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Russians Protest for Navalny Amid Hunger Strike Health Concerns



  • Over 1,700 people were arrested in Russia Wednesday after tens of thousands protested the government’s treatment of imprisoned Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
  • Navalny’s personal doctors believe he could die “at any moment” due to his three-week hunger strike that started after he was initially denied access to his doctors.
  • Russian authorities are moving to label Navalny’s organizations as “extremists,” which would put them and their supporters under the same restrictions as groups like ISIS.
  • The European Union and the United States have both demanded Navalny’s release, and the Biden administration has warned of “dire consequences” if Navalny dies while in Russian custody.

Three Week Hunger Strike

Personal doctors of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny believe that he could die “at any moment” due to mistreatment by prison doctors, a concern that prompted crowds of people across Russia to go out and protests Wednesday.

Despite being behind bars, Navalny continues to be a thorn in the side of President Vladimir Putin. Navalny received a 2.5-year prison sentence for violating his probation after he left the country to get medical treatment in Germany because he was poisoned by Russian agents.

Navalny’s latest condition began after going on a hunger strike on March 31 for being denied access to his own doctors. Like many aspects of the situation, there are two versions of events. Navalny’s personal doctors say that he’s extremely weak and could die “at any moment” without proper medical care. Meanwhile, doctors at the prison hospital claim that Navalny won’t die, and as of a few days ago, has been moved to another prison ward hospital to undergo “vitamin therapy.” 

Navalny claims that prison doctors have threatened to force-feed him if he doesn’t end his strike.

1,700 Arrests

His treatment, both in prison and by Russian authorities over the years, has drawn a lot of people to his cause. On Wednesday, Putin was giving a State of the Union address when supporters for Navalny defied a ban on protests and took to the streets throughout Russia. They demanded Navalny’s release and aimed to take attention away from Putin’s speech.

Navalny’s team says that tens of thousands took to the streets in Moscow alone, not to mention St. Petersburg and other major cities with their own demonstrations. The Kremlin disagreed and said that only about 6,500 people were out in the streets in Moscow. Either way, it’s safe to say that throughout Russia, tens of thousands protested for Navalny, although these protests were much smaller than when he was first arrested earlier this year.

The police responses to the protests varied. In some cities, they cracked down hard and confronted the crowds. In others they stood aside and let the protesters march before calmly dispersing people.

In the end, more than 1,700 people have been arrested for their part in the demonstrations.

Dire Consequences

Without independent teams being able to actually see Navalny, it’s hard to say what his condition actually is. However, if he’s been successfully hunger striking for three weeks, it’s probably a safe bet that he’s not in the best condition.

Many nations have come out in support of Navalny and demanded his release. The Biden administration warned that there would be “dire consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.”

As for his network of supporters and political groups, they may face harsher punishments soon. Authorities have asked the Moscow City Court to label his Anti-Corruption Foundation and other networks as “extremist.” That label would put them on par with ISIS and allow the government to outlaw them and levy huge prison sentences for staff and supporters.

The Moscow City Court is set to consider the request on April 26.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNBC) (Washington Post)


Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response



President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.

President Makes Massive Changes to Government

Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.

The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.

Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.

The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.

After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.

In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.

It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.

One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.

Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.

Legalities of Article 80

The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.

He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.

However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.

In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”

International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)

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South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys



The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.

Government Recognition

The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.

The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.

At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.

The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.

Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.

Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.

Longstanding Policy

BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.

Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.

The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.

Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.

See what others are saying: (Yonhap News) (The Korea Times) (All Kpop)

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Over 1 Million Chinese Displaced After Record Rainfall



The rain has created waist-high waters throughout the capital of China’s Henan province, drastically affecting the lives of its over 10 million inhabitants.

Trapped in a Flood

The Henan province of central China experienced severe rainfall over the last week that has left at least 25 dead and displaced more than 1.2 million people due to severe flooding, according to figures released by Chinese authorities Wednesday.

Meteorologists claim that the sudden, severe rainfall is caused by Typhoon In-Fa colliding with a high-pressure system over Henan province.

The floods have forced people to wade through waist-high water throughout Zhengzhou, the region’s capital. In one tragic incident Monday, 12 people died after they were trapped in the subway amid rising waters. A similar situation occurred Tuesday, causing multiple lines to be trapped in chest-high water for up to three hours before rescue workers managed to save them. Since then, metro authorities have shut down many of Zhengzhou’s rail lines.

Between Monday and Tuesday alone, Zhengzhou was hit with an estimated 25 inches of rain, equating to about 87% of its average annual rainfall. At one point, seven inches of rain occurred in less than an hour.

In an effort to alleviate rising waters, authorities breached a nearby dam to release floodwaters on Tuesday, although it’s unclear how much that helped as many dams and rivers in the region have overflowed for days.

Elsewhere in Henan, villages have been cut off by landslides and flooding, killing at least four others and leaving some areas without power for more than 24 hours.

Long Recovery Ahead

The region was finally able to begin recovery efforts Wednesday as conditions have begun to die down.

Despite reduced rainfall, the situation has still proven to be dire, leading President Xi Jinping to issue a statement through state media ordering authorities to give top priority to people’s safety and property.

In total, more than 17,000 firefighters have been mobilized for rescue efforts, as well as local volunteers and other rescue crews from other provinces.

Chinese companies have rushed to donate money to help the affected communities, and so far over $300 million has been donated.

It’s likely that for some time, hundreds of thousands in the region will be left without homes as authorities begin the work of ensuring that buildings are safe to return to.

See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (BBC) (The New York Times)

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