The World Today for September 01, 2023

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Old Story, New Horrors


Sudan’s military-led central government and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force formerly allied with the government, have been waging a civil war for almost five months. Around 4,000 people have died in the fighting, but neither side has been able to vanquish the other. The people of Sudan have suffered as a result.

Violence has displaced four million people, including 1.7 million children within the northeastern African country, according to the United Nations. Around 430,000 people have fled the fighting by crossing through the western Sudanese region of Darfur and Sudan’s border into Chad. Many needed to evade the RSF and other militant groups in Darfur, where some of the worst horrors of the war are occurring today.

“A tragedy is unfolding in Nyala, South Darfur, as fighting continues to rage, with targeted and indiscriminate attacks against civilians reaching catastrophic levels,” warned Doctors Without Borders in a statement. “All roads in and out of the area are effectively cut off by the fighting.”

Refugees who reached Chad attested to the disaster.

“Four of us were wounded,” refugee Souad Ibrahim told Agence France-Presse. “We wandered barefoot around El-Geneina for seven days, moving from one place to another. We had no water and no food. Even though I was seven months pregnant, I had to carry my four-year-old boy on my back and my girl who is six followed on foot.”

CNN described the West Darfur capital of El Geneina as a “hellscape.”

The latest violence evokes the crimes against humanity and genocide that occurred in Darfur two decades ago, argued the Guardian in an editorial. The mass killings, sexual assaults, and the destruction of entire villages are occurring now as they did in the early 2000s. Approximately 300,000 perished in Darfur in that hellish period.

The two rivals in the civil war once worked together, noted the Council on Foreign Relations. Army Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan became de facto head of state in 2019 when he helped oust former dictator Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for three decades. RSF Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo supported Burhan but later refused to go along with a plan to integrate the RSF into the central government’s armed forces.

Sudan unfortunately has a long tradition of coups, rebellions, and other sources of instability that has prevented it from developing its economy and civil society, explained the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

This latest war will likely add another chapter to this sad history.


Holding On Tight


Guatemala’s Congress refused to recognize seven lawmakers from the Seed Movement party of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, a move that risks deepening the political crisis in the Central American nation following a tumultuous presidential election, the Associated Press reported.

On Wednesday, the legislative body declared the Seed Movement lawmakers as independents. The decision came two days after Guatemala’s electoral registry suspended Arévalo’s party.

Guatemalan prosecutors have accused the Seed Movement of wrongdoing while collecting signatures for the party’s registration years earlier. Anti-corruption prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche also advised Congress of the party’s suspension despite pending court appeals.

The suspension and the legislature’s decision follows Arévalo’s landslide win in Guatemala’s presidential runoff on Aug. 20. The president-elect has vowed to fight corruption in the country, prompting concern among Guatemala’s ruling elites and organized crime leaders.

Arévalo maintains that the recent accusations and legal and legislative moves are part of a conspiracy to prevent him from taking office, AP wrote separately.

The government began accusing Arévalo and his Seed Movement of electoral shenanigans after the first round of elections that saw the dark horse candidate coming second place after former First Lady Sandra Torres.

Seed Movement lawmakers worry that the decision by Congress will prevent them from holding leadership positions in the legislature and lose the presidency of the sole congressional committee they held.

The party is seeking an injunction to block Congress’ move.

Dusting Off the Harpoons


Iceland will resume the hunting of fin whales, officials announced Thursday, a move that is stirring controversy after the coalition government opted not to extend a temporary ban, Bloomberg reported.

In June, the government imposed a temporary ban on whaling following complaints from veterinary officials that the killing of the cetaceans took longer than allowed by animal welfare laws.

But Svandís Svavarsdóttir, minister of food, fisheries and agriculture said the government allowed the ban to expire Thursday, adding that whaling can restart Friday.

Svavarsdóttir acknowledged the concerns surrounding whaling, saying that her Left Green Movement wants to eventually end the practice. She noted, however, that the whaling industry holds a “valid license,” suggesting that to halt the practice would require amending the law.

Iceland, Norway and Japan are among the few countries still permitting commercial whaling. The majority of Iceland’s catches involve fin whales, a species classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Last year, Icelanders killed 148 fin whales.

However, the whaling industry has contributed a minimal amount to Iceland’s economy in recent years, according to a government-commissioned report.

Still, the resumption has triggered tensions within the three-party coalition government after some of the partners considered the June ban disproportionate.

Meanwhile, the government is planning to implement stricter regulations and enhanced supervision, training, and education regarding whaling practices and equipment.

Beauty and Bullets


The Miss World beauty pageant will be held in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, part of New Delhi’s efforts to promote tourism in the disputed Muslim-majority territory, Agence France-Presse reported.

Organizers said India will host a month-long series of events for the international contest from November to December, with part of the schedule to be held in Kashmir.

The territory has been plagued by a decades-long insurgency seeking independence or union with neighboring Pakistan. Fighting in the area has seen tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and rebels killed.

