The World Today for November 14, 2023

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Hooray for Nollywood

NIGERIA

In the Nigerian-produced film for Netflix, “The Black Book,” actor Richard Mofe Damijo plays an ex-security forces agent-turned-deacon, who exacts revenge against the crooked police officers who framed and murdered his son. As he tracks down the bad cops, wrote Wired magazine, he seeks to “dismantle a rotten institution that he helped build.”

The West African country’s military and massive oil industry also serve as important plot points in the film about redemption, which has become a global blockbuster.

More than 70 million people have streamed “The Black Book,” delighting boosters of Nollywood, Nigeria’s version of Hollywood. But, as University of Nigeria lecturer Ezinne Ezepue noted in the Conversation, the film also shines a light on the violent corruption that mars Africa’s most populous country.

Last month, for example, Nigerians staged memorial events for the victims of police brutality who died in clashes with security forces three years ago, reported the Associated Press. Those clashes stemmed from protests against the vaunted Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit that has since been disbanded due to its heavy-handed tactics. Fifteen protesters arrested during those events are still in prison, according to human rights activists.

“Nobody is going to be happy when you are unjustly killing people … oppressing them,” said Adebowale Adebayo, a memorial organizer who, coincidentally, is an actor, social activist and online content creator known in Nigeria as Mr. Macaroni.

The military, furthermore, continues to perpetrate “enforced disappearances” – kidnapping by government forces, essentially – in the country’s northeast, added Amnesty International. The organization noted that these disappearances were among many crimes that Nigerian troops committed in the region as they fought against Boko Haram, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group that has been ravaging the region for years.

Gangs also wield significant control of other parts of the country, including vast illicit markets, explained the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Street crime is common. For Al Jazeera, a Nigerian student penned a first-person piece about how he was almost lynched while walking casually in Uyo, a southern city.

Corrupt security forces, terrorists, organized criminals, and petty thugs have made violence so endemic that Nigerians commonly wear magical charms they believe will protect them from bullets. It is not uncommon that someone tests their faith and dies from a gunshot wound, reported Africa News.

It’s like a film that never ends.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Whack-A-Mole Politics

UNITED KINGDOM

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appointed David Cameron as the country’s new foreign secretary Monday, in a shock comeback for the former prime minister remembered for introducing the 2016 referendum that led to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, Politico reported.

Cameron’s appointment is part of a government reshuffle, as Sunak tries to reassert his authority within the Conservative Party amid slipping popularity in opinion polls.

The former prime minister, who resigned shortly after losing the Brexit referendum and later quit his post as a lawmaker, will become a life peer in the upper house of parliament in order to take up the government role.

His appointment shook the country’s political landscape, with the main opposition Labour Party accusing Sunak of using Cameron as a “life raft.”

Sunak and Cameron had campaigned on opposite sides of the Brexit referendum and have clashed in recent years over policies.

Following his appointment, Cameron said the UK was facing a “daunting set of international challenges” amid ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

He called Sunak “a strong and capable prime minister,” adding that he wants “to help him to deliver the security and prosperity our country needs.”

Meanwhile, the government reshuffle also saw the exit of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was recently embroiled in a controversy over accusing London’s police of political bias, according to CNBC.

Braverman has come under fire in recent weeks over her stance in the Israeli-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, including referring to the pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the capital as “hate marches.”

Last week, she published an op-ed in The Times newspaper that alleged that police treated pro-Palestinian protesters more favorably than nationalists and the far-right.

The article was not approved by the government. Meanwhile, Braverman was also criticized for saying the protests were “disturbingly reminiscent” of past scenes in Northern Ireland.

The UK has endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense following Hamas’ surprise attack early last month. Sunak has supported calls for a humanitarian pause in Israel’s retaliatory bombardments in Gaza.

Braverman is being replaced by James Cleverly, who has served as foreign secretary under Sunak.

A Race for the Future

LIBERIA

Liberian voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose their next president and the direction of their country in a runoff vote following the tightest elections in two decades, Reuters reported.

Incumbent President George Weah failed to secure enough votes in last month’s general election and will face off against his rival, former Vice President Joseph Boakai, to be the nation’s next leader.

Final election results showed Weah won nearly 43.83 percent of the vote in the Oct. 10 election, while Boakai secured 43.44 percent. Election officials said voter turnout was nearly 79 percent – a new record.

