Sudan protest, South Africa polls, Caster Semenya: Your weekend briefing
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Good day, Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.
1. UK considering boosting support to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram
The UK foreign secretary said on Wednesday that he will be discussing what more the British government can do in terms of aid and military support to combat the terrorist group, warning the crisis had the potential to trigger a humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of that in Yemen.
Britain provides £240m in aid to Nigeria, of which £100m goes to the north-east, making it the second-largest donor after the US, and giving the UK a sizeable stake in what happens in the region.
2. Using Libya to understand the failed coup in Venezuela
For much of 1969, the country was filled with rumors of an imminent coup. In September, a handful of military vehicles rolled up to government offices and communication centers, and a terse statement announced the end of Libya’s decrepit monarchy.
Army units around the country, assuming that military chiefs were leading the coup and expecting them to show up at any moment, bloodlessly secured the rest of Libya. Foreign powers quickly recognized the new government. Nobody bothered to check who was leading the takeover.
A week later, an unknown 27-year-old army signal corps lieutenant announced that he and a few dozen low-level officers had in fact staged the coup. His name was Muammar el-Qaddafi.
If Libyans felt tricked, it was too late. Dislodging the officers would require a critical mass of Libya’s power brokers, citizens and foreign allies to come together against the new rulers, something they hadn’t managed even against the unpopular monarchy.
3. Caster Semenya: IAAF moves from fighting the abnormal to prohibiting the normal
Last year, the IAAF introduced new regulation for female athletes with “difference of sexual development” (DSD). Athletes with circulating testosterone of five nanomoles per litre of blood (5nmol/L) or above and who are androgen-sensitive, have to meet certain criteria if they wish to compete internationally. One criterion is that DSD athlete must use medication to reduce their blood testosterone level to below 5nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six months.
Semenya felt that the IAAF was targeting her, specifically. She took her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but the court rejected the 28-year-old athlete’s challenge against the IAAF’s new rules.
4. In other News
Khalifa Haftar’s foreign backers have egged him on – and civilians are paying the price.
We also published a story on the plans by The United States to pull its troops out of Africa, and we weighed the costs as in the vast border area between Niger and Mali, U.S.-trained special forces hunt ISIS-linked militants. The Nigerian commandos face the challenge of tracking an agile enemy along a porous border, and they say continued American support is critical. But the U.S. is aiming to reduce its footprint on the African continent.
5. The rise of robot authors: the fate of human novelists
Will androids write novels about electric sheep? The dream, or nightmare, of totally machine-generated prose seemed to have come one step closer with the recent announcement of an artificial intelligence that could produce, all by itself, plausible news stories or fiction.
It was the brainchild of OpenAI – a nonprofit lab backed by Elon Musk and other tech entrepreneurs – which slyly alarmed the literati by announcing that the AI (called GPT2) was too dangerous for them to release into the wild, because it could be employed to create “deepfakes for text”. “Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology,” they said, “we are not releasing the trained model.”
Are machine-learning entities going to be the new weapons of information terrorism, or will they just put humble midlist novelists out of business?
6. Why are people giving up on coffee?
Again, that’s the point of coffee. It’s a ritual. The brew, the pour, the endless sleepless nights spent grinding your teeth to a fine dust. Do you have a problem?
No. I enjoy constantly feeling like I’m on the verge on a coronary. You’re in the minority. People take care over the production of decaf now. A decade ago, it all tasted disgusting. Now, there are some really nice ones.
Name one. To give you an example, the coffee website The Coffee Bazaar recently reviewed Decadent Decaf Coffee Company’s Indonesian Sumatra and said: “Only a pro coffee taster would be able to tell the difference between this and a normal coffee.”
I’m still not sure. That’s because you’re stuck in the past, my friend. Coffeeshops are replacing pubs as the primary community hubs; if we all sat around drinking obscenely strong coffee all day, we would be twitchy, paranoid messes.
Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6 a.m. Nigerian Time. Don’t miss Your Evening Recap, weeknights at 11:45 p.m.
Want to look back? Here’s Friday’s top story.