The World Today for November 02, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

GERMANY

Exit State Right

In bowing out, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demonstrated yet again that she’s one of the world’s most masterful politicians.

On Monday, after her Christian Democratic Union party and its allies suffered a major setback in regional elections in Hesse – and, a few weeks earlier, in conservative Bavaria – Merkel announced she would step down as her party’s leader in December and would not seek re-election as chancellor in 2021.

The move was a bombshell. In office since 2005 as Germany’s first female chancellor, the East German-raised Merkel, known as “mutti” (mommy), is the European Union’s longest serving leader – and its staunchest defender in the bloc’s most powerful economy.

“This is the time to look back at one of the most remarkable Western leaders of our time,” wrote the New York Times editorial board.

Her rationale was arguably altruistic. She quit to save her government and its agenda.

In the wake of her decision to allow more than one million refugees from Syria and elsewhere into the country in recent years, the Christian Democrats and other mainstream German political parties have plummeted in popularity while the far-right Alternative for Germany and the Greens have won greater shares of the electorate.

That’s led to very un-German political instability. It took Merkel, 64, around six months to cobble together her current coalition government after federal elections last year. It was not clear if that government could hold together for the next two years if she didn’t take a bold action.

“The image presented by the government is unacceptable,” Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin, reported Bloomberg. “With this decision, I am trying to do my part to allow the federal government to function well again.”

Merkel has always represented a steady hand amid financial crises and a rising tide of populism in Europe and around the world. Sometimes her actions garnered criticism abroad but plaudits at home, such as when she insisted on austerity for Greece. Other times, her decisions elicited praise and stirred controversy everywhere, such as when she threw open the doors to refugees.

As the Economist noted, the chancellor’s scheduled exit was the first step in putting her record in the past. Now energy that is being wasted on infighting within her cabinet can move into the political realm as new leaders jockey for power within their political parties and Merkel runs the government free from electoral concerns.

As for Germany? Well, many insiders believe that as the conservatives shift rightward to ward off the threat from the AfD, voters are looking left, as the Greens continue to address everyday concerns such as jobs and the environment, and tilt more to the center.

“They stand for something, their platform is very clear,” one insider told Bloomberg referring to the Greens. “That’s the problem with the mainstream parties – they don’t anymore.”

Meanwhile, rumors abound that Merkel is headed for a job at the European Union, Quartz reported. At her press conference, she dismissed that idea. “I’m not worried that I won’t be able to think of something,” she said.

They say there are no second acts in politics. Merkel appears, gracefully, to agree.

WANT TO KNOW

BRAZIL

Removing The Robes

Newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro succeeded in convincing the crusading judge at the head of the country’s long-running fight against corruption to become his justice minister.

The move delighted his supporters and infuriated his opponents, noted Reuters. Crusading Judge Sergio Moro was not only the driving force behind the “Operation Car Wash” probe that tarred seemingly half the political establishment with the brush of graft. He was also responsible for the conviction and jailing of the biggest threat to Bolsonaro’s campaign: Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

On one hand, convincing Moro to join his government is a major political victory for Bolsonaro, as it associates him with an Elliot Ness figure who enjoys a cult following. On the other, it gives ammunition to critics who say the entire Operation Car Wash was cooked up to sideline Lula and his leftist Workers Party, the agency said.

As justice minister, Moro will oversee the federal police and federal public security, essentially leading Bolsonaro’s pledged crackdown on crime and corruption.

ETHIOPIA

#MeazaToo

Ethiopia swore in the first woman to head its Supreme Court on Thursday amid a wave of appointments of women to top government positions.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed nominated human rights lawyer Meaza Ashenafi for the post as part of his push to put more women in leadership positions, CNN reported.

Meaza has been an adviser on gender and women’s rights at the UN Economic Commission for Africa and founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. She has also served as a High Court judge.

A week earlier, Ethiopia elected Sahle-Work Zewde as its first woman president, and Abiy has reshuffled his cabinet so that about half of the country’s ministerial positions are filled by women.

The move will help cement the 42-year-old president’s budding reputation as Africa’s most dynamic leader, following his efforts to make peace with Eritrea and ease ethnic tensions at home. But the Economist reported that he has also reopened controversial re-education camps where young men are detained illegally for lectures about the constitution and the rule of law.

PAKISTAN

Cry Bibi

Thousands of religious extremists have taken to the streets across Pakistan to protest the acquittal of Asia Bibi in a high-profile blasphemy case.

Bibi, a 53-year-old Christian, had been on death row for eight years following her conviction on charges of blasphemy against Islam and its prophet, Al Jazeera reported, noting that some 40 others remain on death row for the same crime.

Firebrand Muslim leader Khadim Rizvi of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party organized the protests despite warnings from Prime Minister Imran Khan not to “force the government to have to take action.”

“All soldiers of Pakistan army must rise against the army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, and the judges who gave the verdict in favor of Asia Bibi should be killed,” Rizvi’s associate, Afzal Qadri, told protesters in Lahore.

Khan’s minister of state for interior affairs said Thursday negotiations with the protesters are underway, and the prime minister not long ago caved to similar pressure from the TLP to oust a Princeton University economist from a key advisory board because he is a member of the persecuted Ahmadi sect.

DISCOVERIES

Alien Structure

Participants in Dutch Design Week in the Netherlands had the opportunity to walk across the first 3D-printed steel bridge.

According to Quartz, Dutch-based company MX3D unveiled its complete, alien-looking bridge to the public during the event last week.

The company first announced plans to print the 40-foot-long structure, simply named “The Bridge,” in 2015, and kept its doors open for the public to see its construction. It finished the job last March.

Engineers have equipped the span with sensors to track its structural integrity so they can estimate how many people may safely walk on it.

So far, it’s pretty durable.

“We tested out the bridge with 30 people, and it was fine. It behaves like a bridge, like it should,” Gijs van der Velden, MX3D co-founder, told Gizmodo. “With the bridge deck on top, it will be even stronger.”

The company believes its creation could set a precedent in the use of 3D printing for large-scale construction projects.

It’s aiming to install “The Bridge” in Amsterdam’s famed De Wallen red-light district for public use in 2019.

Click here for a sneak peek at the otherworldly structure.

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