International News Roundup: September

International News Roundup: September


 Nigeria: 6800 people impacted by floods.

 According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), over 6,800 people living in displacement camps in Maiduguri have been impacted by floods in recent weeks. “They are essentially displaced within a displacement camp”, said Eric Batonon, Director of the NRC, referring to the thousands who were left homeless after torrential rain in northeast Nigeria destroyed makeshift tents and caused severe flooding to displacement camps throughout the region.

 Many have sought shelter in the overcrowded tents of their relatives and friends. Such conditions are a petri-dish for water-borne diseases such as Cholera. The Adamawa State Government has officially declared an outbreak of the disease in three local government areas during the rainy season. The total number of cases reported as of August 16th is 633, a number expected to rise due to extra rainfall forecasted.

 The rainy season presents opportunities for armed groups to target and infiltrate displacement camps. On August 20 in Dikwa, a female suicide bomber detonated a bomb, killing herself and injuring four civilians. This was the first attack of its kind in the area since December 2018.

“Additional financial support is urgently needed to reach the 6.2 million people targeted for humanitarian aid in 2019. People will die if they don’t receive urgent assistance now.”,Batonon said. The United Nations and partners have appealed for $848 million to address the problems in northeast Nigeria this year. About eight months into the year, less than 40 percent of this sum has been received.

 South Africa: ‘Apartheid Flag’ Forbidden

On 21st August, a landmark ruling from South Africa’s Equality Court in Johannesburg prohibited the display of the country’s old apartheid-era flag, ruling that its ‘gratuitous’ use espouses hate speech and racial discrimination.

The ‘Apartheid Flag’, nicknamed Oranje, Blanje, Blou, consists of three horizontal blue, white and orange stripes with three small flags of Great Britain, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal in the middle. It was first adopted in 1928, pre-dating the arrival of apartheid laws in 1948. The old South African flag has often been seen as a symbol of hate and bloodshed. It was used by the Union of South Africa and its successor state, the Republic of South Africa until 1994, when it was replaced by the current Rainbow Flag, ushering in a new democracy and marking the end of the apartheid-era.

 During the ruling, Judge Phineas Mojapelo condemned those who continue to wave the flag. “Those who display the old flag choose deliberately to not only display the old flag, but also consciously and deliberately choose to not display the new, multiracial flag,” said Mojapelo, “They choose oppression over liberation.”

Mojapelo conceded that the ban is a partial one, stating that the use of the old flag is protected by law for artistic, academic or journalistic purposes. The ruling followed a petition to the court by the Nelson Mandela Foundation after the flag was displayed in October 2017 during a protest by white South Africans against the killing of farmers. The foundation, a non-profit organisation established to promote Mandela’s vision of freedom and equality for all, took to Twitter to celebrate the decision; “The Apartheid flag is gone! The Equality Court has today ruled that gratuitous displays of the old flag are legally hate speech! A win for democracy and all South Africans!”

 Helsinki’s Oodi named public library of the year

 On 27th August, Helsinki Central Library Oodi was named as the ‘Public Library of the Year’ for 2019 at a conference in Athens hosted by The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). 

The annual award is presented to a public library that is either newly built or set up in premises not previously used for library purposes. 16 libraries from all over the world were considered for the award, including the Green Square Library and Plaza in Australia, the Bibliotheek LocHal in the Netherlands and Tūranga, New Zealand.

Library Oodi opened in December 2018, and has already welcomed over two million visitors through its doors.Anna-Maria Soininvaara, director of Oodi, attributes the success of the library to its participatory design process, “Oodi was designed together with customers for a long period of time. We received more than 2,000 ideas from customers to serve as the basis of the architectural competition. ALA Architects designed an amazing and unique building that takes all the elements most desired by customers into account. […] The Public Library of the Year award tells us that the world has also taken notice of this”.

The Finnish library system has always strongly supported the education system, providing access to information and literature. In 2016, Finland was named as the most literate country in the world.

Florida, USA: Campaign to remove invasive Pythons.

Two huge Burmese pythons have been caught in Big Cypress National Preserve, as part of an ongoing initiative to remove the invasive species from the state.

Native to Southeast Asia, it is believed that many  thousands were shipped to Miami to be sold as exotic pets in the 1990s. Estimates of how many Burmese pythons currently occupy the state range between  tens to hundreds of thousands. According to research, their arrival has coincided with the severe decline of several mammal populations in southern Florida.

On July 26th, Kevin Reich, member of the Python Action Team, hand-captured an 18-foot female python weighing nearly 84 pounds. According to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the creature was the second-largest snake ever to be removed by the group. Remarkably, moments later, fellow hunter George Perkins announced his capture of a snake nearly identical in length. These two high-profile cases arrive amid news that Florida will expand its efforts to catch the growing number of Burmese pythons that have long plagued the Floridian ecosystem.

Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, expressed his concerns over the growing problem, “As these pythons have permeated through, they’ve really disrupted the natural food chain balance, […]. We’ve been advancing python management policies for several years. There’s been some success but we need to do more, and so we are here to announce some of the next steps we are taking.” DeSantis has said that the state will double its resources for python removal and that the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture have reached a crucial new agreement to begin hunting pythons in 130,000 acres of state parks.

Mexico: Dozens killed in arson attack.

An arson attack in the Mexican port city of Coatzacoalcos has left at least 28 dead and another 11 severely injured. On August 27th, armed assailants burst into the Caballo Blanco nightclub, opening fire on revellers before setting the building ablaze with gasoline and Molotov Cocktails.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for local prosecutors to be investigated as “the alleged perpetrators had been arrested, but they were freed.” Veracruz governor Cuitláhuac García identified the principal suspect as a man known as “La Loca”. García said the man had been detained by marines in July, but was released after being turned over to the state prosecutor’s office.

In Mexico, the number of violent crimes continue to rise after hitting record levels in 2018. The deaths follow an attack in April in Minatitlán, Veracruz that killed 13 people. The attack on the nightclub was the worst single act of violence since President Obrador took office in December, who was sworn in on a pledge to bring peace to the nation by curbing corruption and drug wars. The President pointed to past governments for laying the groundwork for the crime. ‘This is the rotten fruit of the economic policy that was imposed, the policy of pillage’, the President declared.





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