United States. The Biden administration will end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against Houthi rebels in the Middle East's poorest nation since 2015.
Russia. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Navalny's arrest last month sparked two weeks of widespread anti-government protests in Russia that have led to thousands of arrests.
Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is building a rollercoaster that will offer passengers the thrill of a lifetime: rides at 155 miles per hour. Once it opens to the public in 2023, Falcon's Flight will be the fastest rollercoaster on the planet, surpassing the Formula Rossa, in the United Arab Emirates.
United Kingdom. The U.K.'s media regulator, Ofcom, yesterday revoked the broadcasting license of Chinese state media outlet CGTN, on the basis that it is a Communist Party instrument. It took minutes for China's foreign ministry to lay into the BBC, accusing the U.K. broadcaster of false reporting on COVID-19 and repression in Xinjiang.
1587 Mary, Queen of Scots, is beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle aged 44 after being convicted of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I in the Babington Plot
1807 Battle of Eylau ends inconclusively between Napoleon's forces and Russian Empire - 1st battle Napoleon isn't victorious
1920 Swiss men vote against women's suffrage
1922 Radio arrives at the White House
1942 Congress advises FDR that, Americans of Japanese descent should be locked up en masse so they wouldn't oppose the US war effort
Nigeria loses out as WHO shortlists Rwanda, South Africa, others
Image Source: Punch Nigeria
The Story Nigeria's control of the coronavirus pandemic, especially with regards to the procurement of vaccines, has suffered a setback.
What happened? Nigeria has failed to make the shortlist of the World Health Organisation-led COVAX global initiative for the Pfizer vaccines following the country’s inability to meet the standard requirement of being able to store the vaccines at the required -70 degrees Celsius. This was made known during a virtual press conference in which the Director, WHO, African Region, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said only four African countries were shortlisted for the Pfizer vaccine out of the 13 that applied.
Was Nigeria among the countries that applied? The Nigerian government had stated that it expected to receive 100,000 doses through the COVAX initiative, which was set up to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries. Moeti said WHO could not risk the Pfizer vaccines being wasted. “Around 320,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries – Cape Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia. This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius", she said.
What happens to the other African countries now? The WHO regional director said countries that failed to make the Pfizer list could get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine later in the month, although it has not yet been endorsed by the health organisation. It has been reported that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does not need to be stored in a cold facility, easing accessibility for the affected countries. According to Moeti, 'nearly 90 million of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could start arriving on the continent later this month'. "This is subject to the WHO listing the vaccine for emergency use. The review is ongoing and its outcome is expected very soon", she said.
To complement COVAX efforts, the African Union has also secured 670 million vaccine doses for the continent and will be distributed in 2021 and 2022 as countries secure adequate financing. SOURCE
What the new CBN directive means for crypto trading in Nigeria
Image Source: BBC
The Story As many were surprised by the new directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that financial institutions should close accounts of crypto traders, analysts have explained the implications of the directive.
What are the implications? For crypto traders in the country, the CBN’s latest directive means transactions would no longer be possible on third party applications. This, however, is not the first time the apex bank has issued a statement on crypto trading in the country. In 2017, CBN had issued a statement warning against the use of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, Ripples, among others.
Why is the bank against cryptocurrency? The bank issued the 2017 warning, saying that such currencies are largely used in terrorism financing and currency laundering, considering the anonymous nature of virtual transactions. In 2018, it again warned that transactions in virtual currency are largely untraceable, thereby making them susceptible to abuse by criminals. For the CBN, it has a lot to worry about. The growing popularity of cryptocurrency, amid preference for storing currency in digital currencies rather than the banks, and with remittances falling because of crypto alternatives, further exacerbating Forex pressure in the country, it was only a matter of time before it wielded the big stick.
I see! But what happens to people who currently have funds in cryptocurrency? Following the CBN directive, cryptocurrency transactions in Nigeria will be done via peer-to-peer trading (P2P) where two people interact directly with each other to buy or sell cryptocurrency. This is, however, susceptible to fraud as transactions can only be conducted based on trust. A 'P2P' exchange such as Binance lets sellers and buyers find the right person, in the right place, at the right time and make a trade at the right price, using the payment method that works for both.
With the rapid growth of digital currency market across the world, including in Nigeria, analysts say that the CBN might be forced to reconsider its stance over time. Paxful, a leading peer-to-peer bitcoin marketplace, reports that Nigeria has the world’s second-largest Bitcoin trading volume, trading 60,215 Bitcoins or more than $566 million in the last five years. SOURCE
Misery Loves Company. Apparently So Does Democratic Decline
Image Source: cfr
The Story As many breathed a sigh of relief at the turn of a new year, with hopes for a pleasant 2021, reports suggest that the effects of 2020 might remain with us for a while.
How do you mean? According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an economic and political research group, democracy took a step back in 2020. According to the group’s annual Democracy Index, just 8.4% of the world lived in fully democratic countries last year, while over a third lived under authoritarian rule, with the global average democracy index score sinking down to 5.37 out of 10, its lowest point since the Index was established in 2006.
