Sudan Fighting Continues & A Toddler In The White House
April 20, 2023
The Fire Did Not Cease
In 2019, popular protests followed by a military coup ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The coup was brought about by two distinct but cooperating military bodies: the Sudanese state armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group founded by Bashir to (very violently) deal with internal rebellions. The country was then de facto controlled by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the official armed forces.
In recent weeks, tensions between the state military and RSF have erupted into armed conflict following civilian demands for government reform. So far, the clashes have claimed the lives of 270 people, leaving 2,600 others injured. Countries with citizens in Sudan negotiated a 24-hour ceasefire scheduled to begin at 6 pm local time on Wednesday to gain time to evacuate their people.
Around 60 Japanese nationals and 150 German citizens were set to be extracted from Sudan by their home governments on Wednesday before fighting continued into the negotiated ceasefire period. Unfortunately, the peace was quickly interrupted as bombardments and gunfire broke out across the Sudanese capital of Khartoum while they prepared their evacuation efforts, forcing both countries to halt their missions.
Meanwhile, the U.N. reports that gunmen (whose affiliation is unclear) have targeted hospitals and humanitarian workers as the country and international community attempt to deal with the results of the power struggle. “People in Sudan are running out of food, fuel, and other vital supplies. Many urgently need medical care,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Many have fled the capital, with some ending up in neighboring countries. “Today, thousands of refugees are crossing our border to seek protection. We have no choice but to welcome and protect them,” announced Chad’s Defence Minister Daoud Yaya Brahim on Monday. The U.N., African Union, Arab League, and other international organizations are set to discuss the conflict today.
Some Good News
- Biden signs executive order to improve access to child care (AP)
- LA mayor wants $1.3B for homeless crisis, hotels for housing (AP)
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Negotiations Up North
- As the clock struck 12:01 am on Wednesday morning, a Canadian federal workers’ union began the largest federal strike in over 30 years after the government failed to come to an agreement with employees over wages and work-from-home policies. The strike of over 155,000 workers is expected to affect services like passport renewals and, more urgently, tax filings, which have a deadline of April 30.
- Talks are still underway, though representatives for the union say that they’re “still a ways apart” from reaching an agreement with the government. Negotiators for the federal government came to the table with a 9% wage hike over three years, but union workers were looking for a much steeper pay raise to keep up with inflation: tax workers wanted a 30% increase over the same period, while Treasury Board workers requested a 13.5% increase. Also up for negotiation were work-from-home policies, increased family leave, and diversity measures.
- The government insists it has put a “competitive deal on the table,” while the union claims that it had “exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract” and that an “overwhelming majority” voted to strike. The strike involves roughly one-third of Canadian public sector workers, and past strikes of this scale interrupted a variety of government services but were ended by mandatory back-to-work legislation.
Dude, Where’s My Billions Of Dollars In Aid?
- On Wednesday, John Sopko, the head of the U.S. government’s oversight authority on government spending in Afghanistan, told members of the House that he couldn’t guarantee that U.S. aid to the country is “not currently funding the Taliban.” Over the years, the U.S. has given about $146.68 billion in aid to the country, with $8 billion provided since the U.S. finished withdrawing its forces in 2021.
- “While I agree, and we all agree Afghanistan faces a dire humanitarian and economic situation, it is critical that our assistance not be diverted by the Taliban,” Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said to the House Oversight Committee. “Unfortunately, as I sit here today, I cannot assure this committee or the American taxpayer we are not currently funding the Taliban.”
- “I haven’t seen a starving Taliban fighter on TV, they all seem to be fat, dumb, and happy,” he said. “I see a lot of starving Afghan children on TV, so I’m wondering where all this funding is going.” Since the U.S. withdrawal, Washington has been sending aid to the country through a network of NGOs and international organizations, with little in the way of actual on-the-ground oversight. Sopko added that the Biden administration’s lack of cooperation in tracking down the billions of dollars in aid sent to Afghanistan “is unprecedented in the nearly 12 years that I have been the SIGAR.”
