officials determined that PA officials were giving that amount to Palestinian individuals convicted of terrorism and their families, Haaretz reported. As Reuters outlined, under the Oslo Accords, Israel collects import taxes on goods that enter Palestine and then passes that money to the PA.
Abbas appears to be dealing with this tricky situation by suppressing civil liberties.
Authorities in the West Bank have been rounding up scores of Hamas sympathizers, political dissidents, journalists and anyone else who might question Abbas’ administration, Al Jazeera wrote. Detainees experience “maltreatment and torture,” activists say. The United Nations Committee Against Torture recently corroborated their allegations, according to Middle East Eye. The West Bank has become an autocracy, the Washington Post wrote.
Now, Abbas is 87 years old and reportedly suffering from health problems, the Times of Israel noted. Who might replace him and how they might address the region’s many problems are becoming pressing questions in Palestinian society. Calls for a presidential election are mounting, as this i24 News op-ed described, citing a local poll that showed that more than three-quarters of Palestinians in the West Bank want Abbas to resign and a massive 86 percent consider him corrupt.
Meanwhile, following 15 years of no elections in Palestine, Abbas finally allowed municipal elections to take place between last December and this March, polls that also included districts in Gaza. Speculation was that he had decided against slating ballots because he feared that Hamas, whose leaders advocate for more aggressive resistance to the Israeli occupation, would win in a landslide, added Voice of America. In those elections the most seats were won by independent candidates from neither side of the divide, Al-Monitor added.
Abbas has a tiger by the tail. And his hold is slipping.
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Papua New Guinea’s parliament re-elected James Marape as prime minister Tuesday, following an election that was marred by violence and fraud allegations, the Associated Press reported.
Marape’s nomination comes after the country’s legislature resumed even though vote counting continues in some parts of the country. All 97 lawmakers that participated voted in favor of Marape.
The prime minister will now lead a coalition of at least 17 parties. He has pledged to stabilize and boost the economy, implement sustainable debt financing and roll out government programs for education and health.
Marape’s rival and predecessor Peter O’Neill attempted to delay the legislature’s sitting, saying that voting is ongoing across Papua New Guinea. However, his application for a Supreme Court injunction failed, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Elections in Papua New Guinea took place from July 4 to July 22 but counting has been extended until this Friday because of security concerns and logistical challenges.
Since independence from Australia in 1975, polls in the multicultural Pacific Nation have historically been problematic partly because of difficult terrain and poor infrastructure.
Voter fraud, bribery and lethal violence usually mark the elections in the diverse tribal society of 9 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers and speak more than 800 languages.
Authorities recorded nearly 50 election-related deaths this year, down from the 204 fatalities documented in the 2017 vote.
When Peace Is a Casualty
A bomb blast killed a top leader of the Pakistani Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan this week, an incident that paused the peace talks between the extremist group and Pakistani officials aimed at ending years of violence between the two sides, the Washington Post reported.
Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) confirmed that Omar Khalid Khurasani and two other members of the group were killed by a roadside bomb over the weekend.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast and reports on the incident contradicted one another on the specifics. Still, the TTP blamed Pakistani intelligence agents for the killing while providing no evidence for the claim, Al Jazeera noted.
The late TTP commander – whose real name is Abdul Wali – was responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan and was the on US State Department’s most-wanted list, with a reward of up to $3 million for information on his whereabouts.
The bomb blast follows the killing of al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri by a US drone last week. Khurasani was believed to have been close with al-Zawahri and Osama bin Laden but there is no evidence of a connection between these two incidents.
Khurasani’s death comes as the TTP and Pakistani authorities have been negotiating a peace deal for months to end the years-long conflict between the militant group and the government.
The negotiations began shortly after the Taliban took back control of neighboring Afghanistan last year following the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The Afghan Taliban have been assisting in the talks, even as the armed group is struggling to protect Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim communities following a series of terrorist attacks the last week.
