Editorial notes see here. Main web page see here. Periodic summary see here.


January 3

FT Failing state power company in South Africa is a picture of ruling party functioning in miniature

Without reliable power, South Africa cannot generate the economic growth needed to tackle the problems of poverty and social injustice that are a festering legacy of apartheid. Yet the ruling party appears unwilling to reverse Eskom’s decline. This is done to protect the interests of the coal industry. https://www.ft.com/content/73a5242b-9fb4-47b0-a201-ebacea7cb071

January 4

FT A new economic world order is taking shape due to change in the energy market

2023 may be remembered as the year that the grand bargain of 1945 began to shift, as a new world energy order between China and the Middle East took shape. China’s hope is that all of the trade will be paid for in renminbi, on the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange, as early as 2025. Shortage of trust, rule of law and reserve currency liquidity will be covered through a financial safety net by making the renminbi convertible to gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong gold exchanges. https://www.ft.com/content/d34dfd79-113c-4ac7-814b-a41086c922fa

FT A breakout year for artificial intelligence

In an editorial the newspaper suggests that generative AI can boost the productivity of workers in creative industries. Just as machines augmented muscle in the industrial revolution, so AI can augment brainpower in the cognitive revolution. This democratization of access may have huge implications, and create extraordinary opportunities, for many businesses. While generative AI can help inspire the first thought, it should never be relied upon for the last word. https://www.ft.com/content/1a329ad3-f696-4ee2-a730-2f8b700f15a1

FT Foreign currency crunch frustrates key imports for Egypt’s businesses

For the fourth time in six years, Egypt has had to go to the IMF, which last month approved a $3bn loan over four years. At the heart of the agreement is a commitment by Cairo to move to a flexible exchange rate regime in which market forces determine the currency’s value — something Egyptian governments have long resisted. In an effort to conserve foreign currency, the central bank placed restrictions on imports. https://www.ft.com/content/8d17fe6c-c1a5-420a-a200-b8e70d49a7bc

FT Zero-Covid policy in China sharpened already high levels of social inequality

The lockdowns have often been stricter in rural areas, upending the education of millions and blocking social mobility. In December, the government embarked on a stunning U-turn. The pandemic controls of relentless lock-downs, mass testing and quarantine and fastidious electronic contact tracing are being rapidly unraveled. Social inequality through the lockdowns is one of the factors to be dealt with. https://www.ft.com/content/8205e62c-10a8-450a-a87a-ddcf8f6eeca3

January 5

FT Fake passports scandal puts Uruguay’s reputation on the line

It started in September with the arrest of a presidential bodyguard, on charges that he led a criminal ring that issued counterfeit Uruguayan passports to foreigners, including Russians fleeing their country after its invasion of Ukraine. Publication of his phone details suggested that he leveraged his government contacts to sell software developed by the interior ministry to business executives, who then used it to track opposition senators, an allegation he has denied. https://www.ft.com/content/40cf750d-95b4-498c-908d-c751a32ce9f4

FT WHO rebukes China over Covid fatalities

The country is under-reporting deaths and must share its data for the sake of world health. Its definition of a Covid-19 death, changed last month, is “too narrow”. WHO called on the country to offer greater transparency on the extent of the surge in cases since it brought an abrupt end to the zero-Covid system of controls. https://www.ft.com/content/6e45f53b-d9f2-452e-b4ad-e3a2c82a3aa5

January 6

FT Pope presides over funeral of ‘taboo-breaking’ predecessor

The funeral mass of his retired predecessor ends an unprecedented experiment in coexistence between a reigning and a retired pope. His resignation — the first by a pope since the Middle Ages — created a potentially fraught situation of two men wearing the distinctive white papal robes living in the Holy See. Scholars now say the German theologian’s precedent had opened a new path for the Vatican, now grappling with the need for competent leadership in an era of ever-longer lifespans. https://www.ft.com/content/f1e12b55-fb2e-4612-9dee-ccaeb1e66b33

FT Pandemic helps Spain pull in record tax haul

Economists and officials attribute the difference in part to changes in the shadow, or grey, economy, a zone of unregistered activity that spans everything from informal farm laborers to restaurant workers who are paid off the books. Its invisibility has long facilitated tax evasion but Covid and related economic support policies created new pressures and incentives that revealed underground activity to tax collectors. https://www.ft.com/content/8fc83eba-d947-4926-9b9c-d0d97581334d

FT Coalition government in Israel sets sights on powers of judiciary

The unveiled plan will give politicians sweeping powers over the judiciary, setting the stage for a bitter battle over the functioning of the Jewish state. The proposals, set out by the justice minister, will allow a simple majority in parliament to override High Court decisions striking down laws, and give the government and its allies control over the appointment of judges. The opposition: “They’re threatening to destroy the entire constitutional structure of the state of Israel.” https://www.ft.com/content/fc0b878e-e6ca-421f-a61a-52e56e6f2621

FT UN steps in after ruling group in Afghanistan block NGO women

The UN is to intervene in a clash between the rulers and international donors sparked by a ban on women working at non-governmental organizations that has put the welfare of millions of Afghans at risk. The authorities said the move was justified as some female NGO workers were not abiding by a requirement to observe hijab. While the order did not extend to the UN itself, the world body depends on the large network of local and international NGOs to disburse aid. https://www.ft.com/content/6bdffb37-b0e8-4fba-8e18-e9e93eb23cc7

FT Turkish court freezes opposition party’s funds

The constitutional court has frozen state financing for the third-biggest political party as part of a legal case that seeks to ban it for alleged links to terrorism, just months before parliamentary and presidential elections. Turkey’s president has labelled the concerned party the “political extension” of a terrorist group listed by the US and the EU. The party denies ties to minority militants, who have waged a four-decade armed campaign for autonomy in a part of Turkey. https://www.ft.com/content/1a8f2959-e7f8-4518-a2cf-4c43c7e06a13

FT The dream of England of being a ‘science superpower’

One start up with genetically modified wheat crops wants to help farmers cope with climate change to feed the world. This is the kind of company that the British government believes can help turn the UK into a globally recognized industrial hub. Yet beyond the soaring rhetoric, difficult questions are being asked about whether the financial, regulatory and physical architecture is being put in place to realize that ambition. One professor: “If you were to add up all the companies in Oxford, Cambridge and London, you might almost equal Boston in number, but in terms of market capitalization, it is only a fraction.” https://www.ft.com/content/a8b2c939-88da-45ca-a74e-9f49bb8c8c1c

FT World elections will shape the outcome of the war in Ukraine

Today, the war in Ukraine is taking place in the shadow of critical elections scheduled for 2024. Elections in Russia, Ukraine, Taiwan and the US will be crucial in shaping the prosecution of the war in 2023. The outcome of these votes could define the shape of the next international order. We know how economic interdependence and the proliferation of nuclear weapons have changed the nature of modern war. Elections can do that too. https://www.ft.com/content/c6972372-a02a-4b42-abba-3d98296e08f3

TT Peru rioters want jailed leader freed

The former president is in jail on charges of “rebellion”. His supporters are demanding that he is released and that the congress is shut down. The jailed president was a teacher with no political experience and had a turbulent 18 months in power following his 2021 election victory. He faced staunch opposition from congress and criminal investigations into allegations of corruption. He has protested his innocence. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/peru-rioters-want-jailed-leader-pedro-castillo-freed-nrzd5t7fk

January 8

FT Iran executes 2 more protesters

The men were hanged at dawn after hasty trials on charges that they participated in the killing of a member of the Basij paramilitary group in November, according to the judiciary. The trial for Mr. Karami and Mr. Hosseini, held in Iran’s Revolutionary Court, lasted less than a week and relied on forced confessions and shoddy evidence. The men were denied lawyers of their choice and were represented by attorneys appointed by the government. Both men had denied the allegations against them. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/07/world/middleeast/iran-executes-protesters.html?searchResultPosition=1

January 9

FT  President strengthens hand in Venezuela

After two votes, see also December 23, the opposition ended its four year old claim for power and is in disarray, while the president boasts: “It’s time for . . . a new geopolitics to redistribute power in the world. That war in Ukraine is part of the birth pains of a [new] world which is rising. Have no doubt that we will be there . . . in the vanguard.” https://www.ft.com/content/30e166e3-bdcd-4c62-9a62-59154a722a20

FT Boss of South African state power company says he survived murder attempt

The minister overseeing Eskom said: “This attempt on his life will be thoroughly investigated and those responsible must be charged.” The incident happened shortly after resignation.  The CEO will stay at Eskom until the end of March while a replacement is found. The alleged poisoning underscores the threat to the government’s campaign to root out corruption from South Africa’s state-owned companies. https://www.ft.com/content/2c3cb585-a4c9-4a26-9ea4-c22e1aded598

January 10

FT Nigerian kingmaker seizes on chance to take top job and repair economy

He has adopted a telling catchphrase during the election campaign for next month’s vote: “Emi lokan,” he likes to say, which translates as “It’s my turn”. He does have the wealth usually associated with candidates and the advantage of representing the ruling party. His health and the fact that his running mate is also a Muslim are at his disadvantage. https://www.ft.com/content/9f1d9cc0-7e01-4bcc-812c-96114381bd73

FT President South Africa vows energy ministry will oversee state group Eskom

The government will move state electricity monopoly Eskom to the oversight of the energy ministry, as a power struggle rages in the government over the worst blackouts to strike Africa’s most industrialized nation. The ministry for public enterprises is currently overseeing Eskom. The planned shift would also greatly increase the power of the energy minister, who denies being a “coal fundamentalist”. Coal is precisely the problem boosted by the outgoing Eskom CEO. Reshuffling oversight of state companies could see a return to the wide scale looting that became rife under the previous administration. https://www.ft.com/content/951f0c90-bf88-4063-9297-e3c61e022024

FT Brazil’s dangerous insurrection

In an editorial the newspaper says the similarities with the January 6 2021 insurrection in the U.S.A. are striking. There is also a big difference: there is no attempt to overturn the closely run vote. That is not to underplay the dangers that lie ahead. Among them are the loyalty of the security forces and the capital governor. With incidents in recent years key institutions stood firm and the rule of law was upheld. The new president has proven to be a skilled and pragmatic negotiator. https://www.ft.com/content/d1d1d91a-7fdc-47ef-9b81-a260432baa51

January 11

FT The threat of a lost decade in development

A way has to be found to resolve the debt problems that are now emerging for the world’s most vulnerable nations. The convergence of average incomes between poor and rich countries has stalled. That has happened before. Indeed, it is what happened in Latin America after the debt crisis of 1982. This crisis, it should be recalled, also followed a surge in private lending to developing countries, then called the “recycling” of the surpluses of oil exporters. Rich countries wishing to wage a war of values should remember that inequality between nations is one important issue. https://www.ft.com/content/17f5fcb0-b734-4c29-8b25-52b5597701a3

FT Egypt pledges to cut military’s role in economy for IMF cash

The IMF said in a statement yesterday that “critical” structural reforms Egypt had agreed to included “levelling the playing field between the public and private sector” as part of a state ownership policy. This is a rare acknowledgment by the IMF about how the army had expanded its footprint across the economy since the former army chief seized power in a 2013 coup. The army, the country’s most powerful institution, is exempted from some taxes and its businesses are notoriously opaque. The government has previously pledged to cut the military’s role in the economy and privatize army-owned groups, but little progress has been made. https://www.ft.com/content/0ab59ecb-da0b-42d9-a5da-35674c001e28

FT Misfiring war in Ukraine creates potential for Russia’s disintegration

As the cold war sped to its close, western observers bold enough to forecast the Soviet Union’s collapse were few in number and small in influence. The USSR’s territorial integrity was taken for granted. Today western policymakers risk being caught out a second time. Not that another implosion is inevitable, but with casualties continuing to pile up and no end in sight for the regime’s messianic revanchism, the eventual dissolution of the Russian Federation can no longer be dismissed out of hand. https://www.ft.com/content/d66c61e8-8511-459a-9116-70703ff2471f

January 12

FT Global trade sometimes needs military power more than values

While governments’ ability to use trade as a strategic tool remains unproven, the need for raw military power on occasion to ensure the peace necessary for trade is not. In that aspect of globalization the U.S.A. remains the rock on which a striking amount of the superstructure of world trade stands. The EU has at least recognized the indispensability of America through this week’s EU-Nato statement, affirming the overwhelming importance of the transatlantic bond against autocracy. https://www.ft.com/content/ae202a68-d8ac-42a3-ac0b-98e1d0353ed9

FT Germany is pioneering the way to curb the power of big online platforms

While EU watchdogs slowly roll out their own enforcement mechanism, Germany is already holding gatekeepers to account. One firm disadvantaged by Big Tech: “Europe needs to understand that it needs to protect our tech industry and let it grow up and think about the value that’s created here.” A new German law gives antitrust authorities in Germany powers to go after so-called gatekeepers such as Meta, Google and Amazon — including the ability to impose sanctions like forced divestments against companies and the possibility to break them up. The problem needs attention in other regions of the world too. https://www.ft.com/content/06e2f3ea-a752-48ca-beb1-ca1a948afcd7

FT In Brazil coup plot ends in farce while election loser says he is unwell and denies blame

After the narrow election defeat at the end of October, hardcore supporters of the populist leader had camped out in front of army bases, calling for a military coup in the capital, to prevent the inauguration of the new president. Thereafter, they decided to take matters into their own hands but their plans were half-baked. The following morning, with Brazil the focus of the world’s attention, police moved quickly to dismantle far-right protest camps across the country. https://www.ft.com/content/0a070158-0e2b-48bb-8cba-de7098de28da

FT In Turkey convicted politician says ruling party will pay price for meddling and economic mistakes

He remains in his current office pending an appeal, and election rules allow him to compete until he exhausts his legal chances. The alliance of six parties, led by his party, faces a dilemma over whether to nominate him anyway only to risk losing him before the vote. The coalition attracts a range of voters, including Kurds, secularists and religious conservatives disaffected with the ruling party. https://www.ft.com/content/8ee0f1ef-f364-48d9-b9c8-06a0b75bf325

TT Debt write-off shows China means business in Africa

While the West talks of democracy and human rights, China speaks in dollars to tighten its influence on the continent. The foreign minister of China came to Ethiopia offering a debt write-off and stated during a press conference with the chairman of the AU: “Africa should be a big stage for international co-operation, not an arena for major countries’ competition.” Like China, the US, France, Britain, Russia, Turkey and Gulf states are all vying for influence on the world’s fastest growing continent. “The battle for Africa is well under way,” one analyst said. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/qin-gang-lures-ethiopia-with-huge-debt-write-off-of-13-7-bn-loan-dpkn3c6cd

January 13

FT The issue with second-hand pessimism

“Second-hand pessimism” is the place where corporate reality and public rhetoric diverge. If outlooks look bleak, then there is often a difference between micro and macro level. So the big question is whether micro-level cheer eventually drowns out the macro gloom? Or will this pessimism become self-fulfilling? https://www.ft.com/content/558e8a3b-bbac-4696-80e8-2ccb56c97bdb

FT Despite ESG push, firms continue to compete to work for authoritarian states with records of human rights abuses

Authoritarian states control around $10tn of assets through a mixture of sovereign wealth funds, central bank reserves and public pension funds. Much of it is outsourced to the investment industry, which in this way helps authoritarian states around the world to finance aims that can be both repressive and repugnant. The UN and EU work on principles for ESG but the outcome is still unclear in this unequal world. https://www.ft.com/content/92e9ab44-a852-4c96-86e6-3b10f796e858

FT Attempted hit on Eskom chief shows influence of criminal gangs in South Africa

The CEO explained that gangs would swap out truckloads of coal for delivery and replace them with low-grade rocks. His attempted poisoning, revealed this week, showed the strength and reach of what experts say are cartels operating within South Africa’s most important state asset. It happened after he announced his intention to quit as the ruling party blamed him for failing to fix the blackouts. https://www.ft.com/content/f9b9b804-176f-48e5-9be9-7856a4209605

FT Spain’s domestic tax war intensified by incentives of regions in the country

Regional administrations unveiled incentives for individual investors aimed at undercutting the national government’s fiscal policies. The move opened a new front in a fierce battle over finances between rightwing and leftwing leaders at the start of an election year. The discussion is whether the country is able to attract so-called flagship foreign investment. https://www.ft.com/content/13658cb7-6575-4d50-ad25-b83961e3ff49

FT Women trail on pay and power in South Korea’s male-dominated corporate culture

South Korea’s 31.12 per cent median gender pay gap is the widest in the OECD group of developed countries for the 26th year in a row. The country also has a big difference in labor participation rates: just 55 percent of Korean women are in the workforce compared with 73.7 percent of men. South Korea ranks 99th and Japan 116th among 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Gender Gap Report. Marriage and child birth often lead to leaving jobs, which is a huge waste of talent and knowledge. Yet, the patriarchal president blames feminism for South Korea’s low birth rate. https://www.ft.com/content/86a36a1e-47dd-4b6d-93bf-91dad5ca19f9

January 14

FT Law catches up with human trafficker accused of operating Libyan hellhole

He managed to evade justice two years ago when he escaped from the Ethiopian courthouse where he was being tried. The law caught up with him last week when he was arrested in Sudan and deported to the United Arab Emirates, where prosecutors are considering charges related to money laundering. “Smuggling and trafficking human beings is an appalling crime and we have now shut down one of the most important trafficking routes into Europe,” said an UAE official. An Ethiopian counterpart: “A tremendous effort has led to the arrest of an international criminal sentenced to life in prison in Ethiopia. It’s a notable success.” https://www.ft.com/content/0ceccd61-20e4-495d-b31c-1b054d109242

FT Sri Lanka to slash military by third in push for IMF bailout

More than a decade after the end of a brutal civil war, Sri Lanka maintains one of the world’s largest armed forces, on a relative basis, with 200,000 army personnel alone. Little progress has since been made on reforming the military. It is a huge pressure on the government budget. The disproportionate number of troops still stationed in Tamil heartlands in Sri Lanka’s north and east also leads to continued human rights abuses. https://www.ft.com/content/65e999a0-b776-4f05-875a-a28536b726cc

FT Rebuilding democracy in Brazil

The riots after the inauguration of the president to some amount to attempted coup, particularly as security forces look like they are involved. Also the son of the former president was present at the Capitol Hill riots in the U.S.A. last year. This is the delicate minefield that the president inherited. Brazil is a sharply polarized country. https://www.ft.com/content/a6143da4-50ae-4a69-ba29-190a8bfa37c1

January 16

FT African peace envoy puts Ethiopia war death toll at 600,000

Based on reports from the field, the number of dead could be somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 civilian casualties only — this from atrocities, starvation and lack of healthcare. There were unofficial estimates of between 200,000 and 300,000 battlefield deaths, though these could not be accurately verified. The fighting endangered the unity of Ethiopia, a federal patchwork of 80 ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s human rights chief said casualty estimates should be treated with caution. https://www.ft.com/content/2f385e95-0899-403a-9e3b-ed8c24adf4e7

FT Sweden is navigating an international identity crisis

It looks like the Swedes feel disoriented by a rapidly changing world. The right wing politicians benefit from the security concern among citizens. More important is the international situation for the country that long enjoyed neutrality and combined a free trade approach with multilateralism. Today political fragmentation is rife as the country chairs the EU for the first half of the year. Not to mention the wish to join NATO, caused by the territorial aggression of the Russian neighbor towards Ukraine. https://www.ft.com/content/15a1c4a2-6154-4c8a-90f0-eafa636f78b5

FT Former general takes lead in Czechia presidential election

He beat a former PM just acquitted of fraud charges with 35.4 percent of the votes during the first round. Turnout was 68 percent, up 6 percent from the 2018 election.  Other candidates have said they support the former general in the run off. The constitution of the country grants executive power to the government but presidents can wield much power. The outgoing president did just that. https://www.ft.com/content/f426077a-b227-4051-90a8-f1232e0681c4

FT Peru cracks down as violent protests spread

The state of emergency is declared after many died in clashes over the arrest of the elected president as he tried to close parliament. Major tourist areas are also affected. Analysts say the political class is part of the problem and elections may not solve much. Polls show very negative results for the current president and parliament. https://www.ft.com/content/178ed206-971c-4e77-9d0e-6aee188a4e60

January 17

FT U.S.A. tries to make up ground lost to Russia and China with finance chief trip

The U.S.A. treasury will visit Senegal, Zambia and South Africa to solicit favor as China has profiled itself as the biggest creditor and Africa is careful about the Russia invasion in Ukraine. This follows the summit in Washington in December. U.S.A. policy with regards to Africa in the past decade has been confusing and the current administration recognizes the enormous importance of Africa in future, emphasizing the importance of high added value jobs inside Africa. https://www.ft.com/content/23d66a41-e9ed-44d0-967f-279fee36dba7

FT In Italy top criminal held in medical clinic after 30-year hunt

His ability to evade arrest is a telling tale about the resilience of criminal gangs to champion their hold of society. The Italian PM travelled to the town of arrest to celebrate the occasion. https://www.ft.com/content/54b8d9d2-cade-4f63-8e3e-c064112501f3

FT In Iran protesters direct their scorn at regime leaders rather than president

Analysts say it is not that the president is any less unpopular among regime critics, but more a sign that many Iranians believe he has no agenda of his own and is simply doing the bidding of the supreme leader and other hardline centers of power. https://www.ft.com/content/665a501e-6c5c-489a-9505-9758a294b9ba

TT Virgin Mary statue in France to be removed in the name of secularism

A town council has been given six months by the Bordeaux appeal court to remove the statue from its 1.70m (5.5ft) pedestal on a road junction in the town. The court said the statue broke a 1905 law on the separation of church and state that outlaws religious signs and emblems in any public place in France. For decades, the law was applied half-heartedly. The mood has changed in a heated debate over religion prompted by immigration from French former colonies in Africa. Conservatives have demanded a strict application of the law. In western France  a local secularist association has filed lawsuits demanding the removal of several Christian statues. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/virgin-mary-statue-in-french-town-to-be-removed-in-the-name-of-secularism-ngghh0hr5

NYT Armed insurgents kidnap 50 women in Burkina Faso

The women were abducted while searching for food in a region that has been under a blockade by extremist groups for nearly a year. The government controls only about half of the country, according to estimates. The extremist groups have essentially blockaded the country’s north and economic activities are at a standstill, exposing lives. Through military convoys, the government and humanitarian groups have tried to get supplies to the isolated localities, but they have faced attacks, too. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/16/world/africa/kidnapping-burkina-faso.html

January 19

FT Israeli court orders government to reverse cabinet appointment

The person who holds the interior and health ministry portfolios, can not serve as a minister due to his previous criminal convictions. He only received a suspended sentence after a plea deal and had announced that he would quit politics. The government is furious. It already attempts to push through an overhaul of the judiciary to privilege politics over the judiciary. https://www.ft.com/content/a8c2c6ac-bd48-47c0-8d96-ec530b868cb9

FT In Turkey government invokes political hero to bring election forward against rising opposition

Election is planned on the 73rd anniversary of the election victory of the president’s hero, who ruled Turkey for 10 years until being deposed by the military in 1960 and convicted to death a year later. The president said that the election date is appropriate to “say ‘enough’ to these coup pranksters and incompetent aspirants.” https://www.ft.com/content/bb92ed04-e710-4e54-a5d9-e9013e604301

January 20

FT Nigeria holds out against OECD corporate tax deal

The finance minister said it would result in “net tax losses” for the country. Speaking at an economic forum on behalf of the African Union member states she states that the tax deal “seeks to prevent our countries from taking steps to tax thousands of out-of-scope companies”.  “Most of the enterprises in our countries are excluded,” she said, adding that “the rules are so complex it’s hard for us to comply”. https://www.ft.com/content/6b494549-041f-4767-8c79-cac51c746f22#post-a9334899-0f5e-4e10-a85d-7ba640a048f7

FT Pension rage workers strike across France

The disruption is likely to continue in the coming weeks as the government seeks to push a draft law on pension reform through parliament by the end of March. The main aim is to raise the pension age from 62 to 64. The battle is shaping up to be a test of Macron’s reformist credentials during his second term. The state pension system relies on current workers funding retirees’ benefits. This is risky as the population ages. Fewer people would have to pay for more pensioners. https://www.ft.com/content/71b09437-af27-44fe-8307-caf20ade7a7b

January 21

FT Kenyan killing exposes prejudices faced by LGBT+ Africans

The killing has exposed the struggle of LGBT+ people in a country where, as in much of Africa, homosexuality remains taboo and gay sex is punishable with prison. A representative of the community: “This is so heartbreaking, such lack of humanity troubles me deeply.” Kenyan police said that five suspects had been arrested in connection with the death, including one with whom the diceased is believed to have had a personal relationship. Some politicians used the murder to voice their prejudice against the group. https://www.ft.com/content/29a6db93-acde-4c4a-9c11-20fe852b7c9b

FT China’s women make a strong case with a birth strike

The birth rate is falling despite government policy. The best explanation for the falling birth rate is the simplest: like women the world over, Chinese women are no longer so willing to birth and bring up children. In a post-agrarian China, one no longer needs to have children in order to have hands for the harvest. Financial risk-pooling through a national pension fund reduces the need to see children as old-age investments. https://www.ft.com/content/b576db8d-d912-4a59-ba9f-33c5104f329d

FT Relatives angry as Covid kept off death certificates in China

Since the lifting of zero-Covid controls hospitals have been inundated with patients and crematoria have struggled to keep up with demand. But the government statistics do not show the same trend. Fear to draw up Covid as a reason on the necessary death certificate has been noticed. https://www.ft.com/content/50117091-cdac-4f61-8338-bf20d964fe4c

TT Tn the U.S.A. former president is furious with ‘disloyal’ former evangelical supporters

His outburst appears to breach the extraordinary alliance which saw prominent evangelical Christians turn a blind eye to the billionaire’s faults in return for long-sought policy goals. During his tenure he delivered them favorable legal appointments but now they keep their powder dry as the Republican convention offers several options of devout believers as candidates to run. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/donald-trump-furious-with-disloyal-former-evangelical-supporters-6fh97lmkg

TT In Ethiopia the Orthodox celebration — known as Timket — give opportunity for dating

It comes right after the harvest season and celebrates the baptism of Jesus. Featuring games, processions and dancing, it is traditionally a time when young Ethiopians search for love away from the prying eyes of relatives. It comes with traditional habits. But the custom is suffering due to the breaking down of taboos and the advent of social media. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/when-life-gives-you-lemons-throw-them-at-your-crush-k879zhjll

TT German cardinal: Vatican accord with China is like a deal with Hitler

In a new book listing complaints about the current pope the cardinal laments the Vatican’s silence over China’s crushing of human rights in Hong Kong, while on the other hand allowing China to influence church appointments in its country. The book, titled Good Faith and co-written with an Italian journalist, is a potential handbook for the Pope’s conservative foes. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-deal-china-vatican-hitler-cardinal-attack-catholic-church-ck3ddg766

NYT Church of England will bless same-sex couples, but won’t marry them

The policy shift comes after six years of consultations on the issue within the church, which also apologized for its treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. people. The Church of England is the original church in the global Anglican Communion, which now claims tens of millions of members in 165 countries. The communion has been engaged in a bitter debate over how to treat its L.G.B.T.Q. members since 2003, when the American branch — the Episcopal Church — consecrated an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. The archbishop of Canterbury said he would not personally bless gay couples as he is the focus of unity in the global community. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/20/world/europe/church-england-same-sex-marriage.html

January 23

FT Israel removes key cabinet member on orders of Israeli high court

Legally the appointment of the minister was incorrect as he was the subject of corruption charges but only got discharged after he promised not to be involved in politics. The government announced that they would proceed with the plan to curb the powers of the judiciary. Critics fear that this will deal a blow to the country’s checks and balances. https://www.ft.com/content/cfc4b0ae-22ad-49da-af1d-fbeea35cd5ca

FT Sweden struggles with anti-Islam protest

The country wants to become a NATO member, but following a Koran burning at the Turkey embassy this NATO-member vowed it would veto Sweden’s inclusion if Turkey is not treated with respect. The Swedish government said that it considered the Koran burning “deeply disrespectful” but nevertheless granted permission to warrant freedom of expression of citizens. https://www.ft.com/content/638a8c10-a184-47b7-9f60-e54f1623879f

FT Brazil & Argentina plan joint currency

Studies are needed to find out what is needed for a joint currency, from fiscal issues, the size of the economy to the role of central banks. Not to mention the differences in economic power and outlook. Argentina defaulted in 2020. Other Latin American nations will later be invited to join to form the second largest currency union in the world. FT estimates it would represent 5 percent of world GDP. The largest currency union, the EU, has 14 percent. https://www.ft.com/content/5347d263-7f24-4966-8da4-79485d1287b4

FT In the U.S.A. splits are appearing in opposition party over abortion policy

The former president claims the disappointing mid-term election result comes from voter dissatisfaction about total abortion bans which are now appearing on state level, after the Supreme Court skipped the federal rule. Some presidential hopefuls are pushing for stricter federal bans. https://www.ft.com/content/54883308-9e0f-4006-be00-6c335d3cf4cb

January 24

FT Burkina Faso orders withdrawal of French troops

The military government wants to do the job itself. France has 400 troops in the country. Most of the north is in terrorist hands. The president of Ghana claims that Burkina Faso wants to hire Russian mercenaries, causing a row with the government of Burkina Faso. https://www.ft.com/content/2f44351f-87b5-46e2-b3dc-7a0675cbe6ae

FT Nigeria begins court case in Britain to overturn arbitration award

The government in the past lost the arbitration case to an obscure off-shore company. The fine has risen to $11bn with interest — more than Nigeria’s most recent budget for its health, education and justice ministries combined. The company that won the case is now in the hands of a hedge fund that specializes in distressed debt. https://www.ft.com/content/a2f5443d-6437-4042-b0c6-7b4d3f69959a

FT Egypt needs to get real about reducing military hold over economy

The recent deal to that effect with the IMF was struck in limited negotiations behind closed doors. Also, privatization has been done before to limited effect. The government is moving a growing list of state assets from government hands to the control of an expanding number of newly established bodies directly under the president. https://www.ft.com/content/1e715e32-c89d-44cb-9cfa-c996cecdb072

FT U.S.A. treasury visiting Zambia urges China to cooperate in restructuring debt

Zambia defaulted in 2020 and has since heard little from China about the owed debt. Some claim this is due to lack of coordination among various Chinese lenders. An IMF deal is stuck until the current debt crisis is resolved. https://www.ft.com/content/6c318284-cae0-4293-bbef-ac6805b19c06

FT Serbs in Kosovo push for autonomy

The minority claims their rights are eroding. https://www.ft.com/content/9b962cb0-1eb8-4b3e-869e-fdfbe5113aec

FT in Lebanon reopening 2020 blast probe by judge disputed

The case had been frozen amid accusations of high-level political meddling and impropriety. The blast is known to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Many blame the political establishment and the evolving economic breakdown for it. Lebanon’s judiciary, in which appointments largely depend on patronage in the country’s power-sharing system, has long faced accusations that it lacks independence. The state prosecutor has challenged the decision to reopen the investigation. https://www.ft.com/content/e9266d9c-6894-4a7f-b315-ea70a21138de

January 25

FT In Nigeria political elite trade blows with former president

The 85 year old had advised to vote for the relatively young (61) presidential hopeful. In his open letter he referred to the median age of Nigerians (18) and urged the young: “You have the numbers. Get up, stand up and make your numbers count.” He lamented the policy ruins of the outgoing government. Behind the colorful verbal fight looms a maturing political process where political failure is having consequences. https://www.ft.com/content/5bb32825-0b5b-461d-946e-1a8e3915220c

FT Ukraine sacks top official to ease corruption concerns

Earlier  the influence of oligarchs was curbed but the problem persisted. One of the government officials sacked now had travelled abroad for a holiday in the middle of the Russian invasion. https://www.ft.com/content/9b5da3fc-d408-4df2-84ca-48bdcbde594e

FT Right wing party in Spain stirs abortion concerns

The party leader pointed to the strict abortion rules in Hungary, which require women to listen to a foetal heartbeat before they can terminate a pregnancy. The party is possibly needed in a coalition government. https://www.ft.com/content/6fc6d346-123e-464a-a873-d2e908da509d

TT Pope tells critics to say it in his face

The Pope threw down the gauntlet to enemies of his “mercy-over-dogma” style. On homosexuality he said: “Lets distinguish between a sin and a crime.” The latter tendency he attributed to cultural backgrounds. Defending his China diplomacy, he said that “we must walk patiently in China”. “The dialogue doesn’t break”. However, he admitted: “Sometimes they are a little closed, sometimes not.”


January 26

FT School should stimulate curiosity, not careers

In the present day global economic situation the first response is to prepare pupils for the labor market. But schools are educational institutions and can serve that purpose best by teaching their students to look around. Apart from mental and physical health, schools do best by making their students versatile, able to adapt to changing situations. https://www.ft.com/content/1c3c5f21-6826-46c8-997a-7c9a586fc6a2

FT Taiwan president names new PM to shore up support

The new PM managed the Covid19 crisis very effectively as a vice-president until leaving for academia in May 2020. The ruling party wants to show its resolve after elections showed failing support. Major elections are due in January next year. The new PM, a devout Catholic, was sent to represent the country at the funeral of the former Pope this month. https://www.ft.com/content/bac97a9a-8110-4890-accb-248f3ba24c35

FT Pakistan risks to go the same way as Sri Lanka

There is an acute shortage of foreign exchange and regular blackouts that damage the industry. The country tries to revive the IMF deal. What stands in the way for the government is to implement economic reforms, including stopping energy subsidies. https://www.ft.com/content/560319d3-df5c-476c-9005-8f4bea09eac9

FT In China strikes over unpaid wages are cracked down

A crackdown by more than a dozen local governments over alleged “malicious” labor activism hits migrant workers. Authorities point to using the existing options to get worker rights addressed. The problem is exacerbated by poor enforcement of labor laws, making it difficult for workers to seek redress through legal channels. https://www.ft.com/content/779512aa-6a73-47ce-b924-471fa63dc5a1

NYT Tanzania’s top opposition politician returns from self-imposed exile

The return follows this month’s lift of a yearslong ban on political rallies that had been seen by some as an attempt to weaken the opposition. The current president, who took over from her diseased predecessor, has reversed some of the policies that gave her predecessor the nickname “bulldozer”. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/25/world/africa/tanzania-tundu-lissu-returns-exile.html

January 27

TT In Haiti rebel police raid PM home and airport

The police acted in protest over the death of 54 police due to violence in recent months. When the police found the PM was not at home but instead returning from a summit in Argentina, they went to the airport and abused others. The PM was escorted out of the airport in tight security. The UN estimates about 60 per cent of the country is under gang rule. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/haiti-rebel-police-attack-airport-and-prime-ministers-villa-kw08lrrn0

January 28

FT Reception of Russia foreign minister in South Africa shows propaganda success

The foreign minister of South Africa indicated that the country’s neutrality was in danger as the west supplies battle tanks to Ukraine. Earlier she called the demand for simple withdrawal of Russia from Ukraine “simplistic and infantile”. This is a warning that Russia is not as isolated in its territorial aggression, a stark warning as the first anniversary of the Russia invasion into Ukraine approaches. Russia still benefits from its anti-colonial stand. https://www.ft.com/content/2b7ee958-5f70-4da8-9695-2f17238dc61a

TT In DRC Catholics see the church as the one institution that is reliably on their side

For many Congolese, the Catholic church is the only stable and functioning institution they have known. The church played a major role in bringing down the former president.  The cardinal: “Once you are in politics you no longer care about the people, you care about what you put in your pocket”. The government: “The church holds enormous power within the country, it a “state within a state”. If politicians were corrupt, the church is at least partly to blame. These politicians are raised by the church.” The pope will soon visit the country, another politically strategic destination for him after CAR in 2015. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nation-where-the-catholic-church-can-topple-governments-lx8hzvrlh

January 30

FT Nigeria delays phasing out of old bank­notes after protests

The plan was delayed by 10 days after it was picked up as an issue in the campaign for the presidential election of February 25. The plan is designed to fight counterfeiting and reduce the use of cash, although the impact on the latter issue is unclear. https://ft.pressreader.com/1389/20230130/281578064800717

FT  Doubts rise over common currency plan Brazil and Argentina

While economists have questioned the viability of the idea, political forces have been less critical, given the wish for regional integration. The finance minister of the former government of Brazil has promoted the idea several times, arguing it would encourage fiscal discipline. A background of the idea is the wish to stabilize the Argentine economy. Initially the common currency would be limited to mutual trade and exist alongside the main currencies. Critics fear the common currency would increase economic turbulence in Brazil. The economies of the two countries are too different. https://ft.pressreader.com/1389/20230130/281603834604493

FT The blurring borders between geopolitics and culture war

The invasion in Ukraine is justified by Russia as a defense of the traditional family. On the other side the “war on woke” is in full force in conservative U.S.A. politics. But while the overlap is striking, gender and geopolitics can lead to different approaches, as we can see if we compare Poland and Hungary. A typical case is Israel, leaning left on gender issues, it has an aggressive geopolitical position. https://www.ft.com/content/8e8d0f8e-dd29-41c4-80a6-90bd3676208b

January 31

FT Blast of mosque in Pakistan’s tribal region kills 59

The attacker made his way through multiple barricades to the mosque on a police compound. A commander for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. A background is the threat of default of the currency. Pakistan is stuck between China Belt & Road lending and the IMF governance demands. https://ft.pressreader.com/1389/20230131/281492165456819

FT In Spain government in problems over law against sexual assault

The new law prepared by the left wing coalition partner has an adverse effect, causing reduced time in jail for some offenders. The lawmakers accuse the judiciary for incorrect application and refuse to change the law. https://www.ft.com/content/dd84903c-3565-4239-8d16-a22f0bc57412

February 1

FT Conservatives are too keen on money to win the culture war

Conservatism is to a large extent self-eroding. A philosophy that (rightly) salutes enterprise will in affluent cultures not attract enough people who want to serve in the culture-shaping institutions. Sure enough, the culture becomes less and less conservative. https://www.ft.com/content/6f84ddaf-bc49-4f28-a423-5d0085980646

FT In the U.S.A. state of New Mexico oil production overheats economy

In the land-locked state of New Mexico production hit a record high last year as Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine helped drive energy prices higher. The state of New Mexico’s crude production last year eclipsed output from the entire country of Mexico. The labor market is fully overstressed and even a driver’s license can warrant a well-paid job. https://www.ft.com/content/ce6d6cb3-d9bc-4571-b0a3-714f95599a10

TT In DRC Pope Francis rails against colonialist greed in Africa

He has made an impassioned plea for an end to “the poison of greed” that is “choking Africa”. The pope: “One has the impression that the international community has practically resigned itself to the violence devouring. We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths. Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-rails-against-colonialist-greed-on-africa-tour-n6j0pcjjf

NYT In Tunisia support for reforming president seems slipping after parliament vote

Only 11.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the runoff on Sunday, only slightly more than the 11.2 percent in the first round — the lowest turnout in any global election in decades. Banking on his initial widespread popularity, the president (himself a constitutional law professor) rewrote Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring Constitution last year, giving the president sweeping authority and demoting Parliament to an advisory body. He also issued a new electoral law banning political parties from involvement in the election, so that voters chose individual candidates rather than voting for party lists as they had done in previous elections. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/31/world/middleeast/tunisia-president-kais-saied-elections.html

February 2

FT Lebanon devalues currency with 90 percent

Lebanon has multiple exchange rates that govern depositors’ withdrawals from frozen bank accounts, customs duties, public sector salaries, fuel prices and telecommunications, among others. Analysts said it was a costly stop-gap in the absence of wider structural reforms to Lebanon’s troubled economy. One analyst: “What’s been needed for the past three years is a broader economic recovery plan with a restructuring of the financial system, not another piecemeal measure.” https://www.ft.com/content/f37617e1-098b-459f-9502-50ffb50c6c0c

FT India to boost government spending by a third

It also unveiled a business-friendly budget meant to spur growth and please key constituencies ahead of an upcoming general election. The Finance minister: “Investment in infrastructure and productivity have a large multiplier impact on growth and employment. The budget takes the lead once again to ramp up the virtuous circle of investment and job creation.” Later the PM described the middle class as “a huge force in fulfilling the dreams of a prosperous and developed India”. https://www.ft.com/content/9085bc69-25ed-49e5-a1b4-7dde2a66dbb4

FT The world lacks an effective global system to deal with debt

There is an alarming tendency among the international community to regard debts in the developing world as sustainable because they can, after some sacrifice, be paid off. But this is like saying a poor family will stay afloat because they always repay their loan sharks. In 2021, developing countries paid $400bn in debt service, more than twice the amount they received in official development aid. Foreign debts are eating an ever-larger piece of an ever-shrinking national resources pie. An independent sovereign debt authority that engages with creditor and debtor interests, both institutional and private, is urgently needed. https://www.ft.com/content/d767580d-2db3-43f2-a509-2b29eb81003a

NYT In DRC pope appealed directly to the warring groups

He pleaded to put down their weapons and forgive one another. He was forced to abandon his plan to visit the east because of the spike in fighting there. In a special audience he came face to face with those who have lived through those horrific experiences. They explained to him about the “almost animalistic brutality” of armed groups. He touched their wounds and concluded: “A new future will come about if we see others no longer as adversaries or enemies.” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/01/world/africa/pope-francis-africa-congo.html

February 3

FT In U.S.A. police receives less training than in other western countries

Police training in average is 652 hours compared with 3,500 hours needed to obtain a plumbing license. In Finland police officers undergo 5,500 hours of training to qualify. Some argue that the U.S.A. is over policed, but studies show the numbers are similar to comparable countries. It is argued that the focus of recruitment needs to change from weapons and tactics, more to “decision-making, communications and other critical skills that are always needed. https://ft.pressreader.com/1389/20230203/281655374220813

February 4

FT The first black rugby world cup winning team captain of South Africa speaks out

The newspaper interviews the incarnate result of Mandela’s rugby diplomacy. The former president won the hearts of grumbling Apartheid supporters by carrying the national rugby shirt. One of seven global figures in a Netflix series on leadership, the rugby national team captain has his public ministry touch. When asked about his leadership philosophy he refers to his early lessons in responsibility. “I knew I had to look after my family too. I learnt about community. People around us always helped.” https://www.ft.com/content/3661ab1d-ef3d-4927-9d93-18be3720338c

FT Ireland seeks to modify constitutional article stipulating the domestic role of females

The country struggles with the text worded 90 years ago by a politician with an unhappy, poverty induced youth. Other issues in the constitution have been changed. In this issue polarization is rife. Change proponents blast their opponents with terms like “fascist” and “sexist”. The supporters  see the change plan as an attempt “to erase women who choose a different way of life”. A new holiday is inaugurated to celebrate the national patron St Brigid, a 5th century nun typically born to unmarried parents and forced to work for her father. https://www.ft.com/content/36a47d24-7808-448f-ba8f-3f435ef353ef

NYT Pope Francis and other Christian leaders condemn anti-gay laws

On his return journey from Juba to Rome the pope said about a country that penalizes homosexual acts, that “to condemn a person like this is a sin.” He made the comments in a remarkable joint in-flight news conference with the head of the Anglican Communion and Scotland’s top Presbyterian minister. The joint visit to South Sudan was part of the “ecumenical journey for peace”. The clerics admitted that the gender struggle is between cultures. Their colleagues from Africa are skeptical of the West’s inflicting its views of sexuality on African cultures. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/05/world/africa/pope-francis-africa-homosexuality.html

