The World Today for August 30, 2018

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Kirchner’s Revenge

A recent police raid on former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s properties is a reminder that criminal investigations have become weapons in the battle for the hearts and souls of nations throughout South America.

As the BBC explained, the raid stemmed from the discovery of notebooks kept by a driver who claimed he regularly drove public officials carrying bags of cash to Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, former President Néstor Kirchner. Prosecutors allege the Kirchners illegally received around $160 million.

Fernández de Kirchner, now a left-wing Peronist senator, denied the allegations, saying President Mauricio Macri, a conservative whom the New York Times described as her “longtime political nemesis,” was using the courts against her.

“If there was one thing missing to install political persecution and the use of the judicial authorities as an instrument of political persecution in Argentina, it was this case,” she said.

She and other leftist voices in the region – like TeleSur, a television network funded primarily by the socialist government of Venezuela – compared her plight to the proceedings used against left-wing politicians Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva in Brazil and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

Brazilian lawmakers removed Rousseff from office in 2016 for allegedly misappropriating public funds, charges the Intercept argued were laughable given the depth of corruption in Brazilian politics.

“By removing Dilma, they knowingly empowered actual criminals and gangsters, people whose thieving and mobster behavior make Dilma’s budgetary tricks look like jaywalking,” wrote the website.

Lula is serving a 12-year sentence for graft but still running his Workers’ Party in the run-up to Brazil’s general elections this fall from his prison cell. He’s among the most popular candidates for president, Reuters reported. Rousseff is running for a seat in the Brazilian senate, too.

An Ecuadorean court has ordered the arrest of Correa, who was president of that country from 2007 to 2017, on charges of being involved in kidnapping an opponent. He now lives in Belgium and denies the allegations.

Fernández de Kirchner, Rousseff, Lula and Correa are all leftists whose policies strove to redistribute wealth downward, an appealing platform among the impoverished that irked representatives of the countries’ business interests.

It’s unclear if the four former leaders are guilty of corrupt practices.

But their policies have caused problems.

Argentine President Macri is now struggling to impose the austerity measures that are part of a $50 billion International Monetary Fund loan that he said was necessary to reorganize the government’s finances amid punishing inflation and a plunge in the local currency, the Financial Times wrote.

Some of the blame for Argentina’s current troubles certainly lies with previous administrations, Foreign Policy argued.

Fernández de Kirchner might go to jail someday. But it seems she has already wrought her revenge.



The Specter of Hitler

German police have opened cases against 10 far-right protesters who gave the illegal Nazi salute during anti-immigration demonstrations in Saxony’s eastern city of Chemnitz that turned violent earlier this week.

Germany is also investigating how the arrest report for an Iraqi murder suspect that sparked the demonstrations was leaked to far-right groups, the BBC reported. The leak raised worries that there may be links between police and anti-migrant groups, while the scale of the demonstrations suggests the right-wing Alternative for Germany party continues to grow stronger.

The incident that sparked the unrest occurred Sunday, during an altercation between “multiple nationalities” on the sidelines of a street festival, police said, according to the BBC. A 35-year-old carpenter  was stabbed during the fight and later died from his injuries, and a 22-year-old Iraqi man and 23-year-old Syrian were arrested and charged with manslaughter on Monday.

News that the incident involved migrants spread, and by Monday some 6,000 people participated in a far-right rally in Chemnitz. Clashes with around 1,000 counter protesters resulted in several injuries.


Activists or Anti-Nationals?

Indian authorities swooped in to arrest activists and academics on charges of inciting violence at a demonstration by low-caste Dalits in Maharashtra last December, as well as supposed connections to the Maoist rebels waging a low-level insurgency from the country’s forested hinterland.

But the move has prompted widespread condemnation from other prominent intellectuals and many local news outlets, the BBC reported. Well-known editor Shekhar Gupta likened it to “McCarthyism taken to another level” via Twitter, while others compared the arrests to the notorious Emergency of 1975, when then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended civil liberties and threw many journalists in prison.

Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira – all widely respected activists and intellectuals – were arrested on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered them to be held under house arrest until a hearing scheduled for Sept. 6, CNN reported.

They’re accused of inciting violence at a December rally by Dalits to commemorate a historical battle in which Dalits united with British soldiers to fight against an oppressive Hindu ruler – a demonstration that irked right-wing Hindu nationalists.


No Hope

Iran’s supreme leader said Tehran should give up hopes that Europe can work around US sanctions and warned that the country may soon itself abandon the nuclear deal.

“The nuclear deal is a means, not the goal, and if we come to this conclusion that it does not serve our national interests, we can abandon it,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet on Wednesday, according to a statement published on the supreme leader’s website, Al Jazeera reported.

After President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement and reinstituted economic sanctions against Iran, Europe has been scrambling to find ways to keep it alive – floating suggestions like the creation of a European-controlled international payment system.

In May, Khamenei said Europe must ensure Iran’s oil trade continues undamaged by the US sanctions if it wants Iran to continue meeting its obligations under the deal. Since then, the resumption of sanctions has battered Iran’s economy, prompting a mass exodus of foreign firms and a dramatic plunge in the rial and threatening Rouhani’s position.


Wandering Species

Out of the many species of the genus Homo, or modern humans, that roamed the Earth over millennia, Homo sapiens – or people in their form today – are the only species that managed to survive.

Homo sapiens could communicate and make tools and art. But these traits were common in other hominins, such as the Neanderthal, who could express and socialize.

Instead, scientists have recently proposed that the human species survived because Homo sapiens were able to explore and adapt to novel situations and environments, Inverse reported.

In a study published in Nature Human Behavior, researchers Patrick Roberts and Brian Stewart argued that humans are “generalist specialists” who can thrive in various landscapes and learn specialized skills.

Previous archaeological records from 300,000 to 12,000 years ago revealed that Homo sapiens had been occupying various settings, including deserts, rainforests and Palearctic regions.

Other species had also explored but were fonder of their “environmental comfort zone.”

Still, it’s unclear if Homo sapiens were the only ones with wanderlust.

Roberts agrees that more work is needed and it’s still not clear if the trait of “generalist specialists” will ensure the indefinite survival of the current species.

“So perhaps we don’t know if the ‘generalist specialist’ is a definitive success just yet,” he said.

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