The World Today for October 05, 2023

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A Family Affair


Kaesang Pangarep, a 28-year-old YouTube influencer and entrepreneur who is also the youngest son of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, recently became the head of the youth-oriented political organization, the Indonesian Solidarity Party.

His rise to power is now raising questions about whether his father is seeking to establish a family dynasty to rule the massive, majority-Muslim country straddling Southeast Asia and Oceania. Jokowi’s elder son Gibran Rakabuming Raka became mayor of Surakarta in Central Java in 2020. Jokowi held the same position from 2005 to 2012.

In accepting the job, Kaesang paid tribute to his father. “I’d like to forge his path in politics for the good,” he said, according to Reuters.

Under Indonesian law, Jokowi, a 62-year-old who assumed office in 2014, can’t run for a third term when his current, second term ends next year. But his sons will be in a position to influence Indonesian politics even when he is no longer in power. Founded in 2014, the Indonesian Solidarity Party does not have any lawmakers in parliament, explained the Diplomat. However Indonesian political observers think it could become a political force after nominating a presidential candidate for the February 2024 general election.

Still, analysts say that Jokowi is just following a strong Asian tradition of keeping things all in the family. For example, in the Philippines and Cambodia, scions of political families have inherited or are set to inherit the reins of power, noted Fulcrum, the publication of the Singapore-based ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. It’s been no different in Indonesia.

Still, interestingly, as the South China Morning Post reported, Jokowi’s younger son is not joining his political group, the Indonesian Party of Democratic Struggle. And Jokowi is also likely supporting the country’s current defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, as his replacement. That has led some observers to consider whether Jokowi was potentially attempting to outmaneuver Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president and the leader of the Indonesian Party of Democratic Struggle, reported the Asian News Network. She and the president have been vying for control of the party, added the Jakarta Post, an English-language newspaper that covers the country.

As Time magazine noted, Jokowi’s political intrigues were ironic. He ran for office as an alternative to Indonesian elites whose families historically dominated the country’s politics. Epitomizing this system was Suharto, who ran the country from 1968 to 1998 before nationwide unrest over repression, corruption, and nepotism led to his ousting.

Jokowi has improved Indonesia’s economy by ramping up exports of raw materials while injecting cash into the economy through major infrastructure projects, Bloomberg reported. But he also has authoritarian tendencies that echo Suharto’s harsh rule, too. He has censored critics with harsh Internet laws and other measures, for example.

Now Indonesians have a chance to discover whether his sons might do the same thing.


The False Positives


Colombia’s government issued an official apology this week for the extrajudicial killings of civilians by the military, a move seen as a key step toward acknowledging past war crimes committed during the country’s decades-long civil war, the Associated Press reported.

The apology is specifically for the murder of 19 civilians between 2004 and 2008. Known as “false positives,” these killings involved the military falsely registering civilians as rebel fighters.

Victims were mostly young men from poor neighborhoods, lured away from their homes with deceptive promises of employment. They were then killed and presented as combat casualties to benefit soldiers’ careers.

Since 2015, Colombian courts have been ordering the government to apologize for these crimes as part of reparation measures. But previous right-wing administrations have defied such orders as they hesitated to publicly acknowledge the military’s war crimes, according to human rights groups.

Meanwhile, the current government led by leftist President Gustavo Petro has expressed more willingness to collaborate with investigations into these crimes, including those undertaken by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace – a transitional justice system created by the 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

According to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, Colombian armed forces committed at least 6,402 extrajudicial killings between 2002 and 2008, as commanders pressured troops to show battlefield results.

While many of the victims’ families welcomed the apology, some relatives said they were not ready to forgive.

The move comes as Colombia’s government attempts to negotiate peace deals with the remaining rebel groups.

Analysts said the government’s decision to apologize also seeks to build trust with communities affected by human rights violations, which is a prerequisite for lasting peace agreements.

Apples and Oranges


Pakistan ordered all undocumented migrants, including 1.7 million Afghans, to leave the country by next month, a crackdown that follows a surge in terrorist attacks in the country in recent months, Voice of America reported.

