The World Today for January 09, 2023

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A Difficult Hand


Controversially tough-on-crime Rodrigo Duterte is no longer president of the Philippines. But, in an echo of protests that occurred when Duterte was in power between June 2016 and June 2022, demonstrators recently took to the streets of the Filipino capital, Manila, to protest against violence and extrajudicial killings in the Southeast Asian country.

The events included destroying an effigy of the new Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., reported Outlook, an Indian news publication.

As Reuters explained, police killed more than 6,200 people as part of Duterte’s crackdown on the illegal drug trade in the Philippines. Marcos has attempted to curb that policy somewhat, saying he would shift to rehab and education for drug offenders. But he’s still pursuing a tough-on-crime strategy. Since he assumed office, police have launched 24,000 drug raids, arrested around 30,000 people and killed around 12 suspects.

Marcos has also claimed that police corruption has stymied efforts to reduce the drug trade. Officials recently asked 300 police commanders to resign in order to reform law enforcement in the country. “It appears that there is a big problem in our police force. It appears there are generals and colonels involved in drugs,” said Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. at a news conference covered by the Associated Press. “We need to clean our ranks. We need the trust of the people.”

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Similarly, Marcos has refused to release former senator Leila de Lima, a Duterte critic whom activists say was jailed solely because she crossed Duterte, illustrating how the new president’s commitment to human rights might not be so enthusiastic, the Nation magazine wrote.

As Marcos attempts to grapple with lingering domestic problems, he is also attempting to advance an international agenda that builds on Duterte’s legacy, particularly with China and the US.

The president recently visited China aiming to shift relations between the two countries to a “higher gear” after Duterte failed to improve relations with the country, the Diplomat wrote. But Marcos has also secured closer military ties with the US, putting him at odds with Chinese officials who want to push back against American influence in the region, noted the Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.

He ended the visit with trade deals and a promise to work more closely on disputes over the South China Sea, Kyodo News added. That showed signs of progress, but is hardly a diplomatic breakthrough.

Marcos has a difficult hand to play, and he can’t ask for a reshuffle.


Sore Losers


Thousands of protesters supporting former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s key government buildings in the capital Sunday, a little over a week after a new leftist president took office, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Demonstrators dressed in Brazil’s national green and yellow colors charged into the presidential palace, Congress and the Supreme Court, destroying windows, furniture and documents. After nearly five hours of rioting, police were able to clear the attackers from the government buildings.

At least 400 people have been arrested, according to the Washington Post.

The attack followed the swearing-in of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Jan. 1. Lula defeated Bolsonaro in an October runoff election with 51 percent of the vote, in what has been described as Brazil’s closest presidential race.

Bolsonaro – who left for the US shortly before Lula’s inauguration – has yet to publicly concede the defeat and has called the election results unfair. For months, the conservative leader claimed major fraud occurred during the October election, polarizing the country’s electorate.

Many of his supporters have protested Lula’s win and camped outside army bases across Brazil to call for the army to keep Bolsonaro in power. Last month, pro-Bolsonaro protesters clashed with police, burned buses and tried to force their way into the Federal Police headquarters in Brasília.

Bolsonaro has condemned the violence but has said in previous speeches and broadcasts that “nothing is lost” and urged his supporters not to “throw in the towel.”

Following Sunday’s events, Lula – who was not in the presidential palace at the time – called the protesters “fanatic fascists” and accused his predecessor of inciting his supporters.

Bolsonaro rejected the accusations and condemned Sunday’s storming.

The US, the European Union and countries across Latin American condemned the attacks.

The assault highlighted Lula’s struggle in leading a deeply divided nation, fractured in the aftermath of the closest election in Brazilian history and poisoned by the global era of toxic politics, the Wall Street Journal said.

The leftist leader is also facing ranks of police who remain tacit supporters of Bolsonaro, who have favored heavy-handed police techniques and stacked their senior ranks with loyalists during his presidency, the Washington Post noted. Lula accused security forces of failing to contain the protesters quickly and called for the prosecution of all involved in the attack, including police officers.

Some political analysts compared Sunday’s incident to the violence in the US two years ago, when supporters of former President Donald Trump attempted to halt the counting of Electoral College ballots that would confirm Joe Biden as the new president.

“It shows just how many challenges are ahead for democracy,” Rafael Cortez, a political scientist at the São Paulo-based consulting firm Tendências, told the Journal.

Olive Branch


Mali’s military junta pardoned and suspended the sentences of 49 Ivorian troops over the weekend, bringing an end to a diplomatic spat that had underscored the West African country’s growing isolation and poor relations with its neighbors, the New York Times reported.

Malian authorities had detained the troops nearly six months ago and accused them of being mercenaries set to destabilize the country. But neighboring Ivory Coast denied the accusations, saying that the soldiers were part of a nearly decade-old United Nations peacekeeping mission of 15,000 members assigned to protect civilians from armed groups.

