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Pope in U.S., Genocide Prediction, VW Scandal

Pope in U.S., Genocide Prediction, VW Scandal

POPE FRANCIS ARRIVES IN U.S. TODAY

Photo: Ricky Fitchett/ZUMA

After a four-day visit to Cuba, Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C., this afternoon for his first U.S. visit since becoming pontiff. He will meet with President Barack Obama tomorrow morning and address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday. He and the president are expected to discuss topics of joint interest and concern, including poverty, climate change and conflict in the Middle East.

For more on his visit, we recommend this Yonder/Worldcrunch piece, “Pope Francis, A Shrewd Political Leader Comes To Washington.”


ULTIMATUM FOR BURKINA FASO COUP LEADERS

Troops loyal to Burkina Faso’s overthrown government gathered in the capital Ouagadougou today and warned the presidential guard coup leaders to disarm and surrender or face attack. According to high-ranking officials contacted by Jeune Afrique, the loyalist military has engaged in discussions and is “doing everything to prevent confrontation.” But the presidential guard forces seem to be uncompliant. General Gilbert Diendéré, tapped by coup leaders as the country’s new president Thursday, said he was communicating with the loyalist military. The ultimatum comes as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was due to hold an extraordinary summit today, after West African mediators announced a draft agreement Sunday aimed at ending the crisis.


275

There are fewer than 275 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, which means the species is dangerously close to extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports in its “Red List Of Threatened Species.” The alarming decline of the Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, whose population has declined by half over the last decade, is largely due to poaching.


RUSSIA AND ISRAEL TO COORDINATE IN SYRIA

Israel and Russia will coordinate their military actions in Syria to avoid accidentally trading fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday during a Moscow visit, Reuters reports. Israeli jets have on occasion carried out airstrikes on Syrian territory, and Russia has recently been sending military reinforcements, including warplanes and anti-aircraft systems as part of its aid to President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, Moscow proposed talks with Washington to similarly “avoid misunderstandings.”


VERBATIM

“We now have the great opportunity ... to implement our main commitment, which is to give an honest fight and to shed our blood if necessary to stop our people bleeding further,” newly re-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Monday after being sworn in. Tsipras returned to the helm Sunday after an unexpectedly strong victory in snap elections, The Guardian reports.


GUNMEN KIDNAP TOURISTS IN PHILIPPINES

About 20 unidentified gunmen kidnapped a local woman and three tourists â€" two Canadians and a Norwegian â€" in a resort in the southern Philippines late last night, The Philippine Star quoted the country’s military as saying. The local woman is believed to be the Norwegian man’s partner. Police believe the attack was targeted and not random. Over the past 20 years, Muslim militant groups have sporadically kidnapped foreign tourists in attempts to receive ransoms.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



VOLKSWAGEN SCANDAL

Volkswagen is being accused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of using a piece of software in its diesel vehicles that can tell the car's computer when it is being tested for emissions. The computer can then drastically reduce those emissions, making the car engine up to 40% cleaner than in normal usage. The manufacturer has been forced to recall half-a-million cars in the U.S. and others in Europe are calling for a inquiry. Read more about it on Le Blog.


EU MINISTERS DISCUSS REFUGEE QUOTAS

EU interior ministers are meeting today in Brussels to try to reach an agreement on refugee quotas, which some central European countries such as Hungary and Slovakia have been refusing, Le Monde reports. An emergency summit between EU leaders is set for tomorrow. The EU is looking to relocate some 120,000 asylum seekers, mostly fleeing the crises in Syria and Iraq. Last week, a similar meeting failed to reach a compromise. The Hungarian Parliament authorized army deployment yesterday, granting it the authority to use non-lethal force to prevent refugees from entering from Serbia.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Among the innovations expected to change how our food is made is artificial meat. The results will feed more people and be environmentally friendlier, Valeria Roman writes for Clarin. “Not only does our system fail to feed everyone, but it's also putting too much pressure on the resources food production requires â€" land, water and electricity â€" food security expert Nicholas Haan says. Which is why innovations that public and private centers are developing, such as in-vitro meat, are critical.”

Read the full article, Lab-Grown Meat: Is That What’s For Dinner?


A GENOCIDE PREDICTION TOOL

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, has unveiled its Early Warning Project, a tool to predict which countries have the highest risk of carrying out mass killings against their own people. A map shows that the countries most likely of doing so are Myanmar, with a 13.2% statistical risk, Nigeria (12.3%) and Sudan (8.5%). The governments of Austria and Hungary apparently have zero chance of devolving into genocidal regimes, but the United States, the UK and France all carry at least a minuscule statistical risk (0.01%).


SCOTT WALKER DROPS PRESIDENTIAL BID

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination Monday. “Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top,” he said during a speech. “With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately.” He also encouraged other GOP candidates to do the same in the interest of culling the massive primary field to a “limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner” Donald Trump.


ON THIS DAY


In today’s shot of history, see what Switzerland, Andrea Bocelli and Charlie’s Angels have in common.

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.


It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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