The World Today for November 28, 2017



A Promise, Betrayed

The imminent fall of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has raised serious questions about the future of Jacob Zuma, the president of neighboring South Africa.

Both men have presided over corruption and economic decline, and both have lost the confidence of the ruling parties that played key roles in ending the white supremacist regimes that were legacies of British rule on the continent.

Next month, there will be a pivotal moment. The African National Congress will elect a new party leader.

Already, there are calls for Zuma to step down as head of state rather than finish the last two years of his term, party whip Jackson Mthembu told Reuters. That would give the party stalwarts time to reorganize and distance themselves from the president’s perfidy, argued Mthembu.

“You can’t keep him there,” he said.

Those striking comments came amid the buzz surrounding a recent book, “The President’s Keepers,” by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw. The text argues Zuma is more a racketeer than a politician, running a government where bribery and self-dealing have become de rigueur.

Echoing the events leading to Mugabe’s troubles, the damage to Zuma was largely self-inflicted. State security officials attempted to recall the book, while tax authorities threatened a lawsuit against the author. Zuma’s arrogance and stupidity – believing he could suppress the book and that nobody would notice – piqued the public’s interest.

“The book flew off the shelves, selling out by the weekend,” wrote Quartz.

These things have consequences. The South African economy, a vital hub in the region, is tanking. Investors are fleeing the country, reported the Maverick, a respected online newspaper. Debt is skyrocketing. Unemployment is reaching 28 percent. The public utility, Eskom, is on the brink of insolvency, likely necessitating a bailout.

In a compelling news feature, The New York Times described how South Africa’s economy under Zuma has failed to uplift those ground down under Apartheid: the poor blacks living in the country’s sprawling slums.

Meanwhile, the British bank HSBC recently closed accounts belonging to the Gupta clan, a rich family accused of “state capture,” or bribing politicians like Zuma to do their bidding, Bloomberg reported. British regulators are investigating whether the bank facilitated money laundering linked to the Guptas.

The contrast between poor ordinary folks and corrupt leaders is becoming untenable.

“There’s still a very strong, kind of powerful thing around him to try and protect Jacob Zuma, but he’s certainly losing followers by the day,” journalist Kim Cloete told PRI. “I think his time is running out.”

The question, however, is what Zuma might do with the time he has left.



Louder than Silence

Pope Francis met with the head of Myanmar’s military on Monday and is slated to meet de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, as the country endeavors to quell international outrage over its treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

The first papal visit to Myanmar is particularly fraught, the New York Times reported. In Monday’s meeting, the pope met with the general who presided over a crackdown that has led more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee the country in what the United States has called a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

On Tuesday, he meets Suu Kyi amid worldwide criticism of her failure to speak out against the campaign, a day after the city of Oxford, where she studied in the 1960s, formally stripped her of an honor granting her the “Freedom of Oxford,” similar to a key to the city.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis will try to uphold the ideals of the church without undermining Suu Kyi or endangering Myanmar’s small Catholic community – so he’s been advised not to utter the word Rohingya.

Meanwhile, billions of dollars in investments will keep rolling in, writes Bloomberg.


Squeaky Clean

Mexican Finance Minister José Antonio Meade resigned his position and announced his candidacy for president, ending months of speculation over whom the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, would choose to attempt to succeed outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2018.

After serving a six-year term, Peña Nieto is not eligible to run for re-election, the New York Times reported. His approval ratings are also among the lowest in the country’s recent history amid corruption scandals, violence and a lagging economy, the paper said.

With a doctorate in economics from Yale, Meade is a capable technocrat who has held several cabinet-level positions in rival administrations. He also has a clean record where corruption is concerned. However, he has never run for public office, and his speeches are characterized as highly technical and deadly boring.

While he’s not a firebrand, PRI officials hope he can garner support from the opposition conservative National Action Party in order to ward off a threat from the potential left-wing front-runner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.


Election Roundup

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proxy at the European Council, the European Union’s executive, opted to extend the legality of the weed-killer glyphosate for the next five years,  narrowly blocking a move to ban it across the European Union.

Glyphosate – better known to Americans as Roundup, the trade name given to it by Monsanto – has been used by farmers for more than 40 years, Reuters reported.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer. But the European Chemicals Agency said in March this year that there was no evidence linking it to cancer in humans. Environmental activists say that just shows the influence of big business on scientific research.

Germany’s Social Democrats, with whom Merkel is currently attempting to hammer out a coalition, had opposed extending its use for another five years, while France wanted a shorter extension and rapid phaseout of the chemical.

After the vote, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, a Social Democrat, accused the chancellor’s center-right Christian Democrats of reneging on a deal to continue abstaining on the vote.

Germany has been without a government since its Sept. 24 election produced no clear majority for Chancellor Merkel, who has struggled over the past months to wrangle together a coalition.


Veggies, Exercise and Pooches

A dog is man’s best friend. But a new Swedish study reveals that your pooch can also reduce your risk of heart disease and death, CNN reported.

According to the study, owning a dog decreases one’s risk of death by 33 percent. It also reduces the risk of heart disease by 36 percent, and the chances of a heart attack are 11 percent lower.

Researchers speculate that your dog’s need to be active and his tendency to get filthy makes you healthier by strengthening your immune system and improving your hygiene.

“It may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events,” said Dr. Rachel Bond, who was not involved in the study.

Researchers are hoping to expand their study to find out if specific breeds are more beneficial than others, and how climate and socioeconomic factors affected the results.

But dogs aren’t the only furry health aid. Owning any type of pet can decrease your stress levels and blood pressure, two factors that can help you live longer, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said.

Want to live longer? Eat those veggies, pump that iron and get a pooch.

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