The World Today for October 05, 2018

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The Murky Years To Come

In political campaigns, as in warfare, there’s a lot of posturing, skirmishing and distracting before the real fighting starts.

In Brazil, the real fighting has started.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 72, has pulled out of the country’s Oct. 7 presidential election and endorsed his Workers’ Party colleague Fernando Haddad, the BBC reported.

Lula was by far the most popular candidate. His socialist policies lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty in the 2000s. But he left the Brazilian economy vulnerable to worldwide economic downturns and made enemies among the country’s most affluent families and corporate interests.

Those foes worked hard to impeach his successor and former chief of staff, ex-President Dilma Rousseff, in 2016. They’ve lobbied hard to make sure judges prevented Lula from registering his candidacy from a prison cell. He’s serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.

The election is almost certain to go to a second-round runoff, with Haddad squaring off against the far-right candidate representing the elites: ex-army captain Jair Bolsonaro, who has of late been unable to campaign because until recently he was in a hospital recovering from a stabbing.

Bolsonaro appears unwilling to accept anything but defeat, suggesting that the military might step in if Haddad wins. “I can’t speak for the commanders,” he said, as Bloomberg reported. “From what I see on the streets, I won’t accept any result other than my election.”

Bolsonaro has appealed to evangelicals, who comprise a large swath of the Brazilian electorate and oppose left-wing efforts to legalize abortion, drugs, gambling and stem-cell research, Reuters wrote.

The winner will likely be the candidate who appeals most to the center or can paint his opponent as too radical.

“It will come down to a dispute of rejection: who can reduce their rejection the most or increase that of their opponent,” political analyst Ricardo Ribeiro told Al Jazeera.

A Guardian journalist who interviewed scores of Brazilian voters throughout the sprawling South American country concurred. Voters appeared more animated by whom they disliked than whom they supported.

“He’s a crook! A thief!” Maxwell Cavalcanti, a Bolsonaro supporter in northeastern Brazil, told the British newspaper, referring to Lula.

A poll noted, however, that 60 percent of Cavalcanti’s neighbors were disgusted with Bolsonaro’s misogyny – he called women idiots and tramps who don’t deserve equal pay – and homophobia.

Such divisions don’t harken well for the future, according Pacific Standard magazine: “The outcome of this year’s election will likely set the stage for the murky years to come, be those years of recovery – or persistent chaos.”



The Double-Barreled President

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party nominated party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to also take over as the country’s president, ending a decades-long policy of avoiding giving the two powerful positions to a single leader.

Widely expected to receive the approval of the National Assembly later this month, Nguyen would become the only leader to hold both positions simultaneously since Vietnam’s founding President Ho Chi Minh, the Associated Press reported.

Former President Tran Dai Quang died last month after battling a viral illness for more than a year.

According to economist Le Dang Doanh, a former government economic adviser, the move doesn’t mark a significant divergence from the status quo, because the presidency had effectively become a ceremonial post, the AP said. However, making the concentration of power official is a step away from creating a much-needed system of checks and balances.


It’s Called Nation-Building Stupid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that his troops will remain in Syria until the country holds a general election.

“Whenever the Syrian people hold an election, we will leave Syria to its owners,” Erdogan said at the TRT World forum in Istanbul, according to Al Jazeera.

Turkey sent troops to Syria in August 2016 to clear Islamist militants from its border with the country, and earlier this year it launched another offensive to drive Kurdish fighters affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) out of the northern Syrian district of Afrin.

Its opposition to the Kurds puts Turkey at loggerheads with the US and in alignment with Russia, with which it agreed last month to establish a “demilitarized zone” between rebel and government fighters in northern Syria. But, like Washington, Ankara still backs the opposition seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

What does that confusing array of interests mean for the election Erdogan is hoping for? That’s anybody’s guess for now.


The Truest of Heroes

The Nobel committee awarded Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, an Iraqi activist and victim of war crimes, the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight against sexual violence – especially as a weapon of war, Bloomberg reported Friday.

Mukwege, who survived an assassination attempt in his campaign to end the use of mass rape as a weapon of war, has performed surgery on countless brutalized women who have come to his rudimentary clinic, the New York Times reported.

Murad, meanwhile, was one of those victims of rape as a weapon of war: She was abducted along with thousands of other girls and women from the Yazidi minority when the Islamic State overran northern Iraq in 2014, and repeatedly raped, the newspaper said. While most rape victims of IS refused to be named, she insisted on being identified, creating a worldwide campaign to create awareness of the atrocity.

The peace prize, along with awards in literature, physics and medicine honors, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901. Past winners include former US President Barack Obama and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The announcement for the economics category is set for Monday.


The “Good” Virus

The Zika virus, which endangers the unborn children of pregnant women, caused mass panic a few years ago.

Though the virus is rare these days, scientists are still trying to develop a vaccine against it. But recently researchers discovered that a safer version of the virus being tested as a vaccine can help against a deadly form of brain tumor – glioblastoma – which recently claimed the life of US Senator John McCain, according to Popular Science.

In a study published in the journal MBio, an international team of researchers tested the ZIKV-LAV vaccine – which uses a safer form of the Zika virus – on lab mice.

It successfully destroyed their tumor cells and didn’t cause health problems in mice bred without an immune system. But the scientists believe it’s too early to celebrate.

“The key advantages are the virus’s ability to simultaneously kill tumor cells directly as well as activate the immune system,” said Justin Lathia, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute who wasn’t involved in the study. “But a major disadvantage is the ability to control viral replication.”

Researchers are still unclear about how the human immune system will react to the virus, or how the virus spreads through the body, so for now virotherapy – using viruses as a medical treatment – remains unadvised for glioblastoma patients.

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