The World Today for December 25, 2018

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A Tear in the Seams

The insurgent-cum-terrorist group Euskadi ta Askatasuna – “Basque Homeland and Liberty,” or ETA – disbanded earlier this year after six decades of fighting.

But violence still flares around the group’s demand for an independent country in northern Spain.

Attackers seriously injured a student at a Basque university, for example, beating him up for defending the notion of Spanish unity. In the hospital for five days, the victim required reconstructive nose and cheek surgery, reported the English language edition of El País, a Spanish newspaper. (The El País story contains an expletive that might offend some readers.)

The prospect of separatist violence when Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited the Catalan capital of Barcelona last week led nine jailed independence activists to call for cool heads.

“(Sanchez’s government)… will want to provoke us, they will be angry, they would like us to be violent, and they will not succeed,” the prisoners wrote in a letter cited by Reuters. “Our strength also lies in maintaining, always and everywhere, a civic and peaceful attitude.”

Despite that plea, street protests erupted, marring Sanchez’s visit, the Irish Times reported.

Sanchez came to Barcelona in a bid to defuse the crisis that has gripped Spain since Catalonia declared independence in October 2017. The central government has controlled the province since then.

Spain is tearing at the seams, wrote left-wing magazine Jacobin. “Spain celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its constitution amid a climate of fear and instability,” the magazine wrote, referring to the document ratified in December 1978, three years after the death of caudillo Francisco Franco.

Basques still want their own country. “Palestine’s resistance has always been an example to us,” Basque protesters chanted in Bilbao, according to Al Jazeera. “Terrorism is carried out by states, not by people. We are fighting for an identity that was stolen from us.”

Opposition politicians blast Prime Minister Sanchez and his government for being too easy on such firebrands. They understandably want to keep their country together.

Squaring security and civil rights in such a heated climate is tough in a democracy, of course, providing breathing room for far-right parties like Vox, the Guardian reported. Vox has been winning seats in regional parliaments and attracting rallies of thousands on a platform of anti-immigrant, anti-abortion policies and criticism of what increasingly appears like a hapless central government. It’s the first successful far-right party since Franco was around.

Before ETA disbanded, the group said that it had killed 758 people since 1959, Agence France-Presse reported.

Those days are not as far away in the rearview mirror as they might need to be.



The Last Straw

The right-wing coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally collapsed, likely resulting in snap polls in April.

Though Netanyahu has been under fire for alleged corruption, the final straw was a dispute over legislation aimed at drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, the Washington Post reported. Currently, those who study the Torah in recognized yeshivas, or religious schools, are generally held to be exempt from Israel’s mandatory military service.

A vote is scheduled for Wednesday to dissolve the parliament, known as the Knesset. Providing more than half the members back the measure, new elections will be held April 9 instead of next November.

Despite cribbing about his handling of Israel’s conflict with Hamas and police recommendations that he be indicted in three corruption cases, Netanyahu is likely to win re-election, analysts say, because there are no real challengers in his Likud party or coalition or among the opposition.

On the other hand, the elections could force him to form a more centrist coalition, depending on the results.


Sharif Don’t Like It

A Pakistani court on Monday sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison on corruption charges, a year after he was ousted from power.

Sharif, who was granted bail a few months ago in another graft case, has faced accusations of money laundering, tax evasion and receiving kickbacks. But the latest case centers on allegations that his foreign assets are out of proportion to his only known source of income — a government salary, the New York Times reported.

The case stems from the Panama Papers, which revealed that Sharif’s family owns property in London worth more than his legitimate sources of income suggest he should be able to afford. It was that revelation that led the Supreme Court to force him out of the prime minister’s chair last year, paving the way for the rise of present Prime Minister Imran Khan – who enjoys the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment.

Sharif has denied any wrongdoing and claims that the London properties are owned by his sons.


Shrinking Faster

Japan suffered its largest-ever natural population decline in 2018, exacerbating demographic problems in the so-called “super-aged” nation – where more than 20% of the population is older than 65.

Deaths spiked to a postwar record high of 1.369 million, with a natural population decline of 448,000 — the highest ever, CNN reported. The birthrate also dropped to a record low in 2018, with only 921,000 babies born. That’s down 25,000 from a year earlier.

All that means Japan’s population is slated to plunge from 124 million this year to about 88 million by 2065.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to keep that number above 100 million, and in 2017 announced an $18 billion spending package for preschool and daycare to try to arrest the decline. Unfortunately, it seemed to have little impact.

Already, the International Monetary Fund says Japan’s aging population and the diminishing labor force are restraining economic growth – not to mention increasing healthcare costs for the government, Forbes noted.


Santa Lives!

Some adults would still like to believe there’s a big, red-suited old man keeping tabs on people’s behavior and delivering gifts all over the world.

Scientists say learning otherwise is not a good thing.

Case in point: Psychologist Chris Boyle is conducting a survey to understand how people reacted when they learned that Santa did not exist, Science Alert reported.

The initial results are amusing but not completely jolly.

A third of the respondents stated they felt sad when they found that Father Christmas wasn’t real – 15 percent felt betrayed, 10 percent felt anger, and about 30 percent developed trust issues with adults.

“As much as this research has a light-hearted element, the responses do show a sense of disappointment and also amusement about having been lied to,” said Boyle.

He suggested that the results indicate that one in three people wish that Santa existed, but why is unclear.

Around 72 percent of parents in the survey still engage in the deception, he found.

Meanwhile, some scientists say promoting the lie can have a detrimental effect on a child’s critical thinking skills.

Several studies, however, show that children eventually learn around the age of seven or eight that Santa’s a myth and generally react pretty well.

And some still prefer to believe regardless. That’s why post offices around the world like this one in Germany continue to answer letters to Santa.


We at DailyChatter wish you happy holidays and peace, happiness and good cheer for the new year.

The DailyChatter Team

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