February 6

FT Iran pardons ‘tens of thousands’ of prisoners

The government made the announcement as the republic marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Among the released may be protesters of the recent civil unrest. It is considered that the government tries to restore credibility with this move. https://www.ft.com/content/d1dd960b-5ada-4536-bf8d-ce81b70f9555

FT Pakistan in on the brink

The newspaper blames the political elite who offer little choice and competence and live in their capital bubble. The foreign exchange reserves dwindled to just $3.7bn late last month, equivalent to just three weeks’ of imports. That compares to total public debt of $270bn, around 79 per cent of GDP. Just keeping the lights on is seemingly tough. China, the IMF and the Paris Club of creditor nations need to bring Pakistan into debt-restructuring negotiations. The whole global debt handling architecture is urgently in need of innovation, see February 2. https://www.ft.com/content/9ea7f155-3c4e-48f0-8125-3f64faacf0eb

February 7

FT Nigeria attempt to change banknotes descents into chaos

Many banks were not supplied with enough of the new notes to meet demand. The new currency is meant to be harder to counterfeit. The failing scheme was also meant to stop vote buying ahead of the election of February 25. Citizens are encouraged to pay by card but this infrastructure also fell victim to excess demand. The black market benefits. https://www.ft.com/content/952e8047-63a9-4a91-8f15-6f00cd388a95

FT In China pro-democracy activists go on trial in landmark national security case

The autonomous city of Hong Kong is forcefully put into central Chinese hold. The 47 activists were arrested in 2020 in one swoop and denied pre-trial bail. Another case against media figures is expected for later this year.  https://www.ft.com/content/10830d35-8152-499f-8ea5-ea8594e7bfd7

FT In Lebanon re-opening of blast probe reignites feud inside judiciary

The unexpected move by a judge has reignited a bitter feud inside the fragile walls of the judiciary that threatens to drag the dysfunctional country — led by a paralyzed caretaker government and without a president — even further towards the abyss. The inquiry initially stalled but the judge has not given up. Protests in support are difficult as many citizens struggle to survive. https://www.ft.com/content/6002c06c-dedb-4732-afa7-71af48695f4c

February 8

FT Russia creates a second front in Africa

The relationship with CAR is the most striking example of how effective Russia has been in parts of Africa with a cut-price strategy that mixes propaganda, arms sales, mining activity and mercenaries. While the war effort in Ukraine is considered a costly mistake, in a belt of formerly Francophone areas Russia is successful with relatively little effort, wielding national influence and subverting European ties. Russia’s success in Africa has blindsided the west, which had been more focused on the inroads being made by China. Success is not everywhere. It primarily concerns countries with weak institutions. https://www.ft.com/content/0c459575-5c72-4558-821e-b495c9db9b6f

FT Pollsters aim to bring public insight to Nigeria’s elections for the first time

A complex election system and poor societal data collection are the hurdles but a new venture is trying to deal with it all. The aim is also to raise awareness of real issues. The problem is to steer away from misusing the system. Nigerians go to the polls on February 25 to choose a replacement for the sitting president, who is stepping down after two terms, and members of both houses of parliament. On March 11 they are scheduled to elect governors and members of state legislatures. https://www.ft.com/content/87f0f606-a36f-4a91-b5f0-169a78c35a0d

FT In France civil unrest continues over rising pension age

The government plan to raise the retirement age in France by two years to 64 is meeting stiff resistance in parliament and on the streets. The government suffered after winning the presidential election as they lost the majority in parliament in elections shortly thereafter. The government does have the power to override lawmakers and pass legislation by decree under the French constitution, but that will greatly raise tensions. But finding a majority in parliament is eroding the government’s plans. https://www.ft.com/content/93ab1203-88ef-4ffe-9cc3-1107e3ce4982

FT Referendum gamble backfires for Ecuador’s government

Faced with a hostile parliament, the government organized a referendum about changes and lost. In this way its agenda stalled halfway into a four-year term, despite fulfilling Covid-19 vaccination targets and successfully restructuring debt with China. The opposition won significantly and its leader, convicted in absentia and now in exile, called for early elections. https://www.ft.com/content/3f9391bc-05d6-4701-85a0-b0efe14d5f84

February 9

FT Nigeria top court halts change of largest currency notes

The decision was taken pending the hearing of a lawsuit brought by three northern states challenging the new currency redesign. It adjourned that hearing until February 15. The move suffers from logistical problems to supply the new notes. Nigerian anti-corruption agencies and the president have alleged that some banks are hoarding the new currency. The three states are governed by the federal ruling party. The problems expose differences within this party. https://www.ft.com/content/e1f25627-bc14-41b7-b56e-2e11ccef04d3

FT New government in Brazil plans to boost racial equality

The newly recreated ministry for racial equality is led by a 38-year-old political novice from a poor neighborhood and the sister of a politician murdered 5 years ago. She faces an uphill battle, as the budget is just a fraction of what former progressive governments had at their disposal for fighting inequality. The new cabinet includes a record number of indigenous and black Brazilians as well as women. https://www.ft.com/content/811fff50-a001-48fe-b42b-f84a3118a3bb

FT Capital of Germany ordered by court to rerun chaotic local elections

Berlin is considered by some a “failed city-state”. The failure of bureaucracy culminated in dysfunctional local elections. Behind it are political culture wars. The city is run by progressive parties, but suffers from the multicultural composition of the citizenry. The conservatives, now winning in the polls, have their own controversial side. After riots the party asked police to provide the first names of those arrested. Critics suspect in this way they want to expose immigrant backgrounds of rioters. https://www.ft.com/content/f3b1ef35-ac5e-4505-9ad7-3c23015f5e31

February 10

FT How Russia’s propaganda machine is reshaping the African narrative

Aided by memories of the financial and military support the Soviet Union gave to African liberation struggles, Russia is welcome in much of the continent. In some places it is actively promoted as an alternative to the west. Russia creates an authoritarian stability model which they equate with anti-neocolonialism. Soft power through the media is actively used and covers up darker military operations. https://www.ft.com/content/d427c855-c665-4732-9dd1-3ae314464d12

FT Finland, invaded in history by Russia 10 times, has defense as a national drill

Finland has a very long border with Russia, but also a successful democracy, rule of law and a well-functioning society. Leaders from all sectors, including politics, business, government and civil society attend the prestigious National Defense Course in which participants practice responding to different types of crises. It all starts at school, has conscription for males and an integrated security mechanism. Even the U.S.A. after hurricane Katrina enquired how the system functions. https://www.ft.com/content/7c8cebc4-8107-45d8-8f58-2382277fdd0c

FT A letter to the editor on the recent discussion about a rising role of non-dollar reserve currencies

“The fundamental reasons for the dollar’s global role are that the U.S.A. remains the world’s largest and most open economy at market exchange rates; that the country respects and enforces the rule of law; that its financial markets are the largest, most liquid and least controlled and that the dollar is freely convertible. To suggest that China, Russia or Saudi Arabia can hope to replicate these attributes in the foreseeable future is to ignore reality.” https://www.ft.com/content/cd54b8ad-6367-4242-9c4a-43ab274e14ef

February 11

FT South Africa declares ‘national state of disaster’ over blackouts

The president says rolling power cuts are ‘an existential threat to our economy and our social fabric’. He pledged support for the national energy company, which has low funds for crucial maintenance and is battling the looting of power plants. He promised that funds would not be abused under cover of the disaster, acknowledging public fury at corruption and mismanagement. https://www.ft.com/content/74c75caa-d39f-4df7-b455-3b88d8363fb4

FT Moldova PM quits as Ukraine war erodes support for pro-EU government

The pro-EU government has been attempting to ram through reforms demanded by Brussels before it can begin EU accession talks, weakening public support in the post-Soviet republic where pro-Russian sentiment has deep historical roots. The PM is succeeded by her national security minister. https://www.ft.com/content/654a52e8-f90a-4b7b-9d8e-339ec0a189bc

February 13

FT The untold story of the world’s most resilient currency, that of Thailand

During the Asian financial crisis of 1998 Thailand was “ground zero”. From there the government  maintained the approach to put the currency to free float against the dollar, exercising orthodox financial policy with an open economy. Significantly, inflation has kept low. Only the Swiss franc has outperformed the Thai baht. But Switzerland does not have the same political upheaval as Thailand. https://www.ft.com/content/f280de11-48c7-4526-aa92-ad1e1b7b6ed1

FT Opposition wins rerun Berlin local election in Germany after court order (see February 9)

They see the result as a vindication of their campaign message that Berlin was a dysfunctional city that needed a radical change of course. The result is also a blow for the federal government. But the election winner is shunned by the other parties. A coalition is necessary and the early signs are that the losing parties will form that. https://www.ft.com/content/8b65e355-7031-4d99-80ef-d087a5e71255

February 14

FT Zambia debt deal with China at risk due to new demands

China holds the bulk of debts but now wants international multilateral lenders to be included in the deal. This would overturn a decades-old rule in sovereign lending that they should be exempt from debt restructuring because they act as lenders of last resort and charge little interest. China last year agreed in principle to give Zambia relief in tandem with other official creditors through a G20 process known as the common framework. China is known to be reluctant to set any precedent for taking direct haircuts on its loans to developing nations. https://www.ft.com/content/b136a36b-5822-4647-8efe-67fc18b00ea3

FT Civil unrest in Israel over planned judicial overhaul as lawmakers begin vote

The ceremonial president warned during an unusually blunt address on Sunday that the polarization sparked by the proposed judicial overhaul had brought Israel to “the brink of constitutional and social collapse”. The government steers towards government control over judicial appointments and barring the top court from striking down Israel’s quasi-constitutional “Basic Laws”. https://www.ft.com/content/29fcc89b-618b-4098-a8c5-65bcf29e976f

FT Low rise city in the Netherlands becomes global tech hub

The transformation story is akin to that of a disruptive start-up setting out with just a kitchen table, garden sheds and maverick inventors. But it has two uniquely Dutch ingredients: the polder model of government, which brings politicians, companies and unions together to find joint solutions; and Philips, the electronics conglomerate that started making lightbulbs in 1891. Interestingly, while the electronics leader lost pace its sold parts made a rise dwarfing their parent company. https://www.ft.com/content/c702c9f0-7f45-47d2-a0b3-6a6525e4b583

FT Political crisis in Peru deepens

Parliament is unable to reach an agreement on a date for early elections as polls show their unpopularity (see January 16). Civic protests continue. The current crisis has long been brewing — Peru has had six presidents in five years. A major issue is changing the constitution of 1993 which hails from an authoritarian period. https://www.ft.com/content/a353839d-4c36-446c-b680-ff7097d3918e

February 15

FT Russia’s growing trade in arms, oil and African politics

In 2019 Russia promised Africa a doubling of trade. The latest figures (2021) show only 25 percent increase. Russia works through the scheme politics first, economics second and considers the opposite approach to be “unsteady”. In reality the economic muscle of Russia is not at par with the other global powers. Russia’s political record on Africa is consistent and Africa considers Russia’s Security Council seat an asset as an ally to avoid being targeted from there. https://www.ft.com/content/cb0f2fe7-5555-497d-806c-5c4c2be15e7f

FT Tunisia launches crackdown on opposition with wave of arrests

The president of the country has ruled by decree since suspending parliament in 2021. The leaders of the moderate Islamist party and a secular party critical of the government were both arrested. The former party calls the arrests “kidnap”. Some judges, businessmen and NGO figures were also arrested. There is no unifying principle behind the arrests and it follows a referendum (see July 27) and vote for parliament (see February 1). https://www.ft.com/content/15ff4e6a-eb1d-42fa-aee4-4f425bdb6f73

FT After earthquake government of Turkey faces backlash over 2018 building regulation amnesty

The government approved 7.4mn applications within a year and a half, providing legal status to buildings that had breached a broad set of basic licensing, design and safety rules. The scheme raised  $4.2bn in building registration fees. This legalization of low quality building is becoming an issue with elections due in three months. https://www.ft.com/content/6113a9d2-25d4-4329-bb6a-0a50b1cff30c

February 16

FT  Low income countries desperately need better access to generic medicines

It is often assumed that generic drugs are affordable and widely available to those who need them. But this is not entirely true. For example, even after patent expiries open the door to generic rivals, low levels of competition between companies in smaller markets means that generics can actually be more expensive in poor countries than in wealthy ones. Ninety percent of medicines included on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines are off-patent, meaning companies can make their own versions of these key products. This opportunity should be used. https://www.ft.com/content/99d64932-fd04-488f-9c63-b3646083cbbc

FT NGOs accuse EU’s lending arm of due diligence failings in Kenya case

The European Investment Bank, has been accused by two NGOs of failing to properly investigate allegations of the fraudulent use of its funds by directors at a now-bankrupt Kenyan construction company. The newspaper is also met with unwillingness to investigate the case further. https://www.ft.com/content/cdda4973-3957-45c2-b3ff-dc80218323de

FT Elderly in China protest against health insurance reforms

Tens of thousands of Chinese pensioners took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against health insurance reforms that were introduced as cash-strapped city governments sought to control spending in the aftermath of China’s costly zero-Covid policy. This follows the government’s move to divert money from a mandatory health savings plan for workers to a state-controlled outpatient insurance fund. Funding the health system is a struggle for the government, while the pensioners see the new policy as robbery. https://www.ft.com/content/49430f0f-440f-4f36-aa77-3c433db4a2be

FT Independence movement of Scotland suffers after leader resigns

The leaving PM claims that her successor will  bring Scotland to independence from Britain. Her move is related to the national government refusing to rerun the 2014 referendum that she lost. Her plan B was to use the next general election as a de facto referendum. Her party has been in power in Scotland since 2007. https://www.ft.com/content/bbc13407-6286-43e5-9d22-6dc296c7aa9a

February 17

FT Switzerland rules out confiscating Russian assets over Ukraine war

The government says confiscation would breach national and international law. Calls in Europe intensify for the seizure of Russian wealth held abroad to help fund Ukraine’s defense and reconstruction. Switzerland has made clear that any permanent moves against assets held within its borders would be illegal. “The expropriation of private assets of lawful origin without compensation is not permissible under Swiss law,” the government said on Thursday. The EU acknowledges that the idea is complicated. https://www.ft.com/content/ec1d9ca1-0511-46e9-8ade-e92b2a05c48f

February 18

FT Poverty campaigners spur overhaul World Bank

It is advocated to choose a leader that is in touch with the needs of borrowers in poorer countries. The bank has also been criticized for being too slow to deliver finance. The average time taken to disburse funds is 465 days. The implicit agreement between the world’s richest economies that the two main Bretton Woods institutions — the IMF and World Bank — are run by a European and a US citizen respectively has also come under fire. https://www.ft.com/content/7e56b1a1-91b6-4cc4-945b-6b46b6c70553

FT Russia stamps out free speech in its society

Hundreds of cases related to anti war speech and protests are now going through the courts. Since February 24, when Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor began, the crackdown has been all-embracing, leaving virtually no corner of society untouched. Around 20,000 people were detained for political and anti war protests. Protests have virtually disappeared. One accused said to the judge: “To prove my innocence, all you have to do is open the constitution and read it.” https://www.ft.com/content/f487fb5a-42c9-4720-8fd7-658d18045520

FT China promotes its anti-corruption campaign on prime time TV in crime drama “The Knockout”

Anti-corruption action is seen as a way to shore up the credibility of the government in the one party state. The recent series has a more nuanced plot as compared to earlier broadcasts and is focusing on the decades-long rivalry between a clean cop and a crime boss. It has drawn stronger reviews. But the adherence to the party line is paramount. The policeman obeys the party hierarchy, awaiting his orders before acting. https://www.ft.com/content/abdeebc2-0bbe-4c78-83bd-a4515d814694

February 20

FT The old arguments for debt cancellation in Africa no longer apply

In an op-ed the author argues that a repeat of the 2000 campaign would ignore the need to demand stronger accountability and force much-needed institutional reform. By then the total debt in Africa had grown from 40 bn to 300 bn in two decades. 31 countries got a significant portion of their debt cancelled. Still today, after two more decades debt has grown to 700 bn, mostly from other sources than the previous creditors. They include domestic private investors, like pension funds. https://www.ft.com/content/3d486150-238e-4909-8b19-4cec9a68f5a2

FT Western pleas over Ukraine fail to sway African and South American leaders

The U.S.A. vice-president argued at a Munich security conference that “no nation is safe” in a world where “one country can violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another”. The South responds with skepticism that other problems are neglected. China cleverly frames itself as part of the developing world, a partner in defending sovereignty and development, and announced a peace plan in the coming days for the Russian invasion in Ukraine. https://www.ft.com/content/f41949bb-0812-4b43-8ced-e10ca24d2e91

FT The young are making their voice heard at Nigeria election

37mn Nigerians aged 18 to 34 who are eligible to vote on February 25. A relatively young candidate (61) is making much progress but is predicted to face an uphill battle against the powerful elite. Some experts are predicting a second-round run-off for the first time in Nigerian history. Previous Nigerian elections were plagued by low turnout — just 35 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in 2019. This is considered an advantage for the incumbent party. https://www.ft.com/content/14f58930-3aa2-4379-b2fb-af76a3d454a9

FT India’s creeping clampdown on free expression

The newspaper in an editorial exposes the government clamp down on the BBC for a documentary on the federal PM’s role as a state PM earlier in handling religious riots. Generally it is observed that the federal government warms up to media moguls, not unlike other countries like Russia, Turkey and Hungary. The global picture of decline in press freedom is worrying. https://www.ft.com/content/a17191ec-26fc-4880-9f39-11b9b5f6654f

FT Brazil rules out amnesty for rioters who stormed centers of power

The opposition had suggested an amnesty. The justice minister considers the riots a coup attempt that needs to be dealt with proportionally. He claims the military did not take sides because of the extreme violence of the rioters. https://www.ft.com/content/1da581ff-4013-44c5-ad44-4cea8cf6fa28

February 21

FT Burkina Faso announces French military task force has left the country

A flag lowering ceremony took place over the weekend. The current regime (second coup within a year after democratic elections 8 months ago) says its own troops will fight Islamists. Along with Guinea and Mali they seek to reintegrate in ECOWAS, after being expelled following the coup. The French development minister identified the withdrawal as “a matter of sovereignty”. The regime is open to other partners and has also said to be still interested in French military hardware. https://www.ft.com/content/c899cd24-696e-4df7-9b97-ee0d38c2426f

February 23

FT Developing countries’ debts mount as pandemic and strong dollar hit finances

Government debts alone hit almost 65 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of 2022, 10 percent higher than before the pandemic and an all time high. The high value of the dollar has worsened the situation. Developing countries’ debt increased by 30 %. In comparison advanced economies hold double the value in debt, but it reduced over the pandemic. https://www.ft.com/content/107cd26b-7fb0-4ff6-b698-350b8d3bee7a

FT South Africa expands public borrowing to relieve debt energy company

The financial injection is meant to fight the increasing blackouts through the ageing coal plants in the country that look increasingly beyond repair. How the influence of crime cartels is tackled is still unclear. The outgoing CEO of the national energy company was removed with immediate effect after he publicly blamed politics for the situation. https://www.ft.com/content/68c3c6d6-001f-4788-ad53-aceafb27bf20

FT Australia’s Treasurer says $2.3tn pensions pool should fund ‘nation-building’

The treasurer set out his plans to reform capitalism in a 6,000-word essay that cited Greek philosopher Heraclitus and attacked what he called “a negative form of supply-side economics”. He wants to use the enormous pool of pension funds for social investment and in this way steer away from the post-Communist neoliberalism agenda. https://www.ft.com/content/847c1cd7-be72-420d-a03d-b05d234f42f3

FT Election in Nigeria: How a third party disrupted a two-horse race

Sceptics say that the third candidate’s tiny Labour party, which has no governors and only one senator, lacks the organizational capacity to get the vote out or to properly monitor the country’s nearly 177,000 polling stations. Also the third party is primarily supported in urban and in southern areas. Yet, the election is more open than previous elections in a country that before 2050 will pass the U.S.A. as third most populated country in the world. https://www.ft.com/content/0d8f6bb7-c9f4-4c6c-832f-51dd58d6497d

February 24

FT Nigeria election tightly run due to institutional and societal setbacks

The ruling party candidate remains publicly confident of victory against his challengers. An incumbent candidate has only lost one in six elections since the country returned to democracy in 1999. The pick of a fellow Muslim as running mate — which upended two decades of dual-religion presidential tickets — was also designed to win support among the country’s largest voting blocs. But a third promising candidate has upended the usual two party contest and might trigger a run off. https://www.ft.com/content/0115daa2-f703-4cdd-b10e-e5317914124d

FT Ruling party in South Africa fights back over accusations of corruption in energy supply

The outgoing CEO of the state energy company is accused of being a “naysayer” with “rightwing ideological posture” on Thursday after he claimed in a television interview that ANC politicians were complicit in high-level graft at his company and also aired his wider opinion about politics in the country. The ruling party accused him of an “opportunistic venture into the political arena” and “undermining the efforts of patriotic South Africans”. He was laid off with immediate effect. The former CEO warned against even bigger blackouts. https://www.ft.com/content/ff18849a-2fc7-4312-bb3b-e729e9ad6f2e

FT Israel’s alarming plans to erode judicial powers

The newspaper spends an editorial with this headline on the plans to politicize the judicial power in Israel, calling it “naked illiberalism” with “consequences that even affect the west”. The newspaper admits that concern about over-reach of the legal system is legitimate, but adds that this does not warrant the “blatant power grab” on show now. The newspaper says one reason for the west to support Israel was the independent judiciary, which is now at risk. https://www.ft.com/content/d17b872f-1330-4143-b6e3-35bff95bb1f1

FT Mexico government targets election watch dog with new law

The law seeks to reduce the budget and the powers of the national election institute ahead of the 2024 election. Despite its role in the return to democracy in 2000, the government claims the institute is corrupt. The opposition now plans to bring the new law as unconstitutional before the Supreme Court. https://www.ft.com/content/30a3093b-1273-4bcd-a254-13ec6f2c1b7c

FT South Africa’s Russia stance shows it has lost the moral high ground

The newspaper’s Africa editor concludes that the country’s position has shifted from an ethically non-aligned foreign policy to a might-is-right position. This has been a gradual process but more markedly on show this year. A year ago its foreign minister called for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine and emphasized her country’s “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”. This week she argued: “A sustainable solution will not be found in isolating one party or bringing it to its knees.” This implicitly offers to reward Russia for its aggression. https://www.ft.com/content/02085c6c-7ae5-4dd0-817d-7ce3f49ea303

February 25

FT Nigerians go to the polls for closest-run vote in country’s democratic era

It is the end of a draining election campaign notable for the emergence of a credible alternative to the country’s two dominant political parties. The current president steps down after his two eligible terms in office. To win the presidency a candidate must secure the most votes and cross the constitutional threshold of obtaining at least 25 per cent of the ballots cast in at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the capital city. https://www.ft.com/content/f4463c42-29ff-4704-b37b-1037ed3da5bd

FT South Africa and Nigeria put on anti-money laundering ‘grey list’

The global anti-money laundering watchdog put the countries on the list over shortfalls in combating illicit finance and organized crime. The countries need to do more to improve their ability to fight financial crime, exposing them to greater scrutiny by investors and banks around the world. The G7-created body can ultimately “blacklist” banking systems over serious deficiencies in stopping money laundering and terrorist financing. Other countries grey-listed are UAE, Albania, Turkey and Yemen. Iran, Myanmar and North Korea are black-listed. https://www.ft.com/content/a62df5e4-f6d6-4e48-be62-6249eb5961aa

FT The Church of England can learn from Episcopalians on same-sex marriage

In an op-ed a clergy from the U.S.A. claims the recent struggle about LGBTQ people in office in the Church of England is not necessary, offering his own example as a gay clergy in a multi-cultural church in a global mega city as a proof and considering Evangelical and Reformed voices as well as opposing church provinces as detrimental. https://www.ft.com/content/140468f3-f0c9-4a0c-9f53-6ffd0990217a

NYT Nigerian politician arrested with nearly $500,000 on eve of election, police say

It concerns a politician of the main opposition party. Vote buying is a long standing issue in the country, which became more problematic with a currency note swap that the central bank was executing recently. Elsewhere the police found a smaller amount of Nigerian naira with an undisclosed politician. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/24/world/africa/nigeria-election-vote-buying.html

March 6

FT UN treaty to protect oceans agreed after decades of talks

The UN High Seas treaty aims to safeguard 30% of international waters from exploitation through fishing and mining by 2030 in an effort to protect the planet. The talks centered around support for developing nations to meet the treaty’s commitments and debate about who will benefit from marine resources. More than 60 percent of the oceans are considered international waters. The president of the UN General Assembly considers the new treaty “a massive success for multilateralism”. https://www.ft.com/content/cb44a5fc-e52a-4ae8-b32a-9b7822b00807

FT Nigeria’s new president inherits fragile nation

The aged elected president fulfills his lifelong ambition when he gets sworn in on May 29 but he inherits a dysfunctional economy. It is his task to lead fulfilling the needs of the youthful nation. He won with the slimmest majority since the return to democracy in 1999 and there is still speculation of the opposition going to court for a rerun. https://www.ft.com/content/25a73a4f-7129-48f0-a61d-e9696f50894a

FT Saudi Arabia makes itself attractive for multinationals relocating HQs

This is part of the plan to diversify the economy. Lack of clarity on tax regime was a hindrance so far and is now repaired. https://www.ft.com/content/e956333d-ea10-4b14-8c48-185570b0d057

FT Despite international pressure nothing much changed in Venezuela the last decade

The repressive government has weathered an economic crisis, sanctions, a failed drone assassination of the president and an uprising. The oil-rich economy has been destroyed by years of mismanagement. More than one in five Venezuelans has fled abroad. The regime approaches the tenth anniversary on March 8 and the president remains very much in control, using both modern and old-fashioned methods of repression and helped by authoritarian states and illegal businessmen. The UN reports thousands of extra-judicial killings and the ICC looks into investigating. https://www.ft.com/content/a868cafb-6ec5-4cb3-9ced-fb832bb2ef86

March 7

Make wellbeing central to public policy

The author claims that national governments should test all policies, new and old, to see whether they generate enough human wellbeing relative to their net cost to the state. This gives a more balanced result than focusing on growth. He points to the ‘World Wellbeing Movement’ just launched by major multinational companies and academics. There are many cost-effective policies possible in societies. The author does not mention churches, but they may be assumed among them. https://www.ft.com/content/d84cdee2-a7f7-4eb1-b812-4bfbd5e8499d

TT  Study shows Catholic women want reforms in church

The majority of the 17,200 respondents from 104 countries want more female decision-making power. The study was organized by Catholic Women Speak, an international organization, in response to the Pope’s invitation for submissions to the Synod of Bishops. The Pope has ruled out appointing women as priests. However, he has created a new commission to examine a female diaconate within the church. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vatican-city-women-study-survey-catholic-church-sex-contraception-divorce-2023-b9xbbj58m

March 8

FT South Africa GDP shrinks 1.3% after power cuts strangle economy

This is the figure over the last quarter of 2022. According to the South African Reserve Bank the daily loss to black outs is estimated at $ 50mn. https://www.ft.com/content/c1168eef-2869-47b3-a597-471f485b7009

FT Inside El Salvador’s mega prison: the jail giving inmates less space than livestock

The new 23 hectare design of the authoritarian government is called Terrorism Confinement Center and designed to house 40,000 inmates. 6 hectares of this are the actual prison cells. The first images show chilling methods of treating prisoners. https://www.ft.com/content/d05a1b0a-f444-4337-99d2-84d9f0b59f95

FT Sri Lanka’s IMF deal edges closer as China backs debt restructure

China’s step follows similar approvals of the other major bilateral lenders, India and Japan. China had previously only offered a two-year moratorium on debt and interest repayments from Sri Lanka, a condition that officials said the IMF did not endorse. It is now up to the IMF to clear the financial deal that according to the responsible IMF staff will, along with other reforms, enable strong and inclusive growth. https://www.ft.com/content/93b679db-7e16-48fe-a98c-b7f1840a42eb

FT Greece months away from investment-grade rating, says central bank chief

The country expects to regain its investment-grade credit rating after 12 years in the junk-bond wilderness if lawmakers signal their intent to maintain reforms and take advantage of a “window of opportunity”. The country’s debt burden has been lowered significantly. The price and wage competitiveness has improved but modernization of infrastructure and the public sector remain issues. https://www.ft.com/content/1a568ff6-41ef-4dfe-8bcf-2137eeeb405b

FT Iran cracks down on newspaper that reported on rising price of meat

While the civil unrest over the female dress rule has diminished, the economic hardship for millions of Iranians continues to deteriorate. The authorities are afraid publicity of economic hardship will fuel more protests. This explains the closure of the newspaper. https://www.ft.com/content/a5f2b0e3-2198-49b7-9233-c297d5268191

FT Strikes in France over pension reform move into ‘higher gear’

There was a fresh wave of strikes in France on Tuesday as labor unions vowed to bring the country to a standstill in an attempt to force the government to abandon the planned rise in the retirement age. The government in 2020 abandoned more ambitious pension reforms due to the pandemic. The present plan serves to prove the government’s reformist credentials. https://www.ft.com/content/2023c5ca-b2d4-4cbd-8d7f-4ebbb0f68232

March 9

FT Costs of gene treatments for once incurable diseases feared too high

While the clinical experiments show remarkable results, a price tag per patient in the millions looks like a firm threshold for broad use. Previously, a therapy came under criticism for effects that would be passed on to future generations. For the current research this would not be the case. Now equity is an issue. https://www.ft.com/content/0f3e32bf-10b7-4ec2-b4e0-6792fad10929

FT In Turkey opposition candidate for presidential election faces uphill battle

The coalition candidate is from a religious minority and has a record of election defeat. Also he is known for his dull public presence. In addition the incumbent has near total media control. The hope of the coalition is that the marked differences will attract people disappointed by recent events, like the suffering economy and the earthquake drama. https://www.ft.com/content/55fc7ac9-30f2-4d08-b704-e7f5a9adec65

FT Party in China tightens grip on economy

The changes were revealed this week at the annual gathering of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament and also include big overhauls of the State Council, China’s cabinet, and government ministries. The financial changes are a step towards a more international “twin peaks” model of financial regulation, with one agency covering market conduct and consumer protection and the other focused on financial system stability and policy. In the past oversight was limited and non-banking financial industries mushroomed. In addition a new Communist party science commission is charged with the responsibility to catch up with the west in innovation and science. https://www.ft.com/content/60a7c8ad-eba8-4030-899d-ffb760d005c4

FT Violent clashes in Georgia over proposed new media law

Georgia at one time was a prospect of joining the EU. Relations have soured for years now. The new law resembles a law used in Russia to regulate foreign funding of non-governmental organizations. Other former Soviet countries on Wednesday said the new law raises serious questions on democracy in Georgia. After the clashes the government withdrew the law. https://www.ft.com/content/a9f1e05f-168c-4623-a94e-990f71891f6e

FT Government in Spain split over fixing flawed sexual consent law

The law deeply polarized the country (see January 31). The socialists in government used the conservatives in parliament to repair the law. This was against the will of their left wing coalition partner in government. The country will have national, regional and municipal elections later this year. https://www.ft.com/content/0b5f4320-e71b-462a-b982-d665ffb4d2de

March 10

FT Tunisia government plans to dissolve local authorities in latest authoritarian sweep

The largest group in the opposition controls a third of the municipalities. The government is engaged in fierce authoritarian rhetoric on several fronts, from the issues of sub-Saharan migrants to foreign lenders. The latter category is surprised by the disconnect between technocratic progress and the government’s anti-everything rhetoric. https://www.ft.com/content/bfa4158d-b3b6-4980-8e2f-94f6e31abfeb

NYT Nigeria postpones state elections amid presidential vote controversy

The elections are now planned a week later on March 18. The electoral committee says it needs more time to reset the voting machines. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/09/world/africa/nigeria-state-elections.html

March 11

FT ‘We are daring to invent the future’ — the generation that rewrote Africa’s story

The newspaper dedicates a special to the Arts in Africa. The leading article sees three generations of African writers: The early writers had taken it as their mission to write Africa into the public imagination, presenting to the world stories in which Africans were fully formed subjects with agency in their own histories. These writers were writing against a background in which Africans were presented as mute objects of colonial patronage. Then came the generation with stories of families grappling with modernity, stories of love and loss, of spirituality and religion, stories that showed a joyful Africa even in its poverty, had an audience in the world. The third generation’s mission is to change how Africa is viewed. Like one artist once said: “Africa is my audience, the west and the rest are markets.” This is the driving spirit. The issue at stake is:  “Who gets to decide what is African Writing?” https://www.ft.com/content/e1fad84a-903e-44ec-b7c5-920e88a91eac

TT Pope blames war in Ukraine on ‘empires’ and arms industry

The pope: “It’s typical of empires to put nations in second place. The battlefield is Ukraine, everyone is fighting there.” He denied that he supported Russia’s invasion. He said: “I am simply against reducing the complexity to a distinction between good and bad.” He has also decried the “cruelty” of Russian soldiers and warned the Patriarch of Moscow against becoming “the altar boy of the Russian regime”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vatican-pope-francis-ukraine-war-imperial-interests-russia-2023-jzsxbn3rs

March 12

FT Corruption watchdog in South Africa moves to clear president in cash-in-couch incident

The finding is a major victory for the president, who has been bedeviled for the past 10 months by accusations that he tried to cover up a theft of cash from his farm to avoid scrutiny over having such a large sum of U.S. dollars stored at his property (see December 7). https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/11/world/africa/south-africa-ramaphosa-farm-burglary.html

March 13

FT Child deaths in Gambia fuel alarm over rules in ‘world’s biggest pharmacy’ India

The deaths of at least seventy babies have sparked concerns about quality control in India, the self-styled pharmacy of the world, as well as under-resourced regulatory agencies in low-income nations. The WHO in October issued an alert on “substandard” products. One worry is governments who treat everything as a public relations issue, not a public health issue. https://www.ft.com/content/72effe2f-988d-4618-bb07-16c96e81b6ee

FT Morocco takes the initiative to tackle climate change and geo political changes

The country’s finance minister said adapting the economy is necessary to meet the escalating threat from climate change, with more frequent droughts requiring investment in water technologies and an acceleration of its push into growth sectors such as car manufacturing. Investors are interested in renewables. In Morocco it is either windy or sunny. The kingdom already generates more than a third of its electricity from green sources. https://www.ft.com/content/30ecc8b7-2229-4677-a735-62e070a0e6ba

March 14

FT President of Switzerland digs heels in on arms for Ukraine

The country is in an increasingly tense domestic debate on its longstanding neutrality. Under current laws, weapons made by Swiss manufacturers can be re-sold or re-gifted only with the government’s permission, and may not be sent into active war zones. The president, a position rotating yearly in the 7 head executive, maintained that warfare is not part of the Swiss DNA. https://www.ft.com/content/c6401565-f3d3-489a-b373-e7d5fee11488

FT China verbally seals political one party system

At the end of its main national gathering the president pledged to strengthen China’s security and build the military into a “great wall of steel” that effectively safeguards national sovereignty, security and development interests. He aims to better marry “development and security”, stating that “safety is the foundation of development, and stability is the prerequisite for prosperity”. The newly elected PM struck a more conciliatory note. The government is uneasy with the bad example the Russian invasion of Ukraine poses to its own claim on Taiwan. https://www.ft.com/content/bdab1b20-fb0a-4961-8524-116bd7da6b61

TT In South Africa anger mounts at ‘rock star’ lives of ministers amid government failures

Criticism of the opposition necessitates the president to defend his policy after just appointing two more ministers. According to him the government operation is not unlike other countries. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anger-at-rock-star-lives-of-anc-ministers-amid-government-failures-0gdj85b96

NYT 10 Years on, Pope Francis faces challenges from the right and the left

The Catholic church is ideologically divided. Globally the pope has had successes but has had less success in bringing bishops along with him, something he views as essential for making lasting change. The setbacks mainly concern the situation in western nations. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/13/world/europe/pope-francis-catholic-church.html

March 15

FT Banks in Lebanon begin strike action over ‘arbitrary’ judicial decisions

The banks claim the decisions drain their already dwindling foreign currency reserves. They complained that borrowers were allowed to repay their foreign currency loans at the exchange rate in place before last month’s official devaluation, while lenders were still required to meet their obligations in foreign currencies. https://www.ft.com/content/bdbfe480-4877-421b-9087-c78fa7094740

March 16

FT Supporters of former PM of Pakistan protest over fears of his arrest

An attempt to detain the ousted PM failed on Tuesday night. Earlier (see October 22) he was accused of corruption but did not show up at a court session, fearing to be arrested. Many believe he would win new elections. The government struggles with economic hardship and failure to strike an IMF deal. https://www.ft.com/content/b3e47da1-c780-41b6-8fd4-fa080e8be3fe

FT Albania struggles to curb criminal gangs

The former basketball player and artist turned politician came to power a decade ago promising a clampdown on criminality. The contacts of the government with criminals appear to be much closer than pretended.  Municipal elections in May will test the premier’s dominance of Albanian politics. https://www.ft.com/content/4c42fa77-fca4-452d-bac3-e54e359fac36

March 17

FT Hundreds dead after Cyclone Freddy ravages Malawi and Mozambique

The president of Malawi declared two weeks of official mourning for the “national tragedy”. In Malawi alone over 80.000 people were internally displaced.  Citizens complained about inaction of the military. The cyclone has put the spotlight back on the threat to southern Africa from more powerful storms and intense rains linked to climate change. In 2019 a cyclone killed more than 1.000 people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. https://www.ft.com/content/3eb30f5f-1c01-4367-9fd5-f47953ccc376

FT Ireland’s housing crisis leaves refugees and homeless in desperate plight

Thousands of Irish tenants with financial problems face the prospect of eviction from next month when a winter ban on evictions will end. The country is not known for its xenophobic protest but nevertheless suffered some over this issue. Other parties called on the government to extend the eviction ban. https://www.ft.com/content/ff153ed9-c4f5-482f-ae80-2640cb33a32d

FT 167 year old bank in Switzerland collapses due to market tensions

The tensions developed from the collapse of a tech bank in the U.S.A. In recent years the Swiss bank had its own share of failures but this is no comparison to the problems of the U.S. bank. Yet, its fate is the same. Clients panic to withdraw their money before their fear of losing it all comes through. The Mozambique “tuna bonds” scandal was one of the Swiss bank failures. Scandals like this show systematic failures in risk management. https://www.ft.com/content/18278291-772e-4caa-8910-1d7b8563ed42

FT In the Netherlands provincial elections cause an electoral earthquake

A farmer protest party triumphs in a big way. The provincial lawmakers elect national senators for the upper house of parliament in May. There their presence will go from 0 to over 20 percent. In addition the government will face less cooperation from the provincial executives. https://www.ft.com/content/dd148d90-a361-4d45-bd7c-c17f2f217ce7

March 20

FT Microbes on the farm: a solution for climate change?

The microbial fungus when applied to soil might not only improve its health but greatly enhance its ability to store carbon. But many growers remain unconvinced by the case; their effects vary widely depending on climate and soil types, they can be expensive to implement, and properly transforming soil quality can take many years. https://www.ft.com/content/71422ca3-6cc8-46c3-9f59-768a501b85f3

FT Extension agreed for Black Sea grain export deal

The agreement first launched in July has brought 25mn tons of grains and cooking oil to the global markets. The two parties, Ukraine and Russia, differ on the length of the extension. Russia says two months, Ukraine 4 months. Russia urges to reopen a pipeline for ammonia and deals for other sanction related measures. https://www.ft.com/content/4dcc5a5e-d051-4a51-8a9e-348a3bb2c59c

FT Ukraine evicts church from monastery with the claim they work for Russia

In May last year, the church that runs the monastery declared independence from the Moscow patriarchy. But the move failed to convince its smaller rival, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which broke away from Russian control in 2018. Nor has it convinced the Ukrainian government. They both say the UOC is still under Russian ecclesiastical and political control. https://www.ft.com/content/8ee619ce-151e-4484-882e-8a54be411d26

FT Brazil looks to start-ups in battle to reforest the Amazon

Companies are replanting millions of hectares and generating revenue through carbon credit sales. This is more than twice the potential of silvopasture — the integration of trees with livestock — which is considered the next most effective method. The biggest hurdle is to change the culture; until now the thought was always to use the deforested area for agriculture. https://www.ft.com/content/55e2079a-6f5a-4dcd-afc3-3cfbc378cab2

FT India’s problem: high economic growth but few extra jobs

India’s growth figures are excellent. But the growth is being driven mainly by corporate growth, and corporate India does not employ that many people per unit of output. Government jobs, considered lifelong, are also too few. One state in India recently loosened labor laws to emulate working practices in China as such factory work give more opportunities. It is thought that services would be insufficient to cater for the enormous job market. https://www.ft.com/content/6886014f-e4cd-493c-986b-1da2cfc8cdf2

March 21

FT Warming and irreversible changes to the planet greater than previously thought

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest conclusive report claims “more likely than not” in the near-term a 1.5C rise since pre-industrial times will be reached. Curbing and adapting depends on political will. https://www.ft.com/content/a9901b6a-e8eb-414b-99c5-455618cc968b

FT South Africa deploys military to prevent nationwide protests

The government was afraid of a repetition of events in 2021, when hundreds were killed in looting and organized sabotage. The radical political party claims a successful shutdown, but in the capital taxis were operating normally. Meanwhile the rolling energy blackouts were suspended due to increase in generation capacity. https://www.ft.com/content/d402e4b3-964a-4018-a04a-c18e685f93c0

FT IMF approves $3bn bailout for Sri Lanka

The IMF will disburse the loan in eight installments and monitor the progress of agreed economic restructures. https://www.ft.com/content/96b9bee1-401c-418e-b92a-3e7cfb6d59a6

FT Bank collapse will bring reputation damage to Switzerland

The authorities tried to save a major bank at great expense but in the end had to maneuver to a takeover by its eternal rival, which is now one of the largest banks in the world. In the crisis shareholders were privileged over bondholders, leading to criticism of unreliability. https://www.ft.com/content/29b0e374-075f-48b9-b4a8-519ad7dfeaa2

March 22

FT DRC claims Rwanda earns 1bn$ per year in smuggling minerals from its territory

Rwanda is accused of supporting the insurgent group M23. DRC says the evidence is 1bn$ mineral export by Rwanda while they have no minerals themselves. The finance minister calls for international sanctions against Rwanda, but so far these calls fall on deaf ears. https://www.ft.com/content/ecf89818-949b-4de7-9e8a-89f119c23a69

FT Oil minister in Venezuela resigns over corruption allegations

The minister was the architect of sanctions evasion, a big source for corruption. This resignation signals a further purge of the regime. Some suggested the aim of the resignation is hiding evidence of corruption. The president still maintains his ideological rhetoric and claims the former minister will cooperate in the anti-corruption drive. Elections are due in 2024. https://www.ft.com/content/4b8e609f-a62e-4933-b5d1-12fe248bf1dd

March 23

FT In Ukraine grain giant is fighting for survival

Once the country was a grain basket for the world with a complete river, harbor and shipping infrastructure to create the necessary logistics. Now this is all in tatters and economic risks are mounting. https://www.ft.com/content/e0d9607e-f313-4fa6-91d5-ec32039fe632

FT In France government pushes through unpopular changes in pensions

A parliamentary vote has not sanctioned the move. The government claims raising the pension age is to repair the public finances but acknowledged public anger over the government’s decision and the right to protest. All the government claims to prevent is public finances to balloon in the distant future. The president is now in his second and final term, giving him room for unpopular moves. https://www.ft.com/content/034128b7-780f-465c-9531-83454551942d

FT In Turkey ethnic minority party signals support for opposition candidate in presidential election

The main opposition bloc, which includes Islamist and nationalist parties, has shied away from formally inviting the ethnic minority party to the table. It normally reaches 12 percent of the vote. The incumbent party labels the minority party the political extension of a terrorist group. https://www.ft.com/content/681bbff7-f923-46de-99ed-15f1d462c92d

March 24

FT WHO warns over spread of virulent Marburg virus after Tanzania deaths

Marburg spreads to humans from fruit bats and is passed on through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected patients. Incubation ranges from 2 to 21 days. So far no vaccines are approved. It can kill up to 88 percent of those infected. https://www.ft.com/content/0fe6bbbb-6993-41c5-900a-77054e4dc4d0

FT Opposition leader in India banned from parliament due to verdict on defamation

He had insulted the PM four years ago during the election campaign. The decision came despite the court suspending his sentencing for 30 days to give him time to file an appeal. https://www.ft.com/content/e838bc56-935b-436c-b76e-4f98f79f13b8

TT Russian mercenary group tightens grip in Central African Republic

Four men in the group’s uniform attacked a French owned brewery. This is the latest in a series of attacks at French properties. It is known that the Russian cultural attaché in CAR started his own brand of beer recently. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russia-wagner-group-putin-africa-bomb-french-business-2023-g6n2qjp8r

TT President’s son-in-law insists he will be Uganda’s president

If so, he would beat the president’s son, nicknamed General Twitter for his social media behavior. The two do not get on with each other and the president’s son claims to be the favorite successor. The son-in-law profiles himself as somebody from a poor childhood and a strong intellect. He is appointed by the government to a committee to raise foreign trade. The president says he will run again in three years from now when he will be 81. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/uganda-president-son-museveni-kainerugaba-2023-q0gp7cgx2

March 25

Switzerland suffers identity crisis through not achieved financial expectations

The country’s sense of self as a haven for the world’s money and a beacon of neutrality is being shaken by the collapse of an over 150 years old bank. The huge bank, the locomotive of Switzerland’s industrial miracle, was weakened by years of scandal. The state was not going to use more taxpayer money to preserve the bank’s independence. The deal to sell it to its larger competitor shocked many around the world and raised questions about the stability the Swiss system sells itself on. And its political neutrality is also at stake (see March 14). https://www.ft.com/content/e74c0556-5e60-4ab2-9876-7ac687b1d021

Tensions begin to show in coalition government in Germany

The coalition partners unite over help to Ukraine but are very divided on many other issues like climate change and administration spending. This poses a risk as it is a very broad coalition. https://www.ft.com/content/6091028e-24fa-4ca2-abf0-4bb7e65498d5

TT The French consider their social contract broken

The state is widely looked to as a provider, though at a cost: at almost 60 per cent, public spending as a share of GDP is by far the highest in the EU — and punitive social charges are levied on both workers and employers to fund the welfare state. The resistance towards cutting public spending is among all ages. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-french-social-contract-is-broken-now-the-young-are-fighting-back-660bmq6kz

March 27

FT Libyan state oil chief stresses he has support across the divided country

In an effort to attract investment and boost production the oil chief appointed after the ousting by force of his predecessor claims he can travel anywhere in the divided country and has the support of both sides. He recently signed a deal with an Italian company to develop offshore gas fields and boosts his intention to serve the European neighbors with gas. https://www.ft.com/content/6882752b-826f-4de7-bd1c-238b3c82df03

FT The unstoppable rise of government rescues

The past few decades of easy money created markets so large — nearing five times larger than the world economy — and so intertwined, that the failure of even a midsize bank risks global contagion. In this culture government responds in an interventionalist mode. This induces productivity reduction and lower living standards. https://www.ft.com/content/0853917d-538f-4e86-a6a1-56f559ff4264

March 28

FT Rebellion in Iran: how far will the regime go?