It was the first election to take place without financial support or assistance from international partners since the 2003 end of a 14-year civil war that left an estimated 250,000 people dead, the New York Times wrote.

At the same time, it’s a race that comes amid economic woes and a depreciating currency in the West African nation, Bloomberg reported. Meanwhile, the country’s economy is still struggling to recover from the civil war and the Ebola virus outbreak, which peaked in 2014.

Observers said the elections are seen as a test of support for Weah, a former international soccer star, whose first six-year term was marked with price increases in fuel and food. The soaring costs sparked an economic crisis and violent protests late last year.

International partners have also criticized Weah for not doing enough to tackle corruption in the country since he was first elected in 2017, according to Reuters.

Income per capita remains about one-third of its pre-civil war level, and only seven percent of the roads in Liberia are paved. The Liberian dollar has experienced a significant depreciation of 18 percent against the US dollar this year, ranking it as the fifth-worst-performing African currency.

Meanwhile, the election is also seen as a test for the future of democracy in West Africa. The region has been rife with coups, presidents remaining in power past their term limits and elections marred by violence and irregularities, the New York Times said.

We Are Family

COLOMBIA

A Colombian court ruled that a dog should be considered a family member and treated as such when a couple divorces, the first such ruling in the Latin American country, the Washington Post reported.

The case centers on a dispute over the shared custody of a dog named Simona following the divorce of Colombian couple, Jader Alexis Castaño and his former wife Lina María Ochoa.

Court records showed that Castaño was left depressed after losing his pup because he was unable to play with this “dog child” – as he often referred to Simona. He alleged that he and Simona had been emotionally affected by the split and that the pooch was part of the “family’s nucleus.”

Ochoa had refused to allow frequent visits, which prompted Castaño to sue her, demanding scheduled time with Simona.

Last month, the Bogotá Superior Court ruled that Simona should be legally considered Castaño’s “daughter” and that she was an official member of a “multispecies” family before the divorce.

The court noted that Castaño is entitled to scheduled visits with the canine, describing the latter as a living creature with feelings who also suffered after the marriage ended.

The verdict was influenced by a 2016 decision that ruled that animals were not “cosas muebles” – a legal term meaning objects that humans could transport wherever they wanted – but rather living beings with feelings.

The Colombian court’s recent decision marks the first time an animal can be considered a family member, but the case is not the first in Latin America.

In 2018, a Peruvian court declared Petunia, a 3-year-old pig, as a member of a family in the central region of Junín. The decision came after the municipal government classified the animal as a public health risk and ordered her family to relocate her to a farm.

According to the online magazine ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, the region is “at the forefront of considering animals as family members.”

“In a global recent attitudinal change toward animals in Western societies, today, many people recognize themselves as part of a multispecies family,” it added.

DISCOVERIES

Hot Flashes Redux

Women go through menopause. So do some toothed whales. Now, a new study has found that some chimpanzees do, too.

Even so, researchers still haven’t figured out what the evolutionary advantage of menopause is, or why it only impacts certain species, Popular Science reported.

Menopause usually occurs in human females between the ages of 45 and 55, and means a decline in reproductive hormones and an end to ovarian functions.

That’s what a research team, conducting a 25-year study of chimps at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, also found: They noticed many older females had not reproduced in decades.

They then calculated the post-reproductive representation (PrR), which measures the proportion of adult lifespan that an animal spends in its post-reproductive state.

While most mammals are close to zero, the Ngogo primates had a PrR of 0.2 – meaning that females live 20 percent of their adult years in a post-reproductive state.

Urine samples also showed that female chimpanzees transitioning to a post-reproductive state experienced hormonal changes.

But entering that new state didn’t mean the older chimps were involved in raising their grandchildren. This behavior challenges the “common grandmother hypothesis,” which sees menopausal females taking care of future generations – something observed in orca whales.

The team suggested the extended post-reproductive lifespans in the Ngogo chimpanzees could be attributed to two factors: One possibility is that, similar to captive mammals, these primates benefit from reduced threats like natural predators and pathogens.

Additionally, their relatively isolated habitat, less impacted by human activities such as hunting, may resemble their evolutionary past more closely than other primate populations.

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