The World Today for July 05, 2018

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Passing the Buck

After debating the bloc’s refugee policies into the wee hours of Friday morning last week, leaders of the European Union reached an initial agreement on asylum reform.

The agreement lacks detail. But it calls for voluntary screening centers to be set up within Europe to ease the burden on states like Italy, Greece and Spain, which have absorbed hundreds of thousands of people seeking to enter Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, the New York Times reported.

Moreover, EU leaders hope to forge deals with countries in North Africa like Tunisia, Niger, Libya and Egypt to build initial screening centers for migrants with the hope of stanching human smuggling, which has resulted in thousands of deaths since 2014.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure from within her own coalition to produce results on asylum policy, said the agreement was “a good signal,” the Guardian reported. Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose populist, anti-immigrant government is turning away boats packed with asylum seekers, declared that Italy was “no longer alone.”

But for all the smiles among European leaders, Guardian columnist Owen Jones condemned the deal, saying that refugees will “continue to drown.”

There’s a long history of abuse in countries along the sea routes to Europe to back up such claims.

In Libya, which has stepped up coast guard patrols at the behest of the EU, a CNN investigative report last year revealed that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa unable to afford the trip to Europe were being sold into slavery.

Caught in a bottleneck inside a virtually lawless country, people are deprived of food and beaten, CNN reported. “If you look at most of the people here, if you check (the) bodies … they are beaten, mutilated,” one migrant told the news network.

States like Tunisia, meanwhile, have failed to halt illegal smugglers and don’t have the capacity to rescue people whose boats capsize in the Mediterranean, Al Jazeera reported. Forty-six migrants drowned off the coast of Tunisia last month, and last week, another 100 were feared dead after a failed rescue off the coast of Libya.

That doesn’t leave many viable partner nations in the Sahel that would respect human rights.

The Associated Press reported, for example, that Algeria, under pressure from the EU to curb the flow of refugees to the bloc since October, has expelled as many as 13,000 asylum seekers – even pregnant women – into the Sahara. Algeria has received over $111 million in EU aid, the news service reported.

Amnesty International and the United Nation’s Refugee Agency accused European leaders of simply passing the buck to poorer, less stable countries that will put refugees’ lives in danger.

“After days of bickering, EU leaders have signed off a raft of dangerous and self-serving policies which could expose men, women and children to serious abuses,” Iverna McGowan, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said in a statement.

And within Africa, Tunisian and Libyan diplomats and politicians flat out refused to acquiesce to the bloc’s wishes, Al Jazeera reported.

While the agreement may be enough to quell political fights within the EU and save leaders like Merkel from being ousted, “there are many migrants and refugees alive now who will die in the coming weeks and months,” wrote Jones for the Guardian. “And the current EU leaders should be held responsible for that.”



Legal Defiance

Judges ousted from Poland’s Supreme Court have refused to recognize their dismissal and vowed to fight on to protect the country’s constitution and the independence of the judiciary.

“I’m doing this to defend the rule of law and to testify to the truth about the line between the Constitution and the violation of the Constitution,” the New York Times quoted the court’s ousted chief, Malgorzata Gersdorf, as telling a crowd gathered on the courthouse steps before she entered the building on Wednesday in defiance of the government.

Government officials have said the ousted judges would no longer be allowed to hear cases following a lowering of the retirement age to 65 from 70, a move that made 27 judges officially too old to serve.

Many see the maneuver as a threat to democracy in Poland. Lech Walesa, the famous labor leader, expressed an even more dire warning:

“This is the path of civil war,” he said on a local radio program. “I’d like to avoid it.”


Two-way Street

China warned Thursday that US tariffs will hurt American companies operating in China and strangle global supply chains.

The statement comes ahead of Washington’s plans to impose tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports on Friday, after which China’s customs agency said in a statement on its website that tit-for-tat tariffs on US goods would come into effect immediately, Reuters reported.

Though couched in a warning, Reuters interpreted the statement as indicating China still hopes to avert a trade war.

Separately, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told legislators in Germany Wednesday that’s precisely what could happen if tensions with the US can’t be defused, the Hill reported.

“This has the character of a trade conflict,” Merkel said. “I don’t want to use any other word for now. It’s worth every effort to try to defuse this conflict, so it doesn’t turn into a war. But this obviously takes two.”


The Law’s Long Arm

A Chilean court found eight retired soldiers guilty of murdering popular folk singer Victor Jara more than 40 years after his killing in 1973.

A ninth person was convicted as an accessory to the crime, the BBC reported.

The eight former military officers were sentenced to 15 years each on the murder charges and three more years for kidnapping, while the ninth officer received a sentence of five years.

Famous for his protest songs and a member of Chile’s communist party, Jara was arrested and tortured the day after General Augusto Pinochet ousted socialist President Salvador Allende in a military coup.

Because he was arrested along with some 5,000 others, there were many survivors who witnessed his interrogation and torture at the sports stadium in Santiago.

His body was found riddled with 44 bullets a few days later.

After decades of foot-dragging, Chile has been racing to address the crimes of Pinochet’s dictatorship before the deaths of witnesses, victims, and the accused makes doing so impossible, Reuters noted.


The Art of the Troll

Nowadays, the best advice one can receive about the internet is “not to feed the trolls” – which means to ignore inflammatory posts intended to elicit a reaction.

But when two researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand dove into the world of online trolling, they discovered that it’s actually quite a lucrative profession, Newsweek reported.

In a study published in the Journal of Marketing Management, the researchers interviewed a number of trolls who had gained celebrity status due to their exploits. Some were even employed by companies to act as “customer service reps.”

“Some more risky brands are paying trolls to pose as customer service reps to respond to complaints and questions in a way the brand couldn’t or wouldn’t usually,” lead author Maja Golf-Papez said in a news release.

The study also made distinctions between trolling and cyberbullying.

“A troll typically has no intent to cause harm but is trying to provoke a reaction,” Golf-Papez said. “Whereas cyberbullying is targeted with the purpose of causing harm to an individual person.”

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