The World Today for March 09, 2023

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The United Nations has appointed Ecuadoran diplomat Maria Isabel Salvador to help Haiti rebuild after a devastating earthquake in 2010, the dissolution of parliament in 2020, the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, and the subsequent explosion in crime, gang violence and the breakdown of civil society.

“Salvador inherits a difficult role,” wrote the Miami Herald. “She is going to Haiti at a time members of the national police are defecting, the judiciary is almost non-existent, the healthcare system is collapsing and kidnapping gangs are increasingly terrorizing the population.”

Meanwhile, there are no elected officials left in power officially: In January, its 10 remaining senators departed their roles after their terms ended, leaving behind a nation’s worth of elected offices that now sit empty after years of canceled elections, NPR reported.

Instead, as the Associated Press reported, gangs are taking control of Haiti as democracy withers in the impoverished Caribbean nation. The news agency’s story featured gangster Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, the boss of the “G9 alliance” of Haitian criminal organizations, which controls sections of the country and initiated a fuel blockade last year that further crippled Haiti’s economy.

Numerous countries have slapped sanctions on Cherizier and others, including officials linked to Moïse, for alleged human rights abuses, added Reuters. Hundreds have died in turf battles between Cherizier’s and other gangs.

Haiti has always faced tough times. In 1804, the country finally wrested its sovereignty from France, but reparations for that separation nipped Haiti’s growth in the bud, explained National Public Radio. Dictatorship and civil strife punctuated by US military intervention have bedeviled the country since then.

Gang violence has even impacted rural regions, noted InSight Crime. Food production has decreased as a result. Now around 4.7 million people, or 40 percent of Haiti’s population, are going hungry. Gunmen have also attacked hospitals, preventing doctors from tending to the sick, aged, and those wounded in street fighting, added Doctors Without Borders. The United States has allowed more Haitians to migrate to the US to escape these terrible conditions, CBS News reported.

Highlighting the extreme, arguably insurmountable challenges they face, Haitian leaders and other advocates, feeling that Salvador and the UN can’t solve their problems, have requested foreign military intervention from the UN Security Council. Without better security, the Haitian Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights director Gedeon Jean told the Jamaica Gleaner, the country can’t even hope to move forward due to rampant crime and violence.

But the US and other powers don’t appear interested in sending a peacekeeping force. They are tired of nation-building in the country, a costly and difficult job with few upsides for politicians in Washington, DC and elsewhere, wrote Devex. Haitians themselves are wary because of problems with prior international peacekeeping missions, noted Foreign Policy.

Salvador might have to go it alone.

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The Legal Walls


The British government on Wednesday defended a new bill aimed at stopping asylum seekers from illegally entering the country. against fierce criticism from human rights campaigners and the United Nations’ refugee agency that it violates both British and international law, Politico reported.

“We are confident that we are complying with the law, domestic and international,” Home Secretary Suella Braverman said, referring to the Illegal Migration bill, which she unveiled to Parliament on Tuesday. “But we are also pushing the boundaries and we are testing innovative and novel legal arguments.”

The bill will make it easier for British authorities to detain and deport individuals entering the United Kingdom through irregular means.

However, there are lingering legal questions, including whether the bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Braverman said Tuesday that she was “unable to make a statement” that the draft law’s provisions are “compatible with the Convention rights.”

She later said Wednesday that she made that statement “out of an abundance of caution,” but noted that the government is still confident the bill is legal.

Even so, UN officials cautioned that the proposed law essentially meant an asylum ban.

The UK is currently facing increasing numbers of people trying to make the dangerous crossing from France and elsewhere: More than 45,700 people used “small boats” to cross the English Channel last year, a record.

Amid a migration crisis and criticism within the ruling Conservative Party, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to make “stopping the boats” one of the government’s main priorities.

To address this, ministers have already signed an agreement to transport asylum seekers to Rwanda as a safe third country. However, none has been moved so far due to legal challenges.

As a result of the legal battle, some Conservative lawmakers are calling for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR entirely.

On the Wire


Georgian lawmakers withdrew a controversial “foreign agents” bill after it had passed only its first reading amid fears it would damage the country’s relations with the West as the draft law threatened to curtail the country’s basic freedoms, CNN reported.

The legislation also sparked days of protest and the announcement came early Thursday following a second night of clashes outside the country’s parliament between police and thousands of protesters, with some carrying Georgian and European Union flags, while chanting insults aimed at Georgian politicians and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Stones and petrol bombs were countered by tear gas and water cannons, with more than 140 arrests, officials said.

The bill would have led to civil society groups and news organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funds from abroad being labeled as “foreign agents.” The ruling Georgian Dream party backed the proposal, despite domestic and international criticism.

Human rights groups and advocates warned that the bill resembled a similar law in Russia, which also labels organizations and individuals receiving funds from abroad as “foreign agents,” a designation that stigmatizes them and forces them to submit to audits, according to Radio Free Europe.

Critics warned that the bill will impede the freedoms of expression and association in the country by erecting onerous financial reporting requirements.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili described it as “an unnecessary law … dictated by Moscow,” and said she would veto the bill.

The EU and the United States also warned that the proposal could jeopardize Georgia’s relations with the West.

The former Soviet republic has had to strike a balance between its population’s pro-European sentiment and its geographical position close to Russia.

The New Defenders


Colombia is allowing women to join the country’s military following a 25-year ban, a move that army officials say is part of an effort to “strengthen the role of women” in its ranks, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Current rules require Colombian men between the ages of 18 and 24 to do military service. Annually, Colombia drafts around 50,000 men into the army for 12-month stints.

But this year, officials allowed females in the same age range to voluntarily join the armed forces. Last month, nearly 1,300 women enlisted in its ranks.

The recruits must live on military bases for around three months and earn a monthly stipend of around $75. For many women, the opportunity to join the army marks an important milestone, as well as the chance for a stable job and educational opportunities.

The Colombian army has around 200,000 men. Around one percent are women who joined after completing military universities or applying for administration positions.

The armed forces heavily rely on recruits to staff bases, protect infrastructure and other administrative tasks. Meanwhile, its professional soldiers are tasked with fighting drug trafficking gangs and rebel groups.

The current campaign to allow females to enlist comes as Colombia’s congress discusses a plan that would abolish obligatory military service and allow young men to substitute their service for internships in educational programs, environmental projects or human rights initiatives.

Army officials have opposed the plan, saying that it will weaken the army’s capabilities.


Fooling The Brain

For many people, not having a shot of coffee in the morning can lead to caffeine withdrawal and its concomitant headaches, fatigue, and depressive mood.

Recently, however, scientists found that decaffeinated coffee can stop those caffeine withdrawal symptoms, regardless of whether the individual knows their cup is real coffee or decaf, according to Cosmos magazine.

In a new study, researchers asked 61 coffee drinkers – all individuals who drank three or more cups a day – to go without for 24 hours.

Researchers then separated these individuals into three groups. One group was told they were drinking decaf, another was given decaf but was told they were drinking real coffee, and the third control group was given water.

The volunteers then had to report their withdrawal symptoms 45 minutes after consuming the beverages.

Lead author Llewellyn Mills explained that the second group – those deceived – reported a big drop in caffeine withdrawal “even though there’s no pharmacological reason why it should.”

“Because they expected their withdrawal to go down, it did go down,” he added. “In other words, a placebo effect.”

Mills added that participants who knew they were drinking decaf also reported a reduction in withdrawal symptoms but to a lesser extent than the placebo group.

Those who drank water reported no reduction, however.

The team said their study is analyzing the processes involved in drug addiction in general to develop better treatments that include placebo effects.

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