The World Today for May 12, 2017



The Long Road

Nepal’s long struggle toward democracy hit another bump recently when Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi nearly resigned in protest over the impeachment of a judge known as a watchdog against political corruption.

Nidhi timed his move to make a statement: For the first time in almost 20 years, Nepalese citizens will take to the polls on Sunday and in June to elect local councils.

Municipal elections are a big deal in Nepal. After decades of political uncertainty – including a bloody Maoist insurgency and the fall of the Nepalese monarchy in 2008 – Nepal is on the precipice of becoming a genuine democracy.

Empowering local officials long left out of political decision-making paves the way for a more inclusive and representative parliament in line with the country’s 2015 secular constitution.

And the hiccups are to be expected as when Maoist lawmakers suspended Sushila Karki – Nepal’s first female chief justice – last month on charges that she and other justices on the country’s supreme court illegally reversed the government’s appointment for police chief amid claims that his selection was political.

Karki was suspended pending impeachment proceedings. But then on May 5 her colleagues on the Supreme Court invalidated the parliament’s move and reinstated her.

The impeachment had suggested Nepal’s democracy might wither on the vine, Reuters reported.

“It has raised the danger of the parliamentary majority being used against constitutional bodies that don’t obey political leaders,” said Nepalese constitutional expert Bipin Adhikari.

Now, with Karki back on the court, the Nepalese people can get to work on their country.

Nepal is still struggling to rebuild after a powerful earthquake killed 9,000 people and destroyed more than 824,000 homes in 2015. Two years later, billions in international aid still hasn’t been distributed and 800,000 families remain homeless.

A lack of transparency, social division and poor government coordination are to blame, Narayan Adhikari of the Accountability Lab in Nepal opined in Al Jazeera. The municipal elections could give a voice to those still suffering in the aftermath of the quake, he added.

Nepal’s southern neighbor India, the largest democracy in the world, is also closely watching the country’s political upheaval.

Nepal is heavily dependent on Indian trade. But tensions between the two countries have grown strained since 2015, when Nepal accused India of fanning dissatisfaction with Nepal’s new constitution among enclaves of the country’s ethnically Indian plains people, the Madhesis.

The Madhesis believe the new constitution dilutes their representation, hardly an argument they would need help from India to articulate.

Transitions to democracy are tough. They take cooperation, compromise and – sometimes –cajoling of those who might not be so enthused about it.

[siteshare]The Long Road[/siteshare]


United Kingdom

Populism Contest

Liberals and conservatives alike are racing to stake out protectionist stances in the United Kingdom’s upcoming parliamentary elections – confirming the populist strain is alive and well in British politics.

Whoever wins Britain’s June 8 general election, free-market capitalism is going to be a bit less free-market, Bloomberg reported.

Both the leaked election manifesto of the Labour Party and recent speeches by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May emphasize the plight of British workers, and the two parties both support populist measures such as capping energy bills, stopping employers from bringing in cheap foreign workers, and preventing asset-stripping corporate takeovers, the agency said.

On Friday, May will visit northeast England to court working class voters she’ll claim have been “deserted” by the Labour party, the BBC reported. Meanwhile, Labour’s leaked manifesto contains policies on nationalizing the railways, abolishing university tuition fees and scrapping the public sector pay cap – which May criticized as a return to “the disastrous socialist policies of the 1970s.”

[siteshare]Populism Contest[/siteshare]


Only Game in Town?

Mexico warned Thursday that the United States isn’t the only game in town.

If US President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico can look to China, Brazil and Argentina for its most important trade relationships, Reuters quoted Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo as saying.

“We will use (a visit to China this September) geopolitically as strategic leverage,” said Guajardo. “It sends the signal that we have many alternatives.”

The statement follows one by Trump: He said he wants to reduce America’s trade deficit with Mexico to near zero and renegotiate NAFTA to secure better terms for US companies and workers.

Shifting Mexico’s focus to such markets would be easier said than done, however. Though Guajardo said Mexico has had some success getting Beijing to reduce trade barriers, it exports only around $7 billion worth of goods to China, compared with nearly $300 billion in exports to the US.

[siteshare]Only Game in Town?[/siteshare]

South Korea

A Good Defense Doesn’t Give Offense

South Korea’s new president attempted to assuage Beijing’s concerns about a US-built missile defense system deployed by his predecessor – but there’s little chance he’ll scrap it.

New President Moon Jae-in told Chinese President Xi Jinping he would send a delegation to Beijing to ease tensions over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD – which Beijing has said threatens to touch off a regional arms race.

Though he criticized former President Park Geun-hye for agreeing to deploy the missile shield, Moon is unlikely to reverse her decision on THAAD, since the system is already in place, the New York Times quoted analysts as saying.

Instead, Moon will try to persuade China to rein in North Korea so that both Seoul and Washington agree that missile defense is no longer necessary.

It’s a tricky balancing act. Scrapping the shield would alienate the South’s most powerful ally, yet retaining it without angering Beijing won’t be easy – and many of Moon’s supporters oppose it as unnecessarily drawing South Korea into American efforts to contain China.
[siteshare]A Good Defense Doesn’t Give Offense[/siteshare]



Strange Suds

The craft beer movement has taken the world by storm. Beer aficionados are known to search far and wide for an enticing, atypical brew.

But the funky twang of a new Danish beer isn’t for the faint of heart: It was produced using barley fertilized with human urine instead of traditional animal manure or plant nutrients.

The beer, aptly named “Pisner,” is a novelty beer aimed at more “adventurous” drinkers, Reuters reported.

While urine wasn’t used as an ingredient in the brew, some 50,000 liters collected from festivalgoers at Denmark’s Roskilde Music Festival in 2015 helped to grow enough malting barley to produce roughly 60,000 bottles of Pisner.

“If it had tasted even a bit like urine, I would put it down. But you don’t even notice,” said Anders Sjögren, who attended the festival in 2015.

Denmark’s Agricultural and Food Council also got on board, dubbing the process “beercycling.”

Sustainability comes in many – albeit unexpected – forms.

Threats to Press Freedom around the World.

The following selection is part of a new, regular feature on press freedoms brought to you in conjunction with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mexico: A Pledge To Protect

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto pledged to prioritize protecting imperiled journalists for the remainder of his term. The president, who leaves office next year, told a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists that his government is committed to following up on investigations into attacks on the press, and has guaranteed funding for a federal protection mechanism, and to bring perpetrators of the violence – especially murder – to justice.

The meeting came a day after CPJ traveled to Veracruz—one of the most deadly regions for journalists in the Western hemisphere—to release its report, “No Excuse: Mexico must break cycle of impunity in journalists’ murder.” The report found that despite federal government efforts to combat the violence criminal gangs, corrupt officials, and cartels use to silence their critics, impunity for attacks on the press remains the norm.

Mexico’s attorney general, Raúl Cervantes Andrade, who attended the presidential meeting with CPJ, said authorities are “looking to replace” federal prosecutor Ricardo Najera “with someone experienced who will have the support and recognition of (freedom of expression) organizations.”

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