The World Today for February 20, 2018



Airbrushing History

Soviet censors famously erased people out of photos to suit the political winds of the day – cutting out former comrades of Joseph Stalin over the years as they lost favor, for example, until he was the only person in a picture that formerly featured a group of revolutionaries.

Similar historical revisionism is occurring in Poland, where leaders recently adopted a controversial law that imposes fines or up to three years in prison for publicly referring to “Nazi German death camps located in Poland as Polish,” according to Al Jazeera.

Poland’s ambassador to the US, Piotr Wilczek, explained that the law would ensure that Germans don’t escape culpability for the Holocaust.

“Individuals all throughout German-occupied Europe collaborated in one way or another with the authorities,” wrote Wilczek in the National Interest. “But do not blame Poland for crimes it is not responsible for. Do not force us to carry the burden of a genocide planned and executed by others.”

The law – now under review to determine if it conflicts with Poland’s constitution – drew criticism from Israel, Jewish groups and free-speech advocates.

Their outrage reflected how Poland has long grappled with suspicions that Nazis exploited anti-Semitism among Poles.

Coverage of the law repeatedly cited historian Jan Gross’ account of ethnic Poles murdering their Jewish neighbors in Jedwabne in 1941, for example, as evidence of a more sinister motivation for the ban on referring to Polish death camps.

The law might be about more than denial, however. It also reflects a vision of Polish identity, wrote University of Michigan sociologist Geneviève Zubrzycki in the Conversation. The law gives voice to Poles’ shame and anger rather than guilt over their role in the genocide.

“The dominant Polish narrative of World War II is … about victimhood, which fits squarely into its broader national mythology of martyrdom,” argued Zubrzycki.

Or at least that’s what some Poles like to think.

It’s important to note that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and others in his Law and Justice Party who supported the law, have been working overtime to redefine Poland in recent years. Rejecting secularist Europe and globalization that supposedly destroyed Polish industry, they’re populists who want to reaffirm Poland’s Catholic heritage and reclaim sovereignty from Brussels.

But protests against Law and Justice’s agenda are common. Last month, women took to the streets to oppose restrictions on abortion, for example. And EU officials have threatened to withhold funds from Poland because of concern over changes seen as eroding the rule of law.

Poland today is not the Soviet Union of the 1930s. It’s not so easy to erase dissent.



Where’s My Hug?

Over three days in India, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been photographed with his family at the Taj Mahal and his little boy has won hearts with a Melania Trump-like rejection of Mummy’s hand on the aircraft steps.

But Trudeau has yet to meet with any senior members of the Indian government so far on his first official state visit to the country, prompting him to deny that he’s getting the cold shoulder over accusations that members of his cabinet have links to Canada-based Sikh separatists, Global News reported.

There was no bear hug from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the tarmac like the one given Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, either. And despite tweeting nearly as actively as President Donald Trump, Modi has yet to post a welcome message for the Canadian PM.

Others say it’s too early to read much into Trudeau’s reception. But Canadians, too, are beginning to question whether the trip is an effective use of taxpayer money – as very little time has been devoted to official meetings promoting Canadian interests, reported the Hindustan Times.


Kicking and Screaming

If Peruvian legislators want President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski gone, they’d better start collecting the votes for an official impeachment – because Kuczynski has no plans to quit.

“I won’t resign,” Bloomberg reported the president as saying in Lima on Monday. “It’s not a personal matter, it’s an institutional matter. I was elected for five years and I’ll complete the five years.”

Opposition lawmakers had called for him to step down and claimed to have fresh evidence the president lied to Congress about an alleged conflict of interest to do with contracts awarded to the controversy-plagued Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA.

But Kuczynski rejected those claims and blamed their zeal to oust him on his decision to pardon former President Alberto Fujimori at the end of December.

Notably, some observers speculate that pardon helped the president escape a prior impeachment bid by splitting the opposition Popular Force party led by Fujimori’s son and daughter. However, last week the leftist party Nuevo Peru said it is discussing plans for another impeachment effort when Congress returns from recess next month.


The Crime or the Coverup

In public affairs, conventional wisdom says the cover-up can often be more damaging than the crime.

That might prove true for Oxfam in Haiti.

Haiti’s planning and external cooperation minister, Aviol Fleurant, has expressed dismay that the British charity knew that its former director of operations in the Caribbean country had hired prostitutes during a relief mission following a devastating earthquake in 2010, but withheld that information from Haitian authorities.

“What hurt me at the end of the meeting is that they admitted that Haitian authorities had, at no time, been informed by Oxfam about the commission of such crimes,” Fleurant told Reuters after a meeting with Oxfam officials Monday.

He also warned that a wider probe of charitable organizations is now underway, following claims by President Jovenel Moise last week that the Oxfam scandal was only the tip of an “iceberg.”

“An investigation has been launched into the functioning of all non-governmental organizations, regarding sexual crimes and abuses,” Fleurant said, without giving more details.


Shipping Container to Table

Near the Nigerian capital of Abuja, one young entrepreneur is revolutionizing urban farming.

Without any soil, Angel Adelaja of Fresh Direct has managed to convert abandoned shipping containers into sustainable urban farms for salad greens not native to Nigeria.

“We started with an empty plot and a lot of stress, but we just said we’d try, and it worked,” she told the BBC. “We are the first containerized farming in Africa.”

Adelaja’s team uses hydroponics to grow leafy greens utilizing only nutrient-infused water and LED lights. The process can yield crops year round, despite the Nigerian heat, and the greens are sold at prices lower than most imported produce.

There’s a social aspect to the initiative as well. Fresh Direct employs a team of young women and encourages young Nigerians to get their hands dirty in the agricultural sector.

“We need to get young people interested in agriculture,” Adelaja said. “We need to make agriculture cool and fun.”

Her team has experienced setbacks – like electricity blackouts and low water supplies – but remains steadfast in its mission to revolutionize urban farming.

“The aim really for us is to be able to show that on small pieces of land, you can still do sustainable urban farming,” Adelaja said.

Click here to check out Adelaja’s shipping-container farm.

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