Outwardly, the regime is projecting confidence that it has navigated the tumult. Yet in the streets signs of protest persist. So far, the regime has made some concessions, including turning a blind eye to women not wearing the hijab. The republic has been confronting crises with regularity since its birth. Now they also have to soon replace the aged Supreme Leader. Will they manage to pursue his hardline policy, claiming protests are a middle class problem and assuming the poor are behind the regime? https://www.ft.com/content/52d4ed75-5e40-45a5-89a5-86176d0d10fc

TT Israel protests: PM delays court overhaul “to avoid civil war”

He admitted that his proposed package of judicial reforms, which would end judges’ oversight of government, had split the country in two, and said he would delay the legislation until a new session of the Israeli parliament. This only happened after he had to fire his Defense minister and promise his firebrand security chief the control of a new volunteer “national guard”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/binyamin-netanyahu-fires-minister-who-rebelled-over-justice-reforms-3mgrb9skz

March 29

FT In Greece May 21 elections are amid criticism of the government’s handling of a deadly train crash

The previous government established a proportional representation system that will make it difficult for a single party to form a government. The incumbent still has a poll lead over the previous government, which also is not faring well in the polls. Both are suffering from criticism over various issues and fringe groups benefit. If the election winners fail to agree on a coalition, a second ballot under a semi-proportional system is expected to be held a few weeks later, by the beginning of July at the latest. https://www.ft.com/content/9f04e068-1bd6-4e4e-8fa3-5acc753a3bdf

March 30

FT How to avoid a developing world debt crisis

In the last 20 years the share of public and publicly guaranteed external debt of low and lower-middle income countries owed to bondholders jumped from 10 to 50 per cent of the total. The total developing world debt rose to a record of $98tn at the end of 2022, after governments and corporations filled their boots in recent years. A rating agency said there are nine sovereign defaulters since 2020. Heading off a developing world debt crisis should be a top priority. It is hindered by the great power struggle. The newspaper in an editorial suggests the G20 should act as a coordinating agency. https://www.ft.com/content/1bbce83b-aebe-4fd2-afd2-02e45ed5338d

FT Spain wants the young to pay for pension shortfall of elderly

Faced with an ageing population and ballooning costs, the government has opted to raise contributions rather than cut benefits. While France is in revolt over plans to lift the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, Spain’s threshold has been 65 for decades, leaving it searching for other ways to shore up a creaking pension system while being fair to young and old. The country has mainly state pensions, not private and employer based systems. But the state also has a debt problem. Just raising taxes will create unrest. https://www.ft.com/content/0c3c40d7-cfd8-456a-8565-13ca76a3093e

FT Turkey government to slash energy bills ahead of tough election

The government seeks to win favor among voters by reducing costs for consumers and businesses. It is the latest of a thoroughly state interventionist policy, neglecting economic wisdom and also exploiting geopolitical political clout. The May election will see whether the traditional voters base of the incumbent will stand even the recent stuttering earthquake response. https://www.ft.com/content/589877b7-4dc7-4e49-a6ca-bb0041d56b43

March 31

FT Prepare for a multipolar currency world

The closed nature of China’s capital account until recently was considered an impediment to wider use of its currency. The dollar now is considered a risk due to the looming banking crisis. Russia and China agreed to do RMB trading, also with other countries. And then there is Saudi Arabia, in search of a bigger role in warming up to China. France just did its first liquid natural gas sale in RMB and Brazil has embraced the currency for some of its trade with China. All signals a multipolar currency world. https://www.ft.com/content/f8f3b2cd-6690-4f26-b81e-e972751c8799

FT President in Ecuador faces impeachment trial over corruption charge

Earlier (see February 8) parliament was strengthened by a referendum organized by the government. The high court now allows an impeachment procedure. The impeachment must be backed by 92 of the 137 legislators in the unicameral congress. If the vote to remove the president passes, he would be replaced by the vice-president, a former medical doctor and political novice. https://www.ft.com/content/4f8cbb9d-d561-4218-9df5-300b422dd4db

FT In Israel security minister outlines plans for new national guard

The plan reveals it will be used to fight “nationalist crime, terror and to strengthen governance where needed”. The plan will be discussed in the cabinet on Sunday. There is already a national guard under the police. The minister, previously convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization, has long argued for a national guard under his command, arguing that it was needed to combat lawlessness. https://www.ft.com/content/53ea0e1b-0eb2-4aa8-95fd-188b660efb70

NYT Vatican repudiates ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ used as a justification for colonization

It is a legal concept based on 15th-century papal documents that European colonial powers used to legitimize the seizure and exploitation of Indigenous lands. The doctrine is “not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church.” One analyst: “The current action is about the rejection of the mind-set that gave rise to the colonial impulse and even to the missionary impulse of those times.” Canadian clergy pointed to the 1537 decree issued by Paul III, Sublimis Deus, in which “the rights and freedoms of Indigenous Peoples were upheld.” Scholars note that the same pope nullified this decree one year later. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/30/world/europe/vatican-repudiates-doctrine-of-discovery-colonization.html

April 1

FT From Ethiopia: Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, musician and nun, 1923-2023

Her musical career as  a child was brought to an abrupt halt by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935. After the defeat of the Italians it picked up again, but she was disappointed not to be allowed to study in England. A religious epiphany followed. She received holy communion from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after a period of torment during which she had refused food. She then retreated to the Guishen Maryam monastery in a mountainous region several hundred miles north of Addis Ababa. She was ordained as a nun aged 21. She took up music again, immersing herself in indigenous Ethiopian forms, with their distinctive five-note scales, which would leave their imprint on her own compositions. https://www.ft.com/content/006522c8-b77d-456d-9203-cace417b170f

April 2

FT The wheels of justice turn for a former U.S.A. president

The indictment sends a message that no American is above the law. The current charges are minor compared to other investigations, like his role in the assault of Capitol hill, and hold the risk that his standing with supporters will only get a boost. Yet the rule of law is the foundation upon which democracy is built. Compromising on one fatally wounds the other. https://www.ft.com/content/a392b9b5-3542-4f87-be39-4093a9e797b2

April 3

TT Burkina Faso soldiers accused of executing children

In its response the regime kicked out French journalists which is a major setback for press freedom. A video, since corroborated as authentic by the Associated Press, shows the bloody details of the killings. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/burkina-faso-soldiers-accused-of-executing-children-ps8xp38md

April 4

FT China is winning the race for the lithium of Africa

The country already dominates processing of the metal for use in electric vehicle batteries and is now investing heavily in mines, leaving western operators scrambling to keep up. Not to mention chances for countries of Africa itself. The Western investors pitch themselves as more socially responsible. In reality they are smarted out by rapid Chinese investment. https://www.ft.com/content/02d6f35d-e646-40f7-894c-ffcc6acd9b25

FT Prominent Algerian journalist sentenced to 5 years in prison

The court also ordered the closure of his media organization, which is seen as the last remaining space for free political debate in the country. He was convicted on charges related to receiving funds from abroad for “propaganda” purposes and threatening the security of the state. The journalist refused to speak to the court, as he considered the conditions for fair trial not to be met. The court decision can be appealed. https://www.ft.com/content/ebd59bd2-c2d1-4cb6-b1cc-8b8120f863d6

FT In India an old political dynasty is struggling against the ruling party

The ruling party has the advantage of religious roots in most of the population. In access, when taking office it looked like a promise to get rid of the corruption scandals of the old dynasty. Now a court case is leading to political damage of the old order (See March 24). The government claims to be following due legal process. It looks like the old dynasty is rebranding itself and is less easy to sideline than supposed. https://www.ft.com/content/17e580a4-6e5e-450a-9844-72ae3fd5ca3c

FT Montenegro voters oust president after 30 years in power

The incumbent conceded defeat on Sunday to a 37-year-old banker who promised to speed up the country’s accession talks with the European Union. The incumbent was an iconic figure in Balkan politics. The election result represents a sea change in Montenegro, the smallest country in the region with a population of just 620,000. https://www.ft.com/content/4e71740c-078a-451a-8f93-f7071e8074a1

FT Incumbent PM in Finland concedes election defeat

The PM’s party won but her Green and leftwing coalition partners suffered heavy losses. The 37 year old conceded defeat but celebrated her party’s gain of three seats. “Democracy has spoken and we have reason to be happy about this result,” she said. https://www.ft.com/content/756b91e7-2b60-4a59-a364-c3dcacd36b7e

April 5

FT Tunisia government creates a ‘hostile environment’ for Sub-Saharan migrants

In the authoritarian sweep of the current government migrants are victimized (see also March 10). This causes violence, in which migrants and some black Tunisians have been attacked in the streets and thrown out of their jobs and homes. The situation brought some countries to repatriate their citizens while the Tunisia government hopes to get EU funding for stopping migration to Europe. https://www.ft.com/content/c5304e43-785a-4fee-b9fa-115f8491c92f

FT Northern Ireland: the paramilitaries that ‘never go away’

Paramilitaries in a working-class area near Belfast control the drugs trade. Young teenagers go to them for weed and cocaine, but soon they are hooked and have racked up a “strap”, or debt. They struggle to pay because they can’t get a job until they are 16, so they are given two choices: “Take a punishment beating, or sign up”. A youth worker: “If you sign up, you get taken to a house, you put your hand on a Bible and swear to the cause. There are a couple of masked men there, and flags.” https://www.ft.com/content/7e83e463-0c45-46a6-a6a0-12668cb65dc9

FT EU calls on China to use influence with Russia to stop invasion in Ukraine

The EU argues that China is in a position to influence Russia in a constructive way. It has a responsibility. “You cannot be for half of the international order.” The EU head said the invasion in Ukraine a “watershed moment” for the bloc as it seeks to defend the internationally agreed system of sovereign borders. She travels to China with the president of France. The visit follows visits of the German and Spanish PM’s. In contrast, the U.S.A. cancelled a visit to China. https://www.ft.com/content/d9b3fa90-ed86-431a-8942-896257f60c2e

FT In India banned secessionist movement is fighting to create independent state of ‘Khalistan’

Supporters of the outlawed Khalistan separatist movement have attacked New Delhi’s diplomatic missions in San Francisco and London, where a man ripped down the Indian tricolor flag. Security analysts and local community leaders said only a minority of Sikhs endorsed separatism, and the biggest source of support for Khalistan is in the large diaspora. Some analysts say the government is giving too much credit to the separation movement by its heavy handed approach. https://www.ft.com/content/1e11a2f2-78c3-41be-ae34-1de5f226a60d

FT In France police deploy rough tactics at anti-government protests

Lawyers and human rights groups have criticized the methods used by law enforcement, such as preventive arrests to deter protesters, collect intelligence on activists and forceful crowd control methods. The government has defended the police’s actions as necessary and lawful given the unpredictable conditions at recent protests where a radical fringe of demonstrators have attacked officers with stones and explosives. https://www.ft.com/content/951e49de-69b4-4420-bcae-73a110a57171

April 6

FT IMF says “friendshoring” is risk for global productivity

By limiting investment to countries that are politically on the same line, the global productivity will be negatively influenced. The IMF recommends efforts to preserve global integration of economies as the best means of avoiding these losses and promoting global prosperity. https://www.ft.com/content/b2f66486-80e5-425e-86e7-fe432da8aeec

FT South Africa backtracks on national energy company state of disaster

The government withdraws permission for the utility to avoid reporting irregular spending in the face of public anger. The government faced legal challenges from civil society groups that said the designation threatened to exacerbate corruption. The utility warned last week that its power-station fleet would experience severe generation shortfalls every week for the next year. https://www.ft.com/content/57b519cd-46ce-4cb7-90b7-d2b4093ae7b2

FT Somalia president says ‘defeat’ of militants within sight

The president believes his latest military offensive will force the militants to come to the negotiation table. Territorial gains, mostly in central Somalia, have been accompanied by a financial crackdown and a drive to convince Somali clerics to condemn al-Shabaab as “anti-Islamic”. The offensive, which is backed by the U.S.A., Turkey, the African Union and others, comes as Somalia, a country of 17mn people, is gripped by its worst drought in decades. The Somali government has been helped by growing discontent with the jihadis’ use of extortion and forced recruitment, which has turned much of the population against them. https://www.ft.com/content/8dc5db3f-9f52-486a-b29f-741919e06875

FT Recent train crash in Greece was waiting to happen due to debt, graft and mismanagement

With the accident front and center in every public discussion, the government decided to postpone parliamentary elections by a month to May 21. The authorities spent millions of EU and Greek funds on overpriced investments that were never completed, appointed some executives without proper qualifications, and left the railway with unfit equipment and poor maintenance. https://www.ft.com/content/ec90bce4-59a5-4b32-86b7-55c63a32a357

April 8

FT Biggest city in South Africa is run down

Illegal gold miners use risky methods without being stopped, political turmoil happened after the coalition city government collapsed and wealthy inhabitants flee the city as services collapse and security worsens. https://www.ft.com/content/7e267ded-2320-4e6c-aa26-1c4be9df192c

FT UAE refuses to extradite suspected persons of corruption to South Africa

This happens despite the two countries having an extradition treaty. The UAE said in a statement that the Dubai court of appeal had rejected the extradition request for the two because it “did not meet the strict standards for legal documentation” in the extradition treaty. https://www.ft.com/content/7015565f-891f-4d01-a0e7-cf7c5507cecf

NYT Baptist Minister in Myanmar gets 6 years in prison for opposing regime

The minister is, according to the newspaper, internationally renowned for his humanitarian and community work. In 2019 he met with the president of the U.S.A. and the regime filed a defamation case against him after his return. This was dropped after the U.S.A. protested. In December he was arrested when boarding a plane to Thailand. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/07/world/asia/baptist-minister-myanmar-prison-coup.html

April 10

FT Ambition is needed to rebuild trust in multilateralism

The former president of Columbia in an op-ed argues that the upcoming IMF/World bank governors meetings have a historic opportunity to address the triple crises of climate, debt and poverty. An annual $1tn of external finance is needed. He also reminds us that previous pledges have not been met. Yet, pandemic, assault on Ukraine and rising interest rates make action urgent. The sheer scale of need demands a paradigm shift. The IFIs are the most efficient way to finance both national development and global public goods. Yet they are conservative and disinclined to innovate at scale. https://www.ft.com/content/8af4ed19-4cf5-40d6-9e94-6e0abb591556

FT Democracy struggles to take root in Gambia

The atmosphere was jubilant when the former dictator was ousted six years ago in the first constitutional transfer of power in the country since 1965. Today not much change happened in the country of 2.6 mn. The president, a security guard in London in the 2000s and one-time property developer, was little-known in Gambia when he ran for the presidency. He still uses Ecowas forces to stabilize. Despite discontent the citizens enjoy relative freedom. https://www.ft.com/content/bf93f883-12a1-4a2d-9742-1e4932f5181d

FT Pakistan’s economic crisis puts healthcare costs out of reach

Rising inflation has driven the price of treatment to unaffordable levels, forcing many families to choose between healthcare and other necessities, while shrinking foreign currency reserves have caused shortages of imported drugs and medical equipment. Meanwhile, negotiations with creditors have been severely delayed. https://www.ft.com/content/d1fa8bb9-ff22-446e-af24-83a0b6a306e7

April 11

FT Ghana’s bilateral creditors set to clear way for $3bn IMF bailout

The hope of the finance minister is at the bilateral creditors meeting (the so-called Paris club) on Tuesday to discuss whether to provide enough relief to unlock a $3bn IMF bailout agreed last year. China, which is owed $1.9bn, was expected by the finance minister to agree to a deal, despite not being a member of the Paris Club. Ghana stopped repaying debt in December. https://www.ft.com/content/5e965f1d-3cbb-4fe2-a5f1-a24ba2b18b6a

FT Landless farmers movement in Brazil steps up action

The 2 mn members movement has ties to the president. The president has pledged support for small family farms but the agriculture minister ruled out supporting invasions of productive farmland. The movement cites Brazil’s legacy of slavery and the historic absence of meaningful land reform as factors behind the country’s extreme inequality. The environment minister under the previous government called the movement “criminals”. https://www.ft.com/content/2852dec2-ed95-4c53-b68b-0085913ddf04

FT The threat of China on Taiwan

Why should America threaten to fight China, another nuclear-armed power, to defend an island of 24mn people that lies roughly 100 miles off the Chinese coast? FT’s chief political analyst sees three reasons to be worried, now that France also signaled it would not lift a finger to protect the island: The first is about the future of political freedom in the world. The second is about the global balance of power. The third is about the world economy. https://www.ft.com/content/11b82a88-57ae-44b1-8368-864f42ffac7f

April 12

FT World Bank and IMF meetings must tackle financial and climate risks

Over the past three years the global economy has been subjected to an unprecedented series of shocks. 60 % of low-income countries are at high risk of or already in debt distress. Geopolitical risks are also undermining global prospects. This week’s meetings are a crucial moment to set tackling the long term risks in motion. https://www.ft.com/content/5898c54b-1772-44b2-a73a-031487040e23

FT Poorest countries find finances under pressure from higher rates

A group of 91 lower income countries sees the size of government revenue used for foreign debt servicing rise. If you add domestic debt servicing the situation is only worse. This will hamper spending on health and education. The rise in debt servicing costs will fuel an ongoing debate over debt forgiveness. https://www.ft.com/content/049aef43-4f03-45a1-bf65-749cd44921cc

FT China pushes Uyghurs to spy on each other overseas

This happens particularly in neighboring countries that have populations with ethnic ties to this population group and is executed simultaneously with the detention of millions of Uyghurs inside China, labelled as vocational training. Tools used to coerce people include threats to their families in China. Influencing the narrative of the Uyghur treatment inside China is one of the goals. https://www.ft.com/content/1a193bc6-ee47-49ae-a965-92c0a9353544

TT President of France urges Europe to break free of economic dependence on China and US

The president believes “strategic autonomy” is vital for the “sovereignty” of the European Union. The pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine had made Europe realize that it was dependent on big powers to remedy the situation, he said. “We want allies. We want to be good friends. We want partners. But we always want to be in a situation to choose them, not to be 100 percent dependent on them.” Other western countries criticized the president’s stand as a mistake. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/macron-netherlands-holland-state-visit-2023-90gx3vzjq

NYT In Indonesia a conservative Islamic movement, spread through social media, is popular among youth

Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs said it has begun a counter narrative to challenge the movement’s momentum. The brand of conservatism it promotes, he said, “is not good for Islam in the Indonesian context.” The movement, thought to be supported by tens of millions, claims not to be against the government but is known to be active in protests, among other against newly built Christian churches. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/12/world/asia/indonesia-muslim-hijrah-youth.html

NYT Airstrike in rebel-held region of Myanmar kills at least 100

As resistance forces have become better armed, the military has doubled down on its strategy of carrying out air raids and targeting civilians. The apparent target of the attack was a celebration to mark the local resistance movement’s opening of an administration office. The Myanmar military has a long history of brutal attacks on civilians since soon after independence in 1948. In recent years pro-democracy forces have united with some armed ethnic groups in a national campaign to oust the military from power. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/11/world/asia/myanmar-airstrike.html

April 13

FT Sovereign lending in uncharted waters with China, second global lender

China has so far lent over .8 Tn and is shaking up the market with unpredictability. While domestic lending is guided by rule of law in the country, there is no international law for insolvent countries. Some consensus has been achieved over time but now one big state creditor is involved with the power to dictate terms and the patience not to make a deal if it doesn’t suit them. Some nine countries are already in “debt distress”, while another 27 countries have a high risk of falling into it. Another 26 more countries, according to the IMF, are on the watchlist. And then there are a lot of debt ridden state companies in those countries who are in need of help. https://www.ft.com/content/19add278-aa83-45f8-a84f-12750f32258f

April 14

FT President of Brazil calls for end to dollar trade dominance

The president is in Shanghai, China, for the inauguration of a former Brazilian president as head of the new Development Bank of the Brics, Egypt, Bangladesh, Uruguay and the UAE. He rhetorically asked who decides that other currencies than the dollar are of no value outside their own countries? He proposed that bilaterally countries can decide otherwise. A bank analyst said that a bigger role of the renminbi is logical as China’s global trade share is on the rise. https://www.ft.com/content/669260a5-82a5-4e7a-9bbf-4f41c54a6143

FT Former prime minister of Pakistan warns debt burden on low-income countries is unmanageable

He said his country needed “surgery” as debt is growing relative to export production. He would prioritize domestic reforms and the way the country is run over seeking debt relief. He concluded that unless dollar based export earnings are increased his own country would not be able to pay off debt, “whether it’s Chinese or Paris Club or commercial debts.” His stand is doubted as he is known for some erratic policies while in office. https://www.ft.com/content/481b1d9c-dd54-4748-8d3d-ecb2addbf081

April 15

FT Wildlife and agriculture increasingly clash in Kenya

Commercial farming is happening in government led plot allocation, threatening the migration needs of large wildlife. This in turn threatens the main attraction of tourism, the source of 10 % of the country’s GDP. The farming is also commercial and contributes to the country’s income. https://www.ft.com/content/339921c7-e0be-43f4-852b-50060184a201

April 17

FT IMF urges big push to help African nations

The head of the IMF Africa department called for a “2005 moment”. At the time 130 bn $ of debt was cancelled. This is nowhere near today as deals of countries with other foreign lenders, primarily China, are not reached. He did not call for another outright cancellation but for a more efficient debt framework. Foreign currency bonds demanded by investors yield more than 10 % over U.S.A. treasury bonds, a clear sign of distress. https://www.ft.com/content/421e8fce-b408-46ca-acd8-a3aa3524e3b9

FT Will Somalia achieve peace?

In Somalia the government seeks to create a federal state. It has to fight the jihadi’s but can it overcome the clan rivalries?  The president: “It’s not written anywhere, what Somali politics looks like. This is a gentleman’s agreement among the clans. We don’t have political parties, all we have is clans.” The government wants to change the constitution and negotiate with breakaway Puntland, but the president warns the wanted independence is not in the offering. https://www.ft.com/content/0b968db2-2b34-482b-8ab0-946c2d2cceb4

FT Sudan fighting  between parts of military cause hundreds injured and death

The military late last year agreed to hand over the government to politics (see December 6) and the fighting started just before the agreed deadline. The main army rules out talking to the revolting militia, their former allies. The army is connected to Egypt, the revolting militia to Saudi Arabia & UAE. The international world called for peace.  https://www.ft.com/content/997166c7-0b2f-48f0-a7ff-a98e7b51243e

FT China signature Belt & Road loan Initiative (BRI) turns sour

Nearly 10 % of the volume has been renegotiated and China gave even more emergency loans to prevent defaults. One analyst predicts this is only the beginning. By the end of the year a BRI forum is organized to celebrate 10 years of operation. The importance of the BRI loan system in China’s global influence policy is decreasing. https://www.ft.com/content/da01c562-ad29-4c34-ae5e-a0aafddd377c

TT Ukrainian worshippers return to disputed cave monastery

They braved police barricades outside the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv on Sunday to celebrate the Ukrainian Orthodox Easter. This comes after the government evicted officials from the ministry on accusations of spying for Russia (See March 20). The worshippers support this move. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukrainian-worshippers-return-to-disputed-cave-monastery-b7h95bngt

April 18

FT President and his deputy fight it out in Sudan

Both men had emerged as leaders of the transitional government after a 2019 coup that ousted the dictator that ruled over the country for 30 years. Both have bases across the country and different international backers. They have much more at stake than military control. They also have economic and financial power. Some fear these men will never give up power as the military have run Sudan most of the time since the departure of the colonialists. https://www.ft.com/content/b75628bb-e042-4116-8ba8-f6593d8432b3

FT Sudan in the middle of a war between generals

A civil war would be a disaster not only for Sudan’s 45mn people but also for the wider region. Sudan has a long coastline. The Arab neighbors have put too much faith in the military. The west thought they could push democracy and the interest of Israel by lifting sanctions. FT in an editorial concludes this all now looks naïve. “To democrats, Sudan provides a cautionary tale. Even when millions of people take to the streets, it is very hard to dissuade men with guns from power.” https://www.ft.com/content/f1d95421-0f0d-4711-b1e7-63a64f21a1a3

April 19

FT Sudan conflict might draw regional tensions

Egypt supports the leader of the regular army and is wary of Russian influence. The militia leader has been courting Russia but also has ties with Saudi Arabia and UAE, who fear that their overseas neighbor develops in a second Libya. All foreign parties seem to be interested in de-escalating the current conflict. https://www.ft.com/content/228f929d-a73f-4bb3-83b0-70707ee48348

FT Fierce fighting around Khartoum airport

The airport is in the middle of the city. The militia leader claimed he had agreed to a ceasefire but later announced further attacks. The regular army claims that the militia will be overwhelmingly defeated. Meanwhile the EU ambassador was assaulted in his own residency. https://www.ft.com/content/8ef67b47-0477-4e44-bb98-75bd5e1a803e

FT In Tunisia authoritarian crackdown continues with detention opposition leader

Three more officials of the moderate Islamist party, the biggest political group in the country since 2011, were also arrested. The arrested are charged with “incitement” charges. Responding to the actions of the authoritarian government the opposition leader said that Tunisian politics without his group would be a recipe for civil war. https://www.ft.com/content/61a0a096-7fb0-4e8c-b308-fe835c52b691

April 20

FT Mexico government tries to increase control of society by the state

The government has already given the control over construction projects and customs to the military but is now stopped by the supreme court to do the same with the national guard. The president claims the military is more reliable and suggests the army is anti-elite. “The soldiers are the people in uniform”. https://www.ft.com/content/cedc1b80-0991-4eea-9c73-b8203bddd62a

April 21

FT Sudan generals signal they will fight to the end

Both parties express rhetorical support for transition to democracy in order to plead for themselves and accuse the other party to be criminal. And they also accuse the other party of not willing to give in. https://www.ft.com/content/34940151-ca4e-4eb4-9a5b-0188beff6e9d

FT Democratic backsliding of India

The newspaper in another editorial on India’s assumed clampdown on democracy is triggered by the court rejection of an appeal by the opposition leader for his defamation case (see March 24). The newspaper considers it a trend since the present government came to power in 2014. Internationally a blind eye is given as India is necessary to counter China. https://www.ft.com/content/6c98e1aa-85da-4738-b889-fc4d76d1d0bc

April 22

FT A portrait of the challenger in Sudan

The newspaper labels the struggle in Sudan as one of marginalization and revenge. The challenger of the military chief in command is known as the “butcher of Darfur”, yet belongs to that region that is considering itself marginalized. His career was through the former dictatorship but he managed to reinvent himself in the 2019 coup and also participated with his foe in the 2021 coup. Born in 1973 his fate will now probably be sealed by either victory or total exit from power. https://www.ft.com/content/714ff5cf-7396-480a-8cbc-4b9d3f422d1a

FT Chile moves to bring lithium under state control

The government also wants to include stricter environment rules in production. The country is following other countries like Mexico, Zimbabwe and Indonesia in state control of resources. The plan is not a total nationalization but pursues majority state-owned partnerships. It also envisages more value added activity to benefit Chile itself. https://www.ft.com/content/ebd48bbc-1390-4679-99fe-682975bbdba8

FT Tennessee becomes center of U.S.A. culture wars

The state with 52 percent of citizens identifying as evangelicals (double the number compared to the national figure) is cthe enter of a social contract struggle with issues like private gun control and gender dividing citizens. Over time state politics switched the ruling party each election until 2019. The so-called gerrymandering (changing district borders to influence elections) is particularly severe here. https://www.ft.com/content/c7f2edaf-4f6e-42b6-9225-6c3bf67b41a4

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA and World Council of Churches call in the U.N. on Azerbaijan for the immediate lifting of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh: https://un.worldea.org/wea-and-wcc-call-on-azerbaijan-for-the-immediate-lifting-of-the-blockade-of-nagorno-karabakh/

April 24

FT Generals plunge Sudan into its next coup

The warring generals benefitted from the popular revolution that ousted a long standing dictator. Now they take on each other. The country never had peace since the liberation from colonialists but two dictators in the past ruled harshly for 16 and 30 years respectively. Will the citizens take hold again, the newspaper asks? https://www.ft.com/content/eec4f765-7ebc-43f4-a05e-e99781245554

FT China urges jobless graduates to take up manual work

News media highlight graduates who successfully tried their luck outside their training and go for selling in the streets. The party youth league last month criticized graduates refusing to look outside their professional aspirations. This triggers growing public anger over the economic crackdown of the government and the lack of social mobility in the country. In the background plays the looming demographic crisis of rising median age. https://www.ft.com/content/b0a85810-e8a2-4868-a88a-3049d54d101b

FT President of Brazil marks independent position in Ukraine invasion of Russia

Brazil has voted against the Russian invasion of Ukraine but refused to join sanctions against Russia or supply Ukraine with weapons. In addition the country pleads to start talking about peace despite the hostilities. “If you don’t talk about peace, you contribute to war”, the president said at the start of a European visit. One diplomat said that the position of Brazil should be seen “as its long standing ambition to be seen as a global actor, as an actor of the global south”. https://www.ft.com/content/14eb70f0-201b-41c6-af16-2c427b12acc2

April 25

FT China forced to correct diplomat’s interpretation of sovereignty

The Chinese ambassador to France publicly remarked that the Eastern European countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union “had never received sovereignty from international law perspective”. The government in China said in correction: “China respects the sovereign status of the republics after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.” https://www.ft.com/content/cfc8d303-10a8-45b0-9901-da553d161ca1

FT President of Ecuador vows to dissolve parliament if it tries to impeach him

The president claims he will fight the procedure to impeach him (see March 31) and will eventually resort to what is called the “double death” procedure where both parliament and president will face fresh elections. In the background plays drugs related corruption. https://www.ft.com/content/e19489a1-a63f-4d70-abaf-379dc63c18e2

FT Government in Columbia struggles to achieve comprehensive peace

The progressive government vowed to make “total peace” but the reliance in the country on illicit drugs related activity counters the efforts. There are many criminal gangs and people relying on their activity.  Many citizens are desperate for the government to succeed. But they also say that alternatives must prevail to the illicit sources of income from which armed groups benefit. https://www.ft.com/content/9be11107-ee3e-4070-b674-4b4af0528631

April 26

FT Sudan crisis influences situation in neighboring Chad

Thousands of refugees flock to Chad but there are also ethnic ties, particularly with the militia group fighting the main army in Sudan. Chad itself has a failed path to democracy, not unlike its Sahel neighbors. But it escapes the criticism that the others get as it is an important ally for the west in its anti-terrorism campaign. Chad may get more unstable through the Sudan turmoil. https://www.ft.com/content/5c8fb47d-1b14-444e-9c5d-caff50b48f30

FT South Africa backtracks on claim to withdraw from the ICC

The country is among the first countries to ratify the court’s statute, back in 2000. It ignored the arrest warrant for the Sudan ruler in 2015 and now is uncomfortable as organizer of the BRIC summit as the court has indicted the Russia ruler. The original suggestion to stop with the court is also supported by the widespread impression in Africa that the court is biased against the South. https://www.ft.com/content/7f985165-7d39-4dc5-be9a-da4a0ac29366

April 27

FT Former energy company chief in South Africa stays quiet over names corrupt politicians

He was questioned in a parliamentary hearing and said that he did not want to compromise any ongoing legal investigation by giving names. He stood by his earlier claims and was ready to cooperate. https://www.ft.com/content/fa779b1e-bd7b-48e2-91ea-5131cf1b0356

FT In Columbia government falls apart on progressive agenda

The president sacked seven ministers and is thinking about a “government of emergency” as he is unable to get the coalition in parliament behind some of his plans. https://www.ft.com/content/14464384-28e7-4628-843b-d7f28aa37f5e

NYT Pope gives women a vote in upcoming synod

That meeting, set to begin next October, will focus on better engaging the faithful as the church moves forward. It will include 70 non-bishop voting members, half of whom the pope wants to be women. The proportion of women voters overall would be just over 10 percent. Given the history of the church this is a big change, said one analyst. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/26/world/europe/pope-women-vote-bishops-meeting.html

April 28

FT Scientists see Horn of Africa as more prone to droughts due to climate change

The intensity of the droughts is mainly through heavier evaporating due to higher temperatures, driven by human factors. The region has never been a stranger to droughts but these intense mini droughts will have a severe impact on food security and human health. https://www.ft.com/content/b5a90d16-c053-4e24-b831-49e8cd59b2dd

The generals in Sudan and the challenge to democracy

The overthrow of the dictator in 2019 looked like a promise to political freedom. In actual fact the dictator was thrown out by the two generals and the courageous citizens demonstrating in the streets were used to create the plot. Sudan still functions as a rent seeking “limited access” society and transition to “open access” is a long process (see https://www.humanrightsjourneys.com/sdg16/). The author points to what happened over time in today’s democracies. https://www.ft.com/content/ce72371c-8d92-4a77-b8c7-95a2df770339

FT Zimbabwe opposition leader claims todays tyranny is worse than under the former dictator

He narrowly lost against the ruling party candidate in the first vote after the 2017 coup and has since suffered from a party struggle that ended in court. He refuses to boycott the upcoming election and claims his party is now stronger than before. Despite tricks by the government to influence, like indicting party officials, the opposition leader claims there will be an army of election monitors to ensure honest elections. https://www.ft.com/content/a78d9be8-3fec-48c9-92d7-cf4368e39c4d

April 29

FT In Egypt government struggles to get buyers for state asset sale

As part of a deal with the IMF the footprint of the state in the economy is bound to reduce. The government has selected 32 public sector companies to sell off but its traditional allies in the Gulf hesitate to buy. They had bailed out the government since 2011 but they recently toughened their stand. https://www.ft.com/content/4875b0b6-3a75-47fc-879e-36c0046fe952

FT In Israel right wing supporters urge government to pursue judicial reforms

A huge demonstration was staged, led by senior government ministers and lawmakers to influence the PM decision to delay the proposed reforms in search of a “wide consensus”. The demonstrators used language like bringing down “closed club of elites” and “Supreme court dictatorship”, arguing that the election result was a big referendum in support of their demands.  https://www.ft.com/content/f9680b9a-5491-4009-9991-04b5e133805c

FT In Turkey opposition leader hopes he can make a challenge to long time leader

The 73 year old former economist hopes he can challenge the two decades dominance of the 69 year old president. He is confident that the elections will not be stolen as he has teams to monitor all over the country. He lacks the charisma of the incumbent and control over media but has united a broad coalition and the support of the Kurd minority party. He himself identified recently as a member of the minority Alevi sect in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation. https://www.ft.com/content/88bd4fb5-7229-4e1b-a848-54257b42d5a5

FT New government in Brazil wants to clamp down on arms ownership

The justice minister argues it is impossible to develop a security policy with the hugely increased gun possession, while gun owners argue the murder rate in the country plummeted through gun ownership. The government has imposed measures to reduce new and existing gun ownership, while the gun lobby raises its voice against it. https://www.ft.com/content/5c73e5ed-c305-4ea1-bfe3-36aee4b66aad

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) submitted a joint report to the Human Rights Council ahead of the Universal Periodic Human Rights Review (UPR) of Canada scheduled for November 2023: https://un.worldea.org/canada-protection-of-persons-with-disabilities-human-trafficking-freedom-of-religion-report-to-the-upr-44th-session/

May 2

FT Ghana stops borrowing from its Central Bank

This is a pre-condition to acquiring an IMF bailout, in addition to renegotiating internal debt. The country is ready with 85 % of IMF requirements. The economy in recent months improved but business complains over extreme high interest rates. https://www.ft.com/content/3555f490-a1a1-4d5f-ba14-30724d7d0b0a

FT Europe wants strategic autonomy but will fail if there is too little structural homogeneity

Enormous funds are spent to achieve more independence from global markets but much is badly spent. Reliance on European funds is normalized and the internal spending in the recipient countries overlooked. The European market is still fractured and southern and eastern countries are overly dependent on the northern countries. https://www.ft.com/content/bbad3b52-5665-4937-acdf-c9b53cde699e

FT Paraguay’s ruling party wins convincing election victory

This sends a rare message of continuity in the region where other countries had clear political changes. The winning party maintains a middle position in the political spectrum. Also in Paraguay corruption is a worry. https://www.ft.com/content/01b74cfa-c66d-4b29-b8ad-4fd34994a488

FT Italy wants to make the labor market more flexible

The country wants to reduce the number of people depending on state benefits. At the same time the tax benefits of working people are increased. The government tries to distinguish between benefits for people who are able to work and those who are not. https://www.ft.com/content/265839f6-7df0-4c09-8438-c67eff55feb6

May 3

FT editorial: Democracy depends on decency and truth; media lies threaten it

The recent settlement out of court about election fraud in the U.S.A. leaves the truth unanswered and many human minds puzzled. Opinions are functioning like facts and they are something entirely different, if not checked. For something as precious as the influence of citizens this is damaging. And also for the judiciary. https://www.ft.com/content/85c9beac-ece2-4bbf-90b0-082b0ff55718

FT Kenya unrest due to rising cost of living

The opposition marched to the president’s office to hand a petition, but was dispersed by police. The opposition blames the government for not acting in good faith on the agreed talks after protests last month.