Officials said “all illegal migrants” should leave Pakistan by Nov. 1, threatening to deport anyone who fails to exit the South Asian country by the deadline.

The United Nations and international human rights organizations, however, have raised concerns about the potential deportation of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who fled Afghanistan to escape the Taliban, fearing for their lives.

The move comes as Pakistan experiences an increase in terrorist attacks, with officials saying the violence is being directed from militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Pakistani Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said the country has experienced 24 suicide bombings since January, adding that 14 of them were carried out by Afghan nationals.

Bugti said the involvement of Afghans in violence against Pakistan showed that “they are not honoring the edict” of the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, that forbids cross-border attacks.

Pakistani officials say that militants belonging to the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have relocated to Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country two years ago, resulting in increased cross-border attacks. Taliban authorities in Kabul, however, deny permitting the TTP or any group to threaten neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan.

Last week, a suicide bombing at a mosque in the southwestern province of Baluchistan killed at least 52 people and injured more than 70 others, CBS News wrote. No group claimed responsibility and the TTP denied involvement in the attack.

Critics and analysts said that addressing the problem of undocumented immigrants is essential – but questioned whether Pakistan’s plans to evict Afghans will effectively combat its growing terrorism issue.

Not Waiting


More than 60 women from Greenland are seeking compensation from the Danish government for forced sterilization decades ago, a practice that lasted for more than 50 years, Agence France-Presse reported.

These women, many of them teenagers, were part of a program organized by Denmark to limit birth rates in the Arctic territory by being fitted with intrauterine devices (IUDs) without their consent.

The women say the Danish government violated their human rights and caused them serious harm by subjecting them to these procedures without consent.

They are now demanding compensation of about $42,000 each.

The compensation claims come a year after a series of podcasts by Danish broadcaster DR exposed the extent of this campaign. Based on findings from national archives, around 4,500 young Inuit women had IUDs inserted without their consent or that of their families from 1966 to 1970, with some of them as young as 13, the BBC wrote.

The government of Greenland estimates that, by the end of 1969, 35 percent of women in the territory who could potentially have borne children had been fitted with an IUD. The practice supposedly continued until 1975, but the BBC reported that it continued long after that.

For example, one woman discovered she had been fitted with a coil when she struggled to become pregnant in 2009. Another told the BBC she had been injected with a contraceptive in 2014 without her consent.

A commission is currently investigating these grievances and is set to publish its findings in 2025.

Even so, the women are requesting compensation before then, saying that many of them are aging and cannot wait.

Although no longer a colony since 1953, Greenland remains under Copenhagen’s control and receives significant financial support from Denmark.

In 2022, Denmark apologized and compensated six Inuit individuals who were forcibly separated from their families in the 1950s as part of an experiment to promote Danish-speaking elites in Greenland.


Feeling the Heat

The Venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant known for its ability to catch and consume insects, has a unique mechanism to defend itself against wildfires, reported.

During the dry summer months, the grass that typically covers the plant dries up, making it vulnerable to potential fires.

If a fire breaks out, the insect-eating plant employs specialized heat receptors located in its sensory hairs, researchers from Julius-Maximilians-University in Germany recently noted in experiments. These receptors trigger a protective response that causes the plant to close its snap traps and shield the vital sensory hairs from being damaged by the fire.

The research team explained that this panic button is not solely based on temperature thresholds, as seen in many other organisms.

Instead, the Venus flytrap reacts to the speed of the temperature change: If the temperature increases abruptly – such as during a heatwave or fire – the traps close to safeguard the sensory hairs. However, on hot summer days when the temperature rises gradually, the traps remain open.

This adaptation allows the Venus flytrap to survive fires and continue to trap prey even after such events. These findings suggest the presence of a previously unknown type of membrane-bound temperature sensor in plants, potentially expanding our understanding of how plants perceive and respond to their surroundings.

Now, researchers want to know more about the specific mechanisms underlying this unique heat-sensing capability, and hope to uncover new insights into the fascinating world of plant adaptations and sensory perception.

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