The World Today for March 21, 2016

March 21, 2016


US and Cuba – Playing Ball

Imagine this: Welcome signs with the faces of presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro lining the streets of America's Communist Cold War enemy's capital.

It's Obama's “Nixon-to-China moment.”

President Obama’s arrival in Cuba Sunday – the first visit by an American president in almost nine decades – will certainly define his foreign policy legacy after he leaves office early next year.

It will be a trip of hesitant wooing, grandiose statements and, of course, symbolism.

Obama will watch a baseball game – presumably with the Cuban president – between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team March 22 in Havana. Former New York Yankee Derek Jeter, Boston Red Sox great, Cuban Luis Tiant, and Cuban big leaguer Jose Cardenal will be there, too.

But beyond the pomp and grand gestures, the truth is, it’s a stunning turn of events between two countries that were enemies for decades. Like Nixon in China, Obama has a chance to break old taboos and open a new chapter in American foreign relations.

It's a great chance for Americans to get better acquainted with our estranged neighbor, and for Cubans to become fully part of the international economy: Obama has already said he will create new airline routes, luxury hotel agreements and business and medical research partnerships.

Still, risks remain.

Obama has come under criticism for not announcing a presidential meeting with Cuban dissidents: Before Obama landed, Cuban officials arrested more than 50 dissidents marching to demand improved human rights.

Obama also can’t lift the current U.S. economic embargo against Cuba without the approval of Congress, where Republicans, especially those representing Miami’s Cuban exile community, vehemently oppose lessening the pressure on the Castro regime.

In fact, Republican presidential candidates have heaped scorn on Obama for daring to consider treating the Cuban government with anything but disdain.

But if they read Jeffrey Goldberg’s story in the April issue of The Atlantic magazine, they’d know that the so-called Obama Doctrine means stop wasting effort and resources in unwinnable conflicts. The president undoubtedly thinks keeping alive a vestige of the Cold War is a waste of time.

Preserving other traditions from the past, like reverence of American author Ernest Hemingway’s old bar, the Floridita, is perfectly fine. Western tourists flock to the place.

If Obama drops by the Floridita, he would illustrate to Americans that Cuba is already changing, whether or not its relations with the US improve.

And the daiquiris are amazing, we hear.


Congolese Elections: No Shockers There

Voters went to the polls in the oil-rich Republic of Congo Sunday, an election that is certain to return the country's dictator to power. 

Officials said the vote produced a light turnout – instead, people fled the capital out of a fear of violence. 

Results won't likely be known until the end of the month but victory for President Denis Sassou Nguesso, 72, is a given. The army general has mostly led the country since 1979.

In what is a familiar story in the Central Africa region, Nguesso wants to be leader for life and is doing what he can to ensure that: Initially banned by the constitution for running for a third-term, he simple changed the law. Meanwhile, during elections, the country's cell phone and internet services were shut down so that “outside interests would not manipulate the vote,” officials said.

Other would-be leaders for life face upcoming elections in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea. No one expects them to lose.

Turkey's Tourism Problem

Terrorist attacks on key cities in Turkey along with a spat with Russia is hammering its vibrant tourism industry as high season looms and the rest of the economy slows.

Bookings for summer are down 40% over last year, and hotel occupancy rates have dropped by more than half. Hundreds of hotels and resorts have been put up for sale.

Saturday's Islamic State suicide bombing killed four foreigners on Istanbul's most notable shopping street. Other bombings in Ankara and Istanbul by Kurdish militants and IS terrorists have killed more than 200 people in the past year. Adding to that, Turkey's shooting down a Russian warplane near the Turkey-Syrian border resulted in an economic embargo – including a ban on Russian tourists, which had numbered 4 million annually. 

The industry accounts for more than 4% of Turkey’s GDP, employing about 7% of the working population. The slump in the sector comes as economic growth slowed to 3% – it had averaged 5% for the past decade.

Turkey is the latest to join countries hit by a tourism downturn due to terrorism, most notably Tunisia and Egypt.

Brazil: Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

There’s a bright side to Brazil’s political crisis.

The country’s borrowing costs have decreased as investors increasingly expect legislators to impeach Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, paving the way for a new government that might fix the country’s problems.

Rousseff faces impeachment because she allegedly misappropriated public funds in 2014 to improve her chances of reelection.

Polling firm Arko Advice released survey results Sunday that found that 62 percent of Brazilian legislators in the lower chamber said they would impeach Rousseff, a 37.5 percent increase over last month.

Meanwhile, a judge on Friday blocked Rousseff’s appointment of ex-President Lula da Silva as her chief of staff, a position that would have forced prosecutors to alter how they would pursue corruption charges against him.  

A leftwing figure credited with lifting tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty by ramping up government spending during Brazil’s boom years, Lula faces allegations that he participated in a money laundering scheme involving Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company.


In the Negev, An Unlikely Peace

In Israel's Negev desert, there is a special kind of truce: Between wolves and hyenas.

The reason? The traditional competitors decided they need each other to survive in the harsh desert where food is scarce, according to the journal, Zoology in the Middle East.

“Animal behavior is often more flexible than described in textbooks,” Vladimir Dinets of University of Tennessee told the Washington Post. “When necessary, animals can abandon their usual strategies and learn something completely new and unexpected. It’s a very useful skill for people, too.”

Striped hyenas, a member of the cat family, usually hang out alone and often pray on other large animals – including dogs. Wolves are pack animals, and also kill other carnivores.

Initially, Dinets found tracks of a hyena following the wolves – typical for hyenas to let other animals kill and then take the spoils. He also found that wolves followed the hyena. But then he found the footprints together. Another zoologist and co-study author, Beniamin Eligulashvili, later witnessed the hyena out hunting with the wolves.

It's called mutual benefit: Wolves are the superior hunters but hyenas have a better sense of smell and some of the toughest jaws in the animal kingdom.

Though rare, other differing species cooperate, too – coyotes and badgers, coral trout and moray eels, elephants and birds – to survive and thrive.


Editor's Note: Thank you for reading today’s edition of DailyChatter. We’re in our first weeks 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 Jabeen Bhatti


Mon, 03/21/2016 – 05:53

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