The World Today for September 22, 2017



Breaking the Silence

The expected lack of a surprise is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of German elections on Sunday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrats lead their closest competitor, the center-left Social Democrats, by 17 points, all but guaranteeing that Merkel’s party will make her chancellor for a historic fourth term, the Washington Times reported.

The interesting turn here is that Merkel wasn’t always assured victory.

Back in March, it looked as if her primary challenger, the Social Democrats’ Martin Schulz, could topple Merkel. His signature social justice platform and fiery brand of left-wing populism sparked a meteoric rise, the Atlantic reported.

But after a string of crippling losses in regional elections, voters turned on Schulz. On issues like marriage equality, too, Merkel stole Schulz’s thunder, USA Today reported.

Like her contemporaries in Europe, Merkel also struggled to contain surging far-right sentiments among her people. The German iteration of the trend is the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany, or AfD, a new political party.

Merkel’s decision in 2015 to allow virtually uncontrolled immigration into the country on the heels of a mass exodus from Syria and other lands in crisis emboldened AfD supporters who feared a loss of German identity.

At its strongest, the AfD polled as high as 15 percent. But they, too, fell victim to Merkel’s politicking. A deal made with Turkey stanched the flow of refugees making it to Germany’s borders, and Merkel’s administration adopted a more hardline approach of deporting denied asylum seekers.

The AfD is currently polling between 8 and 12 percent, well above the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament. But the party’s extreme right-wing views have made them unpalatable to the average German voter, the Financial Times wrote.

Especially after witnessing the effects of populism in the United Kingdom and the United States, Germans, known for being politically cautious, flocked to mainstays like Merkel – the opposite of what analysts had originally predicted.

One could say that makes for a sleepy election season.

But Merkel’s critics are many, as evidenced by a diversifying political field that’s undermining mainstream politicians. Four smaller parties will likely stand in opposition to Merkel come October. All are polling around 10 percent.

That means she’ll have to use every weapon in her political arsenal to wrangle together a coalition, Jochen Bittner argued in the New York Times.

That being said, it’s unclear how Merkel’s signature policies will look in a fourth term if she becomes bogged down dealing with cantankerous rivals.

In German politics, all’s quiet until it’s not.

[siteshare]Breaking the Silence[/siteshare]



The Art of the Deal

The majority of acts under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union went into effect Thursday after eight years of negotiations, the CBC reports.

Some key elements of the accord still require nation-by-nation approval within the EU, a process that could take years, Bloomberg reports.

Regardless, Canadians and Europeans are hailing the deal as a “gold standard” that could serve as an example for future cooperative agreements with Japan, New Zealand and Australia, or for renegotiation efforts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

An estimated 9,000 tariffs will be reduced thanks to the agreement, allowing 98 percent of Canadian goods to enter freely into Europe, increasing bilateral trade by 20 percent and boosting the Canadian economy by some $9.7 billion.

But not everyone is happy about the landmark deal. Environmentalists see open markets as a threat to European food-safety standards, reports Reuters. Others believe that CETA opens the door to more influence from multinationals in public policy.

[siteshare]The Art of the Deal[/siteshare]


Too Old for This

Ugandans took to the streets in the capital Kampala on Thursday in protest of proposed legislation that would extend the rule of the nation’s longtime president, Yoweri Museveni.

Uganda’s constitution currently bars anyone over 75 years old from running for president, the Associated Press reports. Museveni, 73, has ruled the country for more than 30 years and would be ineligible to run for another term in 2021 unless that clause is removed.

The bill faces hefty criticism from civil society, as well as opposition groups and religious leaders who are calling for a national referendum on the matter before the new law goes into effect. They fear it would allow Museveni to rule for life.

Police responded to protesters Thursday with teargas. Dozens were arrested, including the mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago, a prominent government critic. Police also raided two NGOs accused of supporting the anti-government protests.

Ironically, Museveni claimed in the past that problems on the African continent are due to leaders “who want to overstay in power.” He later said he was only referring to those who weren’t democratically elected.

[siteshare]Too Old for This[/siteshare]


Love Me or Hate Me

Protests rolled across the Philippines as well on Thursday as thousands gathered to denounce President Rodrigo Duterte’s strongman policies and what they see as the emergence of a dictatorship.

Politicians, religious leaders, indigenous people, businessmen and left-wing activists came out together against Duterte’s authoritarianism, pro-China stance, and his vigilante war on drugs — which has resulted in thousands of deaths.

Protesters even burned effigies of Duterte, one of which superimposed his face onto that of Adolf Hitler.

The rallies marked the 45th anniversary of the beginning of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ tenure. Many feel that Duterte’s admiration for Marcos, known for his brutal military rule, is a strong indication he’s leading the nation back into the past, Reuters reported.

Despite criticism from at home and abroad, Duterte maintains high approval ratings, mostly due to his shoot-from-the-hip attitude and decisiveness. His supporters, who see him as a champion of the everyday Filipino, turned out in numbers against protesters.

[siteshare]Love Me or Hate Me[/siteshare]


Up in Smoke

People around the world produce 1.3 billion tons of garbage every year, the LA Times reports. Much of that trash ends up in landfills, highlighting the need for more innovative techniques to deal with the world’s overflowing garbage cans.

Could volcanoes, nature’s incinerators, be a solution?

Scientists aren’t too hot on the idea. Drilling down into a volcano’s magma chamber to dispose of waste would pose a danger to garbage collectors, and waiting around for an eruption to engulf trash in flames isn’t the safest bet, either.

And while dumping trash into a pool of magma may sound like an easy and cost-effective technique, it might burn a hole in citizens’ pocketbooks in the long run. Many communities rely on trash incinerators for heat and electricity. Taking that away could mean a spike in energy prices.

So if volcanoes aren’t the solution, what is? Many advocate for a pay-as-you-go approach to waste removal under which consumers are charged a flat rate per bag of trash they produce. Some 800 cities and communities across the country already employ such a process, writes the LA Times.

Either way you see it, if you want your trash to go up in smoke, you might have to burn some cash to get there.

[siteshare]Up in Smoke[/siteshare]

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