Despite months of negotiations and also mediation, a Malian court convicted 46 soldiers of conspiracy against the government and sentenced them to 20 years in prison late last month. Three female soldiers – who were arrested but later released – were sentenced to death in absentia.

But on Friday, junta leader Colonel Assimi Goïta revoked the sentences of all the soldiers, citing a commitment to peace and dialogue.

Over the weekend, the soldiers returned home to Ivory Coast, where they were greeted by the country’s president, Alassane Ouattara, Reuters added.

The pardon comes as Mali’s relations with some West African nations have worsened following military coups in 2020 and 2021, prompting sanctions from the region’s main political and economic bloc, the Economic Community of West African States.

Mali is in the throes of a years-long jihadist conflict in which terrorists linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda have ravaged much of the country. A force of UN peacekeepers and European soldiers have aided the Malian military but haven’t made substantial progress, according to the Financial Times.

The country has since sought security help from Russia via the private Wagner Group, provoking friction between Mali and the West, particularly France, its former colonial power.

Separate, Isolate


Myanmar’s ruling military held talks this week with three armed ethnic groups to organize elections in areas under rebel control in the run-up to general elections in 2023, nearly two years after the junta ousted the democratically elected government in a coup, Al Jazeera reported.

State media reported that leaders from the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), the United Wa State Party (UWSP), and the National Democratic Alliance Army – which have largely stayed out of the conflict that has gripped the country following the February 2021 coup – are holding three days of talks in the capital.

A spokesman of the SSPP said the military had “asked us to let them hold free and fair elections in our area.” He added that the group will not oppose the military’s elections.

The negotiations come less than a week after junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing announced during the country’s independence day that the junta plans to hold elections this year, without providing further details.

The army had previously proposed to hold elections in August this year.

The army ousted the government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, putting an end to nearly a decade of progress toward democracy after 50 years of military rule.

The military justified its coup by citing major fraud in the democratic, multi-party election in 2020, although independent international observers found no substantial irregularities.

The junta subsequently launched a violent crackdown on protests that followed the takeover with thousands detained, including Suu Kyi. The military has effectively isolated the former civilian leader: She has been sentenced to 33 years in prison on corruption allegations.

Observers noted that the military has been holding negotiations with other rebel groups in the past weeks to receive support for holding elections.

They explained that a general election is widely seen as an attempt to normalize the military’s takeover, adding that Suu Kyi’s convictions are part of an effort to discredit her from participating in future polls.


The Disappearing Act

Glass frogs of Central and South America have the ability to become “invisible” to evade predators, NPR reported.

The half-dollar-sized amphibians are known for their transparent skin that can reveal their internal organs.

Initially, researcher Jesse Delia took pictures of the small animal’s circulatory system as part of a study to examine the parental behavior of a type of glass frog.

But when he saw the frogs sleeping, he noticed how their blood “was gone.”

In a new study, Delia and his colleagues found that the blood’s disappearance was a defense mechanism for the frog.

They wrote that the creatures would sleep on green leaves during the day, rendering them vulnerable to predators. As a result, the creatures would store most of their blood in their livers and achieve near-total camouflage.

When night approached, the frogs would wake up and release their red blood cells back into circulation.

Meanwhile, the amphibian’s unique ability poses some biological questions.

Delia believes the frogs have “some alternative process that allows them to keep their cells alive during transparency” because their red blood cells transport relatively little oxygen.

His colleague, Carlos Taboada, added that packing a majority of red blood cells in a small volume could trigger some clotting disorders.

The authors hope that further research on glass frogs will pave the way for new anticoagulants for humans.

Covid-19 Global Update

Editor’s Note: Exactly three years ago, we began publishing the COVID-19 Global Update with the goal of tracking the impact of the pandemic. Today, we are pausing the Update given that the week-to-week changes in the pandemic are no longer statistically significant. We assure our readers that the Update will return if the coronavirus surges again, something we all hope will not happen.

Your DailyChatter Team

Total Cases Worldwide: 682,546,389 (+0.88%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,819,835 (-0.90%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 13,232,904,667 (-0.79%)*

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

  1. US: 105,972,038 (+2.09%)
  2. India: 44,696,388 (+0.01%)
  3. France: 39,703,279 (-0.41%)***
  4. Germany: 38,297,037 (+0.13%)
  5. Brazil: 37,145,514 (+0.16%)
  6. Japan: 33,374,303 (+0.13%)
  7. South Korea: 30,702,960 (+0.29%)
  8. Italy: 25,651,205 (+0.19%)
  9. UK: 24,423,396 (-0.95%)***
  10. Russia: 22,506,199 (+1.90%)

Source: WorldOMeters.Info**

*Numbers were taken from the World Health Organization as of March 14th, 2023.

**Johns Hopkins University stopped publishing the Covid-19 update on March 10th, 2023.

***Numbers have been adjusted by affected country.

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