The World Today for December 08, 2021

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King of the Sinking Mountain


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nearly 20 years’ long quest to dominate Turkish politics – first controlling the all-important city of Istanbul, then governing as prime minister and, lastly, altering the country’s constitution so he could wield the expanded powers of an imperial presidency – appears to have led to an economic disaster.

Erdogan has insisted on low-interest rates and high government spending in order to spark the Turkish economy amid the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. The result has been a collapse in the country’s currency, the lira. Inflation was 20 percent in October. The lira has lost almost half its value this year.

“Insane where the lira is, but it’s a reflection of the insane monetary policy settings Turkey is currently operating under,” financial analyst Tim Ash wrote in a note quoted in the Washington Post.


Claiming that Allah will guide the country through the crisis – Erdogan has always sought to increase the role of Islam in his technically secular nation – the president has argued that rising exchange rates shouldn’t affect “investment, production, or employment” but rather boost the competitiveness of the country’s goods abroad, reported the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.

He has a point. As Al Jazeera explained, Turkey’s economy expanded by more than seven percent in the third quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2020. Exports accounted for much of the rise.

But ordinary Turks aren’t necessarily seeing the benefits of that economic growth. Turkey is reliant on imported energy that grows more expensive on international markets as the lira’s value falls, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Protests have erupted as food and gas prices have soared amid shortages of vital goods, including medicine, the New York Times added. Forecasters now predict an economic contraction in the fourth quarter of the year due to inflation.

Erdogan, meanwhile, is continuing his heavy-handed policies against those who might challenge him.

Turkish authorities, for example, recently detained Metin Gurcan, a well-known defense analyst who is also the leader of a new opposition party, Democracy and Progress, on espionage charges, according to Rudaw, a Kurdish English-language news outlet. Gurcan denied the charges. His supporters expressed dismay over the arrest. Gurcan didn’t work for the government, had no access to classified materials and never hid his paid consulting work in the capital of Ankara.

Gurcan and his allies had been feeling increasingly confident about beating Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, the Financial Times noted. This crisis might make the opposition’s job easier.

That’s the problem with dominating one’s national politics. When things go wrong, there is no one left to blame but oneself.


The Club


Leaders of more than 100 countries will meet this week at a US-hosted virtual summit aimed at rallying nations to fight against authoritarianism, an event that has raised questions about its intention and condemnation from countries that were not invited, the Washington Post reported.

The main themes of the two-day “Summit for Democracy” focus on defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting respect for human rights. The attendees will also be asked to make pledges to further democracy in their countries with a follow-up summit planned for next year.

The invitees include nations with undisputable democratic credentials but also others with questionable reputations, the newspaper wrote: These include Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Meanwhile, off the list are nations run by authoritarians – such as China and Russia – or those which have seen their democratic values sink away, such as Hungary, Turkey and Egypt.

Hungarian officials criticized the Biden administration for being “disrespectful,” saying that they were left out of the summit because of the country’s strong ties with former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian diplomats accused the US of adhering to a “Cold-War mentality” and warned that the meeting “will stoke up ideological confrontation and a rift in the world, creating new ‘dividing lines.’”

US officials have rejected the accusations, saying the summit was not meant to be “a stamp of approval or disapproval.”

Political analysts noted that the meeting is primarily aimed at rallying “like-minded partners to fight the threat of authoritarianism,” and not to “create an exclusive club of democracy but to just celebrate this issue of democracy.”

Friends With Benefits


India and Russia signed a series of agreements including a 10-year defense cooperation pact this week, a move observers say could result in US sanction against the South Asian nation, CNBC reported.

The two countries agreed to 28 deals following a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 21st India-Russia annual summit. The agreements will cover multiple areas, including trade, energy, science and technology, as well as intellectual property. The parties also set a target for $30 billion in trade and $50 billion in investment by 2025.

In terms of defense, they agreed to “upgrade the defense cooperation,” which would include the production of military equipment and regular joint army exercises between the two countries.

The meeting and subsequent agreement come at a time when Russia’s relationship with the US remains strained, while the latter considers India a key ally in the Asia-Pacific to counter China’s growing influence.

Analysts suggested that the summit showed that India wants to keep its options open about its alliances. They added that Russia remains one of India’s largest suppliers of weapons: Around 23 percent of Russian arms exports between 2016 and 2020 went to the South Asian country.

They cautioned, however, that this partnership could result in US sanctions directed at India under a 2017 law that forbids American allies from buying Russian weapons.

Last year, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

Meanwhile, India is expected to receive its first delivery of the missile defense system following a deal with Russia in 2018.

‘Day of Shame’


A brutal killing of a Sri Lankan man accused of blasphemy in Pakistan sparked waves of protests and calls for justice in both countries, the BBC reported.

On Friday, a Pakistani mob attacked Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumar, a manager at a factory in the country’s Punjab province after he allegedly removed posters containing Islamic verses and the name of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Authorities said that the mob – made up mainly of activists and supporters of the hardline Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan (TLP) – accused the man of blasphemy, subsequently lynching him and later setting his body on fire.

Sri Lanka condemned the murder and asked Pakistan to fully investigate the matter, while also demanding the safety of Sri Lankan nationals in the country, the Hindu reported.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack “a day of shame” and said officials would investigate. Authorities have so far arrested more than 100 people for involvement in the murder.

Kumar’s killing is just the latest controversy over blasphemy in Pakistan, which has blasphemy laws that carry a potential death sentence for those convicted of insulting Islam.

Mob violence against alleged blasphemers is a regular occurrence with human rights advocates saying that minorities are often targets of such accusations.


Irreconcilable Differences

The effects of climate change are getting worse and more bizarre, according to a new study.

Scientists recently discovered that “divorce” rates among albatrosses are rising due to warming temperatures, the New York Times reported.

Albatrosses are strictly monogamous creatures and are known to live with a single partner for years if not life. Divorce is atypical and usually happens when two albatrosses cannot have a chick.

But a research team analyzed more than 15,000 breeding pairs of black-browed albatrosses in the Falkland Islands. Using data spanning 15 years, the team noticed that permanent separation rose from a mere one percent to about eight percent over the years.

They explained that the warming oceans are shaking up the lifestyle of the birds: Albatross pairs spend most of the year apart and reunite each season to raise their offspring.

However, the changing climate has been forcing partners to forage farther afield for food and consequently, they arrive late – or in poor health – for mating season.

Researchers added that some couples ended their union and paired up with other albatrosses – with females, which have an easier time finding males, being the instigators of the split.

Graeme Elliott of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, who was not involved in the study, said the findings didn’t surprise him. He noted that demographic changes among birds are becoming more common, including the rise of male-male partnerships.

Elliot added that on the remote Antipodes Islands, about 530 miles south of New Zealand, these same-sex pairs make up two to five percent of albatross populations.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 267,244,972

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,273,641

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 8,259,317,732

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 49,389,503 (+0.22%)
  2. India: 34,656,822 (+0.02%)
  3. Brazil: 22,157,726 (+0.05%)
  4. UK: 10,620,596 (+0.43%)
  5. Russia: 9,722,639 (+0.31%)
  6. Turkey: 8,945,807 (+0.25%)
  7. France: 8,091,667 (+0.87%)
  8. Germany: 6,312,348 (+1.09%)
  9. Iran: 6,141,355 (+0.06%)
  10. Argentina: 5,346,242 (+0.06%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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