FT In France unions keep the pressure on government over pension reform

The government hopes that protest will fade. The unions time their protest agenda on initiatives in parliament to amend the decision making. https://www.ft.com/content/6e12c93d-7c25-4ee9-ace7-ef749752517a

FT Germany makes immigration easier to tap global labor talent

The labor minister claims his country will have one of the “most modern labor regimes”, relaxing qualification requirements, introducing an international advertising campaign “Make it in Germany” and better integration efforts compared to the same situation between 1960-70. https://www.ft.com/content/e859c90c-1ac4-4bf4-9660-b3a0882c2305

FT Exiled government of Tibet pushes China on sovereignty claim

The present leadership wants to claim the independence from the time before the Chinese communists marched into the Tibetan capital in 1951. It demands more than the spiritual leader. His softer approach only claimed autonomy and not complete independence for Tibet. https://www.ft.com/content/1268a5de-1344-419b-a893-6d9feecdcb5d

TT China urges other countries to respect Myanmar regime

The foreign minister visited Myanmar and said that other neighboring countries “should respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and play a constructive role in helping it achieve peace and reconciliation.” No word was said about imprisoned democratically elected leaders. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/china-urges-the-world-to-respect-myanmars-ruling-junta-63f7wgz0d

May 4

FT Elected president, cum state law professor dismantles democratic institutions in Tunisia

After the so called Arab spring in 2011 Tunisia seemed to be on a democratic course and the brokered peace in the country rendered the civil society groups the Nobel peace prize in 2015. The economic situation remained depressed. In 2019 the president won the elections as an outsider and promised improvements. From 2021 he became increasingly autocratic, culminating in arresting a key opposition leader, rejecting IMF deals and incitements against Sub-Saharan immigrants. https://www.ft.com/content/993bf045-a2f0-45fc-855b-4588dc300a5c

FT UN chief warns Sudan civil war could explode in “all-out war”

The UN chief said regional powers should influence the warring parties. He remarked that several ceasefire deals did not materialize. The South Sudan president said that both parties agreed on a place for peace talks. The Egyptian president said to a Japanese newspaper that his country was also supportive. The Sudan PM deposed in 2022 said that “war can be stopped if all efforts are combined”. https://www.ft.com/content/8e75f2b9-aa67-40a7-bbaa-25d34954b9de

FT A Supreme Court Justice of the U.S.A. in trouble of not disclosing gifts from wealthy party donor

He claims he was advised that the  gifts from his friend were not reportable. It appears that other Justices also have such problematic behavior. The Democrat party smells an opportunity for impeachment procedure that would influence the Court’s composition. https://www.ft.com/content/3e02c4c5-319e-47b6-9832-b8cbd4c715ff

FT Industry alarmed over Chile’s moves to get more national benefit for its Lithium wealth

The government is in a hurry to get majority holdings in companies. Industry is looking at other markets to divert. Only the Chile production is the lowest cost and therefore attractive. The Lithium price plummeted and in the end only Chinese investors might stay as resource claims for them are more important than profit. https://www.ft.com/content/6cbc4d6f-fc7f-4039-93fc-bf64421984bc

May 5

FT Saudi Arabia plans to execute protesters to building new mega city

The UN urged the Saudi government to reconsider. Also the UN protested against severe prison sentences of others and mistreatment of prisoners. It all concerns land evictions that are protested by the owners/possessors. One of the protesters was already shot three years ago. The defense at the time was that he opened fire first to the police. https://www.ft.com/content/0d393a6c-8227-45b8-b193-b14ac6a79c9c

FT Lebanon government ousts high profile anti-corruption judge

The ousting is the latest move in the protracted quest for accountability after the financial meltdown (see January 24 and February 7) and relates back to the struggle that started after the 2020 blast in the Beirut harbor. https://www.ft.com/content/281825db-e048-4c42-84c1-a4b5d18e1ff5

May 6

FT Newspaper evaluates constitutional monarchy in Britain

The continuity represented by monarchy reduces the chances of bending rules by incumbent power  brokers “even in advanced democracies such as the U.S.A.”. Due to its constitutional character there is mutual constraint. The monarch is above politics, but is checked by it too. https://www.ft.com/content/e95bf339-ca25-4733-b05b-33bda6a8ecc6

FT China tightens the opportunity of democracy in Hong Kong

The national government has now increased the share of government appointed representatives in the Hong Kong city council to two third. In addition elected candidates will be vetted by the national government. https://www.ft.com/content/d329bad9-0a9a-4b9d-a936-f28c41801074

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The World Evangelical Alliance, Open Doors International, the Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, Justice For All, and the International Commission for Dalit Rights, called on India to guarantee religious freedom for minority religions: https://un.worldea.org/multi-faith-coalition-urges-india-to-address-rights-violations-against-religious-minorities/

May 8

FT Zimbabwe introduces a gold backed digital currency

With all economic figures including the value of the Zimbabwean dollar in a ruinous situation the government introduces the gold backed shadow currency. Analysts say it increases chaos and diverts from the real problem: boundless printing of money and not sufficient government income. https://www.ft.com/content/64eb2348-23a1-4786-acd8-42bfa8c1fb05

FT Government in Brazil wants to get rid of spending caps

The government at the same time commits to balanced budgets. The government wants to pursue a country without people who perish. The spending cap came after a previous government’ mismanagement and was waived several times thereafter. The bigger problem in Brazil is the government’s misallocation of funds. https://www.ft.com/content/fbc54cc6-42d6-4910-80b8-a38793f5e7e8

FT State in India shows economic miracle

The state of Karnataka with 70 mn inhabitants is bigger than most countries in the world. Its dynamics diverge from the rest of India. At elections incumbents do not necessarily have an advantage. Its average income doubled and welfare spending has tripled since 2010. Welfare flows directly to recipients through India’s national digital transfer system. In the streets poverty is less visible. https://www.ft.com/content/07a246d3-db87-4803-b900-f891c49686ad

TT Government in Egypt wants a “national dialogue” with some of the opposition

For the first time since the regime took power 10 years ago the president made a move towards some openness, quoting the economic challenges as the reason. Liberals, left-wingers and Islamists are excluded. In addition family members of an exiled opposition leader were arrested while he announced his return to stand for election. Egypt has spent lavishly and its foreign debt is mounting. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/egypt-s-president-sisi-brings-opposition-in-from-the-cold-s6w35ttfr

May 9

FT Citizens in Sudan flee in big numbers to neighboring countries

Half the country was already in need of humanitarian aid before the conflict of the warring generals. About 40.000 arrived in Egypt, primarily women and children as men in working age need a visa. The refugees are relatively well off as the journey is very expensive. https://www.ft.com/content/24c1e082-f5fe-43d0-9a9c- a4de431ce0f6

NYT Enormous floods kill more than 400 in DRC

The floods took place in South Kivu. More rain is expected. The death toll increased as many people had come to the region for a big market. The Nobel peace prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege pleaded for burial with dignity: no mass graves and taking DNA samples in advance. The government announced a day of national mourning for the catastrophe. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/08/world/africa/congo-flooding.html

May 10

FT Former PM arrested again in Pakistan

The politician, who lost a vote of confidence in April 2022, was dragged into a vehicle outside a court where he had to appear for corruption charges. Thereafter social media were experiencing security blockades. https://www.ft.com/content/df03e73c-f791-4239-860e-f8aea1dc32a0

TT In Kenya cult deaths: some bodies had missing organs

The bodies of more than 100 have been exhumed. Human organs are still used in traditional and modern medicine. This could be a case of illegal organ trade. Property transactions of deceased cult members are also in view. The government has announced regulating “unscrupulous churches and cults”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/kenya-cult-deaths-victims-organs-removed-2023-cl9psm3k0

May 11

FT Mexico ruling party parliamentarians organize a vote away from opposition

The opposition had closed parliament in support of a transparency body blocked by the government. The president faces departure due to the single 6 year term limit. The ruling party came together and passed 20 laws. In addition the president presented his preferred candidates for succession. https://www.ft.com/content/e9f88130-4f7f-4b85-a435-c036aaa40a67

FT Ecuador parliament decides to go ahead with impeachment president

Parliament voted with a single majority and still needs four more votes for the needed supermajority to complete the process. The president can decide anytime until that moment to “double death” which means both parliament and presidential elections (see also April 25). https://www.ft.com/content/c3be579f-5c74-4d72-8a3b-ffd11fda4c1b

FT Columbia prefers investment in manufacturing over mining

The new finance minister, a replacement by the increasingly radical president, wants foreign investment in textiles, fertilizers and metalworking and pharmaceuticals. He wants a more equal exchange with other countries. https://www.ft.com/content/d489c7d6-0813-460a-adde-f7c458be510a

FT In Thailand wealthy family dynasty pits itself against military in politics

The daughter of a PM ousted and exiled in 2006 and at the same time a niece to the PM ousted in 2014 is challenging the military and royalist politicians. She only started in politics last year and hopes to win a convincing win in the country’s complex voting rules. Her win would be an important signal for the wider region on the issue of autocracy vs. democracy. https://www.ft.com/content/01565e62-360a-47f9-910b-67055bf92c83

TT Questions abound over arrest of former PM in Pakistan

Why does Pakistan keep arresting its former prime ministers? There is a long tradition of charging former prime ministers with corruption. The latest arrested former PM cheered on when the two before were arrested and now it’s his turn. This time however is different: the arrest was more violent. It makes clear that the military are the instigators. The former PM himself did his part in instigating by provocative tweets. At the same time the country is in economic distress and faces terrorism of the Pakistan Taliban. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pakistan-arrest-prime-ministers-imran-khan-different-5mm53d9vr

May 12

FT First deal of warring parties in Sudan seeks to protect civilians

The deal brokered and to be monitored by Saudi Arabia and the U.S.A. has humanitarian goals (one of them being “the withdrawal of forces from hospitals and clinics”). Sceptics say it is neither a truce or a ceasefire. https://www.ft.com/content/d0c244c4-4298-4467-80fa-0b46f01e1869

FT Supreme court in Pakistan declares arrest former PM illegal

One of the court members asked the former PM to restrain his supporters. He replied that he did not know what happened after his arrest. The current PM claims the violence are acts of terrorism. More members of the former PM party remain in custody. Events show that his party is a force that cannot be neglected. https://www.ft.com/content/309557e7-cf80-43a8-a951-72863bd78435

FT The president of France about sovereignty of Europe

During his tenure the president has boosted “building back” French industry to foster not only economic power but also be able to strengthen public services. From 2022 Europe also realizes the need to control its own destiny. The president: “We are no longer naïve. What is needed is a single European market, industrial policy, strategic assets, reciprocity and multilateral solidarity.” https://www.ft.com/content/7ff1123d-51b1-482c-ba86-b3a95a347df9

May 13

FT A politician in Pakistan taking on the army

The former PM walked out of court again, which judged his arrest over graft “invalid and unlawful”. His story as a populist is a long one from wealthy childhood to sport star, society celebrity to religious awakened, while taking on the U.S.A. in the course of action. Is it innovation or benefitting from chaos? The agenda is not quite clear, but his arrest could prove his opponents’ fear. If their charges would be successful, it would bar him from running in the next election. https://www.ft.com/content/4a094cf1-e16c-49ec-bbe0-079a308f2561

TT Thailand has another election season

Coups & courts have regularly trumped the ballot box where election fever pitches the pro-democracy young and rural poor against the conservative royalists. The army works in the background, having staged 13 successful takeovers (and many more failed ones) since the break with absolute monarchy in 1932. Using anti-monarchy language is having a role in restraining political success. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thailand-election-2023-military-coup-polls-0mxgr2npg

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The May newsletter of the United Nations liaison offices in Geneva, Bonn & New York: https://worldea.org/news/22527/wea-at-the-united-nations-updates-from-wea-united-nations-offices-in-geneva-new-york-and-bonn/

May 15

FT Ghana’s lost status as an example for Africa

The country finds itself heavily in debt, now that multiple crises hit (Ukraine, high dollar and interest rate). While the governance is relatively effective, the government still shows overstaffing (“jobs for the boys”). The country is still searching for its cohesion, with a national cathedral being built that reflects major religious buildings elsewhere. https://www.ft.com/content/bd67731c-cea0-4045-96d4-5fff001f1fd2

FT In India opposition deals national ruling party a blow in state election

The state elections show a clear victory for the opposition despite campaigning of even the federal PM. Ahead of the polls the outgoing state government scrapped 4 % reservation under affirmative action job quotas for minority Muslims (13 % of the state population). https://www.ft.com/content/b24f425c-c73c-42a4-9288-65f4dc2f0be9

FT Argentina is trying to avoid economic distress

The finance minister announced intervention by the central bank to stabilize the national currency. The country has suffered from money printing practices and in this way could well be on the road to another default. China allowed imports to be paid in Renminbi which was a temporary relief. https://www.ft.com/content/fca2505d-e489-4c79-87da-4b1185278c38

May 16

FT Incumbent consolidates advance in Turkey election

The confident and united opposition has to do soul searching for the run off on May 28. The president’s party nearly achieved absolute majority and will be hard to beat. The Turkish opposition have a history of overestimating themselves. Fractures in their coalition could harm, while the media are dominantly controlled by the incumbent. https://www.ft.com/content/9e356658-b0bd-4c48-8b21-cdaa79983707

FT In Thailand opposition took a sweeping victory in election

The young and the pushed out aristocrats have a clear majority while the military aligned and incumbent party only booked minor results. It remains a tough challenge to reform the old order. https://www.ft.com/content/70a51d5c-d13f-42de-afd5-0ef056b045fd

May 17

FT Egypt business complains about currency uncertainty

The Egyptian currency might devalue again. Government tries to have a stable currency to combat inflation but is hit by investors pulling out and reducing foreign remittances of Egyptians abroad. https://www.ft.com/content/b69bbce2-11e1-4da8-9608-b7af2a6fd329

FT Thailand election winner declares himself ready for coalition talks

The military backed current government parties are dwarfed. The main opposition party was also beaten by the young startup party. Together they have not enough votes to appoint a PM despite the clear majority. The 2017 constitution gives the military a strong voice. In addition the program of the startup party (less dominance of the Royals and ending conscription to the army) may be difficult to swallow for others. https://www.ft.com/content/16b1f836-3d66-43e9-a9f6-1c2fc4ea0ed2

FT Speaker in Brazil congress vows to block interventionalist moves of government

On an FT conference the 52 year old politician claims that fears of business for reduced competitiveness are baseless. Congress still holds a majority for the opposition and has vetoed the first measures of the president for nationalizations. https://www.ft.com/content/e546e85e-ec56-4f06-88de-6ab434be8da6

May 18

FT In Germany vice-chancellor in trouble over charges of nepotism

The former children’s book author with great oratorical skills and ideological pragmatism stumbles over his close aides’ cronyism charges, the same person that was praised for his energy policy when the Russia assault on Ukraine started. The Green party suffered in a recent state election. https://www.ft.com/content/b1b82539-c9a4-4b7b-8fbd-760fd4d35c98

FT President in Ecuador responds to impeachment procedure with triggering election

The political crisis (see May 11) stumbles into the next episode with both presidential and parliamentary elections within the next three months. The president now has six months to rule by decree. The president defended his decision in a televised address as democratic, “not because it is constitutional but it returns the power to the people”. The constitution is from 2008 and this is the first time the double elections are used to solve a political crisis. https://www.ft.com/content/ec4d7d52-afab-4e7a-802b-e4661408b722

FT Australia starts next decade with rare budget surplus

The soaring commodity prices help the new government but more spending looms over defense, welfare and energy transition. The export of the country for 60 % concerns coal, gas and iron ire. It supports the needs of China, South Korea and Japan. https://www.ft.com/content/e2dff208-cbeb-419c-b698-66e9eb09f8ec

FT Indonesia sovereign wealth fund set to start spending

The fund has long been in the making (see February 7, 2021) but benefits from investors’ interest to diversify from China spending. Unlike other sovereign wealth funds the Indonesia fund does not depend on home commodity revenue but solicits foreign investment. As a country Indonesia benefits from the stability promise sought by investors. https://www.ft.com/content/5e170ec5-0d25-4a12-8407-f39480e563d7

May 19

FT Content moderators file lawsuit against social media in Kenya

Earlier cases were won in the U.S.A. The META platform worldwide employs 40.000 people on safety and security, 15.000 of them work as content moderators. They are exposed to unspeakable horror content, in their job to filter the most toxic material. Now 184 of them have filed a case against the employer in Kenya. https://www.ft.com/content/afeb56f2-9ba5-4103-890d-91291aea4caa

FT Ghana secures IMF bailout after all creditors agree to debt restructuring

The biggest other creditor is China. China has long resisted but according to the IMF is now cooperating. This might be good news for other countries like Zambia, where a settlement is long in waiting. https://www.ft.com/content/dcbe7953-334d-4e39-890f-4bbf8d0917b1

FT South Africa balances internationally between democracy and autocracy

In an op-ed the Africa editor calls the foreign policy of the country a “study in inconsistency”. The country has not forgotten how Russia supported the fight against Apartheid, but seems to close an eye now that the same country brutally invaded Ukraine. The columnist argues that the new world order may have few rules. But at times there are limits to ambiguity, which is what South Africa finds out now. https://www.ft.com/content/87ac2fe5-1456-4533-9193-a6f527b7887d

FT In Pakistan former PM challenges top military

The popular former sports star turned politician, who lost a vote of confidence in parliament, is broadly seen as able to win a future election. He accuses the army of being behind attempts to arrest him in order to prevent him running for election and says the army top “goes against democracy, our constitution and fundamental rights”. In the background the dire economic outlook and post-floods harm seem unattended. https://www.ft.com/content/ff773270-7a48-4be3-8c87-88c9b247f4e3

May 20

FT In Germany opposition criticizes government moves to return looted African art

The so called Benin bronzes have been returned to the Nigeria government who in turn handed them to a royal figure inside the country. This triggered debate in Germany. Nigerians criticize the discussion in Germany, saying this is continued colonialism. https://www.ft.com/content/949fa139-364a-479e-9e0e-2ace83df7000

FT Iran executes three more protesters

After the protests last year four were hanged but executions had been paused. The charge in the new cases again is “killing members of the security forces”. The resumption shows that the regime considers itself powerful. https://www.ft.com/content/234464c1-75f3-4bea-9a07-e22b316130ec

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

For her “outstanding courage” and “extraordinary selflessness”, Iranian civil rights activist Mary Mohammadi was awarded this year’s St. Stephen’s Award for Persecuted Christians at a ceremony in Germany. The WEA SG attended the ceremony. In his speech he showed that the right to religious freedom is, from its historical origin, a right to change one’s faith. https://worldea.org/news/22533/young-woman-promotes-discussion-about-religious-freedom-honor-for-iranian-civil-rights-activist-and-convert-mary-mohammadi/

May 22

FT President Niger defends French role in anti-terrorism effort

The president blamed misguided anti-neocolonialist sentiment and added that the Russian private army taking the role of France in Mali has not been successful. The president has done his part in improving security and fighting corruption, but has been less successful in education. The team around him is considered weak. The country experiences rapid desertification (“500 football pitches of arable land a day lost”). https://www.ft.com/content/605566e8-4542-426a-af90-f5ceb8d6d7e7

FT Bhutan turns to crypto in search of fast growth

The country that allowed TV and internet only in 1999 is growing fast despite its emphasis on citizen happiness over economic growth. It has abundant hydro energy and also focuses on high-end tourism. A 200 $ a day levy is charged to tourists. In the new venture of crypto it follows El Salvador and Central African Republic. It looks like a risky venture though the envisioned mining part of it is the least vulnerable. https://www.ft.com/content/1590e1dd-f278-47ff-aae0-2d1f3b0003cb

FT In Iran religious conservatives unsettled due to relaxing dress codes

The female dress code has become a lightning rod of dissent. The authorities show no compromise but enforcement is limited. Both sides of the divide are unsure of how to proceed. One comment is that the authorities politically failed to show the beauties of Islam and now all emphasis is on the minor issue of dress code. https://www.ft.com/content/bdad666e-d57d-4174-8522-1fa0a7493f0e

TT In Central African Republic judge removed for opposing change of constitution

Before her removal the Constitutional Court had declared a commission invalid to draft a new constitution, allowing for more than two presidential terms. After removal of the judge a referendum on the issue was approved. The removed judge was visited by Russian security agents with the request to change her opinion. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/wagner-central-african-republic-anthony-loyd-russia-ukraine-7rl2dztsb

NYT Generals in Sudan agree to seven days ceasefire

Sudan’s warring parties have agreed to a seven-day cease-fire beginning on May 22. The sides promised to stop occupying new areas; to refrain from detaining or threatening civilians; and not to impede aid groups and workers from providing lifesaving assistance. The warring groups also agreed not to loot civilian properties or humanitarian supplies, nor to seize critical infrastructure such as electricity, fuel and water installations. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/21/world/africa/sudan-ceasefire.html

May 23

FT Africa has limited geopolitical power but takes the brunt of shocks

Actually poverty increases while the causes are external. In an op-ed the chief economist of the UN Economic Commission for Africa suggests that next month’s Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, hosted by France, is an opportunity to tackle the issue: more liquidity, debt restructuring and more share in decision making for African nations. https://www.ft.com/content/5fac406f-a4f1-493f-bac4-007bb12146e5

FT In Greece incumbent paves the way to secure majority in new election

In the election last Sunday he secured a clear win but no outright majority. Under a new system starting in June the election winner will get a 50 seats bonus. This will help him to form a government without a coalition with others. https://www.ft.com/content/ec284a96-5ed6-47bb-a9f3-5c16805fdb09

FT In Turkey nationalist presidential candidate backs incumbent for the run off

The politician had left the Nationalist Movement party to run and did better than expected. His claim is that his move is better for the stability of the country. His former party has a coalition with the incumbent and after the election the coalition again commands a majority in parliament. https://www.ft.com/content/22a2b73f-db09-487f-8e2a-80fe83f1a5b5

FT In Poland government seeks to win back support of farmers

The farmers form the backbone of the government party but suffered from the EU lifting of tariffs on Ukrainian wheat to give the country better access to the EU market. This reduced the prices the Polish farmers could get for their products. The compensation offered by the EU is not enough. The farmers feel the government mishandled the issue. https://www.ft.com/content/a5826534-3805-42d0-a2b6-9e40aa5e3190

NYT Belarus pardons hijacked activist

He was arrested after the Belarusian government forced the landing of a commercial flight he had been on that was transiting its airspace. (See May 24, 2021) https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/22/world/europe/belarus-protasevich-activist-pardon.html

May 24

FT Bulgaria breaks deadlock with power sharing deal

The EU nation had a political crisis for two years with persistent inflation, problems with decoupling the energy supply from Russia and corruption cases. Now the centrist leaders agreed to rotating premiership. Their parties still need to approve. The coalition will be an uneasy one, as local elections are run later this year. https://www.ft.com/content/298fb6e6-40bc-4769-b04b-88dbff3971f4

May 25

FT Israel government agrees to two year budget after giving in to coalition member demands

Deals were struck about funding the education system of a fervently religious community, the new national guard and new settlements on the West Bank, regarded by most of the international community as illegal. The opposition warned the PM not to take up the judicial overhaul again and considered the budget a breach of the social contract with the citizens of the country. https://www.ft.com/content/3c87f3ff-d1d5-4bff-8727-e89eb16cf26c

FT In Spain high employment en high prices give a mixed election signal

Local elections may turn in favor of the national government as the economy is doing well and the government has assisted with social security to help citizens cope with inflation.  https://www.ft.com/content/a413f6d1-f931-4b84-8c6e-d5f9522ad202

May 26

FT Genocide fugitive from Rwanda arrested in South Africa

He was arrested in a joint operation of South Africa and the UN tribunal and will have to face justice now. Three more accused are still at large. https://www.ft.com/content/90b5d499-ab54-44b7-8d30-bda1fa8d3883

FT Ukraine sees a bright digital future

The young vice-president of the country this week presented innovation, a new digital tool under the name “state and I”. It gives citizens the world’s first digital passport, enables them to get digital driving licenses, organize construction permits, register new babies, pay taxes, make digital signatures and do banking. War related functionalities, for instance for refugees, are also included. It is an example of how a hostile environment can in fact help development. https://www.ft.com/content/2c73dfbc-a25f-420b-bf2b-41fbb17e5ddb

May 27

FT Government in Pakistan cracks down on opposition party

Thousands of party supporters are detained while allegedly senior allies are persuaded to quit their links to the party. The party leader, former PM, claims his party is dismantled and even offered to negotiate. “If they can prove that the country is better off without me, I am the first to step down”. https://www.ft.com/content/a41387a1-40c6-411c-9101-864bf84ccfa4

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Creation Care: An Evangelical voice from Asia: https://worldea.org/news/22529/creation-care-asias-voice/

May 29

FT Inauguration of new president in Nigeria not met with great expectations

The president succeeds a party member and has less space to start new policies. Both men are aged and with health problems. Over the weekend the senate lifted a lending cap which indicates how the government will operate. Around a third of the oil production is stolen and a substantial fuel subsidy is in place. This likely will continue. Everybody remembers the huge protests in 2012 when a president of another party tried to quit fuel subsidy. https://www.ft.com/content/ef16b792-8438-44cf-b36b-dd3e05e50086

FT Drugs violence hinders peaceful elections in Ecuador

With both parliamentary and presidential elections due on August 20 (see also May 18) and if needed a presidential run off on October 15 focus is on increased violence due to the drugs industry. The president has declared it terrorism, making it possible to involve the army to fight it. But the generals are careful not to get stuck in the gang turf war. https://www.ft.com/content/17cd1481-f7f1-408b-bb65-84386964d343

May 30

FT After defeat in local election ruling party in Spain calls national election

The country is due to take up the rotating presidency of the EU for the second half of the year. Election will now be on July 23. The PM has global ambitions but meets deep resentment at home, despite economic success. The conservative opposition plays on an euro sceptic scenario. https://www.ft.com/content/c9480e75-7acd-49a6-a97e-9af830ad4853

FT Incumbent wins run off in presidential election in Turkey

Despite an economic crisis the ruling coalition can still win on identity politics. The newspaper declares the sitting president the most powerful leader since the founder of modern Turkey, Ataturk.  https://www.ft.com/content/1b75ed7b-2b89-4b91-bf99-db3ea38872ef

May 31

FT Central Bank of Israel warns against judicial reforms

The bank argues that continued uncertainty has significant costs. “To the extent that constitutional changes are made, they must maintain the strength and independence of the institutions.” The government has argued that changes were necessary to reign in activist judges. Many other layers in society protested to retain the checks and balances of the current political system. The government backed down but now seems to be returning to its original idea. https://www.ft.com/content/72f861d0-60c8-4d6b-8eb2-bc741d4563dc

NYT Uganda resists outside pressure and activates anti-gay law

The parliament speaker: “I thank my colleagues the Members of Parliament for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country.” Some offenses are met with the option of the death penalty. Religious groups and churches have promoted legislation to protect underaged and what they portray as the traditional African family. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/29/world/africa/uganda-anti-gay-bill.html

NYT Army in Sudan withdraws from ceasefire talks

The army released a video with the top general voicing threats against the other party. Fighting is strong in the northern town El Obeid and in Darfur. The African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-nation regional bloc that includes Sudan, had hoped to agree on a road map for future political talks that would bring in various stakeholders including civilian participants. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/31/world/africa/sudan-army-cease-fire-talks.html

NYT In Pakistan the top court faces up to the powerful military

For most of the eight decades history of the country the courts gave the military a legal stamp of approval, disqualified dozens of politicians who had fallen out of favor with the generals, and turned a blind eye to the disappearances of political dissidents. This has changed recently after the former PM was voted out by parliament. Insecurity remains over the question of what is best for democracy. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/31/world/asia/pakistan-courts-challenge-military.html

June 2

FT In Sudan militia fighting returns to Darfur region

Both fighting generals have links to the vast and largely deserted region. One of them hails from the region. Fighting has already started and thousands have fled to Chad. If the challenger loses in the capital, he will regroup his fighters in Darfur. If he wins, this will encourage these desert militia even more. https://www.ft.com/content/85148528-e2dc-45d1-9463-4b65b7a1a115

FT Casual remarks of president of Nigeria on fuel subsidy spark chaos

In a departure from remarks circulated earlier, the president said the subsidy of fuel, costing 10 bn $ last year, should stop. This led to long queues at gas stations and wildly fluctuating fuel prices. https://www.ft.com/content/51318968-fc6c-476b-ae1a-9e87ffa037d3

FT Bar for president of Nigeria is low as possible

In an op-ed the FT Africa editor laments the prospect for a “visibly ill” president elected by 9 million votes out of the 27 percent of 87 million registered voters who bothered to turn up. One option would be that he appoints a team of technocrats, like he did earlier as a governor of the capital. Another important option is the appointment of a Central Bank governor able to stabilize the currency. Third would be to fix the chaos of fuel corruption that prevented the country from benefiting from the global fuel price surge. https://www.ft.com/content/997e09be-a8fe-445a-afa9-fe7018bdf819

June 3

FT Presidential hopeful in Senegal convicted for “corrupting youth”

He was on trial for sexual offences but cleared. He can not appeal his sentence for “corrupting youth” as he was not present at the court. If this does not change, he cannot run for president. Riots killed at least nine. The incumbent cannot run again as he served two terms. His supporters campaign to change the constitution to allow for a third term. https://www.ft.com/content/b6d419f9-6bda-4577-a7e9-73f22542c1c7

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

There is a new issue of the International Journal for Religious Freedom: https://ijrf.org/index.php/home/issue/view/vol16

June 5

FT In Greece PM until 2019 taking on Europe now loses to current government in election

The formerly successful political party moved to the center and does not benefit anymore from criticizing Europe. The PM since 2019 won the election and called for another election as a new rule that benefits the winner starts in June (See May 23). https://www.ft.com/content/15cc0861-584e-4b9b-a3db-d4149c30aaca

FT Venezuela in the picture again despite pressure from parliament and the west

Democracy took a blow as the president of the country successfully sidestepped the pressure of parliament and the west and now gets an endorsement from the president of Brazil, who stated: “I think Venezuela ought to show its own narrative so it can really change people’s minds.” https://www.ft.com/content/df3ea5a2-743d-41bc-8670-2527d67f92a3

TT Benin shows more courage in beating back Jihadists than other threatened nations.

Benin, a west African country of 13 million people, is beating back the jihadists, against all odds, with no external help. In Benin they believe that a proliferation of arms and the lack of state capacity is a reason behind the downfall of Mali and Burkina Faso. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/benin-shows-spirit-and-fight-to-repel-invading-jihadists-2jl778l56

NYT Large anti-government demonstrations in Poland

The ruling party which regularly smears its foes as Communists and Russian agents, recently pushed legislation through Parliament to establish a commission to investigate Russian influence and bar individuals from public office for up to 10 years if they were found to have succumbed to it. Anti-communist leaders denounced this legislation as divide and rule. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/04/world/europe/poland-warsaw-protests.html

June 6

FT In Spain regional government clashes with central government over foreign environment action

German environmentalists have forced German supermarkets to quit selling vegetables grown in Spain with illegally obtained water. The regional government allowed for legalizing water sources that drain wetlands. The central government opposes this. The problem is aggravated by the severe drought in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/2081f8af-3776-43d5-bad8-be8d0f406886

FT In Mexico party of president wins local elections

A state being run by its opponents for 100 years now fell into the hands of the party of the president. The election was seen as a referendum about the president. The country has a system of one six year long term for president and presidential elections are due next year. Successors within his party are now competing to succeed him. https://www.ft.com/content/5d1e64f7-e039-4102-8837-71ad6d460da1

June 7

FT Investment in rail network did not prevent disaster in India

With 19 high speed train lines (Vande Bharat “Salute to India”) installed in the last decade and the share of electric lines now over that of France, the recent disaster killing almost 300 passengers provides a question mark as to what went wrong. It is said that capital investment does not cover old lines and staff is chronically undertrained and disillusioned. https://www.ft.com/content/5f43408b-4a03-4745-a729-c3812c59ddbc

FT India drops evolution and periodic table from some school textbooks

The subjects can only be studied in grade 11 and 12. The authorities said it was a temporary streamlining measure. A petition of educators to protest the move was presented. Concern was voiced that this government policy does not support a technological attitude. In the past the present government has dropped some historical subjects and democracy education.  https://www.ft.com/content/643dfa14-bedf-43c1-83d4-770e608582a5

June 8

FT New model of humanitarian aid needed in Sudan

The traditional humanitarian response (food convoys and emergency medical aid) does not work in the city fighting. The author suggests cash transfer as an alternative and points to the experience of Kenya and Somali money transfer companies. He also laments that the money makers are the king makers and hence suggests a central bank and financial system independent of the warriors, also since sanctions are “a tool without a strategy”. https://www.ft.com/content/1060c5dd-1034-4786-95a5-4d72207644fa

FT Student polls show support for Hamas in Palestine

The election for the student council at the two biggest universities may not speak for all Palestinians but strikingly in both cases the Fatah candidates lost. One of the reasons is that the prospect for Palestinian statehood has never been so remote. One student commented: “The Ukrainian president stands up in the right way [to foreign pressure]; the Palestinian one doesn’t.” https://www.ft.com/content/f5c9c1dc-95d8-4bb1-b871-3b9d0dbaf31e

FT Bi-partisan debt deal in U.S.A. will strain financial markets

A spending spree of 1 tn $ is planned. Analysts worry that by the sheer volume of the new issuance it would push up yields on government debt, sucking cash out of bank deposits. This will put pressure on the banks. https://www.ft.com/content/9bc73cea-e736-42f1-8a8f-6fc85945b641

June 9

FT Brazil divided over drilling oil in Amazon

The president was elected on a ticket that also promised environmental protection. Cracks show inside the government with the Energy minister defending drilling as “a passport to the future”, while the environment minister, an internationally renowned Evangelical, defended a decision of the regulator to deny drilling. The newspaper reminds that the latter a decade ago out of frustration quit the same job in the previous administration of the president. https://www.ft.com/content/800693a0-fc52-408e-83bd-0b8e63f38b3a

FT Italy struggles to have more child’s  births and faces demographic winter

Society in Italy traditionally sees motherhood as a vocation away from a professional career. The child birth rate has dropped more than in other developed economies, now even potentially hitting sovereign credit rating. https://www.ft.com/content/44ccfd0c-b2bc-4912-bc90-26c6c95a9ba0

TT Leaders of six African nations embark on peace mission to Russia & Ukraine

A night train from Poland to Kyiv will carry leaders from six African countries (Egypt, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia)  to discuss peace and the impact of food shortages. Thereafter they will travel to St. Petersburg. The planned dates are June 16th and 17th respectively. The fact that the envoys will be welcomed by both sides underscores the importance of winning over their African counterparts. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/african-envoys-on-peace-mission-to-russia-and-ukraine-nrwl2fgpg

NYT Rare public protest in China at removal of Arab looking mosque features

Since the current president, whose in-laws hail from a Protestant background, rose to power more than a decade ago, the party has torn down Christian churches, razed Tibetan Buddhist enclaves and put Uyghur Muslims in internment camps in the name of political security. But it has also gone after lesser-known groups, including the protesting Muslim Hui, who make up less than 1 percent of the population and have historically assimilated well with the ethnic Han majority. The public protest was in vain. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/08/world/asia/china-mosques-dome-crackdown.html

June 10

NYT In Thailand, using free speech is risking not only the wrath of the government

In Thailand, companies and people in positions of power often use libel suits to intimidate and punish activists and critics. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/09/world/asia/thailand-defamation-lawsuits.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Ukraine Special Taskforce (TRUST) of WEA issued a new Situation Report (May 2023) with updates on the response so far and ongoing needs. https://worldea.org/news/22655/wea-trust-issues-may-2023-situation-report-with-updates-and-ongoing-needs/

June 12

FT Nigeria’s new government sacks Governor of Central Bank

The governor oversaw a controversial financial policy (see February 9) and was closely aligned with the previous government. The policy was widely considered to benefit the elites. https://www.ft.com/content/4d2d920f-a535-4fb9-806b-062948784063

FT Norway turns to deep sea mining despite environmental risks

The need for rare metals pushes the country to mine them up to 4000 meters deep in a sea area the size of Germany. The country claims this can be done without environmental hazards. https://www.ft.com/content/44855d32-82c2-4f4c-b77c-1c21d3c1279f

FT In Russia opposition to government fails to unite

The rifts within the opposition are deepened by the opinions about the invasion of Ukraine. Leaders squabble over who is to lead the opposition. https://www.ft.com/content/17acd2fc-fc81-4238-ac29-ddbf82702c24

FT Argentina tries to woe its creditors in desperate effort to avoid currency collapse

The country has been cut off from international markets since the default of 2020. The creditors are also at risk as the ultra-right opposition advances and its policy ideas are worse. China has already agreed to more funding. The IMF may do the same soon. https://www.ft.com/content/920c16cc-3d5a-4d8b-a265-acd064d4133d

June 13

FT Return to economic orthodoxy of Nigeria cheers investors

Formerly the country offered cheaper dollars to industries considered essential. This was an avenue for corruption. The scrapped fuel subsidy will also help the country avoid default. https://www.ft.com/content/d24e40ee-e8c0-47a2-86da-165464e5a272

FT In Romania new PM takes office as part of power-sharing deal agreed in 2021

The former arch rival parties decided to stabilize the political landscape after the election. The coalition is now half way through the next regular election. It includes the ethnic Hungarian political party. https://www.ft.com/content/bea0fd27-f964-46d1-aa59-467fac455cbf

June 14

FT Developing nations have hit the financial rocks

The causes of the economic stagnation are complex and lie both in domestic policy as well as in the global environment. The interest cost of public debt is greater for low-income countries than emerging countries. Debt relief is badly needed. Today more than  half of debt comes from non-IMF countries, particularly China. https://www.ft.com/content/3bd28362-c006-44c3-9f7f-a89a78452600

FT African leaders visit Ukraine and Russia to call for peace

Africa “always suffers disproportionately” during global crises, the president of Sierra Leone stated. Six of his colleagues will travel to both Ukraine and Russia on the 16th and 17th to tackle one of these, which is the invasion of Russia in Ukraine. This unique peace initiative marks the changing role of Africa in world politics. https://www.ft.com/content/93563e03-0f36-4291-8169-eb42f89a47eb

NYT Egypt president reaches out to opposition

Feeling rising discontent and the sinking economy, the president of Egypt turns to the opposition, giving some of them a seat at the table after a decade of repression. The Islamists and politically liberals are not invited. Some subjects were declared off limits and a day after the talks started the government arrested a dozen from the group around the only person who declared to challenge the incumbent at the next election. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/13/world/middleeast/egypt-opposition-talks.html

June 15

FT Nigeria surprises again with floating currency

The national currency fell 40 percent to the dollar in just one day. The measure is expected to bring foreign investment back to the country. https://www.ft.com/content/2f93e1a0-3057-4daa-84a2-b7a15b8d9322

June 16

FT Unrest in north-eastern state causes instability in India

India struggles to quell a conflict in the north-eastern state of Manipur. Clashes over land rights and tribal privileges killed more than 100. The state has long been riven with ethnic strife. The federal government at the weekend set up a committee to encourage peace talks between the communities. The conflict has a sectarian backdrop: most majority tribals are Hindu, while the minority tribals are predominantly Christian. According to local religious and civil society groups, about 250 churches and also temples have been destroyed in the fighting. https://www.ft.com/content/63ca3e23-f0ea-413a-bd3d-55f5f160e7a0

FT Guatemala jails journalist for money laundering

He is a prominent government critic whose newspaper wrote extensively about corruption. His conviction sparked concern and condemnation from international human rights organizations. https://www.ft.com/content/9451cf2a-1da6-492b-b908-b73d7eaafde9

June 17

FT Leaders from Africa the first in peace drive to visit both Ukraine and Russia

The group consists of the presidents of the Comoros, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia and lower dignitaries from Egypt, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. The Ukraine president said that for negotiations with the Russians real withdrawal from Ukraine territory was necessary. The African delegation leader said the delegation would stress in Russia the importance of respecting the UN charter, which he added included “respect for the sovereignty of countries”. https://www.ft.com/content/f7e92707-069d-4d40-8937-2f96290e7516

FT Economic overhaul raises hopes for Nigeria’s new leader

The newspaper had to resort to a positive heading after earlier (see June 2) negative remarks. It is pointed out that the new government’s measures concern “low hanging fruit” and more thorny issues stand out: One in three Nigerians of working age is unemployed, and oil production, the lifeblood of the economy, has plummeted in recent years. Analysts are now watching closely for the appointments to key government posts such as the central bank chief and finance minister. https://www.ft.com/content/8d9a07c4-281c-430f-a004-007960a0540c

FT Japan raises age of sexual consent from 13 to 16

The former formulation dates from 1907. The new law also redefines rape from “forced sexual intercourse” to “non-consensual sexual intercourse”. Public calls to strengthen protection for women and girls intensified following a series of rape charge acquittals in 2019. Earlier in the day, Japan also passed a bill to “promote understanding” of LGBT+ issues. https://www.ft.com/content/e49b05e4-783d-4cba-a37c-049d40f8ff93

FT Columbia rocked by bizarre scandal

A nanny who used to work for close associates of the president has been accused of theft of a briefcase with money from the house of one of them. The implications of the affair widened when the government associates began sparring via messages leaked to the media. In a voice recording one of them said: “We will all be finished, we will all go to prison.” The case developed into question marks about the campaign financing of the new president, which also involves his son who is being investigated for taking money from drug traffickers. https://www.ft.com/content/d6279834-4ed6-4f78-b9ac-c969369a0321

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Local church congregations are in a unique position to respond instantaneously to crisis, providing first aid in food, water and shelter: https://worldea.org/news/22717/a-rising-number-of-hungry-people-churches-can-give-hope-if-they-prepare-for-disaster/

June 19

FT Switzerland passes climate law to be climate neutral in 2050

The result in a referendum (58 % in favor) on the surface looks great but in reality there is a lot of “not in my backyard” thinking involved. The decentralized political system hinders the establishment of visible systems like windmills, whereas the problems with the rest of Europe could cause an energy decoupling. https://www.ft.com/content/66d6de29-e8cf-4d4a-ab36-7a754a92bc1b

FT Government in Brazil struggles to match progressive foreign credentials with internal policy

The reality of governing with an opposition-dominated legislature, handed the government a series of defeats. The chief victims are the environment ministry and the newly created ministry of indigenous peoples. Both were stripped of key mandates. The government needs to foster the relationship with centrist political forces that offer support to governments of any stripe in exchange for plum political posts and the resources to support its electoral machine in home constituencies. https://www.ft.com/content/b40822e5-80f5-46e1-b968-ae5382a70bc8

FT The U.S.A. is telling a different story on trade

A paradigm shift is underway. First, there will be the focus against concentrated power of all kinds. Not only political adversaries, but also economic power brokers like multi-nationals. Second, developing countries should be aware that they can have a share in more secure supply chains if they heed production fairness in terms of worker and environment policy. The U.S.A. trade representative: “Developing countries should not be perpetually trapped in an exploitative cycle”. https://www.ft.com/content/e4e87c54-8265-4f04-ac67-d9cebbc54507

TT Russia rejects African peace plan for its Ukraine invasion

In a private meeting with the leaders from Africa Russia challenged the assumptions of their plan, which is predicated on internationally accepted borders. Russia has said repeatedly that a peace deal must acknowledge “new realities” after it occupied and tried to annex large parts of southern and eastern Ukraine. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/putin-rejects-african-peace-plan-for-ukraine-war-rx6x2lz5w

June 20

FT Imprisoned opposition leader in court calls on Russians to back new anti-war campaign

“The president of Russia isn’t shy about jailing innocent people or scared that a crowd could break me out . . . he’s scared of what I have to say. Even if it’s obvious words everyone already knows.” https://www.ft.com/content/f71d7aee-3cb0-4bc5-acc6-451af616eb0e

FT New finance team takes hold in Turkey with reversal of pre-election measures

A rise in borrowing costs and a depreciation of the currency can be expected. The re-elected president said that he did not regret his pre-election economic measures but that he allowed the new team to reverse them to bring down the double digit inflation. https://www.ft.com/content/f1864ccc-18cf-4d98-9eb6-104c5839de2c

FT Norway government claims not to shy away from climate change dilemmas

The country plans deep sea mining for precious metals and claims this will not be at the detriment of nature preservation. The PM says that both issues need to be handled. A green transition cannot be totally done without affecting nature. The country vows to make informed and accountable decisions. Opposition of fishermen, indigenous peoples and environmentalists see the mining plans as capitalist colonialism. https://www.ft.com/content/4f23b1d7-8b8b-4b1b-90cd-37c949e12117

FT China’s university entrance exam promotes personality cult of leader

Not all of the roughly 13 mn students taking the entrance exam each year face questions about Chinese leadership, but particularly those from minority regions. The questions promote an understanding of Chinese renaissance to counter the perceived U.S.A. world leadership. https://www.ft.com/content/4570ab74-f5d8-4d00-9732-b91f29962155

FT Australia launches constitutional referendum on indigenous recognition

At stake is enshrining recognition of the country’s indigenous population in the constitution and strengthening their representation in country politics. The vote is described by its supporters as critical to Australia’s national identity. It would officially establish an independent body to advise the government on related matters. It was one of the campaign promises of the ruling party. https://www.ft.com/content/e6fec43f-a79a-4661-ae07-4c36c16b6a3e

NYT Musicians of African descent embrace ancient Egypt but country is not happy about it

Egyptians say the interest of the popular artists distorts their history and identity. An exhibit about the phenomenon in the Netherlands “attacks Egyptian civilization and heritage” and “distorts Egyptian identity,” says one parliamentarian. The Dutch have now been barred from research in Egypt. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/18/world/middleeast/egypt-african-dutch-museum.html

June 21

FT There will not be an energy transition without financing for developing countries

Historically the rich countries have outlasted the carbon budget and developing countries are bound to contribute more. But a transition to a low emission economy is ironically much more complex for poor countries. Borrowing costs are higher and private investment less available. The newspaper’s chief economics commentator in an op-ed argues that multilateral action is necessary to cope with the problem. https://www.ft.com/content/770aadbb-1583-40ae-b072-9ef44c27cc15

June 22

FT In Sierra Leone election on Saturday dominated by economic hardship.

