The World Today for March 18, 2016

March 18, 2016


Brazil: Lula Or Bust

For Brazil’s beleaguered president, it’s Lula or bust.

Supporters of President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, plan to throng the streets across Brazil Friday.

The first show of strength from their backers, it’s an answer to Sunday's enormous – and colorful – protests calling for Rousseff’s resignation. But as tensions mount and chaos deepens, what's next?

This is anyone's guess – the situation has been anything but predictable.

For example, on Thursday, Rousseff did the unthinkable: She appointed her former boss as her chief of staff in a bid to save Lula from jail – he's facing “preventive arrest” by prosecutors investigating alleged kickbacks totaling billions of dollars at the state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets Thursday in protest. They were also incensed by the release of a secretly recorded telephone conversation in which the two politicians discussed plans to influence the investigation.

Then, shortly after Lula was sworn in, a federal judge slapped an injunction to block his nomination. Meanwhile, lawmakers convened a 65-member committee to consider rebooting impeachment proceedings against Rousseff: She is accused of dipping into the coffers of state-owned companies to make the government’s balance sheet look better during her election campaign.

Now, what happens depends on how many supporters the once wildly popular politician — known by a single name, like a soccer star — can still rally to his banner.

“Whether the committee leans for or against Dilma will depend very much on what happens on the streets,” Lucas de Aragao, a partner at the political risk and public affairs consultancy Arko Advice, told the Guardian.

Lula is credited with the social welfare programs that alleviated the worst harms of poverty in Brazil through cash payments for the poor. On his watch — Lula was president from 2003 to 2010, then hand-picked Rousseff, who was his chief of staff, to succeed him — some 30 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty.

But the collapse of commodity prices has unraveled that yarn, driving the economy into recession and pushing unemployment to a three-year high in 2015. And Lula’s stature as hero of the poor has been tarnished by allegations that he received a luxury apartment and a beach house as bribes from executives involved in the Petrobras scam.

Today is a test for the two politicians. But it is also a gauge of public opinion: Are Brazilians nostalgic for the good old days? Or fed up to the point of no return?

Stay tuned.


North Korea's Dictator: Playing with Toys Again

North Korea’s strange and terrifying dictator just thumbed his nose at those trying to prevent nuclear Armageddon.

That’s what he does.

North Korean leader Kim Jung Un defied the United Nations once again by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea early Friday.

The test comes in the wake of tougher sanctions from the UN on Kim’s already isolated regime for testing what was purported to be a Hydrogen bomb earlier this year, which he snubbed by ordering to his military commanders to conduct additional nuclear tests last week.

North Korea is working on re-entry technology – required to bring a nuclear warhead back into the earth’s atmosphere above its target. But most likely this launch was intended to show Seoul and Washington Kim’s not caving in anytime soon, perhaps because Beijing is not ready to cut off its supply of coal.

Like his Hydrogen bomb, Kim’s missile is believed to be smaller and less potent than he claims: Some experts believe he could lob a nuke into South Korea or Japan, but others say even that’s a stretch.


India to Pakistan: Probes Welcome

India will grant Pakistani investigators unprecedented access to an airbase on the Indian frontier in a further effort to compel Islamabad to crack down on those responsible for a terrorist attack that killed seven Indian soldiers in January.

Slated to begin March 27, the joint team investigation will mark the first time that Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement personnel are allowed to conduct such an operation in India, India’s foreign affairs minister said Thursday.

That’s not necessarily proof of warming relations. It’s more like India is trying to paint Pakistan into a corner where it is forced to act against the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group – the Pakistan-based outfit that India claims carried out the attack.

With talks postponed over the incident, some factions in India believe New Delhi must keep dialogue open no matter what to keep the two nuclear powers from drifting into a shooting war. But others, like Indian lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, oppose “uninterruptable” peace talks while Pakistani nationals are in the midst of “blowing up bombs in our country.”

Europe Talks Turkey On Refugees

European leaders agreed on a plan to send tens of thousands of refugees back to Turkey late Thursday. But it’s unclear whether Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will accept the deal or fight for more perks.

Under the deal that the EU will propose Friday, Turkey would take back all the refugees who make their way from its shores to the Greek islands off the Turkish coast.

In exchange, the EU would take some 72,000 Syrian refugees directly from Turkey, boost aid for refugees remaining there, and put Turkey on the fast track for EU membership and visa-free travel to Europe.

But negotiators fear Turkey may also try to extort some wiggle room in its dispute with neighboring EU-member Cyprus – which has demanded that Ankara recognize it as a sovereign country and allow Cypriots to access its ports and airports before it can join the EU.


Made in China Ain't So Cheap

The label’s everywhere “Made in China.”

And guess what, it isn’t all that cheap.

Labor costs are only 4 percent lower in China than in the US, according to a new study by Oxford Economics.

That’s partly due to rising wages in China, where hourly manufacturing wages in China have increased by an average of 12% a year since 2001.

Don’t look for a boom in US factory jobs just yet.

The main reason that US remains competitive is that productivity, or the output per employee, has risen around 40 percent since 2003 – so on average it still takes two Chinese workers to make the same number of widgets as one US worker.

Meanwhile, productivity has already doubled in China and India over that same period.

Editor's Note: Thank you for reading today’s edition of DailyChatter. We’re in our first week of publication and would like to hear from you – what you like, what could be improved. Thank you.

–Today's DailyChatter was compiled and written by Jason Overdorf

Fri, 03/18/2016 – 05:49

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