Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – a Nobel Peace Prize-winning politician – has said he will lead troops fighting rebels from the country’s Tigre region in what he is calling the “final battle” to save Ethiopia . Meanwhile, the Biden administration is warning of a potential humanitarian crisis there that could destabilize the entire region.
- Plus, the rise of vegetarian Thanksgiving.
- And, the story of the first Thanksgiving – 1200 miles south of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Guest: Nerdshala’ Zach Basu, Ben Montgomery and Russell Contreras.
credit: Nerdshala Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sarah Kehoulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabina Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Layard, David Toledo and Jake Cherry. The music is composed by Ivan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments, and story ideas to Niyala as text or voice memos at 202-918-4893.
- Afghanistan’s Biden admin taking no chances in Ethiopia
- America is gearing up for its most vegetarian Thanksgiving ever
- thanks before the pilgrims
Niala: Good Morning! Welcome to Axis Today!
24th November is Wednesday. I am Niala Boodhu.
Here’s what you need to know today: The rise of vegetarian Thanksgiving. And – here’s a theme: the story of the first Thanksgiving – 1200 miles south of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
But first, one big thing today: the escalating war in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy – a Nobel Peace Prize-winning politician – has said he will lead troops fighting rebels in the country’s Tigre region in what he is calling the final battle to save Ethiopia. And the Biden administration is warning of a potential humanitarian crisis that could destabilize the entire region. Zach Basu covers national security for Nerdshala and is here to catch us. Zach, can you explain what’s happened up to this point?
Zach Basu: Yes, so the civil war in Ethiopia has been going on since last November when Prime Minister Abiy launched this military offensive in the northern region of the Tigre to drive out the TPLF, a political party and rebel group that ruled Ethiopia . Almost 30 years, as of 2018. Abiy initially promised a quick and easy operation in the Tigre in November 2020, but the conflict escalated into a devastating year-long civil war, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands killed. Thousands in danger of famine, incredible reports of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities on both sides.
Niala: Yesterday, US envoy to the region, Jeffrey Feltman, briefed reporters on his most recent visit. What is their assessment of the situation?
Zach: Yes, so the administration is engaged in this very intense diplomacy. Feltman has traveled to Ethiopia several times. They are adamant that they are not supporting one side of the civil war and that the priority is to reduce conflicts and reach a political solution away from the battlefield. Feltman told reporters yesterday that some progress has indeed been made in bringing both sides to the negotiating table, but he fears that dangerous developments on the battlefield are holding back that progress.
Niala: And the Biden administration is concerned about how it could affect the rest of the sector?
Zach: Yes, so Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and a major strategic partner of the US. If the government fell, it would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, sending hundreds of thousands of refugees across the region, and could destabilize other countries. So, you know, this is something that President Biden is paying close attention to.
Niala: What are you watching for now, Zach?
Zach: So publicly the priority for the administration is now getting all Americans out of the country, while commercial flights are still available. The US embassy in Addis Ababa has been issuing daily security alerts, and the State Department has been sending out the message that it is time for Americans to get out. Don’t wait for the status to change. And don’t expect the kind of military airlift that we saw in Kabul. So the next step will really be, how does the situation in Addis Ababa develop, are the Ethiopian forces able to drive these rebels back north, or does something more disastrous happens.
Niala: Nerdshala’ Zach Basu. Thanks, Zach.
Zach: Thank you.
Niala: We’ll be back in 15 seconds to see how special diets are joining tomorrow’s big meal.
Niala: Welcome to Axis Today! I am Niala Boodhu. We talked about turkey supplies earlier this week. Well – for a growing number of Americans – there will be no meat on the Thanksgiving table. Ben Montgomery of Nerdshala Tampa Bay is compiling reports from local journalists across the country about growing requests for vegetarian holiday meals.
