Welcome to Monday, where the grounded vessel in the Suez is starting to budge, the conflict in Myanmar escalates and the French seek long overdue special status for their daily bread. Meanwhile, Kayhan-London has a disturbing report on child marriage in Iran.
• Myanmar coup violence escalates: Additional deaths are reported today as protesters returned to the streets to challenge the military junta in Myanmar after scores of people were killed this weekend as the post-coup conflict appears to be escalating. Security forces have opened fire at funerals for victims of earlier crackdowns, as international officials accusing the regime of war crimes.
• Ever Given partially freed: Engineers have "partially refloated" the massive container ship blocking traffic through the Suez Canal, though work is still required to reopen the passage.
• Study blames animal transmission for COVID: A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is "extremely unlikely."
• Dozens killed in Mozambique terror attack: Five days since Islamist militants assaulted the town of Palma, "dozens' are confirmed dead and many other unaccounted for in the remote Mozambique town that is the site of natural gas project led by French energy giant Total.
• Trial begins for cop who killed George Floyd: The trial begins of Derek Chauvin, the white American policeman accused of killing George Floyd. The incident sparked protests in the US and across the world against police brutality and racism. Chauvin, 45, is one of four officers involved to stand trial.
• Australian cabinet reshuffle: Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison reshuffles his cabinet to promote women lawmakers and demotes two ministers amid allegations of sexual abuse and misogyny in parliament.
Child marriage in Iran: Is 13 too young? Some are even younger
The Islamic Republic allows girls as young as 13 to marry legally. On top of that, a lack of enforcement means that elementary school age children may be forced into marriage as well, reports daily Kayhan-London:
The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran require marriage parties to register with a notary and provide valid identity papers (with photos) proving their age. It appears, however, that the law is not being respected nor enforced. Social platform users have used #No2IR (short for "no to the Islamic Republic") to denounce the regime's position on underage marriage — both legal (by allowing girls as young as 13 to marry) and de facto (by turning a blind eye to cases involving even younger children) — as simply horrendous.
According to figures from the Iran Statistics Center, in the three-month period from March 20, 2020, more than 7,000 girls aged 10 to 14 years were married, with one girl aged less than 10 also registered as married. The same body found that the mothers of 346 children born in that period were not yet 15 years old, with mothers aged 15 to 19 giving birth to some 16,000 babies. Additionally, it counted 131 divorces involving a wife aged less than 14 years, and 2,650 divorcées aged 15 to 19 years.
The country's vice-president for women and family affairs, Ma'sumeh Ebtekar, says underage marriage figures "are not that high" and that Iran has a "strong" reactive system to block such situations. For years now, a bill to raise the legal marriage age to 18 has been circulating between the presidency, parliament and the Guardian Council. The latter body ensures legislation does not contravene the constitution or religious laws.
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How the poisoning of a Spanish bear led to a major drug bust
A major bust last week of a Colombian-led narcotics ring deep in the Spanish Pyrenees led to the arrest of 12 people, the seizure of two kilograms of cocaine and the discovery of the laboratory where the drug was processed. Police say the successful operation was all thanks to a dead bear.
Pro and anti-bear associations in Spain all remember the death of Cachou the Bear, whose body had been found last April at the bottom of a ravine in the eastern region of Catalonia. Known to be responsible for several attacks on livestock, the brown bear had many enemies among the locals, and murder was quickly suspected. The theory was confirmed when the autopsy revealed that it had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, a toxic antifreeze used in car coolants.
An investigation was open, which included secret wiretapping of half a dozen people suspected in the death. Hoping to record conversations about the killing of the bear, the investigators instead stumbled on to even more juicy discussions about cocaine purchases and a laboratory where cocaine paste imported from Colombia was processed into ready-to-use doses. Among the suspects arrested last week is a mayor of the region.
"It is as if the animal, in gratitude for the effort (of investigators) responded to them with the alleged organization of drug traffickers," an official source told La Vanguardia.
And what about justice for Cachou? The primary suspect, a forest ranger of the Aran Valley, had been arrested back in November. Still, like with the battle against international drug traffickers, that investigation continues.
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We've known since the early days of the pandemic that a healthy lifestyle can help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus, a study from the University of Navarra in Spain draws for the first time a direct link between the Mediterranean diet (high in vegetables, fruits, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats like olive oil) and COVID-19 contagion risks, which it says the diet may reduce by an impressive 64%.
We've lost a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family.
— Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta offers condolences after the passing of Sarah Hussein Onyango Obama (affectionately known as "Mama Sarah), the step-grandmother of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who died on Monday at age 99 in Kisumu.