Additional World News
- India will surpass China as world’s most populous country by mid-year, UN says (CNN)
- US-made Patriot guided missile systems arrive in Ukraine (AP)
- Austin huddles with leaders in Sweden as momentum builds for NATO bid (Politico)
- Exclusive: South Korea’s Yoon opens door for possible military aid to Ukraine (Reuters)
- Kim says North Korea’s 1st spy satellite is ready for launch (AP)
- German cabinet approves bill to phase out oil and gas heating systems (Reuters)
- 3 Nuclear Superpowers, Rather Than 2, Usher In a New Strategic Era (NYT, $)
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” – Albert Einstein
Wait, Who Are We Protecting Again?
- In the wake of the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, Republican lawmakers are taking action to…protect gun and ammunition dealers, manufacturers, and sellers from lawsuits. A proposal passed this week lists a few situations in which gun and ammo companies could be held civilly liable in state courts, and exempts others. The measure now heads to Republican Governor Bill Lee for final approval.
- London Lamar, a Memphis lawmaker, said, “I am challenging you not to pass this bill because we need to do more to protect citizens from gun violence than the people making the guns that people can use to kill more people.” The bill’s sponsor, Joey Hensley, pointed out that this proposal doesn’t prevent gun control – “This is just to try to help businesses in this state that have chosen to come here, to give them a little civil liability.”
Monitoring The Meltdown
- Utah Governor Spencer Cox issued a state of emergency on Tuesday as the state’s record snow levels begin to melt, increasing the risk of flooding. Cox issued a memo that warned the flooding could continue for months, and bring avalanches and all the slides (land, rock, and mud).
- The memo noted that this past winter, snowpack levels in Utah were at or above 200% in some areas. The Division of Emergency Management has already deployed more than 1 million sandbags throughout the state to prepare for the flooding, and the state of emergency allows Utah to request federal funding if needed.
Additional USA News
- Man arrested in shooting of two Texas cheerleaders after one mistakenly got into the wrong car (NBC)
- DeSantis appointees begin reshaping Disney World’s district (ABC)
- Oklahoma sheriff says recording of killing talk was illegal (AP)
- Family of Tyre Nichols sues city of Memphis and police over deadly beating (Guardian)
- Air Force unit loses intelligence mission as IG investigates document leak (CNN)
- Supreme Court rules for death row inmate over bid to obtain new DNA testing (NBC)
- The Supreme Court ponders when a threat is really a ‘true threat’ (NPR)
Coup Coup, Ga Ga
- On Tuesday, an intruder made his way onto the White House grounds, marking the first time that the presidential residence’s fence has been breached since it was last upgraded. The intruder, a toddler, squeezed through a gap between the bars, crawling around the mansion’s north lawns a bit before being snagged by Secret Service guards.
- “The Secret Service Uniformed Division today encountered a curious young visitor along the White House north fence line who briefly entered White House ground,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service. “The White House security systems instantly triggered Secret Service officers and the toddler and parents were quickly reunited.”
- The toddler was the first unwelcome visitor to step foot on White House grounds since the mansion’s fence was doubled in height to roughly 13 feet after multiple security breaches a few years ago. With the height upgrade came a new design vulnerability, which allowed this most recent breach: the bars were spaced slightly farther apart, allowing our little intruder to crawl right through them.
- How to view the rare hybrid solar eclipse this week (CNN)
- Fishermen stranded by Cyclone Ilsa rescued after days without food or water off Australia (NBC)
- New Zealand feral cat-killing competition for children axed after backlash (BBC)
- Auschwitz issues another reminder on memorial etiquette after latest viral photo from tourist (USA Today)
- 660-pound NASA spacecraft is hours away from crashing into Earth after more than a decade studying the sun (CBS)
- Building telescopes on the Moon could transform astronomy – and it’s becoming an achievable goal (Ars Technica)
- Anthony Bass: Toronto Blue Jays pitcher claims flight attendant ‘made’ his pregnant wife clean up after their child, fueling heated Twitter debate (CNN)
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