A former finance minister and central bank governor: “Expectations are very high. Because when people believe the current system has failed them, they’re looking for salvation.” The incumbent seeking re-election blames the global situation for hardship. But his government is also known for lavish spending. https://www.ft.com/content/b6e89db4-d4ec-47c1-8665-53b66701718e

FT Rwanda criticized again for supporting rebels in neighboring DRC

A UN report claims the Rwandan military made direct interventions. Their activity is triggered to fight opposition in Rwanda itself. https://www.ft.com/content/a383687e-7c79-4312-8018-415e44749fe9

FT In Poland old leader of ruling party returns in spotlight to salvage power

The government is facing big opposition for their clamp down on law and order at the brink of campaigns for the October election. The restrictive legislation stimulates support for the opposition party. https://www.ft.com/content/96d6bae4-13b1-4bc9-80a2-d5d273fb9a40

FT Scientific corruption case at top university in U.S.A.

A high-profile expert on ethics and dishonesty is facing allegations of dishonesty in her own work and has taken administrative leave from Harvard Business School. The case centers on the use of allegedly fraudulent data in published papers, and is the latest to hit the field of behavioral science and psychology research. https://www.ft.com/content/a8c07365-f85d-47a0-98a4-b6f71da697ef

TT in U.S.A. restaurant owner uses fake priest to extract confession from staff

A federal judge ordered the manager to pay 35 employees a total of $140,000 in back wages and damages for misusing religious practices. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/restaurant-used-fake-priest-to-extract-employee-confessions-2hgs9660f

June 23

FT In the U.S.A. Republican candidates leverage their faith to woo Evangelicals

It is one of the great contradictions of US politics: How did a thrice-married former casino owner, who bragged on tape about groping women, end up winning over evangelical Christians? Their support is conditional and his first term in office convinced them through the Supreme Court appointments and the pro-Israel policy. Other contenders for the Republican candidacy are also wooing Evangelicals, about a third of Americans. https://www.ft.com/content/51174ccf-97a1-4852-b9b5-3cd482b09b1a

FT Church of England dumps oil majors over climate change

The move concerns its 10.3 bn £ endowment fund and 3.2 bn £ pension fund. 11 Companies are targeted. In 2021 already 20 oil and gas companies were dumped. The archbishop of Canterbury said that the companies did not make enough progress in fighting climate change. On their part Shell said the company remains committed to become a net zero emissions energy business in 2050. https://www.ft.com/content/9af6184a-ed15-4ef4-9c26-d0a9c5c39c1f

FT An impasse over finance between rich and poor that threatens the planet

The IMF and World Bank need to restore the clout and credibility of multilateral lending. Higher market interest rates are crippling lower-rated governments’ borrowing capacity and driving many into default. On the issue of sovereign debt, China has caused intense frustration among rich-country creditors by holding up separate restructuring talks for distressed developing countries. China is also afraid to lose its status as a developing country, which would strip it from trade, finance and emissions privileges. https://www.ft.com/content/8f90456e-f2b3-4249-a221-1cc33cfc5694

FT In Pakistan opposition leader fights for political survival

The former PM acknowledges that his chances fade now that the army crackdown intensifies. Senior party members are arrested or have left the party under pressure. It appears the high stakes of the former PM campaign backfire. He calls the current situation “an undeclared martial law”. When he rose to power in 2018 it was under army approval. https://www.ft.com/content/7ebfd90d-58c5-4e0c-b0c7-48107f49c2c9

June 24

FT Zambia reaches debt deal after China agrees to join other creditors

Zambia still had to iron out terms with bilateral lenders and strike a separate deal to restructure another $6.8bn in private debts. The country can now have access to IMF funding. The deal also includes measures to resume agreed conditions of debt contracts if the economy fares better than expected. https://www.ft.com/content/e3b66798-1c5c-4c0c-8339-83a76e1e2c34

FT President of Kenya wants global green bank not to be ‘hostage” to rich nations

He has called for the creation of a global green bank separate from the World Bank and IMF, warning that traditional multilateral lenders were “hostage” to rich world interests and unable to solve the climate crisis. He said Africans “don’t want to end up” paying “eight times more” to borrow than richer countries. He said China was aware of his position. Last month the president suggested that Africa could ditch the dollar to stimulate internal trade within nations. https://www.ft.com/content/df7f68b1-8362-4895-9d24-c8483a9c2ee5

FT Columnist argues that Britain should see itself as emerging market

The author advocates a IMF style stabilization program and suggests a few items: Avoid pre-election ignorance, avoid help to mortgage victims, provide more housing for starters, increase labor participation, see itself as a small country and specialize, tighten monetary policy. https://www.ft.com/content/4cf73b89-51eb-4144-a0e4-b6f08ecaee5c

FT Guatemala presidential election in chaos on Sunday

The incumbent is barred from running again. Several candidates cannot run after being charged in court. There are 20 remaining candidates, with three front runners of which the top candidate polls 21 percent and the third 9 percent. The top runner last April is among those barred after charges in court. His comment: “The co-opted system decides who participates and who doesn’t.” https://www.ft.com/content/7f87b81b-8bad-416d-b61e-0ce37b601561

NYT Sierra Leone has presidential election today

Two candidates lead the polls and they are the same as in the previous election, in 2018. The former military who won at the time, was involved in two coups in the ‘90’s. His challenger was recently charged with embezzlement but the case was adjourned so that he can run. A ruling is expected in July. The incumbent has spent 22 percent of the budget on education but the very poor country suffers very much from inflation. Also land rights and gender equity were addressed but on the down side civil society was muzzled. fhttps://www.nytimes.com/article/sierra-leone-election.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA is represented by its leadership at the week long Central Committee meeting of the other church umbrella, World Council of Churches. See here the opening prayer and memorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd-b4wurQKs&t=32s

June 26

FT Russia suffers from contracting war out to private army

The de facto outsourcing of the violence monopoly backfired when the private troops took hold of an official military presence post. The situation is rife with conspiracy theories. In an editorial the newspaper suggests that the president has presided as the ultimate arbiter between factions — the one who can hold things together while keeping the support of the Russian people. He is reaping the fruits of his own calamitous misjudgments. https://www.ft.com/content/ba7e3867-f31f-47eb-b73f-45fc55b5aafb

FT In the U.S.A. abortion remains a political issue

Following the ruling of the Supreme Court 14 states have full abortion bans in place, while 11 have limitations in process. In 25 states abortion is still legal. One big difference compared to the past is the widespread availability of mifepristone, medication used to terminate a pregnancy. Its legality was thrown into question after a federal judge in Texas ruled to strip its approval by the US drugs regulator. That decision has been put on hold by the Supreme Court while proceedings continue. https://www.ft.com/content/5bce3b97-9687-4f99-94b1-589cc2fad9b5

FT In Greece incumbent wins election for the second time in two months

After winning (see May 23) he staged a new election as a new system benefitting the election winner came in place from June 1. This worked for his party and it can now rule without coalition partners. https://www.ft.com/content/f98cc7de-3dff-4f83-877d-94ec81bf5133

TT President of Madagascar secretly obtained French citizenship

He is facing calls to stand down after the news emerged that he had obtained French nationality in a deal with France in 2014. The critics say it explains why the president has not stood up to France over ownership of the Scattered Islands of the Indian Ocean. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/madagascars-leader-is-secretly-french-lr2g9w7rd

June 27

FT Uganda shows LGBTI+ people face global danger

The new law cannot be seen as a cruel anomaly. Elsewhere people with divergent sexual orientation are at risk, in more subtle ways. Fear-mongering is reaching fever pitch in many places around the world. https://www.ft.com/content/ce7ef7b2-ceff-4743-ab61-27adf81ab101

FT Testimony in corruption case in Israel against sitting PM

On trial are three separate cases. In one of them a friend of the PM was interrogated. He developed a “supply line” of gifts to the PM. In return the office of the PM helped him with various favors, including getting a multiyear visa for the U.S.A. Eventually the gifts became requests and code names were used to indicate choice. https://www.ft.com/content/bff3dff1-921e-4e0f-b08c-ec3f326ef63c

FT Guatemala heads for center-left run off after election in which four candidates were barred from running

The two top candidates (of 20) scored 15.8 and 11.8 of the vote. Large numbers of votes have been spoiled or left blank. The frontrunner is expected to have high rates of rejection in the second round. https://www.ft.com/content/632a22f5-f23d-4ea1-bc20-58189083df90

TT How Russia got hooked on private armies

Russia needs a professional army seven-million strong, in addition to its conscripted force, to end its reliance on mercenaries, a senior Russian politician has said. An analyst counted no fewer than 37 private armies, 25 of them operating in Ukraine. Even the country’s national energy company operates two. The private armies are dominating foreign interventions and services. The regular army seems unable to deliver these roles. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-russia-got-hooked-on-private-armies-b20qnnprr

June 28

FT In Egypt national dialogue started by government offers opposition chances

The dialogue takes place three days a week. The constitution, foreign policy and security have been barred from discussion. The government itself is not represented at the talks. The government has released over 1,000 political prisoners recently, but it is said that the new imprisonments outnumber them. The president has said he would create an anti-discrimination watchdog and freedom of information law. Some say the project is aimed at polishing the image of a repressive regime ahead of elections next year. https://www.ft.com/content/08d9226b-a5dc-4082-b28d-cdb39000cdcc

FT Double digit inflation since 2016 in Nigeria have driven an additional 4 mn into poverty

The National Statistics Agency in Nigeria classed some 63 percent of Nigerians, or about 133mn people, last November as being “multidimensionally poor”, meaning they lack adequate access to food, healthcare and sanitation, in addition to suffering financial hardships. The new government took bold steps to improve policy but has to deal with a legacy of its predecessors. https://www.ft.com/content/ff36f6c5-d4af-4786-b1b3-d0e60e37b669

FT U.S.A. federal Supreme Court affirms state Supreme Court authority

In a 6-3 decision, the court on Tuesday upheld a North Carolina supreme court decision that had rejected the state’s congressional map as unconstitutional gerrymandering aimed at favoring Republican candidates, thus limiting the options of lawmakers. https://www.ft.com/content/36331675-4f94-4c1a-b5a6-63a0a2878db5

FT In Ecuador exiled former ruler may govern again via proxy

His chosen candidate is open to taking the advice of the former ruler seriously. On a news channel funded by Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua she said: “Tell me anyone who knows the economy better?” But she runs the risk of uniting the opposition. The sitting president does not run again due to health problems. He triggered the election when he was threatened to be impeached (see May 18). https://www.ft.com/content/c07b260b-1873-4f3d-a3ea-3349c294e298

June 29

FT Sri Lanka commits to domestic debt restructuring

The government declared a public holiday to avoid a bank run. The government claims domestic debt restructuring is necessary to meet IMF demands. On the other hand the country’s largest creditor, China, has refused to renegotiate debt. https://www.ft.com/content/c0c47c1d-b86b-43d4-8b51-5fe3bd902a23

FT Critics in Israel investigated over call to resist judicial overhaul

A law enforcement force set up by the present government investigates prominent critics of its plans to judicial overhaul, including a former PM. The overhaul is said to reduce checks and balances needed for democracy. The government has now begun advancing an element of the overhaul, which would limit the ability of Israel’s top court to use the criterion of “reasonableness” to block government actions. https://www.ft.com/content/4f4d6d8d-7b7e-45b3-9bc5-be221508f31b

TT EU ambassador to AU claims Europe may step in if Russian private army would disengage

The private army active in Africa is claimed to be weakened by the uprising in Russia last weekend. A senior AU security official said the African countries using the services of the Russian private army may not be as worried as Europe. The private army’s boss was flown to Belarus, but his business jet later flew to Russia. It is not clear if he was on board. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/eu-wagner-group-kremlin-central-african-republic-9mgk6d3cw

June 30

FT Severe riots in France after teenager shot dead by police

The outrage over the death of the 17 year old has echoes of serious riots in 2005, when two teenagers from low-income suburbs were killed while fleeing from the police. The riots made the president cut short his foreign trip to coordinate response. https://www.ft.com/content/a98ccbdb-b098-4190-84df-450f33bc5503

FT Venezuela opposition front runner expects more turmoil in the country

Elections are due by the end of 2024. The government wields strong influence over local media and electoral institutions in the country of 28mn people, leading to expectations that the election will swing in favor of the incumbent. The opposition front runner was barred from office for a year in 2014 after leading protests. https://www.ft.com/content/28d1ced0-81bf-40ca-be8b-2ca2a42c3a13

FT USA president claims economic success at start of campaign for re-election

The president pictures the economic situation against the policies that were in place for the last decades before him, when markets were on top and social impact depended, according to the president on trickledown effect. The present government put in place sweeping legislation to pump federal money into clean energy, infrastructure and domestic manufacturing. The president claims it delivered rapid tangible results for ordinary households and is giving the country an edge internationally. https://www.ft.com/content/96e21b89-4768-426a-994d-9d4583f30c41

FT Israel ruling coalition members dismayed at dropping central element judicial overhaul

The PM has decided not to continue with the plan to let parliament “override” decisions by Israel’s top court to strike down legislation (see also April 29). https://www.ft.com/content/d56cf4b2-baee-4fab-9203-6e9493270a86

TT Foreign Secretary of Britain wants to double veto able members of UN Security Council

Now there are five nations with the right to veto, the so-called P5. The  suggestion of the UK Foreign Secretary is to add India, Japan, Brazil, Germany and a representation from Africa. The number of permanent members has never been changed, while the number of non-permanent members was raised from 6 to 10 in 1965. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/james-cleverly-give-india-and-japan-un-security-council-seats-rxj0h7nhk

July 1

FT In a majority ruling U.S.A. Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action and First Amendment violation

The court considered that affirmative action was inappropriate under a law that serves victims of 9/11. A decision to force a Christian website builder to serve same-sex marriage couples was struck down as violating the First Amendment. https://www.ft.com/content/a0f75a2f-6661-4e57-a0db-7c1b72a2c476

FT Riots underscore depth of social tensions in France

The latest protests demonstrate that France’s impoverished, ethnically-mixed neighborhoods remain a powder keg, riven with a feeling of injustice, racial discrimination and abandonment by the state. The current riots are not as bad as in 2005 and also the response of the president is more balanced then at that time. https://www.ft.com/content/c1326aa2-63bd-4f87-907d-a3eddfc4a5cc

FT South Africa president cleared of corruption wrongdoing

A state ombudsman cleared the president of wrongdoing over the theft of thousands of US dollars stuffed into a sofa on his private game farm, a boost as he battles to put the biggest threat to his presidency behind him (see December 5). https://www.ft.com/content/1906af29-2691-423d-be8c-4e99195d9a11

FT Pakistan reaches IMF emergency debt deal

The country committed to tax rises, cutting energy subsidies and stopping some import and currency restrictions. The country long resisted the requirements. One analyst raised concern that for the last three decades the country has never met the IMF loan requirements. https://www.ft.com/content/6fe32bde-6ceb-4e01-af83-9e79b2c25d12

FT Russia has a long tradition of unofficial, semi-official or secretly state-backed warriors

In a Tolstoy novel 150 years ago already one appears. The now cracked down Wagner group emerged a decade ago under the auspices of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, a connection that differentiates it from the private security companies that blossomed in western countries after the cold war. The latter were put in by design to do the job more efficiently that the regular army. Here it is incapability that forces Russia to use them. https://www.ft.com/content/9c827614-aefd-4021-8320-28bed0d94fd7

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA warns inside UN for institutional and doctrinal interference of states in church affairs: https://evangelicalfocus.com/world/22512/un-risks-state-intervention-in-christian-doctrine-if-recommendations-of-un-independent-expert-on-lgbt-issues-are-followed

July 2

NYT The different fates of losing presidential candidates in Brazil and the U.S.A.

In both the United States and Brazil, former presidents made baseless claims of fraud, and their supporters stormed government buildings. The U.S. system has left the former president’s fate up to voters and the slow, methodical process of the justice system. In Brazil, the courts have been proactive, fast and aggressive in snuffing out anything they see as a threat to the nation’s young democracy. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/01/world/americas/trump-bolsonaro-brazil-us.html

July 3

FT Government in Turkey accused of misusing law to discredit popular opposition politician

The mayor of Istanbul is accused for the second time, this time for corruption in one of his previous roles, which may prevent him from running in the local elections of early 2024. The government is keen to rewin the biggest city and the country capital Ankara. It has a stronger hold on the judiciary after the 2016 coup attempt. https://www.ft.com/content/79db6f41-1a27-498c-8f62-ab4a46b25e47

FT Vietnam profiles as alternative manufacture base to China

The country has advantages to diversify the supply chain. One of them is highly qualified young people. The consensus driven and decentralized societal system may disrupt. Few question the growth of Vietnam as an alternative manufacturing base to stop soon. https://www.ft.com/content/29070eda-3a0c-4034-827e-0b31a0f3ef11

July 4

FT Italy cracks down on same-sex parenting

While the country has legalized same-sex marriage in 2016, its family laws has never been updated to the possibilities of IVF treatment. The present government has a clear preference for reserving parenthood to heterosexual couples. It has now instructed local authorities not to cooperate in establishing same-sax parenthood. In practice the child will then only have one parent. https://www.ft.com/content/042b63c3-06fe-4ca9-84a6-e83fd1d41b45

July 5

FT Senegal president announces not to run for third time as presidential candidate

In his announcement the 61 year old president said: “Senegal exceeds my person and it is full of leaders who can manage it.” The constitution allows for two terms. The president had limited the term duration from 7 to 5 years. Earlier he claimed that he did not outlast “his” 14 years. The main rival in his party is convicted of “corrupting youth” (see June 3). His supporters claim the justice system is weaponized. https://www.ft.com/content/d4b04f7d-d0ee-4dc7-ad0a-910d7c82abe7

FT Outsider with indigenous roots threatens to shake up presidential race in Mexico

The 61 year old successful business woman served one term as a senator and a term as mayor in the most wealthy neighborhood of Mexico City. She is a typical rags to riches person with a knack for the unconventional. The president admits she might be a threat. The country has one term limit. So his successors need to deal with her. They are all European descendants. https://www.ft.com/content/5dbbe48e-3fa6-440d-820d-94cf036d8f75

FT Candidate in run off presidential election in Guatemala afraid to be blocked to run

The surprise runner-up in last month’s first-round presidential vote said that criminal political groups plot to stop him from running due to his anti-corruption credentials. A group of 10 parties filed a legal complaint about election irregularities. It is claimed that they want a third placed candidate in the first round to run or to delay so much that parliament can step in to select a president. The runner-up: “People keep fleeing the country to seek a future in the United States because this country doesn’t offer it to them.” https://www.ft.com/content/0574ff7a-69c8-4c9b-a206-e1042d51aca0

July 6

FT President of France criticized for blaming police

The president called the recent shooting of an illegally driving motorist “inexplicable and inexcusable”. This provoked the anger of the members of the police and their unions. The police some time back were given more legal powers in the increasingly complicated society. The U.N. human rights body said: “This is a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement.” Also the EU human rights body warned of excessive force. https://www.ft.com/content/e675a529-25ea-4827-a91d-defb5ca99ed4

FT What’s next for Qatar after the soccer World Cup

Most spectacular stadiums are waiting to be either downsized or repurposed; one into a wedding complex, others into mall and hotel parks. The tiny country, 3 mn inhabitants of which 0.4 mn indigenous Qatari, is dwarfed by its neighbors. Transforming Qatar to a knowledge based economy is more complicated than hosting the mega event. In the process the country also laid off its “Arab spring” role under the former emir. This helps reduce regional tensions. https://www.ft.com/content/14dcfc23-217c-4f22-a046-1f91b2d5f40c

July 7

FT Tunisia accused of dumping sub-Saharan migrants at Libya border

Rights groups have indicated some 500 – 700 refugees have been brought to the border, stripped of their food and harassed by security at both sides of the border. The Libyans are reported to have given water to a group of 20 children. Observers criticize the EU for working on a deal with the Tunisian government. On their part the EU is afraid the Tunisian economy will implode. https://www.ft.com/content/6e511fb4-b627-491a-91af-c7b477639bd2

FT The struggle to clean up “artisanal” mining in DRC

Miners are risking their lives for the energy transition. This small-scale mining generates about 15 to 30 per cent of the DRC’s cobalt supply, which in turn produces about 70 per cent of global output. The proceeds are finding their way in informal circuits. Big multinationals are under pressure to create clean supply lines. The reality on the ground is that mining companies tolerate artisanal mining as long as it does not disrupt their operations but stop short of attempting to regulate it or improve safety as the practice is technically illegal. The DRC state is incapable of sourcing the right environment. https://www.ft.com/content/5135f8c0-de3f-4c84-afbb-6660ddbcb5d7

FT Serbian nationalism makes comeback in northern Kosovo

The Serbian minority boycotted local elections in May and rejected the installation of Albanian majors taking office. A Serbian political party created under a stabilization accord a decade ago, loses popular support. One analyst: “There is no charismatic leader to lead the community in a critical moment where frustration is so high”. https://www.ft.com/content/b26410ff-043d-4d87-b902-86edcc133458

July 8

FT What works when it comes to social unrest?

The former PM of Britain Tony Blair in an op-ed on the French riots says they have naturally provoked soul-searching in France. It speaks to deep-seated problems with a section of society that defies conventional policymaking. And what is more, it can happen anywhere where sections of cities are marginalized. Blair claims education and targeting problematic families is the answer to work towards solutions. https://www.ft.com/content/2e3cd8b4-ace4-46d2-af77-66936a0e7633

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

In the Human Rights Council WEA made a statement to decriminalize humanitarian assistance to migrants with irregular status in Switzerland, and to repeal disproportionate measures that restrict religious freedom in the public space in Geneva, Switzerland: https://twitter.com/WEA_UN

July 10

FT Deep sea mining meeting in Jamaica

Representatives of 168 member states of the International Seabed Authority (an “obscure intergovernmental body”) will gather on Monday for a marathon, three-week negotiation on whether to lay down the first operating guidelines for the nascent industry. Countries like Norway and China are in favor of moving ahead, while France & Germany are more cautious.  A group of African countries proposed a 45 percent tax on profits. https://www.ft.com/content/545da351-bd86-4145-9269-44857b89650e

FT Youth unemployment on the rise in China

The economy slows down but the growth is also not labor intensive. And young people are reluctant to take unattractive, low paid jobs. https://www.ft.com/content/72d697d7-113b-4219-af3c-f19fa4c72a0d

FT Protest movement in Iran struggles even in small acts of defiance

Commemorating a killing at a grave can already trigger the security forces to appear and arrest participants. https://www.ft.com/content/781ba88a-10a7-4fc5-875e-1c710041a851

July 11

FT President of Senegal says Russia should deliver on the Africa peace mission

The president is interviewed ahead of the Russia – Africa summit, later this month. Exchange of prisoners of war and return of Ukrainian children would be desirable as humanitarian indicators, according to the president. He expects the peace group to speak with Putin again during the summit. The president also explains he understands that Ukraine will not negotiate before its territory is given back. https://www.ft.com/content/6afba975-7609-44a2-b015-ca75633e57f2

FT Former finance minister of Mozambique extradited from South Africa to the U.S.A.

He is the key figure in a corruption scandal that cost the country 11 bn and caused it to default. He is part of the ruling party and the Mozambique government tried to get him back. https://www.ft.com/content/eb1367cf-42d7-407d-9df1-822ef3aa9f46

July 12

FT Longest serving PM in the Netherlands leaves politics after government collapses

With 20 political groups in a 150 member parliament the country has become increasingly fragmented. The leaving PM, known to be a natural dealmaker, presided over this and finally found his Waterloo on the migrant issue. Coalition partners Christian Union and a center-left party refused to accept the PM’s modification of the coalition accord. https://www.ft.com/content/0db0a032-db92-47ed-8071-7c6a33fc0ed9

FT Israel government proceeds with scrapping “reasonableness” criterium for judicial judgement

The process of limiting the role of the judiciary in democracy proceeded with a first vote to remove the “reasonableness” criterion as used by the Supreme Court (see also June 30). Two more votes are necessary to let it become law. Huge protests erupted again. https://www.ft.com/content/19754ab1-b34f-4c35-a7ac-31c382c52db7

FT Harvard expert on ethical standards accused of dishonesty

A blog analyzed the evidence presented in her research and concluded that underlying data in studies behind the research papers had been manipulated.. Research of 150 co-authors as a consequence is also questioned. A wider debate is starting about integrity in behavioral science and the role of universities in maintaining standards. https://www.ft.com/content/64f76797-d390-45fd-b00f-2cab6412bdcb

July 13

FT Kenya financial crisis leads to lethal protests

With 70 bn of debt, servicing costs have jumped from 59.5 percent of total state revenue in the 2021-22 fiscal year to 63.5 percent in 2023-24. The government has introduced austerity measures to manage it, leading to protests in which over 12 died. The government said default is not an option but one analyst said it is closer than anytime in the last 10 years. https://www.ft.com/content/2c1af8a8-387b-448b-888b-e1ec438700f6

FT Egypt sells state assets to support value of local currency

1.9 bn of assets have now been successfully sold. Investors are reluctant as they expect a further drop of the currency value. The government tries to stabilize the currency to fight inflation. https://www.ft.com/content/986f2f92-3aac-4b3f-a748-e515a0127ef1

July 14

FT The prospects of South Africa and Nigeria compared

In an op-ed the Africa editor vents his surprise over Nigeria’s quick fixes after the election and hopes they will continue in the more fundamental changes, such as prioritizing production over rent extraction of resources. He also remarks that inequality in South Africa is much bigger than in Nigeria, which can also help Nigeria in stability. https://www.ft.com/content/ce218744-f04b-423c-9b93-4d1a2c6af092

FT Divisive referendum in Central African Republic test for foreign mercenary security help

The Russian mercenaries have withdrawn several hundreds of their strength in the past week. Some see a relationship with the fate of the group in the Ukraine conflict. The CAR president dismisses this thought. He prepares for a referendum to allow for more than two terms in office while firing an important dissident (see also May 22). https://www.ft.com/content/9bf4dea4-4896-4793-9eb1-4a7a7eae5f83

FT In Thailand election winner blocked from leading government

Senators appointed by the former military junta reject the election winner’s bid to become prime minister. The startup party after a clear win (see May 17) tried to form a coalition government. This is now blocked to proceed, indirectly by the military as they appoint 250 senators (1/3 of the total strength).  https://www.ft.com/content/c21c2455-3229-44ee-a03b-c06d0e06c07a

FT Banks in Japan accused of ‘gender-washing’ over women in management

The Financial Services Authority states that banks try to cover up the low number of female managers by broadening the definitions that determine the qualification. This inflates the number of female executives. https://www.ft.com/content/242e0c98-c160-4bf2-9a8a-6c529ce73aae

NYT Mass graves found in militant stronghold in Sudan

The UN unveiled that at least 87 bodies have been found in a mass grave in Darfur, primarily from African ethnic groups. The militia engaged in the fight over sovereign power in the country are the most likely perpetrators. Meanwhile, 7 neighboring nations of Sudan gather in Egypt for a crisis meeting to see how to resolve the Sudan conflict. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/13/world/africa/mass-grave-darfur-sudan.html

June 15

FT In Spain reliance of government on separatist movement becomes a strain

The regional separatist party has helped the government pass signature reforms to labor law, pensions and housing. Its leader never apologized for the lethal terrorist activity of his group in the past and only said sorry to the victims. This now becomes a burden in the polls for the ruling socialist government. https://www.ft.com/content/8c288dd6-de04-4358-ba6d-78c213f3849f

FT Russian parliament bans gender transition

The deputy speaker of parliament said the bill would “defend our citizens and children” because gender transitions were “a path leading to the nation dying out”.  The security service said it had arrested an unnamed transman on treason charges for allegedly donating to Ukraine’s armed forces. https://www.ft.com/content/2b4a40b3-b543-47d1-a5fe-fcc546c91c3e

TT In Cambodia multi – party democracy exists in theory, in reality it is a dynasty rule

The country was subject to the longest UN funded democracy operation, backed by billions of western aid. In reality some political parties and persons are cleverly barred and after nearly forty years in power the ruler is planning to be succeeded by his son. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/cambodias-crony-dynasty-moves-to-the-next-generation-tdrm0j6hg

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

In the Human Rights Council WEA along with Caritas and the World Council of Churches in the controversial debate on public acts of religious hatred set a conciliatory tone, but clearly affirming human rights law and the framework to counter hate speech. WEA emphasized dialogue, relationships, rather than legal standards: https://twitter.com/WEA_UN/status/1678781806328561672/photo/4

July 17

FT Hong Kong leader welcomes investors but hits out to dissidents

He called a group of 8 self-exiled dissidents “rats” and raided the home of the parents of one of them. At the same time he leads the “Welcome Hong Kong” campaign to attract visitors. It seems national security is more important than investment. https://www.ft.com/content/5808b46b-3200-41bd-b6ad-24dfdae65294

FT Turkey triples petrol taxes to repair public finances

The government tries to recoup the cost of huge giveaways ahead of May’s election and fund reconstruction for the devastating earthquake of February. The president also travels to the Gulf to attract fresh investment. https://www.ft.com/content/f1471f30-9819-4f86-870b-d1768e4eb843

July 18

FT The EU  & Tunisia agree to a deal to curb illegal migration

0,1 Bn is set aside to equip and train border personnel. 0,9 Bn is offered in economic aid. The latter is tied to a broader IMF restructure program to which Tunisia is still to agree. The president of Tunisia says that there is “a need to find new ways to co-operate outside the global financial system”. On her part the EU head claimed the migration deal would address root causes “in full respect of international law”. https://www.ft.com/content/215ba9f7-ffb3-48d1-9cbd-7a9e96c0cffe

FT In Thailand the role of monarchy is at the heart of political battle

The election winner promotes policies over military reform, elimination of monopolies and decentralization of power from the capital. All threaten the elites. But the unelected representatives of the military use only one argument to keep him from power: his idea to reform the legislation that makes the monarchy immune to criticism. https://www.ft.com/content/eca2d8bc-ef1e-4ddd-aa26-38ebc311afec

FT Iran to resume hijab patrols after protests over death in custody

The authorities announced that the morality police will take up patrols again. That marks a change of tone from recent months of moderation after the September 2022 incident. https://www.ft.com/content/6f929330-e492-47db-8db6-ece475d36a17

FT Argentina’s wily economy minister tries to defy electoral odds

The son of Italian immigrants is known to be a shrewd political operator. In 2015 he participated in the election with his own party; now he works with the Peronist party and is the anointed successor of its leader. The question is whether he can make his mark under her wings. He is known to be well-prepared but lacks the personal appeal to operate in politics independently. https://www.ft.com/content/c58df63d-1e1e-4d09-9609-3a5dbe825d92

TT Kenya starvation cult death toll passes 400

Children account for almost half of the dead people found in dozens of forest sites since the arrest of a taxi driver-turned-pastor of the Good News International Church, who is alleged to have predicted the end of the world and incited his followers to fast in order “to meet Jesus”. The President of Kenya, an evangelical Christian leader, pledged to clean up the lawless cult sector. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/gilbert-deya-televangelist-accused-of-stealing-babies-acquitted-by-kenyan-court-wq5v76qmh

July 19

FT South Africa says it would risk war if the visiting president of Russia would be arrested

The Rome Statute to which South Africa is a signatory does allow states to consult the ICC if problems occur with arresting a person sought by the court. The country used this route in the case of the Sudan ruler. Now it appears it does the same in the case of the Russian president. https://www.ft.com/content/1c8a6b2d-a190-46ec-90ad-fa3410998ae1

July 20

FT Kenya violence erupts again

The opposition leader calls for protests over acute poverty. An editorial in a main newspaper argues that “more than 50 Mn Kenyans are at the mercy of two gentlemen”. Churches and civil society groups call for the parties to resolve their differences. The Catholic bishops call for repealing the tax rises installed to cope with the increased debts of the government. Kenya has a history of political violence, notably after the elections in 2007 and 2017 when 1,200 and 100 people were killed respectively. https://www.ft.com/content/1c6782fd-bc8b-4341-9112-e39e719e0836

FT Sudan violence threatens the volatile Sahel region

The Sahel situation began in 2012 after the Libyan regime collapsed. The violence has increased ever since, particularly when political forces could not conclude to a social contract. One of the parties in Sudan has family members in the current government of Chad.  He might be tempted to seek influence there too. https://www.ft.com/content/3486161a-2fb4-4cf8-ae34-8772961b37eb

FT In Thailand election winner ousted by unelected senate members

The winner of the general election was suspended from parliament and his nomination for prime minister scrapped (see also July 18). The constitutional court suspended him from parliament over alleged shareholding in a television broadcaster. Thereafter parliament deleted his nomination for PM. Some 1.000 people attended a demonstration to support him. https://www.ft.com/content/f46c3ce1-3faa-43f4-911b-5c436f5c5ff7

FT President of Russia will not travel to South Africa for BRICS summit

South Africa is under obligations as a member of the International Court (see also July 19). The president of Russia is indicted by the court. By announcing to skip the August 22 summit he avoids compromising the South African government. He will participate via video. https://www.ft.com/content/06106c7a-354b-4c51-9d17-4d4dcad06bcf

July 21

FT Zimbabwe approaches election on August 23

The 80 year old president has a chance to negotiate unlocking the financial isolation by a credible election. There are few signs that he will. One difference is that some of his foreign partners, the African Development Bank head and the former leader of Mozambique, have clout with financial institutions. https://www.ft.com/content/95e57851-102c-41d2-b420-a253fff55811

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Together with the World Council of Churches and the Catholic relief group Caritas Internationalis WEA delivered a statement at the Human Rights Council during the urgent debate earlier this month related to the desecration of the Qur’an: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruG73fAfJbE

July 25

FT Ukraine casts shadow over Russia – Africa summit

The president of Kenya in May claimed that attending big power summits is linked with financial blackmail. The Africans are also prone to follow up over their peace initiative with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine. The African plan does not just call for free trade in the Black Sea but also insists on the importance of territorial sovereignty. Generally speaking the African price for attending big power summits will go up. https://www.ft.com/content/c4df66ad-4353-4b22-86b8-1207329fe36a

FT Parliament of Israel sets judicial reform in motion

The first part of the measures has been voted through, capping a tumultuous seven-month battle over the changes. The PM claims that further negotiations with the opposition would make full changes possible by November, despite 29 weeks of continuous political protests. The conservative architect of the changes sees them as “correcting the system”. https://www.ft.com/content/eac2b063-2f22-4149-99b2-dda967872cd9

FT Spain faces uncertainty by ultra-right assault misfired

None of the most probable coalitions carry either the Conservatives or the Socialists to the 176 seats needed for a majority in the 350-seat congress. The expected swing to the right did not happen, but the governance of the country is very uncertain. New elections are possible, the sixth in eight years.  https://www.ft.com/content/4ed90f29-5191-4197-a39b-13982eec86c9

FT Political turmoil in Germany as Christian Democrat (CDU) leader does not exclude ultra-right

The ultra-right is a taboo in Germany, following WWII. All established parties have in the past ruled out cooperating with them. In the polls the ultra-right scored 22 percent, above the current coalition parties and not far behind the CDU opposition. Another CDU leader responded to his leader saying his party does not do business with parties “whose business model is hate, division and exclusion”. https://www.ft.com/content/cbae9811-950e-4565-b338-27922f081cb6

TT Minister in Ghana arrested over keeping 1 Mn at home

She was arrested for corruption. In turn the minister accused her maids of stealing more than $1 million in foreign and local currency stashed in her bedroom. The maids had bought houses and a car from the booty. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ghanaian-minister-who-kept-1m-at-home-is-arrested-69v5m7grj

NYT In Nigeria the question is whether the short term pain will be long term gain

The newly elected president won amid a historically low voter turnout and allegations of vote-rigging that his opponents have taken to court, where they are now awaiting a ruling. His quick fixes on the economy have impressed but are executed without cushioning. Bigger reforms like taking on the huge black market of crude, are overdue. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/24/world/africa/nigeria-tinubu-crisis.html

July 26

FT Fugitive’s party has an important say in forming a government in Spain

The regional separatist party’s president is in Belgium. He is an EU parliamentarian. His arrest warrant was renewed on Monday. His party has 8 seats in the 350 strong congress. The election winner commands 172. Simply by abstaining from voting, the separatists could help the government to a majority. They warned that they would ask a big price for cooperation. https://www.ft.com/content/d9ca7c62-6790-4601-a104-14a378db44e9

FT Protesters prepare for next round in judicial reform battle in Israel

While the PM insisted the judicial reforms would not lead to a “state ruled by Jewish religious law” and that Israel would “safeguard individual rights for all”, this is precisely what the mostly liberal and secular protesters fear. The question for protesters is what they can do to change government action, which is proceeding despite months of mass protest. More protests are planned and business and unions are planning support. The opposition vows that the reforms will be deleted once they are in government. https://www.ft.com/content/d9ae8505-9810-4b2b-8a13-f252a393ed36

July 27

FT Russia blames low attendance Africa summit on western influence

The event in St Petersburg would be attended by 21 heads of state and government, a drop from 43 at the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019. Several nations have sent foreign ministers and deputy prime ministers instead. Five nations are not represented at all. https://www.ft.com/content/49454808-7f14-41ec-8a28-7d6983d94bc9

FT Attempted coup in Niger

The president is locked in his palace. He was elected in 2021 in Niger’s first democratic transfer of power since independence. He comes from a minority Arab clan. Slowly he consolidated a fragile power base by making his own appointments to important positions in the security apparatus. His pro-democracy credentials and progressive attitudes on women’s rights and education court western support, though these were not always popular domestically. The coup plotters appeared on TV saying they were putting “an end to the regime due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance”. https://www.ft.com/content/1b5c843d-a814-4811-9eb2-0a66880ac779

FT To tackle inequality, start with cities

Soaring inequality can continue to corrode trust in institutions and one another. A few decades ago the promise was that global inequality would reduce; instead it became more spiky. Wealth is concentrated in cities and therefore cities are the place to tackle inequality. The remarkably low level of divergence in per capita incomes across cities in Japan, for instance, has been possible only thanks to the government’s commitment to tackle city inequality over many decades. https://www.ft.com/content/129bafc0-d1a3-4953-8c63-98e0e9a77b8b

July 28

FT Niger army says it backs coup to prevent ‘bloodbath’

The chief of staff initially backed the ousted president, elected democratically in 2021. After the coup group appeared on TV the army changed position. Unlike earlier coups in Burkina Faso and Mali, a big diplomatic effort is under way to protest the coup. Niger was the last stronghold of the western anti-terrorist operation. https://www.ft.com/content/0543a8f0-f8f3-4cc6-a38c-c504df81dc5d

FT Brazil plans to decarbonize its economy

The 77 year old president in his third term wants to create a lasting legacy. The idea is to put Brazil in the forefront of market renewal. Plans will be presented before October. The government needs to deal with a conservative parliament and agricultural sector. Also, the country is still a poor nation. Deforestation of the rainforest in the first six months was reduced 33 % as compared to the first six months of the previous year. https://www.ft.com/content/373079cb-63fe-45ad-a0cd-40ee8c4ca948

July 29

FT Niger falls as last domino stone in Sahel coup belt

The situation in Niger looked different from neighboring nations. In 2021 a mild-mannered former schoolteacher was elected as president during the first democratic transition. The country is the world’s youngest, with a median age of 14,8. The regional pattern of coups also appeared here. https://www.ft.com/content/e1b533e4-e79d-4f3d-b4f0-3dd50d81235a

FT Russia is an altogether different society

Historian Timothy Snyder: In Russia, the west seems to forget it is not seeing a mirror nation-state to its own. It is a different paradigm of power altogether, driven by “Weberian notions of charismatic leadership. The thing is, Russia can’t have a domestic policy. The elite have stolen all the money, all the laws are corrupted, and there’s almost no social mobility or possibility of change in most Russians’ lives.” (…) “The problem is, you can’t really deal with first-rate political problems without history.” https://www.ft.com/content/9a23b1a7-da4e-466b-99f4-9f7f369fe128

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Together with Open Doors WEA submitted a report for the upcoming periodic human rights review of Nigeria: https://twitter.com/WEA_UN/status/1684186808043851779

July 31

FT Regional heads (Ecowas) threaten Niger coup leaders with military intervention

In 2017 Ecowas was strong to defend democracy in Gambia, later it looked helpless with regime changes in Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. The new president of Nigeria, who took over as chair of Ecowas last month, takes a higher profile. Some consider the coup plotters in Niger divisive among themselves; more coups are possible. https://www.ft.com/content/15208068-ad77-4a61-9946-7bb514095460

NYT Could ethnic conflict in India become an issue the federal government cannot ignore?

