Yet more El Nino ravages. “South Africa is facing its worst drought since 1982, with more than 2.7 million households facing water shortages across the country, the government has said…Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at Grain SA, told Al Jazeera that summer crops (soybeans, maize, sugarcane) and livestock farming are likely to be hardest hit by the drought, and consumers were likely to see food prices elevated for some time to come… ‘The concern now is about the next crop. It’s the optimum time to plant, but it’s still too dry, and with the failure earlier in the year, farmers are under further strain,’ Sihlobo said. ” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1kbBhaG)

Unrest in the Maldives…“The president of the Maldives has declared a 30-day state of emergency in the country, following a series of attacks against the government. President Abdulla Yameen made the declaration, which gives security forces the right to arrest any suspects who were planning to participate in an anti-government rally planned later this week by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the country’s main opposition party. Mohamed Nasheed, who is the leader of the MDP and the first democratically elected-president of the Maldives, allegedly organized the upcoming protest from jail.” (CSM http://bit.ly/1NQukoY)

Stat of the day: Migrants have made some 800,000 “illegal entries” to the European Union so far this year, the head of the bloc’s border agency Frontex said in an interview. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Opmd5Z)

Quote of the Day: “Because it’s 2015” — Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, after being asked why he appointed a diverse cabinet that is 50% women. And meet the country’s first Somali-born lawmaker. (VOA http://bit.ly/1WAGrc0)

Africa

A cargo plane carrying an added load of unregistered people crashed Wednesday morning along the banks of the Nile River after taking off from South Sudan’s capital of Juba. The crash killed 36 people and left an infant clinging to life, South Sudan authorities said. (ABC http://abcn.ws/1kbATJj)

With Ebola in retreat, Sierra Leoneans yearn for a return to normality. But for the burial teams tasked with upholding public safety, life remains far from normal. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PnnCsm)

Warring parties in South Sudan are expanding stockpiles of weapons and ammunition in violation of an August peace deal and President Salva Kiir risks fueling violence with plans to almost triple the number of states in the country, said United Nations experts. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OpmuWp)

Opposition leaders in Zanzibar said Wednesday they would not take part in celebrations for the inauguration of Tanzania’s new president John Magufuli, after elections were annulled on the islands. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ktO9Zg)

A Zimbabwean court has granted bail to three journalists accused of slander after they allegedly implicated an unnamed top police officer and other officials in the fatal cyanide poisonings of more than 60 elephants by poachers. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ktOf31)

In northern Kenya, recurrent drought and desertification are hitting livestock-dependent communities hard. Families in the Samburu region are hoping to root out malnutrition by planting 18 species of drought-resistant, fruit-bearing trees. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OpjOYY)

MENA

Thirty lawmakers from Tunisia’s ruling party suspended their membership on Wednesday and threatened to resign in protest over what they called attempts by President Beji Caid Essebsi’s son to control the party. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LQtyHO)

Syrian government offensives backed by Russian air strikes have displaced at least 120,000 people in the war-wracked country, senior US officials said Wednesday, accusing Moscow of complicating the situation on the ground. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1OpmsOz)

The Syrian army regained control of a road southeast of Aleppo on Wednesday, taking back the government’s only supply route into the city from Islamic State fighters who had seized it last month. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1WwTosK)

1 million people could be affected by cyclone chapala in Yemen. (UN News Center http://bit.ly/1kbBISu)

The U.N. has appointed German diplomat Martin Kobler to be its envoy to Libya after months of failed peace negotiations between the country’s two rival governments. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OpmwxN)

Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate dismissed in an audio message on Wednesday doubts that it had downed a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all aboard, and said it would tell the world how it did so in its own time. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LQtEzr)

Asia

At least 18 people were killed and up to 150 trapped on Wednesday when a factory collapsed near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, officials said, adding to a number of industrial disasters to hit the South Asian nation. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1NQuqwZ)

The United Nations’ food agency plans to extend aid to North Korea amid reports that the communist country is facing food shortages next year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OpjNUQ)

Clerics in Afghanistan face death threats for promoting family planning in country where one in 50 women dies of causes related to pregnancy. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PnnE3k)

Relief efforts slow in Afghanistan as villagers hit hardest by the October quake still await shelter and supplies, with fears that many will die during the fierce highland winter. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1LQtFU0)

The Papua New Guinea government must “step up to the plate” and address the epidemic of family and sexual violence which is mainly being tackled by NGOs and grassroots activists, Human Rights Watch has said. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PnnCZn)

A campaign to enshrine Buddhism as Thailand’s state religion has been galvanized by a radical Buddhist movement in neighboring Myanmar that is accused of stoking religious tension, the leader of the Thai bid said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1LQtPdU)

A Myanmar opposition lawmaker whose attack had raised fears of instability ahead of historic elections left the hospital on Wednesday, parading through the streets with thousands of cheering supporters. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1WwTtwq)

Thailand’s junta has approved $1.3 billion in rural subsidies, akin to the populist policies of the government it ousted, to appease disgruntled and politically powerful farmers who are struggling with record low commodity prices and weak exports. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OpmbuI)

The Americas

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday called on the world to fund and promote societal change to support girls’ education. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Opme9U)

The Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday, delivering a pointed challenge to the nation’s strict substance abuse laws and adding its weight to the growing debate in Latin America over the costs and consequences of the war against drugs. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1NQu7SG )

Brazil’s government has fine-tuned arguments aimed at defending President Dilma Rousseff from a ruling that her administration manipulated federal accounts last year, and expects Congress to approve them, Chief of Staff Jaques Wagner said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Opmupp)

An 8 year-old girl in Argentina has become an unexpected symbol and point of inspiration for the country’s transgender community. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LQtSGD)

The Colombian government must ensure indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities uprooted by warring factions can return home and have a greater say in how their lands are developed, rights group Amnesty International said. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1ktNJCn)

…and the rest

More children are joining the ranks of refugees streaming into Europe, with some families taking a new route from Turkey to Bulgaria to avoid crossing rough seas to Greece as winter sets in, the United Nations said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OpmsOg)

Sweden will ask the European Commission to arrange for migrants to be moved from the Nordic state to other EU countries, joining Greece and Italy among others in seeking help to cope with record asylum numbers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OpmtBX)

Opinion/Blogs

The trouble with data: Did poverty in Rwanda go up or down? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1PntEt8)

The “Francis Effect” is Real (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1PntCS1)

Pope Francis might become the first modern pontiff to visit an active war zone (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1WwDP4n)

WIRED World 2016: Melinda Gates wants to use data to save lives (Wired UK http://bit.ly/1LQtRTe)

Why It’s So Hard to Fight Fisheries Crime (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Pn563a)

Open Data – Still Closed to Latin American Communities (IPS http://bit.ly/1SpimnX)

Crude awakening: can oil benefit the people of the Niger Delta? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1WAoomd)

The Quest to Find a Drug That Nails the Tricky Malaria Parasite (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1WAoSJg)

Post-Ebola Women’s Groups Need Funding (The Journalist http://bit.ly/1iDwXPZ)

It’s not easy being green (Cherokee Gothic http://bit.ly/1GMh3hX)

How Tesla plans to power the world (Devex http://bit.ly/1GMh4lX)

The rise and rise of girls (XX Factor http://bit.ly/1SpHwTq)

Discussion

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