The World Today for July 13, 2018

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A Culture of Violence

An assassin riding a motorcycle gunned down Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio, a town around 50 miles north of Manila, in early July.

On the previous day, a sniper murdered Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan, a city 40 miles south of the Filipino capital.

They are the latest casualties of President Rodrigo Duterte’s harsh rule, particularly his brutal war on drugs, the New York Times reported.

The furor surrounding the latest deaths reflects the chaos that has enveloped the Philippines under Duterte.

Following the president’s lead – on the campaign trail, Duterte promised to dump drug dealers and addicts into Manila Bay – Halili forced drug suspects to walk in public holding signs reading “I’m a pusher, don’t emulate me,” CBS reported.

But Halili was also alleged to have ties to drug lords.

“I heard that Halili died. But I suspect that it’s related to drugs,” Duterte said in a characteristic off-the-cuff remark, suggesting that the late mayor’s walks of shame were a front for secret nefarious activities. “Just a suspicion.”

It’s true that three other mayors who were killed were on Duterte’s growing list of officials suspected to be linked to cartels.

But Halili’s daughter insisted the president was wrong to suspect her father. “If our president would visit us, be with us every day, spend every day with us, he would know the truth,” she told PhilStar Global, the online portal for a Filipino news conglomerate.

Whoever is to blame, many Filipinos believe Duterte’s rule has incited violence in the archipelago.

In an interview with Filipino news service ABS-CBN, Senator Antonio Trillanes, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2016 – in the Philippines, presidents and vice presidents run separately – accused Duterte of turning the country into the “murder capital of Asia.”

“Duterte’s culture of violence is upon us,” said Trillanes. “No one is safe now. Regardless, whether Mayor Halili is involved in the illegal drug trade, nothing justifies this murder.”

Bloomberg noted that Duterte’s police actions against drugs have killed thousands. Meanwhile, his comments against religion – “Who is this stupid God?” he said recently – have angered Catholics, and misogynist talk has stirred controversies.

But the country’s economy has been growing by 6 percent, enough to quell criticism that might undermine his grip on power.

Weighing his rhetoric with his economic record, Duterte’s approval rating has fallen to around 65 percent compared to 91 percent after his election victory, Television New Zealand said. That’s a drop, but it’s still pretty good.

But Bloomberg also noted that the Filipino economy looks headed for a rough patch.

If inflation continues to rise, the value of the currency continues to fall and stocks remain weak, many voters might find a reason to no longer excuse the president’s downsides.



Arms and the Man

The United Nations is set to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and levy sanctions on two military officials Friday to further pressure the two sides to negotiate an end to nearly five years of civil war.

But the peace talks grew more complicated after the country’s parliament voted Thursday to extend the tenure of President Salva Kiir by three years, even as negotiations were under way, Al-Jazeera reported.

Earlier this week, the rebels rejected a peace plan to reinstate insurgent leader Riek Machar as vice president, saying it failed to dilute Kiir’s grip on power, according to, though they had at first accepted the plan “in principle.”

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council will vote Friday on a US resolution to impose a ban on arms sales to South Sudan until May 2019, as well as to add former military chief Paul Malong and Malek Ruben Riak, a former deputy chief of general staff for logistics, to a sanctions blacklist, AFP reported.

Tens of thousands have died in the fighting, and millions have fled to neighboring countries since the war began in 2013.


We Don’t Do the Limbo

Mexico won’t accept any deal to house would-be immigrants to the US while they apply for asylum – a plan Washington is hoping could end the ongoing crisis on the border.

The deal outlined by the US would recognize Mexico as a so-called “safe third country,” where people fleeing violence in Central America could remain while their applications for asylum in the US are processed, Reuters reported.

Washington believes a holding zone in Mexico itself would prove a deterrent for the flood of refugees. However, a Mexican foreign ministry document describes the deal as a red line Mexico is not prepared to cross.

Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has been increasingly willing to cooperate with the United States on other issues in a bid to win concessions in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But the “safe third country” deal is even less likely to come to fruition following the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Reuters cited an unnamed senior Mexican official as saying.


The Reign in Spain

A German court approved the extradition to Spain of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont to face charges related to the misuse of public funds.

However, if German prosecutors follow through with his extradition, as they have said previously they would, the ruling by the higher court in Schleswig-Holstein would prevent Spain from prosecuting Puigdemont on the more serious charge of rebellion, the BBC reported.

Several Spanish leaders criticized the decision, including Albert Rivera, the leader of the center-right Citizens party, who said it made Euro orders “an instrument for the benefit of fugitives,” reported the UK’s Guardian. But Quim Torra, the Catalan president, said the “great news” shows “Europe is where we will win.”

The central figure in Catalonia’s October independence referendum, Puigdemont will appeal his extradition on any charge, Reuters quoted a source close to his legal team as saying.

Meanwhile, nothing much has changed in Spain. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez lifted Madrid’s direct rule over Catalonia last month. But Torra has said he will fight on for an independent Catalan republic.


Soccer Soothsayer

A few weeks back, the giant Pacific octopus Rabio became an internet sensation when he uncannily predicted the outcome of Japan’s bracket in the World Cup.

The mollusk didn’t just predict the win against Colombia or the loss against Poland. He even projected Japan’s ultimate draw with Senegal by moving around to different sections of a pool.

Even so, the eight-legged seer couldn’t predict that his owner would eventually ship him off to market to be sold to the hungriest bidder, Japanese media reported, according to the BBC.

For Kimio Abe, the fisherman who caught Rabio, selling him for food was more profitable than his psychic abilities.

But the fisherman is optimistic that Rabio’s spirit will live on in the next octopus he contracts to predict future matches.

After all, Rabio wasn’t the first seafaring oracle to predict the outcome of soccer matches.

Back in 2010, during the World Cup in South Africa, German octopus Paul correctly prophesied six World Cup games, before passing away peacefully two years later.

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