A court ruling in a tribal state went to the benefit of the majority tribe. This triggered severe violence. The federal PM kept quiet so far. An opposition vote was not a threat at all for him. But mishandling domestic fault lines in the hugely diverse country opens room that adversaries could exploit. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/30/world/asia/india-manipur-modi.html

August 1

FT New junta in Niger accuses ousted government of authorizing French intervention

Speaking on state television, a spokesman for the military government said that the ousted government had signed a document authorizing the French to attack the presidential palace. A person with knowledge of France’s thinking said Paris was unlikely to take action without US involvement. The president of Chad visited the ousted president in his  palace with no apparent result. https://www.ft.com/content/2c2c027e-52f3-42c9-8bd5-2bdb323bacf3

FT Germany digs deep for clean energy

It is said that geothermal technology has ‘enormous potential’ as a renewable heating source. Cities are in the foreground to meet the German government environment plans. Eleven years ago Munich committed to becoming the first big city in Germany with 100 percent carbon-neutral district heating. Deep geothermal could supply as much as 200-400 Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy a year and cover a quarter of Germany’s total demand for heating in its towns and cities. https://www.ft.com/content/8561d309-0668-43d7-80f8-ec075cb0e402

FT South American countries braced for return of El Niño weather phenomenon

The warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean’s surface causes global changes in temperature and rainfall. The South American countries could suffer from dramatic inflation of food prices. The weather phenomenon affects the region unevenly. In some places it could be an advantage, such as drier areas of Argentina. https://www.ft.com/content/49c62a3d-b49f-4e49-ae7c-6223a44f132f

August 2

FT Niger coup highlights west’s failing policy in the Sahel

In an editorial the newspaper concludes the Niger coup is not just another totalitarian event in the Sahel. In the case of France, the policy of meddling in former colonies has spectacularly backfired. But generally western countries need to present a more coherent offering in Africa. Only by taking the continent more seriously and by helping it prosper can they make up lost ground. Not least as Africa already suffers from the climate change caused elsewhere. https://www.ft.com/content/e914c375-7c08-4d3a-8cf1-aae83ee3b74f

FT France to evacuate its citizens and EU citizens from Niger

The country has 1500 military in the country. On Sunday Niger citizens surrounded the French embassy with accompanying hostilities. There is no indication that Russian mercenaries are involved in the coup, though some citizens called for Russian intervention. The U.S.A. has 1100 military and a drone base for intelligence in Niger. https://www.ft.com/content/a0001c8a-4405-4f82-9444-35924ab6838f

FT Koran burnings trigger debate on freedom of speech in western Europe

Denmark and Sweden struggle to balance their adherence to progressive politics with demands of national security. The foreign ministers of 57 Muslim countries urged the Scandinavian countries to take tough action. Only recently blasphemy legislation was abandoned. In court using public order legislation to stop Koran burning has been blocked. https://www.ft.com/content/7c55a6ba-9934-4c77-bd79-febacf01a4f2

FT In Mexico with its one term presidential limit the next election is also a contest in the ruling party

The favored candidate of the popular sitting president suffers from her entirely different psychology. One analyst: “She isn’t spontaneous. She isn’t authentic. She isn’t charismatic.” She did well as a mayor of Mexico City and is an internationally involved climate scientist. https://www.ft.com/content/4a09a167-1722-4dd3-965f-07f38315b343

TT In Afghanistan regime burns musical instruments in bonfire

The deputy director of the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice: “Promoting music causes moral corruption and playing it will cause the youth to go astray.” This happens despite the country having a vibrant musical tradition, mostly influenced by neighboring Iranian, Pakistani and Indian classical music. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/taliban-destroys-morally-corrupt-musical-instruments-in-bonfire-6m78jnzld

TT In Myanmar democratically elected leader gets 33-year jail term reduced by six years

Her detention was changed to house arrest. The military regime also pardoned a total of 7,749 prisoners and commuted the death sentences of others to commemorate a religious holiday in the Buddhist-majority country. Amnesty was also granted to 125 foreign prisoners and 22 members of ethnic armed groups and cases were dropped against 72 people connected to ethnic armed groups. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/suu-kyi-has-33-year-jail-term-reduced-by-six-years-3gr6nvrkf

NYT Deadly protests in Senegal as opposition party Is dissolved and leader detained

The latest round of tensions comes two months after 16 people died during demonstrations around the opposition leader’s rape trial (see June 3). His sentence of two years on youth corruption charges sent thousands of young people to the streets. Presidential elections are scheduled for February 2024 and the president’s two terms are finished. He abolished his initial plan to seek a third term (see also July 5). https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/01/world/africa/senegal-protests-sonko.html

August 3

FT Niger coup puts Ecowas in “make or break” moment

The regional economic cooperation organization reverted to a tough approach after more subtle efforts at takeovers in Burkina Faso and Guinea and a tough approach in Mali did not work. Ecowas said that If the coup leaders would not cede power “within one week we will take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order”. In addition Ecowas chair Nigeria cut off its electricity supplies for Niger. https://www.ft.com/content/24f50cd6-6b78-477d-a7a7-68bb1ec1d972

FT Businesses in Iran under pressure to enforce clothing rules

An online picture of an employee wearing an inappropriate dress led to security measures. Hardliners say the cultural shift has made life difficult for the religiously observant and that businesses were ignoring the needs of conservative people. However, the crackdown appears haphazard as the regime seeks to balance its desire to enforce the law while not stoking tension ahead of parliamentary elections next year. https://www.ft.com/content/32b0f075-a39b-4f9c-a05a-84b4b5d19f84

FT Election loser in U.S.A. accused of frustrating democratic process

The prosecutor appointed to handle investigations into the former president is entering uncharted legal territory, more than in the two other cases that already run against the accused. The former president is accused of perpetrating a conspiracy to threaten individual rights, based on a law adopted in 1870 to thwart the Ku Klux Klan’s attempts to intimidate voters. His lawyer says “political speech now has been criminalized”. https://www.ft.com/content/8c720527-1f83-4b9b-af99-8cd711d35b0b

FT PM in Singapore defends governance after scandals

The defense comes after a corruption investigation and an “inappropriate” parliamentary relationship tarnished the city-state’s image just as it prepares for a leadership transition, with the son of the founder of modern Singapore handing the position of PM to another member of the ruling party. The PM admits the ruling party took a hit in popularity. Singapore is concerned as it wants to retain its position as a financial center. https://www.ft.com/content/bffa9e39-6c78-4e1a-87e6-c606fd62a21a

FT India cracks down on religious violence in New Delhi’s business hub

Violence broke out on Monday when a Hindu religious procession passed through a Muslim-dominated neighborhood. In Manipur Hindu and Christian groups have clashed with 180 casualties since May. https://www.ft.com/content/785ca9fe-12e6-4d07-becf-b018365236a5

FT In Mexico the economy is slowly militarized

Corruption is used as a reason to make the role of police and military more dominant. The president originally was critical of the military, even suggesting in 2019 to abolish the army. This has changed dramatically and critics claim the role of the military in the wider society lacks transparency. The question is whether the president’s successor will get the military back in their barracks. https://www.ft.com/content/6a119a1c-c251-4909-824d-96bca4d23a91

August 4

FT Inter-ethnic conflict in north-east of India risks spilling across volatile region

The opposition is seizing on a grisly, three-month conflict in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur to challenge the PM on a security crisis of national significance they say his government has failed to contain. They formed an opposition umbrella group under the name of India National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). Violence in the north-eastern states, called the Seven Sisters and bordering China and Myanmar, has happened since India’s independence. In the past armed insurgents fought against the state, the current strife in Manipur has pitted two ethnic groups against each other. https://www.ft.com/content/64018b44-677a-4e7b-a5c3-3eee6af483ec

TT President of France blames children of single parents for summer riots

The president revealed that three quarters of the children prosecuted over the riots were from single-parent families or in social care. In an interview he said the figure underlined a breakdown of authority and a decline of trust in parents and schoolteachers, but also in democratic institutions. He used strong words, saying that the episode pointed to a “crisis of civilization” and the “deregulation” of western societies. He suggested that the authorities should do more to help single parents to educate their children. “We can’t be a nation if we don’t have confidence in . . . the authorities, in one’s parents, in one’s teachers.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/france-riots-2023-emmanuel-macron-broken-families-race-factor-n2ljnvpgz

NYT Colombia and rebel group begin six-month truce after decades of combat

The agreement was a top priority of the president who himself was once a member of the rebel group. The group’s lack of a unified command has made it difficult to negotiate with. Individual factions often act autonomously — at times over the objections of high commanders. A newly created entity made up of the officials from the Colombian military and government, the United Nations and religious groups will monitor the enforcement of the new agreement. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/03/world/americas/colombia-eln-rebels-cease-fire.html

August 5

FT Government in Australia wants to secure influence of I Mn indigenous population

Establishing an advisory indigenous body to parliament is the subject of a special referendum. The liberal opposition is against the idea. The PM visited the yearly indigenous festival, which puts the occasion into campaign significance. https://www.ft.com/content/11fa7eb4-919a-4086-ab46-236aa390598e

FT Capital of Niger faces uncertainty over intervention threats

The coup group did not receive the visiting Ecowas delegation, nor did they allow them to meet the deposed president. But they hosted activists this week to discuss Niger’s “territorial integrity” and invited trade unions, religious leaders and civil society groups to debate what it called the threat to Niger’s sovereignty. The election support for the ousted president depended on backing of his predecessor and is for that reason limited. https://www.ft.com/content/b6e6bdf8-a370-4fc6-9193-7a4de30afcc2

FT In the U.S.A. Los Angeles is facing a summer of labor strikes

“There’s a real generational change going on,” said the director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There’s a lot more interest in inequality — and they actually want to do something about it.” https://www.ft.com/content/11fa7eb4-919a-4086-ab46-236aa390598e

FT In India Supreme Court suspends conviction of opposition leader

A court in the home state of India’s PM had convicted the opposition leader for asking why people with the surname of the PM were “thieves”, mentioning three people including the PM (see March 24). For that reason he was barred from parliament. The Supreme Court said the judge who handed the opposition leader the two-year sentence had not given “reasons for imposing the maximum punishment” for defamation. https://www.ft.com/content/9b491acd-e346-4e00-b790-c387707a0073

FT In Columbia son of president acknowledges receiving campaign donations

The country is rattled with conflicting signals. The president turned to a more radical direction, frustrated by lack of progress with his plans. The markets turned positive, making governance more feasible. But the legal struggle centers around the president’s son after his former wife told the media that the president’s son received drug related funds for the presidential campaign. https://www.ft.com/content/99b315e2-676e-48f8-88b4-c7c43c3fa721

TT The slide of Sweden from peaceful welfare state to Europe’s gun-killings capital

Murderous gangs and a crisis over cultural integration are tearing the nation apart and bringing down its government last year. Despite the welfare state the overwhelming majority of the people involved in gang crime are young Swedish men who were born abroad or whose parents or grandparents emigrated to the country. Neighboring Denmark seems to be more able to tackle the same problem. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sweden-s-slide-from-peaceful-welfare-state-to-europe-s-gun-killings-capital-k6rhtp72p

NYT Catholics gather 1 Mn young people from around the world for assembly in Portugal

The cultural diversity in the event could not be bigger and this triggers challenges to the ages old institution of the Catholic church. The pope has put in place a trajectory for change and appeals to the young to take heart. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/04/world/europe/young-catholics-pope-francis-portugal.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA submitted a report for the Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia about human trafficking and statelessness: https://un.worldea.org/malaysia-the-protection-of-migrant-workers-refugees-and-stateless-individuals-report-to-the-upr-45th-session/

August 7

FT Gang crackdown bolsters poll rates for leader in El Salvador

The president labeled himself “the world’s coolest dictator” and has above 90 percent approval ratings. His strong-arm tactics have included sending the military to storm congress and firing all judges aged over 60. He fired all five judges of the constitutional court and amended the presidential term limit. His popularity evolves around rigorous and brute treatment of prisoners and the gang crackdown. https://www.ft.com/content/cdc3e257-558a-4dd0-8066-0039493ff73a

FT In Australia business splits over referendum about indigenous council

Some major companies have warmed up to indigenous participation while others have criticized it. A poll held last month showed the no vote over the proposed indigenous council ahead by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, making it a difficult line for businesses to navigate. https://www.ft.com/content/2fac21c1-e230-47f0-9ec7-e7c459cb3bab

August 8

FT Niger closes airspace as Ecowas deadline expires

The junta claimed that two neighboring nations prepared intervention. Thousands of pro-junta supporters attended a packed rally in support of the coup. One of the leaders said that the junta was aware of a “Machiavellian” scheme determined to thwart Niger’s “march forward”. https://www.ft.com/content/f35da215-7edc-402d-acd1-a6a494edcedf

FT In Zimbabwe opposition claims repression is worse than under the former regime

The opposition leader portrays Zimbabwe’s looming elections as a clash between “good and evil” as he assured supporters that an end to the southern African nation’s economic agony would come at the ballot box. The main opposition has even been forced to give up the party name it fought under when it was the primary challenger to the old ruler. https://www.ft.com/content/45b09177-bfbe-41ea-9cbd-ea4c0218f447

FT A new Catholic counter revolution is underway in Europe

In European politics the Catholic groups align with conservatives (ECR), embracing principles and values that include a commitment to the “importance of the family” and to the “sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to EU federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity”. They are opposed to the line of the pope who speaks about “healthy secularism” in which “God and Caesar remain distinct but not opposed”. https://www.ft.com/content/e7236ecc-9366-444c-8213-1515656adf5c

August 9

FT The new commodities super powers DRC, Chile and Indonesia

The DRC government is undertaking a sweeping review of all its mining joint ventures with foreign investors. “We’re not satisfied. None of these contracts create value for us.” The growing demand for these commodities is starting to shake up both the economics and the geopolitics of the energy world. This shift is also transforming some smaller and historically under-developed countries into commodity superpowers. And their governments are now intent on rewriting the rules of mineral extraction. An Indonesian minister: “Look how the UK banned exports of raw wool during the 16th century, to stimulate its domestic textile industry. https://www.ft.com/content/0d2fba79-940f-4a28-8f4f-68f1e755200f

FT U.S.A. backs Ecowas drive to restore constitutional order in Niger

The acting deputy Secretary of State visited the country. She said it was “not easy to get traction” on a diplomatic path. The junta leaders have so far denied requests by the U.S.A. to restore constitutional order and visiting the deposed president. https://www.ft.com/content/0a8fee1b-4848-4bc1-b64b-28cac6592798

FT Referendum in Central African Republic overrides constitutional bar for third term

The election commission announced on Monday that 95.3 per cent of the 1.1mn citizens who voted on July 30 had approved a new constitution that would allow for more than two presidential terms. The run-up to the vote was marked by a boycott from the main opposition parties and civil society organizations who consider it unlawful, as well as criticism from rebel groups that still control parts of the country. The newspaper depicts CAR as a “client state” of Russia. https://www.ft.com/content/63aa513f-f812-46ec-8cb8-dd65df53e5c3

FT Poland defies EU demands to close down mine for environmental reasons

The mine has become a symbol of sovereign power and is part of the election campaign. The mine is so important for Poland that it has in effect been paying the EU to keep it open. It also paid nearby Czechia for dropping a lawsuit. https://www.ft.com/content/0850c177-4dce-4fa7-a00f-2020124aec98

FT In Argentina radical right-winger wants more austerity than IMF

Ahead of the presidential election in October he accused the fund of acting in its own interests in maintaining support for Latin America’s third-largest economy. The economist and congressman rose to prominence as a television panelist railing against economic mismanagement by Argentina’s political class. He is still trailing the existing ruling party but his views (also controversial on life issues) are an influence in the campaign. https://www.ft.com/content/782197c9-35dd-42e4-96f3-910cf60e9ecf

FT Election delay in Pakistan raises fear of deterioration of democracy

News of the election delay came just hours after an Islamabad court sentenced the former prime minister to three years in prison on corruption allegations. https://www.ft.com/content/31614845-403f-4e54-a6ef-a45a6c0a3fdd

TT China poised to set limits on facial recognition technology

The resistance has grown against the high tech cameras, which have been installed even in public lavatories. Draft rules from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) suggest that hotel rooms, gyms and changing rooms should not have image-capturing or personal identification cameras. However, it also said that in the interests of national security, image-capturing and scanning devices could still be installed in public spaces provided there were warning signs. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/china-seeks-to-restrict-facial-recognition-technology-after-backlash-0pc2m2jss

August 10

FT In Tanzania critics of one sided deal with Dubai port company silenced

The agreement provides a legal framework for “developing, improving, managing and operating the sea and lake ports in areas like special economic zones, logistic parks and trade corridors”. It contains unusual clauses like exemption of the company for future national legislation. The Dubai company was recently disowned of a contract with Djibouti. https://www.ft.com/content/f5776df5-9375-438f-bbeb-bc7e8c296f04

FT World bank freezes new lending to Uganda over LGBT+ legislation

Calling its business with Uganda a “project” the World Bank said it aims to “protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance”. The Uganda president, who has been in power since 1986, has called homosexuality a “deviation from normal” and had praised Ugandan lawmakers who passed the bill for having “rejected the pressure from the imperialists”. Homosexual relations are criminalized in 32 of Africa’s 54 countries as of 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/ef810757-6191-4d30-9977-57b44948b899

TT Presidential candidate cum parliamentarian assassinated at rally in Ecuador

His campaign was built around strong opposition to the rising violence, as well as against armed groups and their growing influence on domestic politics. The president of the country declared three days of mourning and a national state of emergency. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ecuadorian-presidential-candidate-assassinated-rnxl20qw9

August 11

FT Nigerian threats to Niger junta undone by fierce domestic opposition

The new president is losing momentum for his intervention plans. One Lagos-based newspaper accused him of “dangerous warmongering”. Opposition to military intervention comes from across Nigeria’s political spectrum. Cultural cross border ties with Niger are strong. The Hausa, who make up more than half Niger’s population, are also the dominant ethnic group in northern Nigeria. Many in Nigeria have said the president should spend more time worrying about problems at home. https://www.ft.com/content/45737ce5-1adb-4c57-bba1-e63713265e6a

FT Niger is the graveyard of French policy in the Sahel

In an op-ed the Africa editor remarks that the protracted presence of France is coming to an end. Other colonial occupiers left for good but the French maintained a post-colonial presence on the continent called “Françafrique”, boosting ties from language to financial services. France was ever-ready to intervene militarily. Across most of its 20 former African colonies, intellectuals and street protesters alike share a hatred of France, an easy scapegoat for all their problems. Islamist ideology has traction in desperately poor countries with ethnic grievances, lousy governments and no tax revenue. https://www.ft.com/content/0d94d586-cab1-49f2-bc82-366ac31ab9a6

FT India passes landmark data protection bill

The country with almost 1bn people connected to the internet has lacked a law regulating sharing of personal information. The responsible minister said that the bill would balance protecting user data with keeping the internet open. He said the new law differed from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation “because it is not prescriptive”. “All the experts are very clear that there is no exception given which is outside the constitution.” The data protection law has been years in the making, gathering momentum after the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that Indians had a fundamental right to privacy. https://www.ft.com/content/0497011e-991a-4a2e-b496-67ae67a4f650

August 12

FT Former president of South Africa pardoned of corruption charges

He was convicted for defying an investigation into systematic corruption of state institutions during his rule, but was later released on medical grounds. The pardon was part of a “special remission” that also released thousands of other prisoners, the latest twist in a legal case that has tested the rule of law in Africa’s most industrialized economy. The former president went to jail again on Friday and following that was part of the special pardon. https://www.ft.com/content/04f39da7-dc73-4f61-ba1f-bbe61ea7c4e4

FT In France police officers charged over death of man in riots

The three officers are suspected of “armed assault that led to the unintentional death”. It happened after the fatal shooting by police of a 17-year-old at a traffic stop outside Paris (see July 1). The problem became a headache for the government as the police is one of the most powerful institutions in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/d0623a00-99b3-44bd-b88b-6ce0b7593348

FT Audit report slams Central Bank governance in Lebanon

The report accused the central bank management of opaque practices, bad governance and lacking adequate risk management measures, with the recently departed governor exerting “largely uncriticized authority”. The bank’s leader called the accusations “subjective views”, and said there was “never misconduct” during his tenure. https://www.ft.com/content/ec36be3a-1db1-422b-a5ec-b64bb6e17f50

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Our Geneva director wrote about how international anti-persecution strategies are failing local Christians: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/july-web-only/nigeria-advocacy-persecution-christian.html

August 14

FT Zambia wants to dig its way out of debt with a copper revival

The country at one time produced a tenth of the world’s copper and has had its way through commodity booms, nationalization drives, environmental problems and debt default. The quality of the copper is high but the market also wants jurisdictions where supply is stable, reliable and consistent. The distance to a sea port is a disadvantage for Zambia. The government is determined to work its way out of debt with a copper revival. https://www.ft.com/content/a578165b-2096-4117-b649-aeb2cdc715f3

FT Presidential aide of Madagascar accused of bribery attempt

He was arrested in Britain after he solicited bribes for new licenses and also a share in the mining company. The British authorities thanked the company for their help in bringing the case to their attention and for their ongoing co-operation with the investigation. https://www.ft.com/content/8320df85-e851-4791-b059-24933f533704

FT Niger junta threatens treason charge against ousted president

At the same time it signaled to a group of visiting Nigerian Islamic leaders that it was open to dialogue with the neighboring nations who have demanded the president to be restored. https://www.ft.com/content/c8fae0de-6555-4022-8226-a529b6ff7a33

FT Europe’s thriving businesses face mounting windfall tax hit

European governments are turning to windfall taxes to balance their books and tackle public uproar over companies making high profits during the worst cost of living crisis in decades. A total of 24 EU countries have announced, proposed or implemented a windfall tax on energy companies. Banks increasingly become a target. The IMF has argued in favor of levies on excess profits becoming a permanent feature of the tax system. https://www.ft.com/content/c16fdb5d-ec8a-44bd-a482-ff9c50719c3c

FT In Ecuador assassination of presidential candidate will dominate election

The murder was committed after he campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, and as the Andean country contends with a steep rise in drug-fueled violence that began with massacres in the country’s overcrowded prison system before spreading to the streets. Elections for the country’s president and congress are due to take place on August 20, if necessary with a run off on October 15. https://www.ft.com/content/c0460157-1ee0-40c8-9903-6af488978720

FT Pakistan appoints caretaker prime minister

The new PM is from a regional party outside the dominant political forces. The current PM stepped down, shortly after ordering a new census that requires changes in constituency boundaries. This will probably delay the election to after the constitutional requirement for new elections. Some members of the party of the detained former PM have welcomed the appointment of the new PM. https://www.ft.com/content/fcce6c28-5580-4c25-acf9-032562a849be

August 15

FT African Development Bank’s anti-corruption fund unused for seven years

Non-governmental organizations that have applied for grants from the fund, initiated as a way of combating corruption in Africa, have been told it is not yet up and running. The money to establish the fund came from international companies investigated by the bank. https://www.ft.com/content/404fb16d-2ca6-449e-80ea-c190bd594b70

FT In Niger plight of president brings home the cost of governance

The center of the drama, say observers of the unfolding events, is a straightforward hostage situation, now in its 17th day. The captive president in an op-ed article: “I am just one of hundreds of citizens who have been arbitrarily and illegally imprisoned.” The president refuses to sign a resignation letter. His living conditions are slowly becoming harsher, through measures of his captors. https://www.ft.com/content/adf05109-fded-4c50-8381-a17189462faa

FT India has potential as a world leader but this is not guaranteed

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to the Asian nation. Its vast and young population (one in five of the world’s population below 25) needs a boost in spending on education. The country also needs a more transparent and open business climate for effective supply chains and the threat to illiberalism needs to be contained. “There has been a troubling rise in targeted attacks on religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians”. https://www.ft.com/content/4a7fdc6e-c91b-44ef-b966-854f847de562

August 16

FT China expands farmland to avoid foreign food reliance

Across the country, authorities have reclaimed more than 170,000 hectares since 2021. Tenants who had signed a multiyear lease with local authorities have had their contracts revoked. The president is preparing for a worst case scenario: “China must be able to feed its people on our own. We will fall under others’ control if we can’t hold our rice bowl steady.” Increased urbanization and a manufacturing boom in China have contributed to a greater reliance on food imports over the past decades. https://www.ft.com/content/6702e861-24c1-4383-be1c-bb0ba3b09c8a

FT In Turkey major of Istanbul calls for opposition cohesion

Municipal elections are scheduled for March 2024. The ruling party wants to rewin the largest city of the country, home to almost a fifth of the country’s population. Opposition cohesion is challenged after the defeat in the presidential elections. Some called for the losing presidential candidate to step down. The Istanbul major stopped short of that. He is the best chance for the opposition to retain Istanbul, but faces criminal charges that could stop him from running if he is convicted. https://www.ft.com/content/4e56de77-3306-4b47-975c-7f092883af40

In the U.S.A. litany of charges against former president looms large over election process

In the polls about the party primaries the former president achieved a widening lead since the first indictment. Some of his opponents within the party still believe his legal problems will weigh him down to the benefit of his opponents. For the time he benefits. https://www.ft.com/content/ddde3d8e-4222-4144-861c-f21714df5d31

FT Argentina struggles to avoid economic collapse after surprise primary win

The black-market dollar, which is a staple of Argentine life, has jumped to almost double the new official exchange rate. Prices of consumer goods rose with double digits after the official currency was devalued and interest rates hiked. The government’s prime concern is to secure the next installment of the IMF bailout package. Voters are basically divided in three groups and therefore a run off of the October 22 election seems likely. https://www.ft.com/content/4171ee2c-a647-47db-a208-7ead73e88b5e

August 17

FT Gabon finalizes first debt-for-nature swap in Africa

The deal positively strikes down the divide between philanthropy, public funding and private markets. The credit rating on Gabon’s restructured debt rose from junk territory, CAA1, to AA2. A similar deal would be “massively positive” for Kenya, which has a $2bn bond coming up for refinancing next year. But the Gabon deal is a complicated one, not easy to duplicate. https://www.ft.com/content/23c1c1ce-59ef-4fee-8b86-fed2c3e5f3b1

FT UN laments that Sudan war displaces 4 Mn citizens

1 Mn of them fled to neighboring countries. The delay in agricultural work can result in famine for up to 6 Mn. The warring parties accuse each other of war crimes, one of them this week during a TV appearance. The UN High Commissioner for human rights accuses both of them of committing atrocities. https://www.ft.com/content/b84f8c65-74f0-44bc-8066-e9f1191a5703

FT In Argentina primary presidential election winner will cut only carefully, according to advisor

He posed with a model chainsaw while announcing his budget plans earlier this year, but his advisor acknowledges that given poverty in the country they cannot “just fire people from the public sector or lower social spending”.  The former economics lecturer also faces closer scrutiny of his “anarcho-capitalist” manifesto to fix Argentina’s crisis-wracked economy. https://www.ft.com/content/d0219348-8990-484a-a4c8-dbd5923cb4fd

NYT Court in Thailand prevents election winner from forming government

The surprise winner in the general election sees his attempts to form a government thwarted. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition to renominate him. Last month the military-appointed Senate voted against him when he was nominated as prime minister by a new coalition (see July 18 & 20). The court said the petition should have been filed by the affected party, but it was filed by the country’s ombudsman.  The next vote for prime minister will take place in Parliament on August 22. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/16/world/asia/thailand-pita-court.html

August 18

FT Nigeria cabinet appointed

The new president appointed a former advisor (during his days as Lagos mayor) as economy minister. An oil minister has not yet been appointed, only two deputies. It is expected that the president will fill the oil minister role himself, like the previous president. This role is crucial for recovering the benefits of the resources which are now largely spoiled. https://www.ft.com/content/7e2a960b-7475-4f87-97af-3316cf478e89

FT Shadowy NGO in Zimbabwe accused of manipulating elections

The group has taken a lead role at rallies and heaped praise on the 80-year-old president despite Zimbabwe’s drawn-out economic collapse. Other groups are accusing it of intimidating voters and interfering in electoral processes. The problems go back to the former dictator’s time when the ruling party deployed the security services and groups running parallel to the formal state machinery to ensure it never lost an election. In the end some turned against him and the former security chief became his successor. https://www.ft.com/content/b66cae06-a0da-4dbf-ae69-d91a40e69c89

FT In Spain caretaker PM scores tactical win by positive vote Speaker of Congress

The PM succeeded in corralling the support of six other parties in addition to his own to reach 178 votes. One of the parties is a radical Catalan breakaway party which organized the unconstitutional referendum and a failed declaration of independence (see also July 26). The breakaway party explicitly claims their vote for the post of PM is not secure and the conservative opposition might benefit. https://www.ft.com/content/85371de1-5b58-46ed-a0c3-a944bd7f3964

August 19

FT In the U.S.A. indictment of former president shows the perils of dual sovereignty

“Dual sovereignty” recognizes the distinct powers of both state and federal governments to pursue their respective interests through separate criminal prosecutions. But now that the former president is the subject of both federal and state prosecution, conflicts of interest according to the author seem inevitable. https://www.ft.com/content/83b54eb6-1b30-4ede-adf8-e59f32f6e2d0

FT In Belgium drugs trafficking is a bigger problem than terrorism

Belgium’s justice minister calls for EU extradition agreements to help catch the kingpins of the crime. The EU can put more pressure on countries where the top criminals hide. The drugs trade is extra complicated according to the minister as hundreds of thousands of users across Europe have “blood on their noses”. https://www.ft.com/content/542cba73-1d84-4da6-a61a-0863b01f533f

FT In Austria former chancellor charges with misinforming parliament

He was forced from government for corruption (see also October 19, 2022) and is now charged with misinforming a special parliamentary investigatory committee set up to probe the alleged corruption. His party is languishing in the polls and there was talk about a comeback of the former chancellor. https://www.ft.com/content/197bd8fb-1376-41a1-8608-73fa18f856f0

TT The orthodox church has a role in the war plans of Russia

The soldiers make use of inflatable field churches, the government makes a point of giving back religious heritage to the church and the church introduces a “prayer for holy Rus”, invoking war motives of the government and considering “victory against the decadent order the only way of survival”. A priest who replaced the word “victory” with “peace” was fired. The government turned to religious language. The need to “denazify” Ukraine — is replaced towards theological language of a “cosmic battle” with a decadent West. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russia-orthodox-church-putin-ukraine-war-2023-v29b0gxpr

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

What is Evangelicalism? Join us for this vital discussion! See more here and participate in the survey and the online event on September 20: https://kirbylaingcentre.co.uk/events/#evangelicalism

August 21

FT Ecuador election after three assassinations leads to run-off on October 15

A candidate loyal to the president from 2007 – 2017 scored 33 percent with most votes counted, while her nearest competitor has 23 percent. The second round will likely evolve around the political legacy of the president until 2017, who is living in Belgium and convicted in absentia for corruption in 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/f1c569d3-44d6-4ad7-8f7a-80b69aa74c6b

FT Elite in Morocco relieved as King reigns in his lifestyle

In the nearly absolute monarchy in a country riven by inequality the sovereign is seen as a foundation of stability. Governance in the country is effective but depends on its verticality. In that context the frequent absence of the king (mostly to France & Gabon) is problematic. More so his relationship to a German born Moroccan boxer with a criminal record. A digital publication called this “a timebomb”. The fact that the article can be read in Morocco indicates the unease of the elite and the king. https://www.ft.com/content/7a42b66d-d762-4efe-9881-b987477b6883

FT Ethiopia seeks 20 Bn to rebuild after civil war

The economic growth during the conflict remained high, double the average of other countries in Africa. The country wants to rebuild the north. The finance minister recently met with the World bank. He is optimistic about the chance to recover the funds frozen during the civil conflict, despite other conflicts surfacing recently. https://www.ft.com/content/cdd73748-58f3-41d4-add1-cd563372c6de

FT Turkey moves closer to economic orthodoxy after five years

In a series of announcements on Sunday, the government and central bank said they would begin discouraging savers and businesses from stashing funds in foreign currency protected savings accounts. Interest rates are higher, while taxes have risen and imports are discouraged. https://www.ft.com/content/bf08b99b-3481-4023-a6c8-693d1bb98ea8

FT India expands digital payment system

New services for voice-based and offline digital payments target rural users with limited internet access and literacy. Today 350 million citizens are included in the digital payment system but it is rapidly growing. In July transactions had doubled compared to the same month last year. The system known as the India Stack is designed to bring the country’s vast and unregulated cash-based economy into the formal financial system. Rights groups are concerned about privacy and the dozens of Indian languages may be an obstacle to voice based payments. https://www.ft.com/content/a9a11275-a0f5-4f40-99e2-4c532afd77d4

FT As autocrats deepen international ties, opponents seek solidarity

The autocrats seem to prosper from international cooperation. They turn to technology and social media, accuse the opposition of being terrorists or foreign agents and use the Russian and Chinese veto in the Security Council of the UN.  That is why most revolutions and freedom movements have failed in recent years and international solidarity expressed in free countries remains the only option for national opposition movements in autocratic environments. https://www.ft.com/content/b0c3a9bb-6073-4ab8-ae0c-0da721bbece4

August 22

FT President of South Africa pledges to avoid global rivalry over BRICS summit

While the BRICS consider opening their umbrella to more countries, the chairman of the summit and president of South Africa wants to avoid a world of “increasingly polarized and competing camps”. He sees BRICS as a diverse group of nations with different political systems that share a common desire to have a more balanced global order.

FT Border guard in Saudi Arabia accused of killing hundreds of migrants

Over the past 18 months Ethiopian migrants trying to illegally cross the border from Yemen have been targeted and many killed. Saudi Arabia already houses hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians as guest laborers. https://www.ft.com/content/c7cddce9-8a6c-47a3-a012-f86a632b393a

FT Anti-corruption candidate wins election in Guatemala with a landslide

The 64 year old surprised the ruling elite at the first round by ending second but comfortably won the runoff. The ruling party and its allies disputed the first-round result and prosecutors opened several legal cases against the winner, an anti-corruption crusader and former diplomat. His party grew out of a protest movement in 2015. His party will only have 23 of the 160 seats in Congress, forcing it to forge alliances or a coalition to pass legislation. https://www.ft.com/content/272df916-7eeb-413e-a67b-762365d14b91

FT The post-Western geopolitical world order

The west’s effective abandonment of the three decade dream that “the free market gospel” would lead to a more moderate Chinese communist party creates opportunities in the rest of the world. One analyst: “The shift has to be seen as structural, secular and not cyclical.” The new less regimented landscape most obviously benefits the global south. There are conflicting interests. China would not like India becoming a permanent Security Council member. But the shared interest in the rest of the world is that the global economic order is tilted in favor of the South. https://www.ft.com/content/7997f72d-f772-4b70-9613-9823f233d18a

NYT Plane full of cash embarrass two countries: Egypt & Zambia

After landing in Zambia it was discovered that it was carrying nearly $5.7 million in U.S. currency, 602 bars of fake gold, five pistols and 126 rounds of ammunition. 12 people from Egypt, Zambia, Spain and the Netherlands were arrested. Egyptian media were discouraged from reporting and some journalists briefly detained. The Zambians published the capture but refrained from naming the Egyptian arrested. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/21/world/africa/egypt-zambia-plane.html

August 23

FT Former oil minister of Nigeria accused of corruption in UK court

She was a minister from 2010-2015 and lives now permanently in London. The then central bank chief claimed in 2014 that tens of billions of oil proceeds had gone missing from the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. https://www.ft.com/content/b97740cc-31b7-4a74-be91-9f9574647a93

Crisis in Niger is another sign of a shifting geopolitical axis

In an op-ed the editorial director of the French newspaper Le Monde laments that the Americans and the French use other language on what happened but something is very clear: African states, today also courted by China, Turkey and others, want their claim to sovereignty to be recognized. Their current heft on the global scene cannot be ignored. https://www.ft.com/content/ee6fb170-3284-46fa-9eb7-da64212c4989

FT In Zimbabwe a worsening climate of repression grips the country ahead of election

The incumbent is advocating his achievements to bolster his campaign success but at the same time strikes down on dissent with arbitrary arrests. Analysts acknowledge the government had some success in infrastructure and food security but at a cost of opaque state control. https://www.ft.com/content/6db84250-391b-48e4-a7f3-8a1ee3e42985

August 24

FT Principles of effective industrial policy

The newspaper dedicates an editorial on the subject. The basic conclusion is that an open and competitive business environment creates an agile economy in a country. In this context the newspaper notes a geopolitical fragmentation that pulls production away from where it can be done most efficiently. This is wasteful and raises costs. It also invites retaliation. Targeted government intervention should however be considered in a few cases, particularly defense. https://www.ft.com/content/8e4278a8-9f8c-42a6-8168-6d0b234a2d16

FT In Poland crackdown on business people denounced as ‘catastrophe’

Business people critical of the country’s government say they have been targeted by prosecutors, with some jailed for months without being charged in what opponents describe as a crackdown on dissent. The president of the bar council said “the standards for detaining people have been lowered tragically”. https://www.ft.com/content/445140ab-fd7d-4433-b7ad-96959e739e7f

August 25

FT Election in Zimbabwe flawed

It is marred by delays, vote-rigging accusations and the arrest of some local polling observers. The ruling party has a long tradition of rigging and it is in evidence also this time. https://www.ft.com/content/51c6cd1c-25bf-4120-94ea-6839292f60d7

TT According to the president of France his country needs to be re-civilized

He wants to achieve that by boosting the authority of teachers and getting children to spend less time looking at screens and more in school. Civic education would be placed at the heart of the curriculum, and history lessons would be reformed so that the subject would be taught chronologically. He also pledged greater independence for head teachers and 30 minutes of sport a day for pupils, along with more education in art and culture. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/france-re-civilised-emmanuel-macron-school-education-lame-duck-qfdrsbcv9

August 26

FT Parents burn ‘decolonial’ textbooks in Mexico

A group of indigenous parents in southern Mexico took to burning new school textbooks amid a furious reaction to their allegedly politicized content, gender-neutral language and lack of basic reading and math’s material. Some opposition governors refuse to distribute the fiercely anti-capitalist material, inspired by the late Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. The president considers the response “medieval”. https://www.ft.com/content/69bf7312-c593-4b76-8b62-a29fd2c5346b

FT Denmark seeks to punish people that insult others religious ideas

The centrist coalition will table a bill banning “the inappropriate treatment of objects with significant religious significance” in public places. This comes at the expense of the traditional freedom of speech. Along with Sweden the country faces demands from the 56 Muslim countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The government considers some insults meaningless and only designed to sow hate. Satirical drawings would not be covered by the ban. https://www.ft.com/content/3c4d996e-3df0-4be0-a6ea-514db4a81816

FT Surprise deal in Thailand leaves election winner out of office

A PM from a party previously supporting the election winner was voted in. It was a remarkable turnaround for a party founded by a PM ousted in a military coup in 2006, whose younger sister suffered a similar fate in 2014. The PM ousted in 2006 was in self-imposed exile during which he was convicted for corruption. Part of the deal is his return. He went straight to jail but is not expected to be there long. He has a name for his inequality drive. https://www.ft.com/content/b274f311-89fa-405d-9ffc-7f15ca56cdd1

August 28

FT Zimbabwe president re-elected after vote criticized for irregularities

The incumbent won 52 percent of the vote over 44 percent for his challenger. The election commission failed to deliver ballots in time at opposition strongholds, forcing an extension of the vote. The opposition said that it would challenge the result. A rare rift occurred when observers of the Southern African Development Community voiced concerns about the result. They would normally rubber stamp an election. Allies of the winner criticized SADC. https://www.ft.com/content/4fe3f461-6668-4843-aa76-25d0d341c619

FT Ireland confident to attract industry despite corporate tax rise

The country wants to continue making its mark in life sciences and believes that the country’s skill base will attract pharma and medical companies. One official: “As uncertainty continues around the globe, Ireland’s peace has become more attractive. People are seeking those islands of tranquility, and Ireland is one of those.” It is believed access to reliable skills and support services in Ireland are more important to companies than tax rise. https://www.ft.com/content/706578ed-6d66-4b16-9112-5026b77cdb95

TT In Syria citizens protest as cost of living hikes

Wars at home and abroad have taken their toll and the government survives with corruption, leaving the ordinary Syrians with unlivable conditions. Local protest has increased to the regional level. Protesting citizens defy the hardhanded government regime. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/syrians-dare-to-protest-against-assad-regime-as-fuel-shortages-hit-hard-rtw6gpk9b

August 29

FT Western part of split country Libya in crisis after Israel claim of a meeting

Demonstrations broke out throughout the western part of the country, ruled by a UN backed regime. In response to the Israeli claim the government said that the foreign minister only had a casual encounter with her Israeli counterpart; she is under “administrative investigation” after the protests. https://www.ft.com/content/87c18a10-0216-4d4c-bd56-8d7923c7a01e

FT Russia is a mafia state where loyalty to the leader is everything

In an op-ed the chief foreign affairs editor starts citing a TV host in Russia responding to claims that his government was involved in the crash of the mercenary chief: “We are not a gang. We are not the mafia. We don’t seek revenge like they did in Mario Puzo’s book The Godfather. We are a nation. A nation of laws.” He considers this statement an excuse that is a self-accusation. https://www.ft.com/content/19ac2cb1-8cb4-464d-9683-18c632146755

August 30

FT The rule of law is in trouble

In an op-ed one of the editors laments that liberal citizens fret too much about dictatorship and not enough about chaos. He sees complacency about the primal importance of order and concludes this extends to what, with climate change and the US-China feud, is the subject of the century. When rule of law fails to work, the problem goes beyond the specific crime being committed to the wider attitude of hopelessness and egoism that it instils. It is the formula for a low-trust society. https://www.ft.com/content/ecbd1d55-ce7a-488a-bb39-e039a40dfbd7

TT Ugandan man, 20, faces death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’

This is the first case brought forward for this accusation and the fourth case in total under the new anti-gay law (see May 31). The lawyer for the defendant said she believed that the new legislation was unconstitutional and it will be challenged in court. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ugandan-aggravated-homosexuality-charge-2023-5fjr7dhn0

August 31

FT In Gabon coup hits a family that reigned over 56 years

This is the second coup attempt against the family regime. In 2019 a mutiny was quickly put down with two suspected coup plotters killed. This week’s coup came after elections in which the incumbent had just been declared winner. The elections took place in a media blackout. The country is oil rich but more than a third of Gabon’s 2.3mn people live below the poverty line without access to basic services. https://www.ft.com/content/599c360e-8173-4565-9fa7-5a5b31966ce4

FT Pakistan court blocks former PM’s release from prison

A Pakistani judge has blocked the former PM’s release from prison a day after another court overturned a three-year sentence against him. His allies claim he faces as many as 200 separate legal cases. He is the favorite to win the next elections, expected to be held in early 2024, but cannot run if convicted. https://www.ft.com/content/1b160ee9-f56b-409e-9dad-6f7abf1eef97

FT Australia sets a date for indigenous referendum

The recognition of the country’s 1mn First Nations people, who have long been victims of discrimination and prejudice, was one of the Labor prime minister’s central election pledges. The referendum faces a high bar to pass as it requires the majority of Australians to vote in favor of the constitutional change, as well as a majority of the country’s six states. https://www.ft.com/content/94cc23e2-1991-4973-808d-9b1f56730d23

September 1

FT Military coups as a contagious disease

In an editorial the newspaper tries to assess the situation. Clearly the French influence is in decline, which in itself is not bad. The fundamental problem, however, is the state of Africa’s democratic offering itself. Poll after poll shows that an increasingly urban population sees democracy as the best system for advancing their societies. But the continent lacks enough serious governments with coherent policies to set their countries on a sustainable path to development and eradicate poverty. The very best thing that African democrats can do to prevent coups is to get their own houses in order. https://www.ft.com/content/09e107c5-ea2d-461c-ad21-609aca0729bd

FT Gabon is the next country falling to military rule

The president on independence day this year suggested that his country was immune from the threat of coups that were sweeping the region. The coup in Gabon resembles the 2021 Guinea coup. The leader ran out of popular support. https://www.ft.com/content/531d097e-6a5d-4b2a-938e-e3ed68d09d7c

FT Over 73 died in fire in South Africa’s capital

The people, mostly migrants, lived in one of the many derelict properties owned by the city authorities. Inside many had constructed makeshift dwelling places, often of highly inflammable materials. https://www.ft.com/content/d5720880-2b91-4112-b954-4cfdd8447eb6

FT In Estonia house rents rise extremely through surge in expat workers

At the height of its tech boom, Estonia — birthplace of Bolt and Skype — was home to so many start-ups that it acquired the nickname “unicorn land”, referring to companies valued at more than $1bn. This pushed rents up. An additional factor is the relatively small rental home market as the post-communist government stimulated house ownership. In Estonia only 18 percent of the locals rent their homes. https://www.ft.com/content/83d8968e-a0f4-460f-823e-82f98ebe8453

FT In Poland former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner claims current president should go to jail

He blames the current president for politicizing the judiciary and making misuse of state media. On his part he claims that the president will go to jail if he loses the election forthcoming in October. One analyst: “Prison threats are “not a good sign” for those hoping the Polish judiciary will be more politically independent after the election.” https://www.ft.com/content/28370c29-359b-4058-9116-be1e82695411

September 2

FT Not all coups in Africa are the same

In an op-ed the chair of the Truth, Justice, and Peace Commission on south-east Nigeria says that much of the response to military coups in Africa is both uncritical and superficial, leaving the continent’s citizens with a choice between illegitimate civilian rule or messianic military misrule. If the world can learn to treat civilian coups in Africa with the same sense of alarm that it reserves for military takeovers, it is likely to have greater success in seeing an end to both. https://www.ft.com/content/64c933c4-a6b1-42d7-b6af-5fa48f7f4309

FT Gabon coups brings an end to 56 years of family rule

But the coup leader is a cousin of the deposed president. His claim is that the president is not capable. The father of the deposed president was the personification of “Francafrique”. He was quoted as saying of the symbiotic relations: “Gabon without France is like a car with no driver. France without Gabon is like a car with no fuel.” His son was more capable and also a committed environmentalist who managed to strike a debt for nature swap (see August 17). https://www.ft.com/content/15c7000f-d2de-4ccb-97e7-a2af1e48eebb

FT UN ‘alarmed’ by deaths during protest against its DRC peacekeeping force

Members of a religious group, a “mystic-religious sect” called Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith Towards the Nations, had gathered in the city of Goma to demonstrate over escalating violence against the UN peacekeeping mission and the East African Community organization. At least 43 people were killed and 56 injured by security forces. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that people have the right to assemble freely and peacefully “even if in protest against the UN”. https://www.ft.com/content/16690c3a-1e36-46c2-8af0-4dbe53fd5a8b

FT Guatemala president-elect says ‘coup’ under way to stop him taking office

The losing candidate so far failed to recognize his defeat. The president-elect says that institutions are step by step undermined to crush his victory. He called on people across the country “from business leaders to indigenous groups and churches” to unite against it. According to civil society activists the highly unequal country — which ended a decades-long civil war in 1996 — is up till now governed by an informal and loosely defined “pact of the corrupt” of political, business and military elites. https://www.ft.com/content/d4374839-02c4-4b0f-af24-0193b9632f03

TT China angers neighbors with new territorial claims

The publication of the so-called “standard map” comes as the summit meeting of the Group of 20 nations next week is prepared. The China map concerns claims towards India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. In one of the cases the permanent court of arbitration in the Hague in 2016 struck down China’s case for sovereignty over islands claimed by the Philippines, a humiliating verdict angrily rejected by China. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/chinas-new-map-of-territorial-claims-angers-neighbours-pgksw0sv6

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Meet the director of WEA’s Geneva UN liaison office: https://wng.org/articles/faithful-among-the-nations-1690087051

September 4

FT The looming succession battle over the Dalai Lama

He has said he plans to live beyond the age of 113, and will address the matter of his reincarnation — including whether he is reincarnated at all — in two years’ time, when he is 90. Behind the scenes the atheist authorities of China and the exiled Buddhist community plan the logistics of his parting. China claims it has the final say over the appointment as the last emperors the Qing dynasty did in the past. The transition could trigger conflict between China and India; the latter country has hosted the Dalai Lama since his exile in 1959. https://www.ft.com/content/df4f5a06-c7df-49e1-b197-646ed194e88f

FT In Argentina vice-presidential candidate provokes memory of dictatorship

She held an event that activists said justified the crimes of the rightwing military dictatorship that ruled from 1976 to 1983. In the event dubbed “honoring victims of terrorism” she invited relatives of several people killed by leftwing guerrillas in the early 1970s to address a crowd of supporters. Her father was a commando instructor who participated in an operation to repress leftist guerrillas in the northern city of Tucumán in 1975. https://www.ft.com/content/29526782-e267-4054-9d06-48e15b9b323e

FT Syria protests in Druze region

The Druze minority was never involved in the contested area and had an arrangement with the government. Protests evolved after fuel subsidies were scrapped. The Syrian government has doubled salaries for public sector employees and raised the minimum wage for the first time in nearly two years. The protesters called for ordinary people across the country to join the protests. https://www.ft.com/content/99674f10-4d90-447d-9eeb-e85e910f1cbf

TT Sri Lanka 2019 Easter Sunday bombings allegedly planned by politicians exploiting insecurity

A British TV documentary includes testimonies that would be rulers wanted insecurity to establish their credentials to run the country. An official quoted by a whistleblower was promoted to head of military intelligence when the accused plotter took office on a promise to restore security six months after the bombings. When a presidential report into the bombings was concluded in 2021 the president at the time refused to release it. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rajapaksa-officials-linked-to-easter-sunday-sri-lanka-bombs-zwx9d9bx6

September 5

FT Mozambique president immune from being dragged into ‘tuna bonds’ case, British judge rules

As a serving head of state the court considers him immune. Mozambique challenges a collapsed Swiss bank and others over the scandal. South Africa extradited the former Mozambique finance minister to the U.S.A. for the same case (see July 11). https://www.ft.com/content/5ccaa796-cf51-430c-b9b9-230c09954760

FT Gabon coup further exposes French role in Africa

Last March the French president called the relationships with Gabon “dynamic and creative”. The recent coups expose the so-called renewed relationship of France with the continent. Other international partners benefit. A former prime minister called the current crisis “a challenge for France as grave as the crisis triggered by the independence movement in west Africa in 1956”. https://www.ft.com/content/ff95df35-0526-472f-ae48-c8c028064237

FT Twelve regional leaders snub swearing in of president Zimbabwe

Only the leaders of South Africa, DRC and Mozambique were present at the inauguration of the 80 year old former spymaster. The opposition has refrained from challenging the election result in court, saying that the courts “are captured by the ruling party”. The current chair of Southern Africa Development Corporation’s organ on defense and security, the president of Zambia, was absent. His predecessor was invited. While in office he presided over the imprisonment of the current Zambian president. https://www.ft.com/content/a30dc09e-2397-4775-8d54-8796bb7c2fc5

FT In Taiwan corporate CEO leaves job to join politics

He is trailing in the polls for the presidency against several others. He has massive investments in China and is in favor of closer economic ties to the mainland. https://www.ft.com/content/13c9e04c-f4ce-4fbb-b34f-f2c6a69b1c42

TT In Mongolia pope praises 13th empire for religious freedom

He praised the ruler for respecting religious freedom and unifying cultures, bypassing Khan’s history of massacring enemies as he swept across Asia. The empire eventually stretched from modern-day Lithuania to Vietnam, absorbing the learning of local scholars and engineers, safeguarding trade routes and imposing a “pax Mongolica” to end local conflicts. While the empire brought stability, it was created through the large-scale massacre of anyone who refused to submit to Mongol rule, leading to the death of millions. The pope: “Governments and secular institutions have nothing to fear from the Church’s work of evangelization.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-praises-genghis-khans-mongol-empire-f6p2dbcx3

September 6

FT Big government is back. Who pays for it?

