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TOPIC: somalia

Russia Blames Attack On Phones, U.S. House In Limbo, 25 °C In Bilbao

👋 ሰላም*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Moscow blames its soldiers for using illegal phones that allowed Ukraine to locate them and kill scores in Makiivka, in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. House of Representatives fails to elect a leader for the first time in a century, and heat records are smashed across Europe. Meanwhile, Russian-language independent website Vazhnyye Istorii looks at the dangerous rise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the infamous Wagner paramilitary group.

[*Selam - Amharic, Ethiopia]

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Armenia-Azerbaijan Reignites, Greenpeace Nuke Protest, Godard Dies

👋 Ushé-ushé!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukraine continues to reconquer territory, fresh clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave at least 49 dead and France says adieu to two 20th-century titans of the visual arts. Meanwhile, business daily Les Echos draws a profile of Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia's top 10 billionaires who continues to grow his business despite Western sanctions.

[*Kanuri, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon]

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Submarine Backlash, Toughest Vaccine Mandate, Prince Philip’s Secret Will

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

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The Latest: Myanmar Coup, Russian Protests, Messi Money

Welcome to Monday, where the army seizes power in Myanmar coup, weekend protests rock Russia and it's revealed that Messi scored really big in Barcelona. We also take a look at Big Brother in China, and how citizens have had enough of the country's ubiquitous surveillance system.

The fragility of American democracy is nothing new

For many people, the lesson from the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — and more broadly from the experience of the last four years – is that American democracy has become newly and dangerously fragile.That conclusion is overstated, writes Professor Alasdair S. Roberts, in The Conversation.

In fact, American democracy has always been fragile. And it might be more precise to diagnose the United States as a fragile union rather than a fragile democracy. As President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address, national unity is "that most elusive of things."

Certainly, faith in American democracy has been battered over the last year. Polls show that 1 in 4 Americans do not recognize Joe Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. The turn to violence on Capitol Hill was a disturbing attack on an important symbol of U.S. democracy.

But there are four other factors that should be considered to evaluate the true state of the nation. Taking these into account, what emerges is a picture of a country that, despite its long tradition of presenting itself as exceptional, looks a lot like the other struggling democracies of the world.

Democratic fragility is not new

First, fragility is not really new. It's misleading to describe the United States as "the world's oldest democracy," as many observers have recently done. By modern definitions of the concept, the United States has only been a democracy for about 60 years. Despite constitutional guarantees, most Black Americans could not vote in important elections before the 1960s, nor did they have basic civil rights. Like many other countries, the United States is still working to consolidate democratic ideals.

Similarly, the struggle to contain political violence is not new. Washington has certainly seen its share of such violence. Since 1950, there have been multiple bombings and shootings at the U.S. Capitol and the White House. Troops have been deployed to keep order in Washington four times since World War I – during riots and unrest in 1919 and 1968, economic protests in 1932, and again in 2021. The route from the Capitol to the White House passes near the spots where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, James Garfield was fatally shot in 1881, and Harry Truman was attacked in 1950.

Political instability is also a familiar feature of economic downturns. There were similar fears about the end of democracy during the 1970s, when the United States wrestled with inflation and unemployment, and during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Of course, those fears had some justification. Many people wondered whether democratic governments could rise to new challenges. But there is evidence from historical episodes like this that democracies do eventually adapt – indeed, that they are better at adapting than non-democratic systems like the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991.

Finally, the debate about American democracy is fixated excessively on politics at the national level. This fixation has been aggravated by the way that the media and internet have developed over the last 30 years. Political debate focuses more and more heavily on Washington. But the American political system also includes 50 state governments and 90,000 local governments. More than half a million people in the United States occupy a popularly elected office. Democratic practices may be imperfect, but they are extensive and not easily undone.

On balance, claims about the fragility of American democracy should be taken seriously, but with a sense of proportion. Events since the November 2020 election have been troubling, but they do not signal an impending collapse of America's democratic experiment.

A crisis of unity

It might be more useful to think of the present crisis in other terms. The real difficulty confronting the country might be a fragile national union, rather than a fragile democracy.

Since the 1990s, the country has seen the emergence of deep fissures between what came to be called "red" and "blue" America – two camps with very different views about national priorities and the role of federal government in particular. The result has been increasing rancor and gridlock in Washington.

Again, this sort of division is not new to American politics. "The United States' did not become established in American speech as a singular rather than a plural noun until after the Civil War. Until the 1950s, it was commonplace to describe the United States as a composite of sections – North, South and West – with distinctive interests and cultures.

In 1932, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Frederick Jackson Turner compared the United States to Europe, describing it as a "federation of nations' held together through careful diplomacy.

It was only in the 1960s that this view of the United States faded away. Advances in transportation and communications seemed to forge the country into a single economic and cultural unit.

But politicians overestimated this transformation.

Return of old divisions

Since the 1990s, old divisions have re-emerged.