Is the world bidding Democracy bye? It appears so, strangely. In 2021 alone, the world has seen many examples of this democratic decline: a military coup occurred last Monday in Myanmar, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 32 months in jail for supposedly violating probation after seeking medical treatment for an assassination attempt that almost killed him, the Indian government has targeted protestors with social media and Internet shutdowns, and former US President Trump attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and sparked a violent invasion of the Capitol.
But how's this connected to 2020? One possible reason for this decline was the need for increased government restrictions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year’s results are part of a longer global trend. According to Freedom House, a nonpartisan organization also dedicated to studying democracy, over 100 countries have seen their freedoms decline since 2016 while only a few have trended upwards. The EIU’s Democracy Index has shown a similar pattern, with its global democracy index declining each year since 2015.
For those who favor democracies and human rights, reversing the trend will not be easy. And while the world may have seen a lot of benefits of globalization - especially with technology, communication and travel - it must be wary of the unpleasant developments that may come with it, as we have seen with the coronavirus and repression. SOURCE
Outrage over French girl's rape case sparks demand for change
Image Source: The Guardian
The Story The subject of rape has, rightly, attracted a lot of attention and outrage over time, and people have demanded for more protection - especially for minors - from the law.
Has another victim come forth? Protesters across France have shown support for a woman allegedly raped by 20 firefighters when she was between 13 and 15 years old. Her case is being examined in the country’s highest court and campaigners hope it will lead to an age of sexual consent being enshrined in law as it is in the rest of the European Union.
That's sad, but what's the link with firefighters? The victim, Julie, says she was raped by Parisian firefighters over a period of two years, having been groomed by Pierre, a firefighter who had assisted her during a severe anxiety seizure when she was 13 in early 2008. Three of the accused have admitted they had sex with her but say it was consensual. In a journal written shortly afterwards, Julie says she was “terrified and paralysed with fear” at the time.
Based at the Bourg-la-Reine fire station in Paris, Pierre got Julie’s phone number from her medical file, in which her age was also recorded. Julie says he bombarded her with “affectionate messages”. Later, he asked Julie to undress via webcam and, when the child complied, passed her number to another firefighter who demanded the same.
Does France not have laws on such criminal conduct? French legislation says that it is an offence for someone in a position of authority to have sex with a person under the age of 18. Under the law, in order to bring rape charges, the complainant must prove she was forced or violently coerced; otherwise the accused may only be charged with sexual violation. The maximum sentence for sexual violation is seven years, compared with 20 for rape.
In 2018, following protests from feminists, a change in the law was proposed that would introduce an age of consent at 15. This would mean that sex with someone younger would be considered rape. But the law was not passed after a government report concluded it would result in “an assumption of guilt”. SOURCE
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Take a stab at spotting the stylistic or grammatical errors in these food-related sentences from the WSJ editors. 1. It measures nearly three inches by five inches, and it's made from enriched flour, corn syrup and creamy peanut butter.
2. The half—or even quarter—bottle of wine scores points in both the pocket and on the palette.
3. Most people in the food industry believed the frozen dessert was at lower risk…in part because the bacteria doesn't grow when the food is frozen.
4. Behind McDonald's Corp.'s worst slump in a decade is a trend that may auger even tougher times ahead.
QUESTION & ANSWER
What would need to happen to change the Sahara desert into fertile land? How would the changes impact the rest of the world’s climate?
Here’s a secret. Promise not to tell anyone?
The Sahara used to be very fertile. Parts of it around water sources still are.
But it was a victim of natural climate change that took place thousands of years ago. The winds that used to carry rain over this part of Africa essentially shifted direction.
Radar can still see the river valleys that used to run through the Sahara
Those big white splotches? Lakes, long since dried up. They’re all covered in sand now.
Re-directing fresh water wouldn’t help. This is what happened by accident in California about a century ago.
The Salton Sea, formed when a small dam across the Colorado River failed and dumped water into a depression nearby. For years it was a thriving ecosystem with a tourist business. Now, it’s a sterile landscape with poisoned water. That’s what happens when you dump water where it doesn’t belong - it just dries up unless it's constantly replenished.
So, what would it take? A lot more rainfall and several thousand years to form new fertile soil. Trust me, I live in Toronto which used to be covered by a massive glacier. It took thousands of years for soil to form and trees to grow again. SOURCE
Grammar Quiz Answers
1. Per the WSJ Stylebook, use numerals for measurements: 3 inches by 5 inches.
2. This is a double whammy. "In both" should be "both in." And a "palette" is what you use to mix paint; a "palate" is the roof of your mouth.
3. Because it's not referring to a single strain, the word "bacteria" is technically plural. In this case, it should be written as "bacteria don't" or "bacterium doesn't."
4. An auger is a boring tool, so unless McDonald's is physically drilling into hard times, this should be "that augurs even tougher times."