The need for greater government spending is focused on three areas: defense, welfare and climate change. Taxes are almost certain to rise. https://www.ft.com/content/b7b7a315-46ce-483d-b374-5eff371aa30c

FT Kenya president calls for debt relief to fight climate change

“Nobody is losing money, we just postpone the date,” the president said. “It doesn’t require rocket science.” He also insisted that China should be involved in the solution. China accounts for 12 percent of African debt. Activists argued that the summit was proposing “false solutions” that have been “marketed as African priorities”, including carbon markets and carbon sequestration. These, their statement argued, were western “interests”. https://www.ft.com/content/4e0ead2c-5a94-4274-8c67-2cea959cac20

FT Iran cracks down on dissent before anniversary of protest movement

Family members of those killed and activists were put into custody or pressured not to encourage gatherings to mark a year since the dissent started. Iranian leaders claim last year’s protests were a conspiracy by the U.S.A. and Israel to topple the regime, and boast of how they foiled the threat. One activist lamented that the opposition lacks a charismatic leader or a manifesto. https://www.ft.com/content/b8aee6d3-9c2b-4024-91a4-e0558a6fb12e

FT Pakistan roiled by protests over surging electricity costs

The government has put measures in place to fulfill the conditions of the IMF rescue. If accommodating the protesters financial default risk is real. On the other hand the grid is very inefficient, losing 30 percent before electricity arrives at the consumers. https://www.ft.com/content/b536c80e-48cc-4eed-865a-80891ad00558

FT In Spain exiled regional leader demands amnesty to support national PM in forming government

He asked for: “complete and effective abandonment of judicial action against independence”. As a regional government leader he presided over an illegal referendum for independence of the region from Spain. Now the national PM needs the seven seats of the regional leader’s party in parliament to achieve a majority. https://www.ft.com/content/5d3ada9c-a330-4be3-a4fe-ae5920a93e76

FT Poland prepares pre-election rate cut despite double digit inflation

Poland’s central bank was among the first to raise interest rates in the autumn of 2021 and it is now set to lead the way in cutting them, despite inflation remaining far above the EU average. https://www.ft.com/content/01a0158a-037b-4bdd-9445-e2f704dec72c

TT Opus Dei members furious as Pope seizes control of shrine for the church

The sanctuary has enormous religious and economic importance for Opus Dei. It has received more than ten million pilgrims since it was inaugurated and last year had an income of more than €1.2 million. Critics claim Opus Dei is a secretive and conservative religious order of well-placed people who form a near-Masonic shadowy influence behind Spain’s political and financial elite. The group has 85,000 members, about half of them Spanish. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-opus-dei-spain-italy-2023-hc0q7j7pq

September 7

FT In Switzerland bank regulator steps down

He had an important role in the criticized merger of the two top banks in the country after one of them threatened to collapse. He said in a statement that the “high and permanent stress level” of the job “had health consequences” for him. A Swiss government commissioned report found the regulator organization too weak to adequately handle banking crises. https://www.ft.com/content/d9b59c8f-cc7f-4836-b4a6-b6fb24b7b250

TT Abortion decriminalized across Mexico in landmark case

The 20 states where the procedure is still illegal will now have to abide by the federal decision. The court said that laws penalizing abortion “violate the human rights of women and people with the ability to gestate”.  The decision will require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortion to anyone who requests it. The anti-abortion lobby reminded of what happened in the U.S.A. where the supreme court after 40 years reversed its decision. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mexico-abortion-decriminalised-supreme-court-v22qjtcvr

September 8

FT African leaders back global carbon tax to pay for green energy in poorer nations

The Nairobi Declaration, signed on Wednesday, calls for a global carbon price on fossil fuel trade, shipping and aviation, as well as a global financial transaction tax. The Kenyan president: “We are saying: all should pay”. The IMF has previously said a global carbon price would be among the fastest and most effective ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions across the world. https://www.ft.com/content/5dccf6be-eeee-4fab-b536-dffa748cecd0

FT Where is the next African coup?

Not all coups are the same but a common theme is: emboldened generals are realizing they are likely to face little effective resistance to coup attempts. It is impossible to say which country — if any — will follow, but deficiencies in the political systems of several countries offer a guide to which leaders are vulnerable, analysts said. A likely candidate is the head of state since 1982 of Cameroon, who resides in Geneva most of his time. Democracies are considered less vulnerable, though anti-French sentiments have a destabilizing effect. https://www.ft.com/content/90a13db1-bf7d-4694-807a-b489f8a43ef0

FT Mexico gears up for female-led presidential race

Both the ruling party and the main opposition party have a female contender. The one candidate steers more clear of neighboring U.S.A. Mexico benefits from the free trade agreement and the reshoring activity of its rich neighbor. The drugs war is also casting a shadow over relationships with the U.S.A. https://www.ft.com/content/09487e7d-6cd6-404f-8d34-2dcc0d5c20bc

September 9

FT A story about greed and post-independence Ghana reviewed in a book

Two men successfully fancied an investment opportunity to recover wealth claimed to be taken from Ghana by the country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Despite allegations of corruption, Nkrumah was in fact a hero of the independence movement who strove for his country to have a more balanced relationship with world powers. But not so to the investors believing the two crooks. They could continue from 1973-1986. As late as 2009 a group of investors successfully petitioned the Government of Ghana to investigate the alleged Nkrumah scheme; nothing was found. https://www.ft.com/content/1c2c358f-f179-4933-bd19-325c78952209

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Europeans need to “rediscover that some things are actually sacred”:  https://worldea.org/news/23409/quran-burnings-should-not-be-banned-but-europeans-need-to-rediscover-that-some-things-are-actually-sacred/

September 11

FT Deadly South Africa fire exposes systemic failures

In the Apartheid time the burnt down building was an office that issued the hated “dompas” passports that restricted where black South Africans could go. After democracy began it was converted into a women’s shelter and clinic. Now it was home to foreign casual laborers. The newspaper found 83 who escaped being burnt, 68 from Tanzania and 15 from Malawi.  https://www.ft.com/content/b2a6ebca-5f54-4e16-8e92-e4d621504ac3

September 12

FT The war around history narratives has a big casualty: the past

Outside of dictatorships, most states don’t actively lie about their past, but they do tend to engage in acts of omission. Instinctively, countries, organizations and households consider themselves better off telling a sanitized and flattering account of their pasts. Moral judgement is the casualty in finding truth in past and present. https://www.ft.com/content/6856d7c5-b550-41a9-aa72-af5247e5d535

September 13

FT Morocco vows to rebuild region after major earthquake

The PM said that the government would come with a plan this week after citizens complained about the slow response. The country also wants the IMF/World bank annual meetings planned in October in Marrakech to proceed.  “The IMF/World Bank would not want to abandon a country in distress. It would be a show of solidarity,” said one analyst close to the government. https://www.ft.com/content/4301bb4e-26fd-42fa-8262-38c547f1200f

FT Supreme Court in Israel hears challenge to pillar of judicial overhaul

The opposition and civil society groups consider the overhaul as “a politically motivated assault on Israel’s checks and balances that will undermine minority rights, foster corruption and damage the economy”. They are afraid the country will be run by Jewish religious law (see July 26). The government wants to avoid an “overly activist judiciary”. All 15 judges in the court attend the panel hearing the challenge. https://www.ft.com/content/efce5453-208f-42af-b5a0-ab2205a66192

FT A quiet regional election in Germany turns into a debate of past and present

With the major Christian Democratic Party in national opposition the October 4 election in two states could normally be seen as midterms in the U.S.A. The opposition’s chances melted completely as the leader of a state coalition partner as a teenager appeared to have been in the possession of an antisemitic brochure written by his brother and even today did not adequately distance himself from it. This brought to the fore the trauma of national history. https://www.ft.com/content/689a35bf-38aa-4933-bf89-0e018dca7d34

FT Ecuador faces the losses of mining and drilling ban in Amazon

The October run-off of the presidential elections will also be a referendum if the citizens are prepared to face compensating the loss of income from the result of the vote to ban exploiting the national resources. This comes in addition with the election already marred by extreme violence related to drugs criminality (see August 14). https://www.ft.com/content/3b8b1fd0-9c79-4a23-81ef-32ab13f666d8

September 14

FT Flood disaster exposes divided governance in Libya

The country is divided into an eastern and western part. 140 Government institutions are still divided between the two administrations. Derna city was warned last year about the bad state of the dams that caused the flood. Nothing happened in response. Governance in the disaster city is especially weak as it was an Islamist bulwark following the Kadhafi ousting in 2011 and was captured by the eastern warlord with much violence in 2018. https://www.ft.com/content/5efd352d-258a-49a2-a1c5-351b1f5b2e4e

FT Brazil begins trial of election rioters

Almost 1,400 defendants will be tried by the supreme court, which has signaled it will take a hard line in punishing those involved. This is thought to be important as the country has a history of leniency with coups. The rioters protested the election result and vandalized the government buildings. https://www.ft.com/content/d737dc2e-0eb4-4094-a6cd-f8b4c026c07e

September 15

FT Libya flood victims buried in mass graves as anger builds over failed defenses

In the run-up to the storm, many residents in Derna and the surrounding area were ordered to stay in their homes and evacuation efforts failed to come close to the scale of the impending disaster. In addition the meteorological system of the country is dysfunctional and did not produce adequate warnings. https://www.ft.com/content/6d7484a3-bb7a-4669-8ba3-540d314d94cd

FT In Thailand voters signal disappointment after negligence election result

The newspaper interviewed disappointed voters in the home district of a politician who returned from exile to abandon his coalition partners and let his party join the military backed government (see August 26). It was remarked that many supporters died through violence in the wake of his ousting as a PM in 2006. https://www.ft.com/content/516e2ba6-1b23-4c4c-bdb8-524c7074266e

September 16

FT Global industrialists and the privatization of defense

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to the increasing role of industrialists as a geopolitical phenomenon. The incident of a satellite owner refusing services to an assaulted country (Ukraine) to fight towards recapture its territory triggers the newspaper to see a bottom line to entrepreneurial freedom. “Mechanisms or laws are also needed to ensure governments have oversight,” according to the newspaper without elaborating the foundation of government. https://www.ft.com/content/954e3517-90c8-4d49-9af1-4d233160f8e1

FT Political leaders in Libya try to absolve blame over flood disaster

While the country has oil riches that rival the U.A.E., the population struggles to survive and is in Derna now suffering enormous casualties. The authorities try to portray the disaster as a natural catastrophe “that can happen in all countries”. https://www.ft.com/content/7cd8d5f0-39a9-4594-b021-e80dcada5ace

FT Earthquake in Morocco rocks sovereign authority

The king was rumored to be in France when the earthquake struck but heading a policy meeting the following day, visiting a hospital and donating blood the following week. The intended message was clear: the king is in charge and in full solidarity with his people after more than 2,900 of them were killed. The present king in his young age studied international law and interned with the EU president. He has a lower profile than his authoritarian father but is assertive on national issues like disputed territory. https://www.ft.com/content/4dda63f0-f2b3-42fb-abc5-5feaad399391

FT Norway rocked by conflicts of interest of leading politicians or their spouses

The newspaper mentions six cases of senior politicians or public figures across the political landscape. It includes the spouse of the PM from 2013 – 2021 of the country that prides itself in a high level of trust in politics. The accusations mostly concern stock trade. https://www.ft.com/content/ffab683d-ce82-47bc-87e3-a5080503f961

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Join WEA and partners online September 19 at 4:00 p.m. Central European Time (10:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern time) for an Human Rights Council side event on “The crisis in Manipur and implications for human rights in India”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5aF0k22HN0

September 18

FT In Libya population of flood affected town joins search for flood survivors

The government is largely ineffective. The oil exporting country is divided between rival administrations in the east and west. Militias and warlords hold sway in large swaths of the country. Thousands of citizens in the flood affected town also protested at a local mosque and called for the mayor to be held accountable. https://www.ft.com/content/85233cf2-9bf0-42a7-abfa-ae8366a53c0e

FT U.S.A. politics battles with ageing leaders

One in five congresspeople is over the age of 70, making it one of the nation’s most elderly professions. The former Democrat speaker last week announced she would seek another term. At election time she will be 82. One senate member is 90 years old. Legislation is proposed for age and term limits. One disadvantage of the rising average age is that young people are underrepresented. https://www.ft.com/content/faa721e6-4fcf-4b9b-ae39-9ad6c44ed971

FT Germany faces supply chain disruption through draught

Bulk transport via rivers is getting more complicated. Modern ships tend to get bigger and can be more easily affected in drought situations and low water levels. Ships are often run as family business and that can help as passion for the trade is helping to keep the supply chain afloat through smaller ships. https://www.ft.com/content/427d2099-a598-4bd5-b569-38bef69b1f2b

TT Russia in International Court testifies it invaded Ukraine to avoid genocide

The International Court of Justice in the Hague focuses on Russia’s claim that it invaded Ukraine to prevent “genocide”. Ukraine accused Moscow of distorting the concept of genocide to justify its invasion and filed a case with the top court of the United Nations. Russia seeks to have the case thrown out. The UN defines genocide as “the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part”. More than 14,000 people died in the disputed Donbas in the eight years preceding Russia’s full-scale invasion, 3,400 of them civilian. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-russia-start-war-ukraine-genocide-fmhpzvn78

September 19

FT Mexico government let military overhaul civil aviation sector

The military increasingly takes over aviation activities at the expense of commercial and ministerial oversight. Corruption is being used as an argument. https://www.ft.com/content/ae61a69f-0e40-4f84-ba49-33c6c177403d

September 20  

FT Ruling party in Poland suffers from government selling illegal visa

A deputy foreign minister has been sacked over the affair. The opposition brings up the case as proof that the ruling party’s anti-immigration rhetoric is false. The government in turn said the case concerned only 200 visas. https://www.ft.com/content/8a780e82-f29a-400f-a778-aa0a2e478522

FT EU snubs Spain on adding more official languages

The Spanish government pushed for adding three regional languages to the already 24 official languages in the EU. Catalan would make it to the top 15 languages, considering 10 Mn people speak it. Post accession addition of languages happened in the case of Ireland but has now been resisted by the EU in the case of Spain’s regional languages. The exiled Catalan separatist leader commented that the refusal shows Spain’s limited influence. https://www.ft.com/content/584a99e8-13d5-4665-9480-3565b4c400b7

FT Azerbaijan launches ‘anti-terrorist’ operation in disputed region Nagorno-Karabakh

Violence flared after Armenia made advances to the west and Ukraine. Russian security promises to the region with the Armenian population of the disputed region are at stake. https://www.ft.com/content/62d7923b-e68d-41ff-9ad6-428562389510

September 21

FT UN battles for relevance in geopolitically divided world

This week’s General Assembly misses four out of five heads of states of veto holding Security Council members. Russia has always resisted civil society access to the Security Council but now introduced a host of outsiders in defense of its Ukraine invasion. Another issue is the quest for appointing more permanent SC members with veto right. New coalitions outside the UN are built, like G7, G20, often with the hope of more effectiveness. One veteran diplomat argued that the UN remains invaluable as the only place where global rules are laid down. https://www.ft.com/content/ffa99120-8551-4c8c-b351-1f974ba269e3

FT Political crisis shakes Senegal’s image of stability in volatile region

With a major opposition leader detained and another with the same fate during the 2019 elections the February 2024 presidential election seems a risk for the state that was a de facto one party state from independence into the ‘90’s (see also August 2). The detained opposition leader is a fan of the Mali coup leader. https://www.ft.com/content/995bbc6e-ef0b-421f-8730-e07c55b710bd

FT Africa and India to benefit from trade opportunities

In an op-ed the author sees the recent inclusion of the AU during the G20 summit chaired by India as an opportunity for growth in trade. Africa has only 2.8 percent of global trade and India 3 percent. Between 2001 and 2017 trade between them boomed from 7.2 bn to 60 bn. A free trade agreement, dedicated trade institutions, digital instruments to improve lives and government effectiveness and green resources from Africa to improve India’s CO2 emissions could change just that. https://www.ft.com/content/c04006fb-0ce2-4b65-ac47-974891d09b9b

FT Armenian forces in Azerbaijan minority region agree to disband

The region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has in effect been held by Armenia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2020 Azerbaijan attacked with the support of Turkey. Hostilities ended by an agreement brokered by Russia. A blockade preceded the hostilities of this week (see April 22). Integration of the region in Azerbaijan has now been agreed. https://www.ft.com/content/c2533411-4cf0-4bd5-87ce-7159fa28f8b5

September 22

FT In Mali Jihadi’s block historic Timbuktu

The action is related to the “continued impasse” in the peace process between Mali’s government and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CAM), a coalition of Tuareg groups demanding greater autonomy. The rebels put down their weapons in 2015 as part of a peace deal in exchange for a larger say in how their region was ruled. They are angry about the junta’s decision to expel the UN troops. https://www.ft.com/content/07a73c2d-6170-469d-a5c4-4ba384db9efb

FT In Spain PM weighs cooperation with Catalan separatists

After inconclusive elections in July the PM needs the votes of the separatist parties, but it is a high price to pay. Among them is a radical secessionist group. Its founder led the 2017 independence bid and has made amnesty a precondition for backing the PM. Political opponents and even some members of his party argue that an amnesty would eviscerate the rule of law. Despite that, talks are taking place for the inclusion of the separatists. https://www.ft.com/content/7fc7c6b7-2b46-4fc7-87ce-c6e69d7a90c3

September 23

TT In Thailand king seeks reconciliation with his estranged son

The return of his son after 27 years of exile in the U.S.A. adds speculation that big shifts are under way in one of the world’s richest and most powerful monarchies. Formerly his father had disowned him and his three brothers. All four are successful professionals and the returned son, unlike his father, is popular in foreign Thai circles. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thai-kings-estranged-son-returns-after-27-years-in-exile-2hk8csqcm

NYT Pope in France speaks up for plight of refugees

The pope is attending the closing session of a weeklong gathering of bishops, youth activists and representatives of other religions from around the Mediterranean Sea. He said the world needs to react “with deeds, not words.” He also castigated the “fanaticism of indifference” toward migrants. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/22/world/europe/pope-macron-migrants-marseille.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA welcomes two officials of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya for a UN “Geneva Human Rights Experience”: https://worldea.org/news/23646/wea-welcomes-two-kenyans-for-human-rights-internship/

September 25

FT Religious leaders in Iran believe artificial intelligence can strengthen their public religion

It is envisioned AI can help with anything from parsing lengthy Islamic texts in search of guidance to issuing religious edicts. Issuing a fatwa could in this way be accelerated to five hours instead of 50 days. The 200.000 Shia clergy now promote Islamic civilization by sweating over lengthy documents to extract Islamic rulings and adapt them to contemporary life. In June the supreme leader urged the clergy to pay more attention to AI. https://www.ft.com/content/9c1c3fd3-4aea-40ab-977b-24fe5527300c

FT In China the government promotes the president in a religious way

University language classes focus on the Chinese president’s experience and ideas to ensure a ‘correct worldview’. His seven years in the poor rural during the cultural revolution are the core of the message. The effort concentrates on English university language classes and is meant to counter perceived imperialistic information in western textbooks. https://www.ft.com/content/0fe35beb-cb08-482b-a1b2-23a1de93fa25

TT France leaves Niger in the coming months

The country will withdraw its ambassador and 1,500 troops that were cooperating with Niger in anti-Jihadist operations. The ambassador was asked by the coup plotters to leave the country immediately. In a TV interview the French president said the withdrawal would be concluded at the end of the year. He stressed the French were in the country at the request of the ousted government. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/france-to-withdraw-troops-from-niger-in-macron-climbdown-x2m5ptp6f

September 26

TT Ex-president of Zambia told to stop ‘political’ jogging by police

He has been jogging for a long time but is now joined by fans. The police consider this a demonstration that needs to be notified to the police. Failure to do so is a breach of the law. The former president, now 66, is believed to run again in 2026. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ex-president-of-zambia-told-to-stop-political-jogging-d0dpwm5hh

September 27

FT Senate in Nigeria confirms new central bank governor and four deputies amid currency rout

The senators questioned the new governor about his independence from the presidency. https://www.ft.com/content/78326dcf-f393-4607-8573-9845db052cf0

FT Sudden death of rap musician in Nigeria exposes the murky side of the billion-dollar Afrobeats music industry

His sudden demise at 27 and the rush to bury him in the early hours of the following morning have led to angry speculation over foul play. The musician had complained about maltreatment, following a change in label. There has long been suspicion that wealthy drug dealers, internet fraudsters and other criminal groups lure in up-and-coming artists with financial support. Protests erupted and politicians promised that due legal process would follow the tragedy. https://www.ft.com/content/9dddbb6e-7740-4c19-854e-27a8ee193f07

FT How giant chip manufacturer is shaking up Japan

The highly subsidized return of a global chip manufacturer pushes everything in the local economy severely up, from wages to housing prices. The return of the industry follows a departure in the ‘80’s to South Korea, Taiwan and China. https://www.ft.com/content/09f0ae79-8935-4070-ab52-dc828b770dce

FT Presidential candidates in U.S.A. both try to woo trade unions

Both candidates visit the car manufacturing region amid long strikes of autoworkers. Both claim to support the workers. https://www.ft.com/content/fb7f6cf7-0344-44ed-b69d-8169fac6dfe9

September 28

FT Brazil sees oil drive as not contradictory to green ambitions

The president addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations over the devastating consequences of climate change and his energy minister argues that exploratory drilling in an ecologically sensitive area where the Amazon river meets the Atlantic should go ahead, despite a court decision last year. The minister claims that the people have the right to know their energy potential. The average dependence on renewables in countries worldwide is 26 percent. Brazil scores 88 percent. The minister added: “Rich nations have to understand that there is no peace without [social] inclusion, there is no peace when you have poverty and hunger”.  https://www.ft.com/content/f13aef43-ca58-49d6-b825-891e54670910

FT Argentina economy at risk due to election promises

The present government proposed a host of tax and cash handout measures, just before the date that bans all vote seeking measures before the October 22 elections. The opposition candidate plans to dollarize the economy. A win of the opposition and a runoff in November may cause a local currency sell off. The government blames the IMF for the current inflation. https://www.ft.com/content/70c7ec92-3bb4-4007-aa99-f3b312985813

FT in Turkey finance minister claims president backs his technocrat policy

The unconventional policies of the government before the election are reversed in an effort to create a healthy investment climate and soften domestic demand. The finance minister now claims the president has put his “support and commitment” behind the policy U-turn. He says recovery of the economy is underway. During a trip to New York he mentioned Turkey’s approval of Sweden’s accession to Nato as a key selling point! https://www.ft.com/content/c69b7401-6d71-43da-843b-e3c8ad43a20c

NYT The world changed but can the United Nations change?

The UN SG: “We cannot effectively address problems as they are if institutions do not reflect the world as it is. Instead of solving problems, they risk becoming part of the problem.” Clearly, the diplomatic infrastructure put in place after World War II has run its course and is failing in the 21st-century world. Problems center around the Security Council. The permanent members with veto right cancel all proposals. Proposals for permanent members (with or without veto) find opponents for every suggestion. And yet there needs to be a 2/3 majority among the 193 nations to make it happen. The only change dates from 1965 when the number of temporary SC members increased from 11 to 15. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/27/world/middleeast/united-nations-security-council-reform.html

September 29

FT Devastating floods have not eroded power East-Libyan ruler

A rare demonstration against the local authorities erupted after the disaster but no-one dares to challenge the ruler. Some Libyans credit him with ending assassinations by Islamic radicals in Benghazi in 2014. https://www.ft.com/content/25885ca3-c2ea-4af4-a2c9-0707de1aad1e

FT In Burkina Faso junta claims it thwarted an attempted coup

This would have been the third coup since January 2022 and it is the second attempt in a month. Demonstrations were held in support of the current rulers. The authorities suspended the online and print distribution of the French magazine Jeune Afrique for publishing what it called “untruthful” reports about tensions within the military. https://www.ft.com/content/7b9f13cf-65cf-4262-8853-047fdc10b4ea

FT The Africa editor accuses South Africa of nostalgia in the case of Russia

In an op-ed the editor lists more or less open support for Russia in Ukraine and contrasts them with the remarks of a 89 year old author from Nigeria, in the ‘60’s spending prison time for trying to negotiate in the Biafra civil war, who during a recent university speech in Stellenbosch concluded that Russia is an aggressor that should not be applauded. https://www.ft.com/content/a1dbb29c-583a-4868-b2b5-2742dc95ad22

FT In Denmark one company threatens to over dominate economy

The country is reminded of the fate of the Nokia telephone company in neighboring Finland. It provided 25 percent of all corporate tax until it collapsed and took the country with it in recession. In Denmark the pharmaceutical company producing a diabetes drug that became popular to fight obesity singlehandedly keeps the country out of recession. https://www.ft.com/content/c4e8a5e2-6be4-47dd-a995-ffe4eb0b05b7

September 30

FT In Slovakia top parties polling neck and neck ahead of Saturday’s vote

Both poll around 20 percent before the snap elections and would depend heavily on coalition negotiations, which in turn are unpredictable as there is a 5 percent threshold required to enter parliament. The country is now ruled by a technocratic government. The campaigns were aggressive with physical incidents. https://www.ft.com/content/69f67650-684e-4122-a32c-b4f915aeffe4

FT In Spain conservatives fail to form government

The acting premier will now have his turn until the end of November to secure enough votes for a coalition. If he falls short Spain will hold repeat elections in January. He has been weighing support of separatist parties to get the necessary support (see September 22). https://www.ft.com/content/5abd41a5-51a1-4946-ac14-66d370317b29

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

In the Human Rights Council we call for the repeal of blasphemy laws in more than seventy countries. We also call on India to hold accountable perpetrators of deadly and sexual violence in Manipur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCqcuje72tg

October 2

FT Zimbabwe aims to shake off election criticism with new debt deal

Talks will start on the $14 bn of unpaid debt. The 81-year-old re-elected president has indicated that his son will be involved in the talks after appointing him deputy finance minister. The regional and domestic criticism about the election is unlikely to stall negotiations to clear the sizable arrears on its external debt, despite calls by the disappointed opposition to do justice to the election problems. https://www.ft.com/content/98659da7-dcdc-461f-b0ba-0aef2cfae9bf

TT Church roof in Mexico collapses, killing ten

The building collapsed with up to 100 people inside, leaving dozens trapped in the rubble. “We lament the painful loss of people who were there celebrating the baptism of their children,” said the Bishop of Tampico. The collapse is most likely caused by structural failure. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mexico-church-roof-collapse-tamaulipas-kill-6jrm5f3ng

TT Church under construction in Spain for 141 years finally has towers completed

The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) church, already a major tourist attraction due to its artful conception, passed a milestone with the completion of its four towers. Each represents one of the four evangelists. A celebratory Mass will be held. If all goes to plan the church’s construction will be finished by 2026. The church will be the tallest church, with the highest tower of 172,5 m. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sagrada-familias-towers-are-finally-complete-xpxrd5msb

October 3

IMF head backs reforms that could give China more voting power

In an interview with the Financial Times the IMF head called for better representing changes in the global economy over the past decade, which include the rise of China. There is now a disparity between the 6 percent voting power of China and its economic power worldwide, which is roughly three times bigger. Traditionally each funding country has a so-called voting quota based on its position in the world economy. https://www.ft.com/content/e9bef232-a1fc-4052-be79-7c68883fdb84

FT WHO approves second malaria jab for children

A first one was approved last year, see September 9, 2022. The new vaccine is designated for children. Four-fifth of all malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are children under five. Production will be done in India and is expected to be full scale in two years. https://www.ft.com/content/4a54139e-7da7-48d2-bba9-487bf88ed811

FT Progressive president in Chile puts radical plans on hold

He was successful in raising the minimum wage and establishing a maximum work week but was unsuccessful in changing from a private to a public pension fund. His coalition has also been rocked by a corruption scandal. Regional officials are accused of awarding millions of dollars in government contracts to politically friendly non-government organizations without relevant expertise. The surge in crime also hurts the government. The president acknowledges that changes take time. https://www.ft.com/content/c1971032-fa0f-484c-9d95-b6164f48b476

FT How will Ireland put its new found wealth to work?

The country is awash with tax receipts due to its popularity as a corporate destination but its infrastructure is still designed by its rural past, with transport and housing lagging behind. Two decades ago the country slashed its corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent from 40 percent, accelerating its policy of courting foreign companies. The global companies moving in also benefited from the country being part of the EU. The country is now preparing a sovereign wealth fund to deal with the oversized role of multinational corporations in its economy. It does not want to repeat its financial troubles of 2010. https://www.ft.com/content/0af7eb4b-9c87-463c-ad02-02ec6d708c9e

TT In India PM decries Manipur violence but stays silent about its religious-ethnic nature

The PM: “The entire country has been shamed. What happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven.” But the religious-ethnic nature of the violence was never mentioned. The majority tribe is of the majority religion and they attack the other tribe that is predominantly Christian and their own Christian minority. The level of violence was extreme and the police siding with the perpetrators evident. The majority population of the state is successful in deteriorating living conditions for the minority.  https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/manipur-violence-india-riots-narendra-modi-kn63r68c3

NYT What is a synod in the Catholic church? And why does this one matter?

The synod starting now is essentially a major workshop for church leaders and lay people on how to work together for the good of the church. The current pope has convened several synods during his 10-year papacy, including on the family, on youth, and on the church in the Pan-American region. But this synod is different. It is not on a single topic. Rather it is on the practice of journeying together. One topic is the role of women. Abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia did not make it into the working paper for participants. Starting in 2021, the Vatican began consulting churches around the world. 365 People will have voting rights in the synod, and roughly 75 percent will be bishops. Fifty-four women will have voting rights. The pope chose the 70 lay people from 140 prominent candidates. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/02/world/europe/what-is-a-synod-pope-church.html

October 4

FT Nigeria has yet to seize momentum on its economic policies

After the election the new president started with a bang: stop fuel subsidies and make the currency convertible. But it has yet to materialize what will happen with the benefit of stopping fuel subsidies. Often citizens considered this subsidy as the only benefit from the state. The newly appointed central bank governor is another promise, but discharging the old one did take a murky path. Also oil theft has not yet been addressed. So far the country even failed to make the OPEC quota due to oil theft. https://www.ft.com/content/a8485413-215f-488f-ac25-46fba58fa2ae

TT Pope at synod: “Humanity’s power over nature threatens planet”

In a document presented at the opening day of the synod of the world’s only global Christian denomination the pope said that every family needs to realize the future of their children is at stake. He also praised action groups perceived by others as radicalized: “They are filling a space left empty by society as a whole”. And: “‘Praise God’ is the title of this letter, for when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.” One of the bishops remarked that nothing has changed since the 2015 papal letter, despite all global climate discussions. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-synod-2023-environment-nature-28p9swmmk

October 5

FT India banks on industrial development to quell separatist tension in Jammu & Kashmir

In 2019 India revoked the state’s special autonomous status, part of a campaign to bring the region to heel following a decades-long separatist conflict. Jammu & Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state. Both India and Pakistan lay claim to the territory in full, and Pakistan occupies part of it. Sporadic violence still plagues the territory. Security is omnipresent. India now develops the economic potential of the region. https://www.ft.com/content/5c160baf-d143-4d43-9720-87ee5f4a5b35

FT Ethiopia struggles to rebuild after a brutal civil war

The federal patchwork of more than 80 ethnic groups is struggling to move on. A leader from separatist Tigray: “The reality is Ethiopia is an empire and this empire has to recreate itself and figure out how we can all live together”. A 2021 UN backed report did consider no-one innocent in the war. When UN experts last month said the federal government had failed “to effectively investigate violations”, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission concluded the magnitude of the abuse means “it is not realistically possible to prosecute all the offences but the most serious human rights violations”. For a start, bringing the Eritreans to justice would be impossible.  https://www.ft.com/content/33a91728-c23f-4165-a659-1debb4dc506e

October 6

FT Unconsciousness female student in Iran stirs memories of last year’s death of female without headscarf

The 16 year old was seen entering a metro without a headscarf and dragged out unconscious by friends “a few seconds later”. The authorities maintain that she lost consciousness due to a drop in blood pressure. The metro system in recent months hired “guardians of hijab”, who are posted in stations. https://www.ft.com/content/21e43ff0-d995-4485-b4a4-e539db4e3f60

FT In Slovakia election result shows reduction of solidarity with neighboring Ukraine

Resentment in the country grew as help from the authorities to Ukraine was perceived as being prioritized over help to citizens. The election winner, who was ousted as a PM after street protests following the killing of a journalist in 2018, capitalized on that but needs to build a coalition to form a government. https://www.ft.com/content/aea63b5f-6169-4db3-935d-deb09214dabc

NYT In Egypt election in December stirs a campaign for the incumbent

The incumbent achieved an official result of 97 percent in 2014 and 2018, in 2019 organized a constitutional extension until 2024 and a possible third term. Despite that, an election will be held this year. The government may perceive the economic situation to further deteriorate beyond this year and stifle unrest by early elections. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/05/world/middleeast/egypt-election-sisi.html

October 7

FT PM in Bangladesh pins re-election hopes on mega-projects

An infrastructure drive is a core part of the message the PM wants to convey. To critics it is a matter of not putting the right priorities. The director of an indigenous thinktank: “We need to address our education, our health issues, our freedom of expression and human rights.” The country has benefitted from the garment boom. It is the second largest producer after China. The poverty rate has roughly halved to about 20 per cent over the past 15 years. But inequality has also risen dramatically. https://www.ft.com/content/2e8ec361-15fc-4147-9b0a-94bf9815a8d2

FT Green bashing in Germany

State elections in Germany expose deep societal rifts with the environment friendly parties scapegoated by the politically extreme rightwing party. Also the moderate conservatives are involved in what the greens consider a ‘targeted campaign of disinformation’. The extreme rightwing surge strikes a nerve in the country due to its history in the second world war. https://www.ft.com/content/6a03baa6-d9ca-4753-8286-6418ae79ae1c

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA side event in the Human Rights Council on Manipur violence gets worldwide attention: https://worldea.org/news/23670/wea-side-event-on-manipur-violence-gets-worldwide-attention/

October 8

TT Was the Slovakia election the first swung by deep fakes?

A populist has won the tight vote after a recording surfaced of liberals planning to rig the election. But the ‘conversation’ was an AI fabrication. Did the disinformation work? Yet even if the clips did not change minds, an analyst believes they may have mobilized opponents of the ruling party to turn out and vote. “Disinformation normally begins by targeting people within the bubble and then slowly spreads,” she said. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/was-slovakia-election-the-first-swung-by-deepfakes-7t8dbfl9b

October 10

FT IMF legitimacy is tested

Global co-operation is fragmenting just as the strains of indebtedness and climate change on the international economy grow larger. Challenges to the IMF’s legitimacy come partly from recent failings. A broader threat comes from the global economy: southern economic performers are underrepresented and Europe is overrepresented. https://www.ft.com/content/45f69511-d0d6-439d-840d-dcbb7682741f

FT Has Turkey really embraced economic orthodoxy?