America's current political class has not fully absorbed this reality. Too often, it has taken unity for granted, forgetting the country's long history of sectional conflict. Because they took unity for granted, many new presidents in the modern era were tempted to launch their administrations with ambitious programs that galvanized followers while antagonizing opponents. However, this winner-take-all style may not be well suited to the needs of the present moment. It may aggravate divisions rather than rebuilding unity.

Only 20 years ago, many Americans – buoyed by an economic boom and the collapse of the Soviet Union – were convinced that their model of governance was on the brink of conquering the world. President George W. Bush declared American-style democracy to be the "single sustainable model for national success." By contrast, many people today worry that this model is on the brink of collapse.

The hubris of the early 2000s was misguided, and so is the despair of 2021. Like many other countries, the United States is engaged in a never-ending effort to maintain unity, contain political violence and live up to democratic principles.

Alasdair S. Roberts / The Conversation

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UNCUT: The War Against Female Genital Mutilation
Emanuela Zuccalà

UNCUT, A Multimedia Report On Female Genital Mutilation

An ordinary room, or a dark hut in a rural village. A razor blade bought at a market will suffice, or a sharp knife, or simply a shard of broken glass. Sometimes needle and thread, or the thorns from a wild-growing bush. The women of the family restrain the little girl while a circumciser is paid to inflict in her a pain so intense that it will never be forgotten.

For at least 200 million women around the world, the passage from infancy to adulthood is marked by the blood of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Follow this link for an exclusive webdoc on women's war against female genital mutilations.

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Refugee Drownings, Google's Apple Payout, More Oscar Controversy

MIGRANTS DROWN OFF GREEK COAST

Eight children were among at least 21 migrants who drowned early this morning after their boats sank off the Greek coast, AFP reports. Dozens more are reported missing, but 48 survivors managed to reach the shore. The tragedy comes amid renewed debate about the European Union's borders. "If Europe is not capable of protecting its own borders, it's the very idea of Europe that will be questioned," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the BBC. In comments aimed at German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her open-door policy, he added that the EU can't "say or accept that all refugees, anyone fleeing the terrible war in Iraq or Syria, can be welcomed in Europe." His Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte said that the EU had "six to eight weeks" to save the EU's Schengen system of border-free travel.

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UNCUT: The War Against Female Genital Mutilation
Emanuela Zuccalà

In Somaliland, Mothers Save Daughters From Genital Mutilation Rites

When fear gets hold of me

When anger seizes my body

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Geopolitics
Christophe Châtelot

Somalis Fear Scapegoating After Kenya University Attack

Even Somalis born and raised in Kenya are often rounded up and harassed after the Somali-based terror group al-Shabaab strikes, as it did in Garissa April 2.

NAIROBI — When the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab slaughtered 148 people, including 142 students, in the Kenyan city of Garissa earlier this month, it resurrected bad memories for Ahmed Ali, a 35-year-old Somali who was born in Garissa.

“Once again, like last year, we’re going to be punished by the police,” he says. “In fact, it’s already started. Here in Eastleigh a suburb of Nairobi, we’re scapegoats. Whenever the al-Shabaab attack Kenya, we end up being blamed for it.”

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Germany
Tina Baier

In Germany, Schools Can't Handle Refugee Children

Germany's state of Bavaria is overwhelmed by the number of Somali refugees, creating a crisis at schools ill-equipped to deal with not only language barriers, but serious childhood trauma.

MUNICH — Dominik Bauer, a teacher in a high school transition class for new students who don't speak German, says more and more kids arrive with dramatic true stories to tell.

The teacher in the southern state of Bavaria recalls in vivid details a letter written by one 17-year-old who had fled Somalia with his uncle, after his father had been killed. Bauer said the student wrote about being stuck for months in a Libyan prison, and how he finally got onto an overcrowded boat to cross the Mediterranean, only to wind up drifting for days in the open sea. Eventually some of his fellow passengers started to drink salt water — and one after the other, died in front of him.

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Geopolitics
Christian Putsch

Serving Lunch And Cheating Death In Mogadishu

The singular story of a Somali restaurateur who left the sweet life in the UK to return to his war-ravaged homeland, where he has survived multiple attacks on his restaurant.

MOGADISHUWhen the injured had been taken care of and the dead taken away, Ahmed Jama went to his kitchen. He tied the white apron around his waist and began cooking.

Soup with spinach, pumpkin, potatoes and herbs from his own vegetable garden. Deciding what spices to use, the muffled bubbling sound of the boiling water, the familiar motions with pots and pans — these things have often calmed him during a crisis. He feels safe here. Even on the day when the dusty smell of destruction was stronger than the smell of the food.

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EL ESPECTADOR
Victor de Currea-Lugo

From Northern Ireland To South Sudan, Global Lessons On The *Process* Of Peace

Peace is a process, never a single event. Negotiations for peace are always far more complicated than the public understands, and the results are not always miraculous. Even so, the majority of modern conflicts — 80%, according to the School for the Culture of Peace in Barcelona — eventually end after negotiations. The school’s reports show that 12 peace agreements have been signed in the world during the last 20 years, but some of them would be well-worth revising.

Here we take a whistle-stop tour of the ups and downs and ins and outs of peace processes from around the world.

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