The World Today for September 13, 2016


Anyone Here Non-Aligned?

Questions surround the 17th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement scheduled to convene on the Venezuelan island of Margarita on Tuesday.

The movement was founded in the 1960s for countries that sided neither with the United States nor the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Egypt, India and Yugoslavia were among its foremost members.

But the movement has lost its luster in recent years as the Cold War recedes into memory, highlighting how yet another post-World War II institution appears to be buckling as history marches on.

Today, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opted not to attend the summit, the Wall Street Journal reported, a sign of how Modi is seeking greater independence for the foreign policy of what is supposed to soon become the world’s most populous country.

Yugoslavia no longer exists, of course. And Egypt’s government presides over a dangerously alienated and unhappy population that jihadists want to exploit.

The choice of Venezuela as a venue was symbolic of the movement’s decline. The plummeting price of oil has dragged the socialist Venezuelan economy into depression. Store shelves are empty. Demonstrations have become common.

Nevertheless, TeleSur, the state-controlled Venezuelan news service, trumpeted the summit as striking a blow against the injustices of American and European policies.

“The founding principles of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist group seem more relevant than ever as Western neo-colonial policies continue to affect people around the world,” TeleSur opined.

Not everyone agrees, however. The end of the Cold War means nonaligned countries need to offer the world new political and economic models rather than taking their cues from the US, Europe or China, wrote Trinity College Professor of International Studies Vijay Prashad in the Hindu newspaper.

“What should be the contours of the emerging multipolar world? How would the new poles tackle the difficult problems of poverty and joblessness?” Prashad asked. “It is not sufficient to point fingers at the West. An alternative has to be developed.”

Meanwhile, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles told Reuters that spending money on security and entertainment for world leaders at the summit was shameful given the country’s dire straits. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has stationed 14,000 security officers to protect delegates from 120 countries on the island around 14 miles off the Venezuelan coast.

That spectacle isn’t what the original nonaligned movement leaders had in mind when they decided to meet regularly, Capriles said.

“The country is going through the worst crisis in its history, and the government wastes resources like this,” he said.


Not So Special

After insulting US President Barack Obama last week, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called for the withdrawal of US Special Forces from the country’s southern region – where they’re training Filipino troops.

Duterte said the Americans could make the country’s fight against Islamist militants from the terror group Abu Sayyaf more difficult, as they’re high-value targets for kidnapping, NBC news reported.

“These special forces, they have to go,” Duterte said. “I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go.”

Assisting the Philippines in the fight against Abu Sayyaf since 2002, as many as 1,000 US soldiers have in the past been stationed in and around Mindanao, the largest major island in the archipelago’s south, according to Foreign Policy. Some 200 US advisors are currently on the ground.

US officials said they haven’t received a formal request to pull the remaining troops out, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, considering Duterte’s other moves to distance himself from his country’s allies in Washington.

The Clooney Effect

Hollywood star George Clooney was one of the loudest champions of South Sudan’s struggle for independence – which it gained in 2011 after the end of Africa’s longest-running civil war.

But now he’s calling on the US government and international banks to treat its leaders the way Washington treats terrorist groups and drug cartels, Bloomberg reported.

Following a two-year investigation into the finances of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar, and top generals, the watchdog outfit founded by Clooney and human rights advocate John Prendergast issued a withering report Monday accusing the leaders of corruption and war profiteering.

The essential argument of the report is that Kiir and Machar have encouraged ethnic strife and civil war because they represent “rival factions of a kleptocratic network,” the BBC said. Since South Sudan won its independence in 2011, as many as 300,000 people have been killed and more than a million have been displaced by the continued fighting.

None of the parties named in the report has responded to the charges.

To address the alleged abuses, Clooney and Prendergast called for “a new strategy (that) would combine readily available anti-money-laundering measures with targeted sanctions focused on top regime officials and their international facilitators” in an editorial published in the Washington Post.

What’s Good for the Gander

Brazilian lawmakers voted by an overwhelming margin late Monday to oust Eduardo Cunha, the conservative congressman who lead the campaign to impeach ex-President Dilma Rousseff, from the country’s lower house of Congress.

The Brazilian congress voted 450 to 10 to expel Cunha from his seat as he faces corruption charges, effectively stripping him of the legal privileges that shield Brazilian lawmakers from imprisonment.

The ousting of Cunha, who ranked among Brazil’s most powerful politicians only a few months ago, is evidence that the turmoil shaking the Brazilian political elite has not yet settled following Rousseff’s impeachment, say observers.

Indeed, the vote reflects how the country’s political class remains on edge over a series of corruption investigations – including Cunha’s: He is accused of taking up to $40 million in bribes later laundered through an evangelical megachurch.

It also means the loss of a key ally for new President Michel Temer, writes the New York Times. Temer’s administration currently faces low approval ratings, widespread street protests and accusations that it is trying to put a lid on corruption investigations.


A Microscopic Honor

A team of parasitologists has bestowed US President Barack Obama with one of their greatest honors.

They have named a tiny flatworm after him.

Baracktrema obamai infects the lungs of Malaysian freshwater turtles, often killing them, according to an article in the Journal of Parasitology where the newly discovered parasite was first introduced to the world. It’s about as thick as a human hair, the Washington Post reported recently.

The little worm is a member of a genus of flatworm that causes schistosomiasis, an illness that afflicts the internal organs of 200 million people annually, second only to malaria as the world’s most widespread parasitic illness. Studying it could give scientists clues about how to combat schistosomiasis, said Thomas Platt, a turtle disease expert and co-author of the study.

The parasite is not the first animal to bear Obama’s name. Researchers have also named new species of lichen, an extinct lizard and a new kind of trapdoor spider after him.

Some don’t care for such distinctions, however: Earlier this summer, a Chinese scientist named a newly found rot-eating beetle after Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, for his fight against corruption. The authorities moved to block the news from the country’s heavily censored internet.

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