The World Today for November 27, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

GERMANY

Angela’s Choice

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s exploratory talks to form an unprecedented coalition between four vastly different political parties ripped apart last week, many in the country and outside began mulling life after “Mutti.”

To write off Merkiavelli would be a big mistake.

Merkel has faced many crises in her long, storied political career. This is just another one. And she’ll “muddle through as always,” analysts say.

But for once, it should be about more than just getting by, commentators say.

Still, the pressure is on.

On Sunday, that pressure grew to form a new coalition – the so-called Grand Coalition – with her old partners, the Social Democrats, who had vowed to eschew another four years with Merkel & Co. after taking a beating in Sept. 24 elections.

Chancellor Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats were not exactly given a ringing endorsement in that vote, either. Her party bled support to the right-wing Alternative for Germany, a party strengthened by dissatisfaction with Merkel’s open-door refugee policy.

That’s why Merkel ended up in a weakened position, forced to play matchmaker between unlikely bedfellows to form a majority in parliament.

After those talks fell apart, many began labeling Chancellor Merkel as a hobbled leader whose days in Berlin are now numbered.

But she has options, analysts told Carnegie Europe. She could create an unprecedented minority coalition, or hold new elections, also a first in postwar Germany.

Both have downsides. A minority coalition would mean a serious fight over every bill; new elections could strengthen the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany, polls show.

The situation in Germany, the Economist writes, is “a sign of a constitutional, representative democracy working well.”

In fact, it’s also a sign that Germany is at a crossroads.

Even though the economy is humming along, infrastructure – particularly digital – is lagging behind, hobbling the country’s potential.

And while democracy is firmly entrenched, policy-making is still too opaque for a country of its stature, or its plurality.

A minority coalition for Merkel could serve to breathe life into a political establishment long criticized for its stagnation, writes the Nation.

And it’s true that a Europe longing for its guiding force in Merkel might have to wait a bit for big reforms, Politico says.

But Europe can wait as Germany gets its house in order. And risk-averse Merkel now has a chance to do things differently.

Many say she should take it.

WANT TO KNOW

SAUDI ARABIA

United by Terror

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a gathering of top defense officials from 40 Muslim-majority nations that a deadly attack on a mosque in Egypt on Friday will only strengthen the Saudi-led coalition fighting against “terrorism and extremism.”

Gunmen carrying Islamic State flags attacked a mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai region, killing more than 300 worshippers, Reuters reported. “The biggest threat from terrorism and extremism is not only killing innocent people and spreading hate, but tarnishing the reputation of our religion and distorting our belief,” the agency quoted the prince as saying.

Formed two years ago, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition has yet to take any decisive action. It’s designed to facilitate cooperation that could include military help, financial aid, equipment or security expertise.

The group does not include Iraq, Syria or Iran – Sunni Saudi Arabia’s Shiite rival for influence in the Middle East. But the coalition’s secretary general, a Saudi lieutenant general, said it was not intended as a bloc to counter Tehran.

“The enemy is terrorism. It’s not sects or religions or races,” said secretary general Abdulelah al-Saleh.

PAKISTAN

Answering Calls

Days after freeing the main suspect in the 2008 Bombay attacks from house arrest, Pakistan backed away from a decision to ask the army to disperse Islamist protesters who have been blocking a highway in Islamabad for weeks.

The protesters are demanding the ouster of Law Minister Zahid Hamid because of the omission of a reference to the Prophet Muhammad in a new version of the electoral oath, the BBC reported. The minister has since apologized, saying it was a clerical error. But that was not enough to stop the expression of Islamist supremacy over secular law.

Instead, protests have spread to other cities, including Lahore and the southern port of Karachi. Violence erupted on Saturday when the government deployed about 8,500 elite police and paramilitary forces to clear demonstrators from Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange.

At least six people are believed to have been killed and some 200 more injured before hundreds more demonstrators appeared, forcing the police to retreat and the operation to be suspended. The government now aims to restart negotiations with Islamist leaders to end the standoff.

VENEZUELA

New Faces

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro named a military leader as the new head of state oil company PDVSA following the arrests of more than 50 officials of the company and its joint ventures – including the president of its US refining arm, Citgo, last week.

Major General Manuel Quevedo will replace former president, Nelson Martinez, a chemist who was nominated to the post just three months ago, Bloomberg quoted Maduro as saying in a televised address. Quevedo will also become the country’s oil minister, replacing Eulogio Del Pino.

Quevedo’s appointment comes ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna this week that could result in crude production cuts being extended – though Venezuela is already struggling to meet its OPEC output target.

Maduro also named several other military officers to top cabinet positions in the reshuffle.

Over the past month, PDVSA has made billions of dollars in debt payments, but it is still behind on other bond interest payments, so its credit rating firms have said it’s in “selective default.”

DISCOVERIES

Rags to Riches

Drew Goodall once appeared in movies alongside Brad Pitt and Hugh Grant. But after a string of scathing reviews, he fell on hard times and ended up homeless on the streets of London.

But in true rags-to-riches form, Goodall founded his own six-figure business. He’s now helping other homeless and disadvantaged people to reclaim their narratives as well.

Goodall stumbled across the idea for Sunshine Shoeshine, a shoe-shining service, after a stranger suggested he take up the profession as a means to an end to being homeless, the BBC reported.

A decade later, Goodall has built up his business accolades and is helping homeless people and others with special needs to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

“It’s given me a point and purpose, and it’s made me feel more confident,” said Alan, a Sunshine Shoeshine employee. “It’s made me feel more like a person, having a job and work history.”

But Goodall says his company isn’t just about employing the homeless. It’s also about changing perceptions.

“I’m not going to blame someone for being judgmental,” he said. “What I would blame someone for is not being open to having that judgment changed.”

Click here to see Goodall’s rags-to-riches story.

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