The World Today for June 04, 2018



Illiberalism and Endgames

In April, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban secured a third consecutive parliamentary supermajority for his right-wing Fidesz party.

Now, just two months later, he’s making good on the anti-immigration promises that delivered him a win in the first place – and challenging an increasingly fragile European Union in the process.

Last week, Orban’s government announced it had drafted a new set of laws that would criminalize organizations that try to help asylum seekers – even providing legal advice or offering food to newcomers could land one in jail, the BBC reported.

Attacks on civil society are nothing new in Hungary, according to the Open Society Foundations, the pro-democracy group founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.

In 2017, the government passed a law mandating that civil society organizations receiving money from abroad register and pay hefty taxes on their operations, despite warnings from Brussels that such requirements violate EU law.

Meanwhile, the Open Society Foundations announced last month that it’s moving its international operations from Budapest to Berlin, Agence France-Presse reported.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what Orban and his cohorts had desired – his government named the new laws the “Stop Soros” package and spent over 100 million euros last year on what the Foundations called a “hate campaign” against the billionaire.

Soros has been an easy target for Orban’s populist, anti-immigration platform since 2015’s refugee crisis, Bloomberg wrote. He advocates for lawful migration and liberal democracies, as opposed to Orban’s calls for an “illiberal state” free from “Muslim invaders.”

It’s an ironic turn of events, seeing as how Orban’s Fidesz was founded to resist communist oppression, and the prime minister himself studied at Oxford with the help of a scholarship from the Open Society Foundations, the Economist wrote.

At the same time, Hungary has resettled very few refugees as compared to other European states, making Orban’s calls to protect “Christian Europe” from a flood of refugees all the more absurd, observers say.

Inconsistencies aside, Orban’s Hungary is becoming increasingly repressive, the Washington Post reported.

The government recently published a list of academics, journalists and human rights advocates with any connection to Soros, prompting widespread harassment and vilification.

And already, Orban’s Fidesz party has worked to silence dissent in the media and weaken the nation’s judiciary, Euronews reported.

The EU has threatened Hungary and other increasingly autocratic regimes within the bloc, like Poland, with legal action.

But in reality, there’s not much Brussels can do to stop members’ steady march toward illiberalism, the New York Times reported. Both Poland and Hungary are able to veto any moves that Brussels could take to censure their practices. Cutting off funds may be an option but one that would take years to be felt.

It’s why Soros himself told the European Council on Foreign Relations last week that the EU is in an “existential crisis” – from illiberal states and immigration to Brexit and budding financial meltdowns – and proposed new mechanisms to steer the bloc back to stability, CNBC reported.

Nevertheless, Orban won’t feel any blowback from Brussels any time soon.



No End in Sight

Anti-immigrant sentiment may be mounting in Europe, but there’s no end in sight to the flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, new maritime tragedies showed Sunday.

At least 46 migrants died when their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia, the New York Times cited a statement from the country’s Defense Ministry as saying. The Coast Guard rescued 67 others, and the operation was still underway, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, the Coast Guard said that nine migrants, including six children, drowned when their boat capsized early Sunday morning near the town of Demre in the southern province of Antalya.

Spain’s maritime rescue service also said it had rescued 240 people, with one other apparently drowning, who had been trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa in 11 small boats.

At least 660 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year. Through the first four months of 2018, a total of 22,439 migrants reached European shores, with 4,409 of them arriving in Spain.


Keep Calm and Carry On

Ethiopia’s government on Saturday approved a draft law that would lift its six-month-long state of emergency two months ahead of schedule.

Parliament, which is entirely controlled by the ruling party coalition, is expected to approve the law, the Washington Post reported.

Put in place following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn as prime minister in February, the state of emergency barred most gatherings and gave increased power to security forces amid widespread strikes over the slow pace of releases of political prisoners. The early relaxation of the restrictions indicates that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has helped bring greater stability since taking office in April, the paper said.

Prime Minister Abiy has freed thousands of prisoners, toured the country listening to people’s grievances and reached out to opposition leaders, prompting hopes that he aims to usher in genuine democratic reform.

The Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, which make up two-thirds of Ethiopia’s population, demand better access to jobs and more political freedoms.


Fire and Fury

Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted on Sunday for the second time this year, leaving at least 25 people dead and 20 injured.

Located just 25 miles southwest of the capital Guatemala City, the volcano has been spewing rocks, black smoke and ash into the sky, the BBC reported, citing Guatemala’s National Disaster Management Agency, which said a river of lava hit the village of El Rodeo, destroying houses and burning people inside.

President Jimmy Morales has said at least three areas may have been devastated by the eruption. About 1.7 million people are likely to be affected, while already some 3,100 people have been evacuated from their homes, CNN said.

One of Central America’s most active volcanoes, Fuego also erupted in February, but Sunday’s eruption was the most violent one in more than four decades, Reuters reported.

Explosions are still coming from the volcano, and mudslides are likely as rainfall continues, CNN said.


Milking the Trend

Cockroach milk, a cringeworthy alternative to dairy milk, has made its way into the superfood debate, CBS News reported.

According to researchers’ findings in India in 2016, the Pacific beetle cockroach produces a milky substance to feed its young that’s chock-full of protein-infused crystals that are three times more nutritious than traditional dairy milk.

The crystals “are like complete food – they have proteins, fats and sugars, and all essential amino acids,” one of the study’s primary authors told the Times of India.

Nutritional value notwithstanding, drinking the milk of a common pest is intriguing for some – and just plain disgusting for others.

Even so, several companies have begun using bug juice in several of their products – even in ice cream.

Getting consumers on board by folding the milk into beloved dishes, however, is just one of the problems producers face in milking the superfood trend.

NPR reported that cockroaches aren’t the easiest of creatures to milk – and then there’s the question of whether the milk is even safe for human consumption.

But if there’s one thing well-known about cockroaches, it’s that they can survive any trial or tribulation – perhaps that applies to fads as well.

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