The World Today for March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016


The Politics of Fear – Our New Normal?

The videos are startling: Flying punches at Trump rallies that turn into brawls.

Across an ocean, it's no different.

Johannes Baumgaertner, a campaigner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives said he was pushed, shoved and spat on in the medieval city of Freiburg while he was stumping for votes.

“I’ve never been through anything like this in 20 years of politics,” Baumgaertner said.

That anger translated into a black eye for Merkel after the anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) fringe party – which calls for “shooting” foreigners illegally crossing borders – won big in three state elections Sunday.  

Some say the rising support for populists worldwide reflects protest votes or “establishment fatigue.”

But the truth is, it's simply the politics of fear – and it is winning.

In the US, Republicans and Democrats alike are accusing Republican candidate Donald Trump of inciting voters with incendiary rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans and anyone else he deems a threat. His critics point to the increasing violence at his campaign appearances as proof of the dangers: He had to cancel an event in Chicago Friday out of safety concerns.

I am just the messenger, Trump says, Americans are angry.

Even so, Trump never misses an opportunity to threaten and mock opponents — after one protestor in Ohio this weekend rushed the stage, Trump accused him of having ties to the Islamic State.

He is blatantly fear mongering and making the US look bad, his critics say. “This country is supposed to be an example to the world,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio this weekend.

An ocean away, Merkel was setting an example for Europe. It backfired: The AfD, which started as an anti-euro party three years ago, has remade itself into an anti-immigrant force. It now holds seats in half the state legislatures in Germany. And more elections are coming up.

Meanwhile, its leader, Frauke Petry, is Trump's spiritual doppelganger: A local newspaper ran a quiz called “Who Said It” and challenged readers to attribute specific outrageous statements to Petry or Trump.

The irony here is that the politics of fear play on the supposed decline of things. Its candidates point out the gloom and doom of today and the dismal future that awaits us.

But the U.S. economy has improved compared to eight years ago.

And one former conservative stronghold where the AfD won seats, the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemburg, is one of the richest states in Europe's economic powerhouse. The economy is humming along, incomes are high and the state has virtually no unemployment.

Yet the feeling among voters that something is wrong lingers, say analysts.

“There’s a sense that something has gone awry and we’re no long in control,” said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, a top strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

Maybe that's why even in tiny Slovakia last week, neo-Nazis won seats in parliament for the first time in an election that centered on Syrian refugees — but the country has yet to host any.

These days, some describe the violence and political climate at Trump's rallies “Trump's new normal.

But the bigger question is, is the politics of fear is our new normal?


Brazil: Flamboyant Disgust

Protesters marched in more than 400 of Brazil's cities Sunday, calling for the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff, an indicator of the rising anger over high-level corruption scandals and a deepening economic crisis.

And because this is Brazil, they donned costumes, they danced, they sang, they booed and they bemoaned Brazil's missed opportunities.

Brazil was a rising star economically until a few years ago – it recently lost its investment-grade status, something locals blame on Rousseff's party which has been bogged down in scandals, partisan bickering and has failed to pass reforms.

On top of that, Brazil has been coping with the outbreak of the Zika virus, as well as preparations for the upcoming Olympics which many call a test for the country.

Still, the largest headache for the government is the investigation into an alleged bribery scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras, which has implicated members of the country's business and political elite. Last week, prosecutors detained Rousseff's political mentor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, for questioning. They later charged him for money laundering in a separate case.

Some believe the rallies could spur Brazil to move forward with the impeachment proceedings pending against Rousseff and spell the end of her Workers' Party's dominance.

“I think we can see this Sunday's protest as a referendum for the Dilma government,” said Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at the São Paulo-based consulting group Tendencias.

He thinks Rousseff won’t likely serve out her second four-year term. The bets are on.

West Africa – Hit Again

Militants attacked a beach resort popular with foreigners and locals in Ivory Coast Sunday, killing more than a dozen civilians in what is the third assault on West African hotels in four months.

The attackers, six militants from Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), attacked three hotels in the Grand Bassam district, a popular escape for residents of Abidjan, the commercial capital of the world's largest cocoa producer.

Ivory Coast and other West African nations have been on high alert since November when AQIM led an attack at a Radisson hotel in Mali that killed 20. AQIM led a similar assault that left about 30 dead in Burkina Faso in February. The attack Sunday was the first by Islamist militants in Ivory Coast, a former French colony with a population almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

Analysts believe militants in the region are widening their scope of operations: Ivory Coast and Senegal were warned over upcoming attacks. 

Extremists have targeted former French colonies from bases in northern Mali since a coup in that country in 2012. French forces have pushed militants in Mali to the north but they take advantage of the chaos in Libya to train and obtain supplies and cash from affiliated groups based there.

The attack is a setback for Ivory Coast, which has rebounded politically and economically after years of conflict in the 2000s and a disputed election in 2010 that left thousands dead and forced the country to default on its foreign debt.

But that is what militants intend to do, say analysts – destabilize now stable regions. Africans are so concerned over terrorism that at a recent African Union meeting, the topic took center stage for the first time, trumping poverty and development.

Turkey's Home-grown Problem

A suicide car bomb in Ankara killed at least 34 people and wounded scores more, the third time the city has been hit in five months.

The explosion comes less than a month after a Feb. 17 car bombing near military buildings in the capital killed at least 30 people, most of them soldiers. That attack was claimed by a group called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), which is linked to Kurdish PKK separatists. A pair of Islamic State suicide bombers in October killed more than 100 people in Ankara.

TAK has pledged to stage armed attacks across Turkey in response to recent urban warfare against the PKK militia in the country’s southeast. The Turkish government blames the PKK or an affiliate for the bombing. 

Analysts say that Turkey is coming under increased pressure from regional threats.

 “In 2016, with a combination of regional conflict as well as threats from Islamic State and Kurdish militants in the southeast, Turkey is increasingly seen as part of the Middle East rather than an island of security outside of it,” said Jonathan Friedman, an assistant director at global risk consultant Stroz Friedberg.

At the same time, the country's leadership is coming under fire for focusing its crackdown on its Kurds instead of battling extremists using the country as a base. Turkey is currently in negotiations with the European Union to repatriate thousands of refugees currently in Greece, a deal called “shameful” by many European leaders because it overlooks Turkey's human rights violations – especially against Kurds.


The 'Ranch of Hope'

Meet Naoto Matsumura, a former rice farmer, who lives in Tomioka, Japan. He lives alone, except for the 50 cows, two ostriches, dogs, cats and other animals in his care. And he does so six miles from the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant — within the 12.4-mile nuclear exclusion zone — that five years later is still unsafe.

He and fellow farmers have made it their quiet mission to take care of these animals, abandoned after the reactor meltdown at the plant five years ago. These cows and dogs and ponies are animals no one wants — they can't be sold or slaughtered for food – and the government wanted to put them down.

Rancher Masami Yoshizawa lives in the ghost town of Namie, also within the exclusion zone and runs the “Ranch of Hope” for contaminated cattle. Another farmer, Norobu Haradas, drives back every day to feed his cattle. “Cows are my family,” he says. “I don’t want to kill them.”

Meet these unusual farmers here.

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the new Daily Chatter. We hope you enjoyed today's selection. Stay tuned this week as we bring you the latest on the Syria peace negotiations, Europe's refugee crisis and President Obama's upcoming trip to Cuba.

Feel free to write us — as always, we welcome your feedback.

— The DailyChatter Team

Today's DailyChatter was compiled and written by Jabeen Bhatti


Mon, 03/14/2016 – 06:02

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