The World Today for October 12, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

BAVARIA

The Iron Chancellor

The Christian Social Union is the Bavarian counterpart of the Christian Democratic Union, the political party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. When the latter is in power, so too is the former.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) has run the Bavarian state government almost without interruption since 1946. In perhaps the wealthiest and most conservative region of a wealthy and conservative country, it is the voice of wealth and conservatism.

Mouths, therefore, dropped agape recently when a poll found that support for the CSU had dropped from nearly half to one-third of the Bavarian electorate in the run-up to local elections on Oct. 14, potentially setting the stage for a stunning loss of power, the Telegraph reported.

It’s not the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) that is threatening the CSU but the Greens, who unseated Merkel’s CDU in 2011 in neighboring Baden-Württemberg – where the conservative party had spent 58 years in power.

Still, despite their alliance and the risks, Merkel and the CSU aren’t on the best of terms.

“The grand coalition is like a dead marriage where the spouses have too many intertwined assets to be able to separate without heavy losses,” said Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Die Zeit, referring to the alliance comprising the center-right CSU and CDU as well as the center-left Social Democrats, according to Reuters.

The Bavarians were less than thrilled about Merkel’s decision to let more than a million refugees from Syria and elsewhere into Germany in recent years, especially because many of them crossed into the country via Bavaria.

But they have also been annoyed with the jockeying in Merkel’s coalition government.

Recently, for example, Merkel removed the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, after the Social Democrats demanded his removal because he was suspected of harboring far-right sympathies.

But because Maassen enjoyed the support of the Christian Democrats, Merkel couldn’t simply give him the boot. Instead, he was transferred to a better paying job in the Interior Ministry, which is run by a Christian Social Union politician and has everything to do with refugee and integration issues.

The end result made everyone in Merkel’s government look bad.

Indeed, Bavarian leader Markus Söder, a party honcho, threw Merkel under the bus when he discussed the dismal poll results. “These numbers are unbelievably influenced by Berlin politics,” he told the Bild newspaper, according to the Telegraph.

Some observers say Merkel could capitalize on the situation. If the CSU loses, her critics will receive a black eye.

But the Independent warned that the Christian Social Union’s loss might also be a win for the anti-immigrant AfD, whose support has swelled as the refugee crisis has continued.

Merkel has threaded political needles before. This could be the trickiest one yet. Yet the Merkiavelli, as she is sometimes called, has often shown a deft touch.

WANT TO KNOW

MALAYSIA

The Quality of Mercy

Malaysia said Wednesday it would abolish the death penalty and halt all pending executions.

A rare Asian victory for human rights advocates who oppose capital punishment, the decision offers a reprieve to about 1,200 people currently on death row in the Muslim country – which until now had issued death sentences for a wide range of crimes, the Associated Press reported.

Amendments to the laws that call for the death penalty for those crimes are expected to be introduced Monday, Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said when he announced the decision.

The move follows a stunning election victory by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance in May, after a campaign promising to root out corruption and bolster human rights.

Out of 41 Asia-Pacific countries, 23 still have the death penalty on the books and 13 – including India, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan – continue to carry out executions, according to the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network.

UKRAINE

Unorthodox Method

You might call it an unorthodox method of slipping off the yoke.

Ukraine won approval to set up an independent church from the Ecumenical Patriarch, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, in what Kiev says is an important step in ending Russian interference in its affairs, Reuters reported.

At a three-day synod in Istanbul, the spiritual leader endorsed Ukraine’s request after the synod moved to rehabilitate a Ukrainian patriarch whom the Russian Orthodox Church had excommunicated for leading a breakaway church in the early 1990s.

In response, the Russian Orthodox Church said it would break eucharistical relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, raising the specter of “the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years,” Reuters said.

In the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the separatist struggle in eastern Ukraine, Kiev accuses the Russian Orthodox Church of working on behalf of the Kremlin to justify its interference in Ukraine’s political affairs.

Winning the right to split from the Russian church could aid pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko in next year’s campaign, the agency said.

TANZANIA

Mo Money

Masked gunmen kidnapped Mohammed Dewji, Africa’s youngest billionaire, as he was entering the gym at a luxury hotel in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, for his morning workout.

Police have taken 12 suspects into custody, including the hotel’s security manager, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, the authorities are scouring the country for the 43-year-old owner and president of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Ltd. (METL), popularly known as “Mo.”

Tanzania’s only billionaire, with a net worth of $1.5 billion according to Forbes, Dewji was a member of parliament from 2005 until 2015. He was also the first Tanzanian to join the Giving Pledge, agreeing to donate more than half of his wealth to charity.

METL, which was started by his father, is worth more than $1 billion and employs 24,000 people in a wide range of industries. Despite his wealth and fame, Dewji traveled without bodyguards and had “an incredibly relaxed” attitude toward security, the BBC said, perhaps because Dar es Salaam has not suffered the crime problems that plague African cities like Lagos and Johannesburg.

DISCOVERIES

Celestial Burnout

Back in 2015, a skull-shaped asteroid made a pass near the Earth during Halloween night.

Now, it’s coming back for another visit, but this time a few days after Halloween, McClatchy News Service reported.

Officially named 2015 TB145, the “death comet” gave the planet a little scare three years ago when it passed 302,000 miles away from Earth – a little farther out than the moon.

Back then, scientists called its presence “potentially hazardous,” but this time there’s no reason to panic.

It will be 25 million miles away from the Earth and won’t appear “any larger than a dot of light” on telescopes.

According to researchers, the celestial body might actually be a “dead” comet – meaning that it lost it luminance after too many trips around the solar system – and might not have the same skull-shape as on its previous visit, due to impacts with space debris.

Researchers calculate that in 2088 it will visit us again, this time “20 lunar distances” away from Earth.

Less scary this time, its imminent return has spurred Twitter users to tweet about the giant space rock, with some even lamenting the lack of a doomsday scenario.

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