Ben Montgomery: Vegetarian bakeries and restaurants are in high demand right now. As families prepare to cater to the growing number of vegans, vegetarians, and “flexitarians” at Thanksgiving this year, America’s most vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving ever. This comes at a time when market analysis shows us an increase in the number of meat eaters who are choosing meat products for health and environmental needs. That’s why analysts are seeing more shopping baskets containing both ground beef and the Impossible Burger or chicken and “chicken.” Whole Foods shared with us the results of some interesting surveys. 58% of Americans host guests with a special diet, and still 56% of Americans feel it’s important to offer vegetarian options at holiday gatherings. So a vegetarian baker in D.C. tells us that he got twice as many orders this year as last year, and a vegetarian butcher in Minneapolis sold out turkey roasts in early November. He is a vegetarian butcher, a vegetarian baker. No word yet from the vegan candlestick-maker.
NIALA: Ben Montgomery writes the daily Nerdshala Tampa Bay newsletter.
When you gather with your family to eat turkey—or that vegetarian roast, here’s some lost history you can share no matter what you’re eating.
When we say first Thanksgiving, we’re referring to 91 Wampanoag. think about the feast of 1621 between
members and 53 pilgrims in Massachusetts. But there were other similar celebrations among early Spanish settlers and indigenous peoples before the Pilgrims descended.
Nerdshala race and justice correspondent Russell Contreras — who also happens to be our Lost History correspondent — is writing about… Hey, Russell.
Russell Contreras: It’s great to be with you.
Niala: Where did these early Thanksgiving meals go?
Russell: Well, the first was in September 1565. And it’s after explorer Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, an 800 Spanish settler who founded the city of St. Augustine, Florida, and St. Augustine is still around. The landing party celebrated Thanksgiving extensively after landing safely ashore, and they invited a nearby tribe to join them at the site. The tribe was living on the land but pasture of this group, Father Francisco López de Mendoza. They celebrated extensively, and that is, it was the first truly ecclesiastical act of evangelism and thanks to permanent European settlement in North America. It’s an important one, because we often think of Massachusetts and this establishment and it moving west, but things were really going on before that.
Niala: How did the Spanish feast compare to the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving dinner? I was thinking that if they were in Florida, they might not be eating the same food.
Russell: No, they were eating food indigenous to the area and they were eating food that was brought to them. The Spaniards were very large in cattle and so would be the case in 1598 when the Spanish explorer Juan de Onet led an expedition of about 500 men through the Chihuahuan Desert in northern Mexico. They were starving to death, and then they stumbled upon the Rio Grande, right there in present-day El Paso. After the people gathered their thoughts and survived and were able to come together for 10 days, Onet ordered a Thanksgiving feast for the survivors on April 30, 1598, roughly the same story. It had a religious component. They ate a feast and today people in El Paso say it’s actually the first Thanksgiving as it is at present-day United.
Niala: And do the people of El Paso still honor this first Thanksgiving?
Russell: There are few, but most respecting, Thanksgiving that we all do. Look, I mean, these events are important because they really put the ancestors of American Latinos in the narrative of early American history. And it predates the English colonists in New England and Virginia, but they celebrate Thanksgiving the same way we all do, but it puts us in a different time. On top of this, these events also suggest that early Spanish settlers were encroaching upon indigenous lands. So the same issue that would happen with the pilgrims and a very friendly encounter with the first locals eventually turned violent.
Niala: Our Lost History correspondent, Russell Contreras. Happy Thanksgiving, Russ.
Russell: It’s nice to be with you.
Niala: Before we go – we asked you what you are grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Darren Long: My name is Darren Long and I am from Shelby, Ohio. I am grateful to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Cancer Clinic. He saved my daughter Jessica’s life during the pandemic, when she cured stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so I will be forever grateful and indebted to her.
Niala: We have a small bonus episode with more from tomorrow – so check out your feeds for that!
Nerdshala Today is brought to you by Nerdshala & Pushkin Industries.
We are produced by Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabina Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Layard and David Toledo. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Julia Redpath is our Executive Producer. Sara Keholani Gu our…