Control of the region is split between India and Pakistan, both of whom claim it in full but administer separate portions, divided by the Line of Control.

But India launched a massive crackdown on dissent in the region after revoking Kashmir’s limited autonomy in 2019. Critics say that Indian authorities have significantly curtailed civil liberties by criminalizing dissent, limiting press freedoms, and curbing public protests.

At the same time, India began a resettlement program to lure Indian Hindus from other parts of the country to live in Kashmir.

In a next step, the country is organizing the Miss World pageant to boost tourism in Kashmir, an area known for its stunning mountain scenery.

More than one million Indian citizens visited the region last year. In May, India hosted a Group of 20 tourism meeting in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar to show what officials called “normalcy and peace” – even though that gathering was conducted under very strict security.


This week, Russia experienced the biggest assault by drones on its territory since the Ukraine conflict began, with attacks reported across six regions, including Moscow, according to CNN. Russian officials claimed to have prevented most of the strikes and reported no casualties. Moscow responded to the strikes by launching a series of bombardments on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv that killed two people. Recently, Ukraine has been increasingly targeting strategic locations inside Russia. Moscow’s airports faced temporary closures because of the attacks.

Also this week:

  • Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, was secretly buried in St. Petersburg this week, in an unannounced event that saw few people attending and heavy security, NPR reported. Prigozhin died in a plane crash along with other Wagner leaders last month, weeks after the mercenary group attempted a rebellion against the Russian government. The Kremlin distanced itself from Prigozhin’s funeral, and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend. Conspiracy theories about Prigozhin’s death have been raging across Russia and in capitals around the world. Some believe the plane crash was orchestrated by the Kremlin as revenge for the mercenary leader’s rebellion. Russian authorities are investigating the cause of the plane crash and have refused an international probe into the incident, Politico added.
  • Meanwhile, Putin has ordered Wagner mercenaries to pledge allegiance to the state, NBC News noted. The oath commits Wagner fighters to defend the country and follow orders, tightening state control over private military groups. Putin is aiming to bring these groups under greater state supervision, analysts say.
  • The Kremlin is recruiting Central Asian migrants, including those with Russian citizenship, to bolster its military forces for the conflict in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe reported. Central Asian human rights advocates have reported pressure on migrants to sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry, leading to concerns about their treatment and rights. A number of Central Asian countries have warned their citizens against participating in foreign military activities because it is a violation of local laws. Lawmakers in Russia are considering legislation to tighten citizenship rules for migrants who evade military conscription, potentially affecting their families as well. In April, President Putin signed a bill allowing citizenship to be revoked for discrediting the Russian army or posing a security threat.
  • The European Union’s imports of Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) increased by 40 percent after the invasion of Ukraine, with bloc nations buying more than half of Russia’s LNG in the first seven months of the year, the Guardian reported. Spain and Belgium became the country’s largest customers of Russian LNG after China. In no small part due to reduced pipeline gas flows from Russia due to the invasion, LNG shipments have surged from various sources, including Russia. Meanwhile, European efforts to reduce reliance on Russian energy and also the imposition of sanctions have not hindered the growth in LNG imports, which have indirectly funded Russia and its war in Ukraine, the newspaper said.
  • Dutch beer brewer Heineken sold its Russian business to the Russian manufacturer Arnest Group for the symbolic sum of one euro, CBS News wrote. This move comes more than a year after Heineken announced its intention to withdraw from Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite incurring a loss of around $325 million, Heineken joins a growing list of companies exiting the Russian market. The company’s CEO, Dolf van den Brink, clarified that the reason for the delay in the exit was to ensure the welfare of its Russian employees throughout the sale process.


The Iceman Cometh

A new genetic study on Europe’s oldest mummy dispelled some previous assertions about the appearance and origins of the 5,300-year-old man famously known as “Ötzi the Iceman,” Nature Magazine reported.

Italian hikers first discovered the prehistoric mummy in the Ötztal Alps bordering Austria and Italy in 1991.

A 2012 DNA study on his remains suggested that Ötzi had long hair, pale skin and Eurasian steppe ancestry – from ancient herding people who hailed from eastern Europe and central Asia. The latter finding was surprising because previous research had indicated that steppe people arrived in Europe a millennium after Ötzi’s death.

But some scientists noted that Ötzi’s genome sequencing was not done right, while also pointing out some other discrepancies about his appearance: His mummified body had dark pigmentation and very little hair.

Because DNA analysis has improved since 2012, a research team studied Ötzi’s exposed hip bone and found surprising details about the ancient man who died from an arrow shot.

Ötzi had neither steppe ancestry nor European hunter-gatherer genes. The results showed that he had Anatolian-farmer ancestry, an ancient group that lived between the Mediterranean and Black seas, who are thought to have migrated into Europe and mixed with local hunter-gatherers.

The analysis also revealed that he had more melanin on his skin – thus darker skin – and also carried genetic markers of male-pattern baldness.

The authors explained that the study suggests that Anatolians were already in Europe at the time the iceman was alive.

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