The World Today for June 21, 2018

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The Other Canadian

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cuts a progressive figure, talking regularly about feminism and diversity.

One could be forgiven for thinking the young and handsome Trudeau represents everyone in Canada.

But America’s northern neighbor produces other politicians, too.

Take Doug Ford, brother of the late Rob Ford, the trash-talking former Toronto mayor who died in 2016. A video emerged of Rob smoking crack cocaine while he was in office.

Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives won the largest share of seats in Ontario’s provincial parliament earlier this month, ending 15 years of Liberal rule in Canada’s most populous province. He’s now slated to become premier on June 29.

Insiders said voters trusted him to safeguard their tax money, cut waste and generate jobs.

“They want action, fast,” Jaime Watt, a Conservative political strategist told the Toronto Star. “Fast. Fast. Fast. They don’t expect any study, any shilly-shally, dilly-dally, whatever, they expect him to get right to work on these things.”

Sound a little like the sentiments that put Donald Trump in the White House? Maybe this quote makes it clearer: “People didn’t care if he wasn’t the most sophisticated guy ever,” Watt added. “What they cared about is he talked to them, he didn’t talk at them.”

The backlash has been similar to the one against Trump, too.

An opinion writer in the Wall Street Journal claimed Liberals in Canada were “freaking out” over Ford’s rise.

A caller to a radio show appeared to fit into that category. “It makes me feel quite hopeless for the people of Ontario and for Canada in general,” Delores Mullings, a professor of social work at Memorial University in Newfoundland, told the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program. “I believe Mr. Ford got elected only because he happens to be a white, heterosexual man.”

Canadian news magazine Maclean’s said Ford was Trump-like only in the most indirect ways. A former Toronto city councilor, he’s more policy-oriented than the American president. The magazine said Ford has a lot of work ahead of him if he intends to make good on his promises of boosting Ontario’s economy.

Now Ford has a chance to prove his detractors wrong or show that, like his brother, he might talk a good game that conceals a looming crash.



Hard Lines, Tough Decisions

Italy’s anti-immigration interior minister met with like-minded leaders from Austria on Wednesday, suggesting a new hardline alliance is emerging on migration issues.

On the heels of Hungary passing the so-called “Stop Soros” bill that makes aiding undocumented migrants a criminal offense, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini met with Austria’s vice chancellor Heinz Christian Strache and interior minister Herbert Kickl in Rome, presaging a united front at next week’s European Union summit, the Associated Press reported.

Though the leaders didn’t discuss specifics, Salvini slammed Spain and France for failing to live up to their promises to take in 3,265 and 9,800 refugees, respectively, and Kickl said Austria is considering setting up centers in the Balkans for asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected.

Coming on World Refugee Day, the meeting highlighted that the issue remains as controversial as ever, though the number of migrants arriving in Italy is down over 80 percent this year. According to a UN report released the same day, just 100,000 refugees were resettled in 2017, while conflicts around the world created another 2.9 million asylum seekers, the Independent reported.


More News Is Bad News

Cuba has freed its state-run media to report bad news in moderation.

The Associated Press cited local journalists as saying that the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, one of the country’s most powerful bodies, recently approved a document known as the “New Communication Policy,” allowing reporters to cover plane crashes and natural disasters more like their counterparts in the US.

Cuban state media filed minute-by-minute updates when a plane carrying 113 people crashed on takeoff from a Havana airport recently, and coverage of Tropical Storm Alberto was more detailed than usual, for instance.

But experts say the move is motivated by the desire to stave off competition from independent online sources and journalists still shy away from investigating the causes or assessing the response to such disasters.

“Lack of immediacy is only one of the problems of Cuban journalism,” AP quoted Jose Raul Gallego, a writer for the independent website El Toque, as saying. “You can have coverage that’s immediate, but just as biased, and it’s not quality journalism.”


Winning the Battle….

The Saudi coalition has won an important, if not controversial, battle in Yemen. But it remains to be seen what impact it will have on the war.

Pro-government forces seized Hudaida airport from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Wednesday, in a major step towards retaking the port city following a weeklong fight, Al-Jazeera reported.

But rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi has vowed to fight on, calling for reinforcements to repel the advance of the Saudi and UAE-backed troops. The Saudi coalition announced they had captured the airport Wednesday morning. Though it was not being used for flights, it housed a Houthi military base.

Capturing the port city is a potentially key piece in winning the war. But humanitarian agencies have warned that the fighting could have a heavy toll on civilians, given that three-quarters of Yemen’s imports pass through Hudaida, providing a lifeline for some 22 million people in need of aid.

Already, some 5,200 families fled their homes this month as pro-government forces advanced up the Red Sea coast, the news channel said.


War and…e-commerce

Given the persistent war in Afghanistan and sexual harassment on the streets of cities like the capital, Kabul, even getting groceries is full of peril for many Afghans.

“Who dares go out shopping these days?” Asila Sulaimani, an Afghan student, told Reuters.

But local e-commerce startups have sprung up to solve the problem.

With deliverymen who use motorcycles or take public transport, online shops in Afghanistan are delivering various wares to homes – from cosmetics, computers and home appliances, to cars, rugs and even real estate.

“Insecurity is one of the reasons that our business has found its way,” said Esmatullah, the owner of one such startup, Afghan Mart.

There are about 50 online businesses currently operating in Afghanistan, compared to only a handful two years ago, although the majority are unlicensed.

Commerce Ministry spokesman Musafer Qoqandi described the e-commerce boom as a unique phenomenon in war-torn Afghanistan and hoped the sector would only grow in the future.

“Around the world, online stores are dealing with billions of dollars annually,” he said. “It is time for us to join this convoy. … It is hope-giving when we see the growing number of such stores in Afghanistan.”

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