Weekly Roundup: September 12, 2016

Palestine ∙ Angola ∙ Croatia ∙ Bolivia ∙ Turkmenistan ∙ South Korea ∙ Canada ∙ Granada ∙ Maldives ∙ Pakistan

Once weekly I share the top stories from ten countries based on a simple random sample from the U.S. Department of State’s list of countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. If you like what you read, please subscribe to receive these Roundups weekly in your mailbox: http://eepurl.com/b-SrOb.


Palestine

I went to my first local government planning commission meeting last week, and let me tell you, if you’ve never been to one of those, you should go. It’s guaranteed to be as entertaining as any episode of Parks and Recreation. My fellow citizens in the nature-y township in which I live very vocally criticized plans to construct 182 houses on an old farm largely because there aren’t enough sewer taps to serve the area, and because it would include the paving of one of our beloved dirt roads. Isn’t it nice when those are the most controversial arguments? Palestine does not have this luxury. In the decades-long, hotly-contested West Bank, Israel continues to approve settlements on what Palestine (and, increasingly, the international community) believes to be its own sovereign territory. So last week when the Israeli Civil Administration Council approved the construction of 500 new homes in West Bank, it re-kindled (though this fire never truly wanes) cries against Israeli occupation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cares little, however, reaffirming his intentions to continue settlements across the West Bank.

Angola

Though the people I live with love our dirt roads, residents in the Cazenga neighborhood of Luanda, well, don’t. In their defense, a dirt road in a heavily populated neighborhood in Angola’s capital city is probably not the greatest thing. Two years of degradation have not helped. The road — Fifth Avenue — was mentioned by President José Eduardo dos Santos as in serious need of renovation when he visited the neighborhood two years ago. Apparently the second-longest serving leader in Africa was less than sincere, because the road has only gotten worse. The dream of any mud-wallowing animal, the road is prone to swallow up vehicles during the rainy seasons. Residents are yet again crying out for government attention, and here’s hoping they’re heard soon!

Croatia

This is a story I almost have a hard time believing, but I’m sure Croatians know Croatia better than I do. The country is getting ready to open its first freshwater aquarium in October, and they are very excited. The facility, built on the banks of the Korana River, will be spread out over two floors and will include at least 40 species of endemic freshwater fish and plants. Heavily funded by Euromonies (a non-technical term for funds from the European Union), the Karlovac community hopes that the aquarium will be successful in enhancing the area’s tourism. At present, 98% of the country’s tourism is restrained to the Dalmatian Coast, with 50% of what is left in Zagreb alone. If you’re in the area, October 22 is opening day, and it should be a good time!

Bolivia

I think milk protests are my favorite kind of protest. Dairy farmers are among the more entertainingly enthusiastic of the genre of angry protesters. And while the situation in Bolivia isn’t quite at Parade Cows in Grocery Stores or Spray Politicians with Milk level, it has been getting more and more tense since April with PIL — a Bolivian “Kraft” with its own Andean version of Mondelez at that — began trying to lower the wholesale price of milk. Bolivian milk farmers were generally accepting of a wholesale price slash in April because of a PIL manufacturing plant crisis. Santa Cruz farm leaders thought that the meeting last week would be to raise the prices back to normal (or better), but instead PIL proposed further cuts. Santa Cruz, the nation’s biggest milk-producing region, rejected the deal, saying they would take their product elsewhere. La Paz farmers are to meet with PIL this week.

Turkmenistan

Thanks to the recent completion of a new high-voltage power transmission line, Turkmenistan is able to double its electricity sales to neighboring Afghanistan. The line, which travels from Iolatan to Tagtabazar, has helped open up roughly 400 million kilowatt hours to be sent to Afghanistan. While certainly no electricity is being donated from one country to the other, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stated at a regional energy summit that he was optimistic in the line’s ability to help with Afghanistan’s economic recovery and with its struggle to deliver power to its remote settlements.

South Korea

South Korea experienced its strongest recorded earthquake ever this week — a magnitude 5.8 with an epicenter in the southeastern town of Gyeongju. Some experts are suggesting that the country, which rarely sees anything higher than a magnitude 2, may no longer be in the “safe zone” outside the Ring of Fire, and warn that mass casualties could ensue with even one quake at magnitude 6 because the country’s infrastructure was not designed to handle that. Fortunately it seems only six people were injured, and only minor property damages were reported. The country handled the situation efficiently, evacuating many potentially dangerous areas. If anything else, this was a good drill for a bigger, worse quake in the future.

Canada

Canada is getting serious with its judicial system and how it handles rape cases by taking judges themselves to court in suits over their ability to rule fairly on sexual assault cases. Sixty-four-year-old Justice Robin Camp of the Federal Court will testify in Calgary before a five-judge panel to save his job as Federal Court Judge (salary CD $314,100). A dozen of his recorded statements are included as exhibits against him in his allegation. Among the best: asking a rape victim why she didn’t keep her knees closed, “Some sex and pain sometimes go together … that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” and “She knew she was drunk.” Canada’s Supreme Court has been trying to get the country’s judicial wing in line since a 1999 case, again in Alberta, where a judge sarcastically remarked that the victim hadn’t exactly gone to her attacker in a “bonnet and crinolines.”

Grenada

Granada’s taking an international trend to the extreme by throwing a whopping SEVEN constitutional referenda at its citizens all at once on October 22. While some argue that elected officials should “do their job” and make many of these decisions on behalf of the people, others are maintaining that these initiatives will move Grenada forward within the Caribbean and international communities. Robert Branch, focal point between the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee, has been making the rounds, urging citizens to get involved in their national politics, and to move the country forward.

Maldives

The Maldives Transport and Contracting Company has announced the addition of six more ferries between the capital of Malé City and Hulhumalé in preparation for Eid celebrations. The country composed of more than 1,000 Indian Ocean islands, ferry service is always in high demand, and Eid celebrations exacerbate the problems with many Hulhumalé “expatriates” who live in the capital returning home to visit their families. With 17 in-service ferries along the route now instead of the typical 11, departure times are now only every five minutes.

Pakistan

If you just bought yourself a new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “phablet,” and you haven’t heard, you’re welcome, because there may be an explosive in your pocket. Samsung has issued its largest recall ever for the fire/explosion-prone Note 7 phone. It is estimated that 25 of 1,000,000 are defective with faulty batteries, and Pakistanis are decidedly playing the odds. One Pakistani said, “Oh come on, these are just rumours started somewhere in America to hurt Samsung’s sales by those promoting the upcoming iPhone 7.” Pakistani shoppers’ confidence is good for shop owners, because return policies on smuggled items (The phones were recalled before officially going on sale in Pakistan.) is difficult. “Hopefully, they won’t be influenced by the media and not bring them back to me as it will be difficult to convince the smuggler, who we got the phones from, to take them back,” said one shopkeeper. Most shops that carry the phones are surprisingly out-of-stock given the, well, unpredictable nature of the product.

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