The World Today for February 27, 2018



He’s Back

The Brazilian army has taken over security in the crime-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

“Police are unable to handle the situation,” Felicya Oliveira, a 31-year-old restaurant worker who often misses shifts because of gunfights outside her door, told Bloomberg. “So let’s see if the military can bring order.”

The government of President Michel Temer, who took office in August 2016 after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff on corruption charges, has given up on reforming Brazil’s overspending pension system, Voice of America reported.

The Beija-Flor samba school won this year’s carnival dance competition with an arrangement that lamented corruption, the Economist wrote. Gang fights and other violence marred the carnival this year, noted Agence France-Presse.

It’s little wonder, then, the Worker’s Party is supporting former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s bid for a third term in office in Brazil’s October presidential election.

Lula presided over what now looks like a golden age in Brazil, when the economy was strong and the government expanded a range of social programs that lifted millions out of poverty.

The fact that Lula’s programs set the stage for much of the country’s misery today – Rousseff was his protégé and Temer is struggling to trim the weighty budget deficits he inherited – matters little to voters who want things to improve.

Writing in the online magazine Jacobin, James N. Green, a professor of Latin American studies at Brown University, noted that around 37 percent of voters still thought the 72-year-old politician should run for office even though a court recently upheld his graft conviction. He’s been sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Claiming the charges are politically motivated, Lula remains free as he appeals the ruling. He’s launched a series of election “caravans” to take his message to the people. Earlier this month, a judge allowed him to reclaim his passport so he could attend a conference in Ethiopia.

“The word ‘flee’ doesn’t exist in my life,” he told a Brazilian radio station, according to TeleSur, a Venezuela-based, multi-state-funded news outlet with a leftist tilt that favors Lula’s politics. “I believe that I will be a (presidential) candidate because I believe the truth will prevail in the end.”

The next-most popular candidate has a 21-percent popularity rating, Green wrote. Temer, who is not running for reelection, has a 2-percent approval rate. Temer escaped bribery charges, the Guardian explained – arguably a remarkable achievement, given how police have charged and convicted scores of politicians in a series of corruption scandals in recent years.

It’s not clear whether Lula will appear on the ballot or, if he wins, if he could assume office if he’s in jail. But it is clear that Brazilians prefer to go back to the future rather than dwell on the present.



Divorce Papers

The European Union is set to submit a 100-page document detailing plans for Britain’s exit from the bloc that ignore some of the United Kingdom’s key demands.

The EU document, which is slated to be issued on Wednesday, will outline a plan for the transitional phase designed to smooth the UK withdrawal that leaves out UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s scheme for a longer, two-year transition period and ignores her proposed compromise on the section dealing with the UK’s border with Ireland, Bloomberg reported.

Coming two days before May is scheduled to announce her vision for the UK’s future trade partnership with the bloc and three weeks before an EU summit on the topic, the EU salvo will focus on May’s worst-case scenario – in which no trade deal can successfully maintain an open crossing on the future border with Ireland.

The reason: May has failed to give details on how she’ll avoid installing conventional “hard” border infrastructure.


Follow the Money

European and Slovak authorities are investigating the murder of an investigative journalist in Slovakia whom they believe was killed because of his reporting on fraud in the central European country.

Ján Kuciak, a 27-year-old investigative reporter, had written about tax evasion by Slovak elites, including businessman Marian Kocner, who threatened the journalist last year, the Washington Post reported. On Sunday, Kuciak and his partner, Marina Kusnirova, were found shot to death in their apartment.

“We are shocked and terrified by news that Ján Kuciak and his fiancee were probably victims of a vicious execution,” publisher Ringier Axel Springer, for whom Kuciak worked, wrote in a statement about the incident.

Kuciak’s last story examined transactions involving Kocner and a Bratislava luxury apartment complex that became the center of a political scandal last year, and he was currently working on a story involving suspected Italian mafia abuse of EU funds in Slovakia, Reuters reported.

Ringier Axel Springer said there were “justified suspicions” his killing was related to his “current research” but didn’t specify what that research involved.


Minister of Peace

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans Tuesday to create a new position in her cabinet for a disarmament minister in a time of increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, Reuters reported.

“The portfolio … is an acknowledgment of the emphasis this government places on our long-held anti-nuclear stance, and the role we must play now and in the future,” Ardern told attendees of a foreign affairs conference in Wellington, the country’s capital.

The announcement followed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call Monday for a new global effort to get rid of nuclear weapons. But it also comes on the heels of a US policy document calling for the development of smaller nuclear arms that could be used on the battlefield, the BBC reported.

A dogged supporter of disarmament, New Zealand banned nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships in the 1980s under Ardern’s Labour Party, prompting Washington to suspend its security treaty obligations to New Zealand. However, in 2016, Ardern’s predecessors from the center-right National government allowed the first US warship to visit the country in 30 years.


Fowl Play

For fast-food chain KFC, the chickens have not come home to roost.

That’s because 900 KFC outlets in the UK had to close temporarily due to a colossal chicken shortage, the BBC reported.

The famed fried-chicken restaurant experienced “operational issues” on account of a change in its supply chain and was subsequently unable to transport the necessary ingredients to most of its British restaurants, the Financial Times reported.

A spokesperson for DHL, the delivery company that just obtained a new contract with KFC, apologized for the mix-up and said the company was “working with KFC and our partners to rectify the situation.”

But it wasn’t just a brood of peckish customers who were put off by the restaurant closings.

KFC’s salaried employees will still be able to collect a paycheck, and short-term contracts will continue to be paid on an average hourly basis over the next 12 weeks – but that doesn’t apply to the 80 percent of restaurants run as franchises, which will come up with their own policies.

KFC, however, has maintained a sense of humor throughout the shortage, writing on Twitter that “the chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants.”

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