The Lonely Visitor
France has become captivated by the plight of a solo beluga whale stranded in the Seine near Paris and which is refusing to eat, the Associated Press reported.
First appearing last week, the lost whale was seen “gently meandering” in a stretch of the river between Paris and the northern city of Rouen, dozens of miles from the sea.
Since then, veterinarians have given the whale vitamins and products to stimulate its appetite, while trying unsuccessfully to entice it with herring and trout.
Marine conservation groups and vets fear that if the dangerously thin whale continues to refuse food, it will die. They are also concerned because the whale, native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, could be harmed by the warm, stagnant water between lock gates on the Seine.
On Wednesday, French rescuers and environmentalists lifted the whale from the river using a net and crane in the first stage of an ambitious rescue operation. Veterinarians attending the animal said that its condition was “satisfactory,” Agence France-Presse noted.
They added that the beluga will be moved to a saltwater lock, where they will monitor the marine creature for three days before releasing it.
Marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd France, cautioned that the “exceptional” operation is risky and stressful for the animal, which is 13 feet long and weighs nearly 1,800 pounds.
Conservationists are hoping to treat the whale and spare it the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May.
- Guerrilla forces loyal to Kyiv are killing pro-Moscow officials, blowing up bridges and trains, and assisting the Ukrainian military by pinpointing vital targets in a rising threat to Russia’s grip on seized territories of southeastern Ukraine, the Associated Press reported. The growing opposition has degraded the Kremlin’s control of those areas and jeopardized Russia’s ambitions to stage referendums in several towns as a step toward annexation.
- The crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spilled over into weapons control this week after Moscow said it will not support the start of nuclear arsenal inspections under the New START nuclear arms pact due to travel restrictions imposed by the US, according to the Wall Street Journal. The deal, which limits long-range nuclear weapons and came into effect in 2011, is the final significant agreement governing the US-Russian nuclear race. Both parties have been mindful of its limitations.
- Russia has suffered up to 80,000 casualties since President Vladimir Putin authorized the invasion of Ukraine in February, according to the latest Pentagon estimate of the high cost Moscow has borne invading its neighbor, US News noted. US officials refused to comment on allegations that the Ukrainian military forces are also suffering from unsustainable casualty numbers, with some estimating it to be as high as 200 per day.
- A Russian rocket successfully launched an Iranian satellite into space Tuesday, prompting speculation that Moscow may use it to increase monitoring of military targets in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe wrote.
Scientists recently turned dead spiders into useful – and very macabre – mechanical grippers to grab objects, Science Alert reported.
This feat came about after a research team decided to test whether dead wolf spiders could be used as a robotics component – something they described as “necrorobotics.”
They explained in a new paper that spider legs lack muscle extensions. Instead, the arachnids move them via hydraulic pressure: The eight-legged critters have a prosoma chamber – or cephalothorax – which contracts, sending inner body fluid into their legs to extend them.
To make the croaked arachnids’ legs move, the team stuck a needle into their prosoma chamber and created a seal around the tip of the needle with super glue. They then squeezed a little puff of air through the syringe that activated the spider’s legs, achieving a full range of motion in less than one second.
Although the experiments resemble a horror movie, they showed that the necrobot’s legs had a solid grip. And the dead spider could grip a variety of objects, including a jumper wire attached to an electric breadboard and even another spider.
The researchers noted that the dead spiders could prove sustainable in the future because they are biodegradable and would cut the amount of waste in robotics.
“The concept of necrobotics proposed in this work takes advantage of unique designs created by nature that can be complicated or even impossible to replicate artificially,” the authors said.
Correction: In Tuesday’s THE WORLD, BRIEFLY section, we said in our “A Fragile Peace” item that the recent conflict in the Gaza strip began following the arrest of a senior Hamas leader and that there were no Israeli casualties during fighting. In fact, Israeli authorities arrested a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group and the conflict resulted in 31 injured Israelis. We apologize for the error.