The World Today for May 09, 2016

May 9, 2016


The Orwellian Pursuit of 'The Other' 

An economics professor on his way to deliver a lecture in Canada was pulled off a plane in Philadelphia after a woman sitting next to him thought the dark-haired, olive-complexioned Italian national was a terrorist.

In the incident last week, the University of Pennsylvania professor was scribbling on a notepad, and set the woman off when he didn't respond to her overtures for small talk.

“She thought I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper. I laugh. I bring (the authorities) back to the plane. I showed them my math,” he said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Is that where we are now?

Unfortunately, yes.

Across the world, the War Against The Other is in full-swing, with demons and monsters lurking around every corner waiting to hurt us. Or so we are told. Over and Over.

In Europe, The Other is often the local Muslim populations – and the more than one million refugees of that faith who have recently arrived or are on their way. In the Middle East and parts of Asia, The Other means minorities or those of other sects of the predominant religion – or sometimes those voices that fight against ignorance and extremism.

In the US, if the rhetoric of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is to be believed, The Other is everyone else – whoever that is: Mexicans, the Japanese and, of course, Muslims.

The professor-cum-terrorist lamented that state of affairs.

“The lady just looked at me, looked at my writing of mysterious formulae and concluded I was up to no good,” said Guido Menzio in a Facebook post. “Trump's America is already here.” 

Still, some do ignore or, better yet, stand up to The Armies Against The Other. 

In the US, prominent Republicans have openly snubbed Trump. In Israel, a top general – the number two in the army – set off a firestorm last week after he said at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony that he saw “revolting trends” in Israel comparable to those of Nazi Germany.

“[The Holocaust]…it must lead us to fundamental thinking about how we, here and now, treat the stranger, the orphan and the widow, and all who are like them…There is nothing easier than to hate those who are different; there is nothing easier than to sow fear and terror…”

Meanwhile, a remarkable thing happened in London last week: Voters elected Labour's Sadiq Khan, a Muslim and son of Pakistani immigrants, as mayor of the city. That's a first for any Western capital.

That development followed a bitter campaign, one that turned ugly as the rival Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith ran an editorial in the Daily Mail newspaper accusing the Labour candidate of being an apologist for terrorists – accompanied by a photo of the carnage during the 2005 terror attacks in London that killed 52.

Even so, a majority of voters in the city of London ignored the hoopla over Khan's faith. And he himself pledged to be inclusive for the residents of the city of 8 million, not just for its 1 million Muslims.

That's how you defeat the Armies Against The Other.


Philippines: Trump, Giuliani and Mad Max

Philippine voters will go to the polls Monday to choose a new president, and the frontrunner is a man analysts call “a mix of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump and Mad Max.”

Meet Rodrigo Duterte, a 71-year-old tough-on-crime candidate likened to Donald Trump for his anti-establishment swagger and crude statements on criminals, women and whatever else comes to his mind.

Duterte, meanwhile, has the business community nervous, not least because of his lack of economic experience. For the past six years, the country has been performing well economically, seeing average growth rates above 6 percent. Now the question is, will the populist keep the spending priorities and fiscal discipline of his predecessor President Benigno Aquino III?

The country is at a crossroads, say analysts. Impressive growth aside, the country is still dogged by high poverty rates, corruption, crime and poor infrastructure. What's next depends on its new leader. Otherwise investors will go away.

In Canada, Biblical Comparisons

The fire in Fort McMurray, Canada has become the latest big environmental catastrophe that has gripped the world’s attention.

Add the fire that has displaced 100,000 people and consumed a fifth of the homes in the Albertan city to the list of disasters that includes Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Asian tsunamis and Caribbean earthquakes.

The Los Angeles Times described the Fort McMurray fire as biblical. The rapid succession of natural disasters makes it easy to frame them in a “ye reap what ye sow” narrative. Some found it hard not to point out the irony that a fire spurred by global warming had destroyed a city at the center of the Canadian oil industry.

“I wish I could kick every person posting 'That's what you get for living by the oil sands' comments,” a young Edmonton woman tweeted, according to the newspaper.

Pakistan: To Be A Target

Gunmen killed a Pakistani human rights activist known for campaigning against religious extremism, the latest murder of activists and bloggers in the country and the region.

Khurram Zaki was killed in a drive-by shooting Saturday in Karachi. An editor and blogger on the site, Let Us Build Pakistan, Zaki, 40, had long campaigned against Sunni extremists, including a top Sunni cleric and the banned extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.

Zaki's murder is the third high-profile killing of a human rights activist in Karachi in recent years, including the murder of Sabeen Mahmud who was killed following an event detailing human rights abuses in the province of Baluchistan. Bloggers advocating secularism in Bangladesh have also come under increasing fire from extremists there.

Raza Rumi, a Pakistani activist who moved to the United States after an assassination attempt in 2014, told the New York Times the murder was a warning.

“Being an activist in Pakistan is highly risky, as the state has yet to eliminate the sectarian militias that kill with impunity,” he said.


Cattles and First-class

First-class passengers on airplanes make the passengers in economy more likely to display so-called “air rage” on flights.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that economy travelers were almost 4 percent more likely to become belligerent, have emotional outbursts or get into incidents involving drugs, alcohol, smoking or sex if their plane had a first-class section.

Without a first-class section, other passengers perhaps didn’t feel quite like they were being treated like “cattle”. They were even more likely to misbehave if they had passed through first-class on the way to their smaller, less comfortable seats and less likely if they had entered from the side of the plane and never seen the more spacious first-class seats.

Air rage doesn’t happen often – less than 2 percent in economy and less than 1 percent in first-class during flights. There have been a few thousand cases, CNN reported.

Still, patterns emerged. Economy passengers tended to have emotional outbursts like panic attacks, the study found. First-class passengers got into trouble for being drunk and belligerent.

Mon, 05/09/2016 – 06:16

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