After years of unorthodox economic policy (the Turkish president is known for calling interest rates the “mother and father of all evil”) the Turkish government now wants inflation brought back by tight financial policy. All this after massive public giveaways before the polls that helped the incumbent beat an opposition that had campaigned vigorously on the gloomy state of the $900bn economy. The government announced it will slowly unwind the centerpiece of the unorthodox financial policy, locally known as KKM. History will show it the new approach will last, with local elections due next year. https://www.ft.com/content/69a30398-4fd6-4e94-a111-435cc01c3386

FT In Poland media deepen political divide

The state television is voicing the government’s position. The main opposition candidate is attacked for his grandmother being German. A chain of regional newspapers refused to run campaign ads from two smaller opposition parties, citing their “leftwing values”. The main opposition party was involved in a deep fake video scandal. One journalist argues that the young democracy does has not have enough media regulation. https://www.ft.com/content/4e52bbdc-98d4-4855-8940-66dd1c31dce8

October 11

FT In Germany election winning far right pledges to slash ‘fire wall’

In one state the far right scored 14.6 percent and the other 18.4 percent. All three federal coalition parties lost. The moderate conservative federal opposition will probably govern in the two states but a coalition with the far right seems not far away. The “fire wall” (see also October 7) will then be slashed, said the far right winners in triumph. https://www.ft.com/content/54c40d53-2784-4183-885b-e8ab546560ea

FT In Britain main opposition party is “asking the right questions”

The newspaper dedicated an editorial to the political situation in Britain. The conservative government is proving radicalized and the leader of the left wing party is more moderate and ambitious in his plans. His party cadre though is still akin to a protest group as it was under the former party leader. https://www.ft.com/content/a55ab26f-02f1-4d21-99a9-d290c3e128d8

TT Top army officials leave in Poland at the eve of election

Tensions have appeared after a Russian missile was found in the forest by a passerby. The opposition claimed ten more top military were about to quit. The incumbent party is still leading in the polls but probably unable to form a government. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/top-generals-quit-in-blow-to-dudas-government-days-before-election-jc0tsg7tt

NYT Elections in Liberia will probably lead to run off in November

The 5.5 million citizens of the coastal country still feel the setback of 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003 and an Ebola epidemic between 2013-16. In 2017 a former soccer star won the elections. This year he will re-run against 19 contenders. His main opponent is the 78 years old loser of 2017. He forged an alliance with a former warlord who has threatened a popular revolt if he believes the election has been manipulated. 2.4 Million people are eligible to vote. Three people died during election unrest. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/10/world/africa/liberia-presidential-election.html

October 12

FT A twenty year feud between two men is dominating elections in Poland

The two men have traded accusations of authoritarianism, cronyism, treason and spying. One claims the other wants to cede control of Poland to foreign powers and wipe out the country’s conservative heritage. The other claims that his opponent, who is in power now, erodes the separation of power and liberal democracy. Both accuse the other of secretly bringing Poland under Russian influence again, while they both had a clear role in bringing Russian dominance down in the late 20th century. https://www.ft.com/content/685608a1-7503-48c2-88b7-ddbadc5bea25

FT Israel forms a unity government due to war threat

It pledged on Wednesday evening to change the “strategic reality” of the neighboring Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip from which an invasion brought war. The three war cabinet principals: the PM, the opposition leader and the Defense minister delivered an emotional address to the nation from the military’s headquarters. The opposition leader: “It’s a clear message that we stand shoulder to shoulder”. Five members of the opposition leader’s party would join the cabinet without others departing. One centrist party and smaller leftwing groups are not part of the deal. The emergency government serves until the end of the war. No legislation would proceed that does not concern it. https://www.ft.com/content/8035a4b4-1d0d-4cb6-b855-fd3260a06f68

October 14

TT Australia indigenous referendum: PM makes final plea before vote

If the vote is carried, the constitution, written in 1901, will be amended to effectively recognize the Aboriginal people as being the first inhabitants of the country that would become Australia (see also August 31). While the indigenous people, who make up 3.8 percent of the 26 million population, have equal rights with non-Aborigines, their place and significance is not recognized in the formal history of the nation. A sweeping no – vote threatens. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/australia-indigenous-voice-referendum-aboriginal-people-vote-parliament-g28793p9v

NYT In Russia even the three lawyers of the opposition leader get detained

Supporters of the jailed opposition leader said it was a government-led attempt to continue to isolate him and further limit his ability to influence the country’s political life. Despite being imprisoned under increasingly harsh conditions, the opposition leader has been able to maintain a significant presence in Russian social and political life by filing lawsuits against government establishments, speaking up during court hearings and publishing statements on social media. This was largely possible through his lawyers. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/13/world/europe/russia-detains-navalny-lawyers.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Statement on the Holy Land conflict: https://worldea.org/news/23784/weas-statement-on-the-holy-land-conflict/

October 16

FT Australia votes down special status indigenous population

With more than three-quarters of the vote counted, the split was 60.4 percent to 39.6 percent against an indigenous political forum at the national level, to represent the non-colonial population of 3 percent. High income neighborhoods in cities and remote Northern parts of the country recorded the highest support. The PM seeks a way forward for his election promise to improve the indigenous  representation. https://www.ft.com/content/0162d3b0-fe2a-40bf-9862-3ec36df58d67

FT New Zealand turns conservative after successful leftist PM left

The Labour party lost half its parliamentary seats, just three years after the former PM enjoyed top popularity. The fragility of a policy agenda that concentrated on issues such as climate change was exposed once rising inflation and a cost of living crisis started to dominate. The strict Covid19 measures also contributed to the political change. Labour also lost votes to a party that advocates for indigenous rights. The election winner needs coalition partners to form a stable government. https://www.ft.com/content/38697bd7-b486-42ab-9135-e619db7f1cfe

October 17

FT In Poland Europe oriented coalition might take center stage after election

The incumbent party received the most votes in the election and will be granted first chance to form a government. This will be hard as the opposition did well and might be in a better position to form a coalition. A record of 74 percent of voters turned out. The parallel referendum called by the government on reinforcing border security, curbing illegal migration, keeping the existing retirement age and blocking sales of state-owned companies to foreign investors scored only 40 percent participation. https://www.ft.com/content/a4447b80-da74-408b-8cdd-7bbec90613e6

FT In Ecuador right-winger wins election

He achieved 52 of the votes in a runoff after 93 percent of the votes were counted. The 35-year-old served a short stint as a lawmaker, from 2021 until May this year. Before that he ran the banana business of his father. The election was triggered when the sitting president, threatened by an impeachment attempt, dissolved the National Assembly in May using a “mutual death” constitutional clause (see also June 28). The new president will  complete the term of his predecessor and therefore has little time to implement his policies. https://www.ft.com/content/f4c3f997-2c4c-44f3-b656-57af3a5ac308

October 18

FT Mexico revives age old ocean to ocean railway to compete with Panama canal

The project banks on proximity to the U.S.A. and the canal’s low water periods. The transit time of 6.5 hours excluding loading time for the 308 km stretch is less than the eight to 10 hours the 80km canal takes. Logistic companies think it will be a hard sell if no regional manufacturing development would be added. The maximum capacity of the railway is a little more than 10 percent of the yearly container traffic through the Panama canal. https://www.ft.com/content/bbe8e851-e9f2-4ed1-a4a7-051a670b40e0

NYT Top court in India rejects same-sex marriage but voices sympathy

“The right to choose one’s partner and the right to recognition of that union ought to be observed, even if the union does not constitute marriage”, wrote the chief justice in a minority opinion. But he agreed with the full court that the judiciary “must be careful not to enter into the legislative domain. Marriage is a case for lawmakers. The ruling comes five years after the court overturned colonial-era laws that criminalized homosexuality. The government has argued that marriage is the domain for a man and a woman, calling it part of the foundation of the state. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/17/world/asia/india-same-sex-marriage.html

October 19

FT Opposition and government strike election deal in Venezuela

After eleven months without talks the parties decided to have inclusive elections in the second part of next year. The talks were mediated by Norway. It was agreed that the election would be monitored by international observers, including from the EU. Ironically the international isolation of the country was reduced by the energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The country has very big oil reserves. https://www.ft.com/content/2ad35299-fb3e-407b-b492-134001f1a75f

FT Can eccentric libertarian outsider in Argentina change the country for the better, if elected?

The newspaper dedicates a so-called Big Read to this question. The 52-year-old economist with socially libertarian ideas appeals especially strongly among the youth and in the provinces. His message is that the ruling “caste” of politicians and bureaucrats from the left and the right have ruined the country with rampant corruption and sky-high inflation. His opponents worry about his almost complete lack of political, administrative and managerial experience. Nor does he have a clear team and will do bad in the simultaneous Congress election. The media exposure of the “anarcho-capitalist” is designed for effect. He considers himself a person of dialogue and sees changing the system after 40 years of failure “an enormous opportunity”. https://www.ft.com/content/b1b96bcc-0672-4f9f-8d7b-f9f148b21040

NYT Influx of fake lawyers in Kenya

The Law Society of Kenya called on the police to investigate. There are a number of unlicensed people acting as lawyers, officials say. This has set off a national debate about formal education and qualifications in a country with a large informal economy and where many are unable to afford university fees.  The now accused began practicing law after stealing the digital identity of a lawyer with a very similar name. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/17/world/africa/kenya-fake-lawyers.html

October 20

FT Tight election in Liberia probably leads to runoff

With 98 percent of the votes counted the two top candidates have 43 percent each. This includes the incumbent who is criticized for loose handling of the job. The rest of the vote was shared between 18 other candidates. 77 Percent of the citizens eligible to vote turned out. https://www.ft.com/content/1958a8c3-0425-42e2-aa8b-d8521261addf

FT Palestine West Bank-based authority seen as impotent in face of Israel’s decades-long occupation

The domestic legitimacy of its 87-year-old leader is at an all-time low. While Palestine citizens protest Israel they ask for changes in the Palestine authority too. The Palestine authority has continued to back a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but suffers more than the warring parties. The loss of public faith is caused by the relentless pressure from successive Israeli governments bent on expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territory. And it suffers from problems of its own making, particularly corruption. Retaking Gaza from Hamas seems unlikely. https://www.ft.com/content/0d9ac915-f07f-4d7d-8c2d-cc08712685ec

October 21

FT World Bank at the center of climate change row

The Cuban chair of the G77 plus China group, said the ongoing talks this week were deadlocked over critical differences, including the question of money and the governance arrangements of the fund that is envisioned for loss and damages in climate change to poorer nations. The west wants the fund to be managed by the World Bank. The G77 plus China group wants it to be run by another multilateral institution. The funding is also an unresolved subject. https://www.ft.com/content/7932f7a5-df2b-493d-9244-6a333e1e12d6

FT China removes reprint of book on failing emperor from bookshops

He was the last emperor of the 1368-1644 Ming dynasty. He hung himself on a tree outside the Forbidden City as rebels closed in on Beijing. The current leadership has a practice of learning from history. To ban the reprint of a previously printed book is unusual. The country has long censored anything that could be used to draw parallels with current leaders. This could be the case here as the cover was suggestive. https://www.ft.com/content/1f8d51c9-6de6-49cc-ae0a-c7947fe21de2

FT 2024 Election in Indonesia will be closely watched with incumbent not eligible to run

The newspaper considers the election “a test of the strength of the rule of law in the world’s third-largest democracy”. The constitutional court, chaired by the president’s brother-in-law, this week ruled that the (vice-)presidential ban on people younger than 40 could be lifted if the person concerned had previously been elected in a regional office. This makes the president’s son qualify. He might take the vice-presidential candidacy of one of the people running. https://www.ft.com/content/893d7146-7842-4683-9d2d-da10a0ae4f24

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

We submitted a Human Rights Report on Eritrea together with the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Pentecostal world Fellowship (PWF), the Pentecostal Commission on Religious Liberty (PCRL): https://un.worldea.org/eritrea-freedom-of-religion-or-belief-joint-report-to-the-upr-46th-session/

October 23

FT  Christians in South Korea turn to AI for prayer

The newspaper on its frontpage reports that online church services using artificial intelligence are rapidly becoming an essential part of worship in Korea. This year, local start-ups have launched generative AI bible study and prayer service apps, which in particular pull in young Protestants. Also sermons through AI are offered. A fifth of the 52 Mn South Koreans is Christian. https://www.ft.com/content/9aeb482d-f781-45c0-896f-38fdcc912139

FT Citizens in Gaza territory of Palestine consumed by search for water

Israel laid siege to Gaza, cutting off power, water and fuel supplies, after the rulers organized a mass killing in Israel on October 7. Gaza is home to 2.3 Mn Palestinians. The needs are aggravated by the heavy bombing by Israel. Prices of the basic commodities have escalated. The UN warns of the risks of drinking unsafe water. https://www.ft.com/content/22e939a4-f62c-4e49-bce0-79dd08901f98

FT Former leader returns from exile to Pakistan in bid to challenge detained opposition leader

The three time PM, sentenced for corruption in 2018 and freed on bail the following year to travel to London for medical treatment, did not return to the country until this week. Several thousands of supporters welcomed him at the airport. His goal is to form a challenge to the opposition. The country was run by the army for almost half the last 75 years. https://www.ft.com/content/9811a65a-78cc-4afb-82e4-1032017d2300

FT Ten years of Belt & Road Initiative by China: what did 1 Tn achieve?

The government of China celebrated it during a dedicated consultation as an alternative to western influence. The president: “Helping others is also helping yourself”. Little was heard about mothballed projects, heavy debt burdens and corruption problems. The biggest recipient country, Pakistan, has seen an enormous spike in FDI but the envisioned outcome did not really work. https://www.ft.com/content/83501dd5-fe6d-4169-9d83-28a8cf46e681

TT Stanford professor thinks free will is a myth

The neurobiologist thinks we are totally determined by our history and that of our environment. The newspaper: “Some may see shades of Calvinism in the New Yorker’s theories but he is a committed atheist”. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Brooklyn by parents who emigrated from the former Soviet Union. A colleague said that his explanation is brilliant but utterly wrong. “Those who push the idea that we are nothing but deterministic biochemical puppets are responsible for enhancing psychological suffering and hopelessness in this world.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/free-will-is-a-myth-says-scientist-so-prisons-need-a-rethink-j6j97hqb6

October 24

FT Contract at heart of $11bn claim on Nigeria found to be fraudulent

In 2017 in an arbitration case the country was ordered to pay the amount, so high that it threatened the financial stability of the country. The appeal to the decision (see also January 24) led the judge to conclude that the awards “were obtained by fraud” and “the way in which they were procured was, contrary to public policy”. The ruling puts a spotlight on arbitration courts in Britain where such disputes are often carried forward in relative obscurity. An anti-corruption expert stressed the importance of this week’s decision to deal with “a tainted arbitral award” that has held an entire country hostage. https://www.ft.com/content/a0a898e9-a466-423b-8ad9-599bd6605c4e

FT Surprise win in Argentina presidential election leads to runoff on November 19

The present economy minister ran an effective campaign against his radical change opponent which included an increase in welfare spending during the campaign and calls for a unity government. He won 37 percent against 30 percent for his opponent. https://www.ft.com/content/f1ede3c7-06ed-4afa-bd1e-d4f78aaed552

FT Candidate banned by government in June wins opposition primary in Venezuela

The result puts the deal with the government for elections in 2024 (see October 19) is jeopardy. In the deal it was agreed that all qualified candidates may take part and that each side could choose its candidate according to its own rules. The government now says that previously disqualified candidates cannot participate. https://www.ft.com/content/4eec8116-427b-4ac6-b84f-2f0a24b6ded0

FT Germany will now also have a leftwing anti-immigration party

A half-Iranian parliamentarian for the former communist party with a huge media following announced in a packed press conference to start a new political party in January that can challenge both the government parties and the rightwing anti-immigration party. https://www.ft.com/content/b18d8fee-b622-4e09-8865-4b200a62436c

NYT Student without scarf carried out of Iran metro unconscious declared brain dead

State media reported on the situation of the student (see also October 6). Two journalists who covered her case were sentenced on Sunday to seven and six years in prison for “cooperating with the ‘hostile’ government of America.” The authorities claimed that the girl of 16 collapsed because she had skipped breakfast and her blood sugar dropped. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/23/world/europe/iran-teenager-armita-geravand-brain-dead.html

October 25

FT Politics poses the biggest threat to economic growth in China

China’s GDP per head was only 76th worldwide in 2022. Will the relationship between the communist state and the capitalist economy survive? The party’s marriage to a market economy risks undermining both party legitimacy and its control. https://www.ft.com/content/5c88b523-9312-4057-948b-0f0ac625725d

October 26

FT In Argentina third place presidential candidate will support second place candidate in runoff

She received 24 percent of the votes. Her support to the radical second place candidate is indispensable but it may not be enough. Her coalition is divided. https://www.ft.com/content/9bd45360-0079-416d-8cfb-6ec725917a5c

FT Germany will tighten immigration rules amid rising support for far-right

The chancellor said Germany needed outside workers and also continues to offer asylum to those who are politically persecuted. Polls show that voters are in favor of tighter immigration rules. The new law concentrates on deporting turned down asylum seekers still in the country. Their number is estimated around 50.000. The opposition says that the influx should be targeted. https://www.ft.com/content/2e2f458a-366b-44d4-9c1e-557d5b146f24

October 27

FT In the U.S.A. a relatively young and unknown congressman and ally of the former president made House Speaker

This concludes a month of struggle following the ousting of the Republican leader that was considered too close to the ruling party.  The elected is Evangelical and said that he believed God had prepared him for the challenge. The job has been likened to keeping “218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed”. One of his first tasks is to get a majority for the law that caused his predecessor his job: federal government funding. The deadline is November 17. https://www.ft.com/content/6c10ee72-48f7-489b-a9db-b6fc2cadeaf0

TT China passes new law to promote ‘love of motherland’ in schools

The law makes it illegal for teachers to question the version of history propagated by the Chinese Communist Party. The party considers challenges and contradictions to its views “historical nihilism”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/china-passes-new-law-to-promote-love-of-motherland-in-schools-fx2rjmvg9

NYT Bhuddist statue now in South Korea has to return to Japan after being stolen there in 2012

The Supreme Court of South Korea ruled on Thursday that a Buddhist statue currently in government custody must be returned to a Japanese temple, ending a decade-old dispute between temples ​in both countries. A Buddhist temple in western Korea claimed the artifact, saying it was made there in the 14th century. They claim the statue had been stolen centuries ago by Japanese pirates. The court considered that the statue had been long enough in Japan to belong there. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/26/world/asia/south-korea-japan-buddhist-statue.htmle

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The WEA Future of the Gospel Forum in Istanbul last week centered on key challenges that evangelical communities worldwide are confronting: https://worldea.org/news/23923/global-leaders-meet-to-shape-future-of-the-gospel/

October 30

FT Governments need to be more productive

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to promote a smarter and leaner public sector as budgets are tight and demands high. The newspaper admits that defining productivity here is not easy. It is often associated with cutting budgets which generates other costs like reduced service providing. Governments need to work smarter, both in identifying and eliminating waste, and also by extracting more — and higher quality — from their existing resources. The key advice of the newspaper is to turn to “e-governance” (digitalizing processes). https://www.ft.com/content/01cd8915-0fff-48b3-b927-135a63714e89

FT Will Bangladesh regret its bet on natural gas as its energy source?

Natural gas emits about half the carbon of coal for the same amount of energy. This is why Bangladesh switched to this option. It now suffers from high prices of natural gas. On the other hand energy production has dramatically increased over the last decade through a privatization scheme. Less than half the population had access to electricity by 2009. The entire population of 170 Mn citizens have it now. This is threatened by the rising natural gas price. https://www.ft.com/content/3ca20f13-7582-4a7b-85a6-3eed0b6cf476

October 31

TT The real threat of AI is fostering extremism

In an op-ed a former foreign minister of Britain calls it a danger that AI can now create any digital friend you want, always there for you, ready to flatter and encourage you. The rise of AI is making such friends much cleverer. The author cites an expert saying that “the negative effects that AI friendship apps have on wellbeing may be destabilizing”. The author says that the danger is “not that it will become a global super brain that turns against us, but rather a friend that encourages our delusions”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-real-threat-of-ai-is-fostering-extremism-jn3cw9rd3

November 1

FT Junior coalition partner in Germany threatens to leave government

The party received a devastating blow in recent state elections, being locked out of council entirely in one state due to a minimum threshold (5 percent of the votes) and barely making it in the other state. The bigger coalition partners have much more to show for in the coalition government. https://www.ft.com/content/02820600-bd80-4627-a3b9-355b7f6478e4

FT Opposition in India accuses government of trying to hack their phones

At least eight prominent Indian opposition politicians received notifications from their phone provider (Apple) of possible “state-sponsored” attacks. The notification included a disclaimer. The newly formed opposition coalition (known under the acronym INDIA) accused the government of spying ahead of next year’s election and the ruling party rejected the claim. The government promised to investigate to “get to the bottom of these notifications”. In 2019 and 2021 the Israel spyware Pegasus was found on phones of journalists and activists. An Indian Supreme Court inquiry into the spyware was ultimately inconclusive. https://www.ft.com/content/2f23e923-ca42-4c6f-9980-2314e66ab0bb

November 2

FT France, Spain, Ireland, Kenya, Ethiopia and 10 other countries push for an end to new oil and gas projects

These nations took position ahead of the next COP28 conference. The organizer of the conference, UAE, recognizes the need to reduce emissions but not production and push for methods as climate capture. The UN climate body only sees a minor role of such methods. https://www.ft.com/content/6428fe5a-33ef-4094-8859-227bed4b545d

FT Treasury in South Africa warns for $ 3 Bn shortfall in finances

The stagnant economy has left the government with far less tax revenue than planned. Borrowing costs and costly measures to repair the energy supply also do their part. The minister said that “scarce public resources” should lead “to review and reconfigure the structure and size of the state”. https://www.ft.com/content/f9a47d54-518b-443d-908e-515cfb3a4ce1

November 3

FT Palestine citizens suffer from violent repercussions in the occupied territory of the West Bank

The war between Hamas and Israel increases the aggression of Israeli settlers and vice versa. The Israeli army cannot deal with tensions without aerial support. The Israeli government withdrew payments to the Palestine authority. All this creates an explosive situation. https://www.ft.com/content/99f940b3-7210-4f37-b178-c8646db00010

FT Garment workers in Bangladesh protest for six consecutive days for better pay

The country is the largest garment producer apart from China and counts almost 3.500 factories where 3 Mn people work, mostly women. https://ft.pressreader.com/1389/20231103/281582360331871

FT The breakdown of social contract in China

The newspaper dedicates a so-called “Big Read” to the subject. The party has promised the citizens “common prosperity” but the prospects seem to fade due to the economic malaise. The social contract was that economic opportunity was allowed under heavy restrictions on political freedom. The current leadership has introduced anti-corruption campaigns to strengthen its clamp on society. The president in August 2021 in the economic committee said that the aim is building China “into a great modern socialist country”. For this,  he said, it must not “fall into the trap of ‘welfarism’ that encourages laziness”. This shows a top-down attempt to re-engineer society. https://www.ft.com/content/d7b9db0a-9275-48ad-be3a-99afcc6bbf4c

FT Opposition leader in Venezuela vows to contest election despite ban

The opposition in a primary voted for a candidate banned in June by the government (see October 24). She got 93 percent of 2.4 million votes. On Monday the top court annulled this primary, despite the deal between government and opposition during foreign negotiations that parties would be free in their internal process of candidacy. The opposition leader said she would register as a candidate. https://www.ft.com/content/d79927fa-5d71-465e-a4bc-eb869018d83c

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Pages 357-372 of the Evangelical Review of Theology, November 2023 issue, contain a useful historical reminder of how human rights came about: https://theology.worldea.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/ERT-47-4_web.pdf

November 5

NYT Military attack of air base by militants unnerves Pakistan

Though it was repelled, the incident is part of a worrying trend of increased assaults on military targets and a rise in extremist violence more generally. The military themselves believe that the trend could be linked to the activation of sleeper cells and a reaction to the recent deportation of Afghans living illegally in Pakistan. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/04/world/asia/pakistan-air-base-attack.html

November 6

TT Sweden suffers from security crisis

The Scandinavian country, once a symbol of peace, neutrality and social cohesion, is now threatened on three fronts by Russia, Islamist terrorism and a wave of shootings and bombings as criminal cartels battle for supremacy over drugs. One of the greatest difficulties is Sweden’s “vulnerable areas”, the deprived suburbs of large cities in which residents with migrant backgrounds are concentrated with relatively low levels of employment and education but high levels of crime. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sweden-faces-worst-security-crisis-since-1945-says-top-adviser-9snb7pb36

TT Justice minister in France on trial for corruption charges

He is accused of launching disciplinary proceedings against four judges who had been in charge of investigations that involved him, his former clients or his friends. This includes a former president of the country. He told the court that the trial was an “abomination”. He has refused to bow to an unwritten rule that ministers resign if charged with an offence, but he will have to relinquish his post if convicted. French judges have expressed concern about the prosecution of a minister who remains in charge of the administration of justice during the trial. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/french-justice-minister-on-trial-over-alleged-conflicts-of-interest-2msbq5ktx

November 7

FT Declining pork prices push China back into deflation

Wholesale pork prices in China are down more than 40 percent from a year ago. China is the world’s main producer and consumer of pork. The deflation has a negative influence on consumer confidence and influences the liquidity crisis in the country. Producers seem to have accepted the price trend and assume they will beat their competitors in the boom-and-bust-cycle. https://www.ft.com/content/058df2fe-ae7a-4be8-93c6-ca9cb46d3184

FT Amazon drought sparks fears of climate tipping points

The river region’s role as a carbon sink is in jeopardy. The water level is 6 meters below the normal level in October. The drought also provides an immediate threat to the population of the region. The cause is the relatively warm ocean water and  the ongoing El Niño weather event. https://www.ft.com/content/3be2100f-3ea5-42a2-9523-33e05953705c

FT The newspaper comments than amnesty to secessionists in Spain is a gamble worth taking

The caretaker PM in Spain needs the votes from the secessionist region to form a government (see also September 30). The newspaper in a dedicated editorial considers the political and social fault lines only reparable through dialogue, despite the fact that polls show that two-thirds of citizens disapprove of amnesty for the politicians that held an illegal regional referendum eight years ago. The PM is getting credits for reducing the temperature over the regional autonomy question. https://www.ft.com/content/4e8a587b-5ffd-4328-9cdb-7ed84fb61b86

November 8

FT PM in Portugal resigns over corruption charges to his government

Prosecutors issued arrest warrants and raided government buildings to find evidence to the inner government circle. The investigations concern wrong doings around business ventures. The PM claims to be unaware but insists that the government institutions need to be trustworthy. Suspicions about integrity are incompatible with trust in government. The president now has to decide to appoint another PM or hold elections. https://www.ft.com/content/928a5144-749a-4e21-b52d-c01c5d52a46c

FT South Africa charges two in 2020 sofa cash theft at farm of president

A spy chief associated with his predecessor last year accused the president of a cover up. This provoked a scandal that almost led to the stepping down of the president. A government ombudsman concluded that the president was not guilty and accused the police of mishandling the case. The central bank said the money was a deposit and not a “perfected payment” for cattle and hence the president had not violated the foreign currency regulation. https://www.ft.com/content/f2c2d959-3fcc-4d4c-ba0f-b31e966d9e0d

November 9

FT Brand new party ‘New Social Contract’ ahead in polls in the Netherlands

The party was started by a breakaway politician from the centrist Christian party who had a big part in exposing a welfare scandal that brought down the government, after which his party decided to continue with the same coalition in the next government. His new party is on the left economically and on the right on immigration and life issues. FT concludes it is inspired by “the devout Catholic’s gospel of reform”. https://www.ft.com/content/98eebe44-3cbf-43a8-bd47-415adf81ae57

FT Economic plans in disarray after surprise stepdown of PM in Portugal

The leftwing government had plans in line to push for more equality by higher taxes for wealthy foreigners and reduce tax burdens for lower income people. The president will decide whether another parliamentarian will be given the task to form a government or organize snap elections. The corruption charges against the current government (see November 8) concern lithium mining projects. https://www.ft.com/content/1a0a68b4-bbbd-4e89-aa56-c15c88549253

November 10

FT Germany starts to subsidize domestic industry for compensation of energy prices

A “massive” new package of subsidies is agreed by the government and it will likely trigger protest with the EU as it provides the country with market advantage. The measures replace earlier subsidies but target industry sectors directly in international competition. The trade unions have advocated for energy subsidy to avoid “widescale job losses”. https://www.ft.com/content/5471a272-11d9-4907-8319-2e191eca7b4c

FT Afghanistan is the new name in global cricket

The country’s team emerged as the underdog success story of the Cricket World Cup in India, with historic victories over England and Pakistan that have enthralled fans and catapulted the crisis-hit nation into the sport’s elite. Next stop on Friday is South Africa. The team continues to play under the colors of the former government, but gave in to the new rulers by banning cricket for females. https://www.ft.com/content/51c37e7c-6d09-4d22-94b6-f56649ba668d

FT In Turkey top courts clash over conviction of opposition politician

The case amplifies concerns about the judiciary system and the rule of law. Last month the constitutional court ruled that the politician should be freed as holding him infringed his rights to “engage in political activities”. A court of cassation this week called on the lower courts not to implement the decision and start a new probe into the politician. The opposition called the move a “coup attempt” and the Union of Bar Associations called it an “attempt to change the constitutional order”. https://www.ft.com/content/bafda53b-87bb-4480-8074-0cc91d4cab52

TT Catholic church moves to include people with different sexual orientation

The Vatican has given permission for transgender people to be baptized, become godparent and act as witnesses at weddings, drawing applause from liberal Catholics and fierce criticism from conservatives. One of them is quoted saying the decision will “open the door to the misunderstanding that there is room for the coexistence of sin and grace in the Church of God.” The Vatican announcement was a response to a series of questions from a Brazilian bishop. In the document he was quoted as follows: “The Church is not a customs office, it is a paternal house where there is room for everyone.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-trans-catholics-baptised-become-godparents-rfvxtznbx

NYT Government in South Korea invokes legal action against what it calls “fake news”

Media critical of the government are experiencing prosecution action. The president calls fake news disinformation. Typically it concerns allegations against him and his inner circle. When newly elected the president started media friendly, but this approach has now vanished. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/10/world/asia/south-korea-fake-news-disinformation.html

November 11

FT Hong Kong tests tolerance of China for LGBT+’s

A top government advisor hailed the first global gay games in the city as a “strong testimony of diversity, inclusion and unity”. Another government official warned her that the games were a threat to national security and risked “poisoning” young people’s values. He acknowledged that one can sympathize with sexually differently orientated people, but it does not mean to advocate what he called “abnormal behavior”. The games, co-hosted with a Mexican city, come in the midst of a political crackdown. LGBT+ rights remain one of the few liberal areas for Hong Kong. https://www.ft.com/content/04e78551-ea29-48f2-a3f4-f854e28d2f21

FT Anti liberal abortion policy not popular with voters in the U.S.A.

Under the previous government the Supreme Court turned pro life through appointments and subsequently through a ruling. This has provoked sentiment to the contrary among voters of both major parties. The issue is likely to be an issue at the 2024 presidential election.  https://www.ft.com/content/d1f7139a-6713-4147-96b6-23f4158c78f6

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA submits recommendations to UN on hate speech and religion: https://worldea.org/news/24259/wea-submits-recommendations-to-un-on-hate-speech-and-religion/

November 13

FT War in Sudan leads to a situation that looks like a Libya type of disaster

The militia fighting the official government army (SAF) has taken over most of the five federal states comprising Darfur and seems to focus on holding the whole Darfur region. Many atrocities are reported. SAF tries to consolidate its position in the rest of the country. https://www.ft.com/content/8855cfed-f02e-4e26-abba-12de5e84117a

TT Lebanon Christian village caught in border struggle with Israel

The newspaper reports from a village with Christians in a Muslim area. An occasional Israeli rocket has hit the village though the priest has seen no Palestine fire from his village, as was agreed with the Palestine group. The majority of the village fled over a three-day period, most heading to stay with relatives in Beirut. Between 33 – 40 percent of Lebanon citizens are Christian. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/no-one-asked-the-christians-but-theyre-on-lebanons-front-line-lwgrg6d98

November 14

FT The world in the face of imperial overreach threat

The newspaper’s chief foreign affairs commentator in an op-ed cites American academia as saying: “Washington should pass the buck to regional powers.” In other words: it should retreat from playing the world’s policeman. The powers taking advantage would be Russia, China and Iran. The article considers a retreat possible but also considers that, like after WWII, the country might feel compelled to reverse a retreat if it “would eventually be threatened by the rise of undemocratic and expansionist powers in Europe, Asia or the Middle East”. Typically the article does not consider the role of the EU and Africa. https://www.ft.com/content/90f4abbc-9fce-4870-85b0-53e0e862d6b5

FT Acting PM in Spain pursues vote to retain position with help of secessionist parliamentarians

This happens almost four months after an inconclusive election in July in which his party finished second. For their support the secessionist party requires an amnesty law with broad reach over an extended time. It caused the country’s Supreme Court to issue an extraordinary statement to guarantee the independence of the judicial sector “from all institutions” but also much protest in the society. https://www.ft.com/content/6babdcb4-117f-4593-a05d-f972cd692f78

FT In Poland outgoing government can appoint new head of financial regulator

The incumbent won elections but lost the majority, see October 17. The president has given the biggest party three weeks to form a government, which will likely fail as the other parties form a coalition. This coalition has now protested the appointment of a financial regulator due during these three weeks. The central bank governor, appointed in 2022, also stands under criticism of the opposition. https://www.ft.com/content/099be3fb-f1ac-43ef-960a-c94620bb49e2

FT President in Portugal rejects proposed new PM and calls for snap elections

The PM that withdrew (see November 8) had suggested the central bank governor to become the new PM. The president concluded that this candidate needed an ethics review. He selected the other option of fresh elections which will be held in January. https://www.ft.com/content/b1a58ef3-fe41-4ff7-a41e-6bd5f3064008

November 15

FT Global tax evasion regime should be hosted by UN not OECD

In an op-ed a former president of South Africa writes about the upcoming decision for a convention on international tax co-operation. It concerns illicit financial outflows (in 2015 established as two-thirds commercial and the rest criminal and public) that would avert an estimated global loss of $5tn to tax havens over the next decade. Last year the Africa Group at the General Assembly of the UN tabled a resolution to let the UN work on a global regime, adopted unanimously. The west now wants to assign the OECD. The author advocates it should be the UN. https://www.ft.com/content/39ddedad-8faa-4e38-b95c-35cd47028056

TT Storm in Nigeria over budget item designated for “presidential yacht”

The government claims the yacht is for the navy and already planned under the previous government. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigerian-president-under-fire-yacht-austerity-cost-of-living-hxfbj203s

NYT Political activist in Zimbabwe found dead at roadside

The pastor was campaigning in a group for the opposition. They were approached by SUV’s and attacked. While helping a fellow campaigner who was handicapped, they were both taken away. The handicapped person was dropped off later but the pastor was found dead, his body disfigured. The government laments the protesting opposition is jumping to conclusions before the police conclude investigations. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/14/world/africa/political-activist-killed-zimbabwe.html

November 16

FT Is Indonesia finally set to become a super power?

The country is expected to be the sixth world economic power in 2027. The president’s departure next year after a decade in power comes as this democracy of 270 Mn people faces big questions over its trajectory. It has embarked on a 32 Bn dream to build an entirely new capital in the midst of a vast rain forest. After nine years in office the president commands huge approval rates but his succession raises eyebrows (see October 21). In the great power surge the government navigates on “a canny middle course” in the tradition of the non-alignment movement it helped found. The country is helped by a sizeble domestic market and huge natural resources. https://www.ft.com/content/4e442979-36c7-47c3-9682-46a5d199a752

FT Garment exporters in Bangladesh claim western clothing brands are not paying ethical prices

Factories are closed by protesting workers (see also November 3), despite a 50 percent minimum wage raised by the government. The unions stress that the raise is not enough for inflation and one of them says another raise of 100 percent is necessary. The crisis shows the supply chain problems where “customers have come to expect low prices thanks to reliably cheap labor in source countries”. https://www.ft.com/content/fbba322d-597d-4c51-a51b-8e66b436e057

FT Highest court in Germany rules that exemption of debt brake for government due to pandemic was unconstitutional

The government used the exemption to finance future spending that is not directly related to the pandemic, such as renewable energy. The court ruled that the government policy “does not meet the constitutional requirements for emergency borrowing”. This blows a hole of 60 Bn in the budget. The situation also involves disagreements between coalition partners. https://www.ft.com/content/e36830bf-0fb4-4878-944c-0bf9088478d2

FT Two main opposition parties in Taiwan join forces for presidential election

Both candidates have called for a resumption of dialogue with China, which Beijing broke off after the current ruling party came to power in 2016. The opposition parties have now decided to run on a joint ticket and the decision who would lead would be based on the two candidates’ support ratings calculated from publicly available and internal polls.  One of them: “We have never had a coalition government in Taiwan’s history, so how to form it and how to run it is of course all an experiment.” https://www.ft.com/content/2f4eab5c-455f-4db2-8dbc-a788e745e389

November 17

NYT Madagascar votes for new president amidst violence and calls for boycott

Since campaigning began in early October, demonstrators and security forces in the 30 Mn citizens island state have clashed at political rallies and 10 of the 13 candidates call for a boycott. They claim the incumbent is advancing his immediate predecessor through public means. They also claim this candidate is ineligible to hold office because he obtained French citizenship, arguing that the law requires him to renounce his Malagasy nationality as a result. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/16/world/africa/madagascar-vote-violence-boycott.html

November 18

FT India turns to artificial rain to ease air pollution

The unconventional method involves seeding clouds with salts or silver iodide to trigger rain. Delhi with its 30 Mn inhabitants is rated the world’s most polluted city by the IQAir air quality index. Previous cloud seeding around the monsoon season has had some success in increasing precipitation in drought-prone areas. One of the causes of pollution is smoke from crop-residue burning in nearby states, making it a yearly phenomenon. https://www.ft.com/content/54646fe4-350e-41d2-8b9a-c4641f44e4dc

FT In the U.S.A. former president plans import tariffs, mass deportation and a retreat from global affairs in re-election bid

He holds a strong lead in his party’s election and a small margin nationally over the incumbent. He uses radical language like “root out communists, Marxists, racists and radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country”. He also portrays himself as a victim of political persecution for the various crimes he is indicted for. https://www.ft.com/content/9ec03cc8-afb0-4a06-9770-015e6f718bf7

FT Amnesty law in Spain allows fugitive regional leader to return home after staging a failed independence bid

A draft law, expected to be passed by parliament early next year, should erase the criminal charges against him — disobedience and the misuse of public funds for staging the illegal referendum. The newspaper calls the return of the regional leader a watershed moment in the modern history of the country. So far the leader has not made any public comment about his potential return from Brussels where he is a member of the European parliament for his party. His Romanian wife and two daughters remained in his hometown. https://www.ft.com/content/0f016764-0f9b-4976-8272-06b28b5c3e2d

FT Challenger in presidential runoff in Argentina claims voter fraud ahead of election

His sister and key advisor formally accused security forces of committing electoral fraud in the first round against him. https://www.ft.com/content/30d7654a-dd0e-470d-8320-bc6158ca77da

NYT Incumbent in Liberia concedes defeat in runoff of presidential election

He lost against a 78 year old, who had served as vice president for 12 years under his predecessor. The election was a rematch of the 2017 election and the result is tight with 51 against 49 percent. In a radio address the defeated president said: “Liberia has won.” He pledged “for graciousness in defeat, a time to place our country above party, and patriotism above personal interest.” The election was the first one managed solely by Liberian authorities without international funding or assistance. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/17/world/africa/liberia-election-results.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Amidst this unfolding disaster in the Holy Land, WEA has come forward with a balanced, strategic solution that incorporates prayer and action and reflects Christ’s love for all people: https://worldea.org/wea-responds-to-the-holy-land/

November 20

FT Tiny Christian community in Gaza territory hides in churches during war

For hundreds of years, empires and armies have come and gone in Gaza, but holy service at the Church of Saint Porphyrius has continued. There are 800 – 1000 Christians (340 families) in Gaza city. This is half the number of 1997. Most hide on the church grounds but also here a bomb hit one of the buildings, killing 17. https://www.ft.com/content/a6900e77-eded-4ff6-8f7c-326e1337c228

November 21

FT Governing Britain when “there is no money”

The fact is that the government is presiding over a stagnation nation and elections are due next autumn. A pre-election spending spree, fueled by borrowing, is off the cards. Also, one politician of the ruling party said: “The politician who is honest about the situation probably gets voted out.” The former PM with her radical plan was out of government within 50 days. Taxes are at a 70 year old high, cutting this significantly could worsen inflation, bust Britain’s fiscal rules and exacerbate a crisis in creaking public services. The classic solution of the opposition, increase taxes, is also not possible. Reform of the social contract seems to be the only way out. https://www.ft.com/content/8c6461c6-e976-4563-b277-bf61ae0a2c07

FT Election winner in Argentina has to prepare sickly economy for shock therapy

The outgoing administration has emptied the treasury for a pre-election spending spree. In his victory speech the winner repeated that there was “no room for gradualism”. But in reality he commands, together with his run-off backer, less than a third of congress. The outgoing government party also controls the trade unions. It also has to be seen if he is able to attract good team members as his eccentric personality “didn’t make him a lot of friends”. But his mandate with the voters is relatively strong. https://www.ft.com/content/8fc3a4a5-a821-412c-8805-1fd018845ce6

November 22

FT Iran faces brain-drain due to foreign and domestic economic political pressures

The Tehran-based Iran Migration Observatory (IMO) has said the country is going through a phase of “uncontrolled mass emigration”. Migration among health workers has caused particular concern, but also the tech industry suffers. Traditionally migration was to the west but now Turkey and the Gulf are also in focus. https://www.ft.com/content/909e0958-54e6-42ec-b879-0fcfe49deb62

FT In Russia abortion is dividing conservatives

Two decades ago the country had one of the highest official abortion rates worldwide but the number was reducing steadily. Russia’s turn towards socially conservative values has now gathered pace, and abortion has landed at the heart of the debate. A pro-war online chat host spoke out in favor of the right to abortion. Promptly the online public turned against her. The call to curtail abortions has been aligned with fears of Russia’s demographic decline as the birth rate falls. https://www.ft.com/content/82d5ce15-107b-48c3-9eca-50624da4694c

NYT The Netherlands now has a protest party in the political middle

It is appealing to voters increasingly disillusioned with the establishment, yet wary of extremes. It has a novel mix of left-leaning economic policies and right-leaning migration policies, packaged in the party created this summer, called New Social Contract. It is one that does not pit the elite against the common man in the way populist parties often do but advocates structural changes in the political mechanisms. The founder has lots of credibility with the public through exposing political scandals. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/21/world/europe/netherlands-dutch-election-omtzigt.html

November 23

FT Budget government of Germany postponed due to court ruling

The court ruling on the constitutionally enshrined debt brake (see November 16) concerned one part of the budget but could spread to other parts. In a joint statement the parliament budget committee said: “We want to respond to this with care and draw up a budget that takes into account all the arguments in the judgment.” If a budget is not agreed, automatic restrictions will kick in on spending across all federal government departments on January 1 and will last until a budget is finalized. https://www.ft.com/content/8beb5548-c1c1-4c9b-969f-f63dd74abf2e

November 24

FT The president of parliament in Austria accused of conspiring to obstruct justice

In a covertly recorded tape a now diseased top civil servant can be heard saying the president of parliament puts him under pressure to quash investigations or hamper the work of prosecutors probing allegations of corruption in his party. The scandal helps the far-right party in support. They call for his resignation but also some members of the ruling coalition want the parliament head to step down. https://www.ft.com/content/bf157146-a5a0-428d-8f34-8b8e41db1def

FT The far right in the Netherlands wins big in election parliament

The election campaign was dominated by migration, a housing crisis squeezing out young people and lower-income families, and environmental restrictions on farming in the densely packed country of 18mn. The far right party more than doubled and cannot be ignored. However, some other parties have ruled out governing with the far right for their unconstitutional statements. A coalition is needed and therefore the far right is not certain of governing. https://www.ft.com/content/312e43f2-a8be-445d-9d46-88d2ddf174a7

FT Leftwing party in Greece about to break up

The party lost the June election (see June 5 and 26). It elected a new leader, a 35-year-old political novice who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, made a shipping fortune, and until recently lived in Miami. Nine lawmakers resigned in protest against him.  This is the second split in a month. https://www.ft.com/content/46f692e9-3753-4740-b3ad-37d4693b40d9

FT PM in Britain under pressure for record migration

The increase in non-EU immigration was largely because of migrants coming for work, in particular in the health and care sectors, and bringing increasing numbers of dependents with them. The government has promised to bring numbers down but businesses are calling for visa rules to allow them to hire more freely in sectors facing chronic labor shortages. https://www.ft.com/content/9ac523da-1c15-43e8-9ccc-bbfdbce4b74a

NYT Torrential rain and floods wreak havoc across East Africa

This happens in a region that is still reeling from its worst drought in four decades. At least 179 people have been killed in countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The torrential rains also devastated other nations including Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. A Indian ocean El Nino type of phenomenon is playing out here. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/23/world/africa/rain-floods-kenya-somalia-ethiopia.html

November 25

FT Friendly foreign influencers win growing audience in China

More than 120 foreign online influencers inside China gain popularity in the country. The government appears to be “cultivating” to speak up for the governing Communist party and to defend the country against critical overseas narratives. An Australian research institution said it was part of a Chinese strategy of “market-enabled propaganda production” that was “likely to have significant implications for the global information landscape”. https://www.ft.com/content/c6d4689e-a564-4c46-bf0e-d7444733cf8e

FT Taiwan opposition fields competing candidates for election

The new coalition (see November 16) failed to appoint a joint candidate. This will likely help the candidate of the ruling party, the current vice-president. The political landscape is changing due to the rapid rise of the smaller opposition party that focuses on the “bread-and-butter” issues of the ordinary citizens. Yet, the overriding issue is peace. Neighbor China has the best contacts with the larger opposition party. https://www.ft.com/content/2c157ffb-c28a-4200-b5b5-1143dcb1b705

FT President-elect in Argentina backs away from dollarizing the economy

The flagship project to treat the sickly economy was abandoned after the proposed president of the central bank turned down the job. Before the election the candidate had been working on a blueprint to implement dollarizing the economy after the new government would take office on December 10. The president-elect now says that the plan is not worth the risks involved and considers the current vice-president of the central bank for the job. The biggest financial hurdle is to dismantle an elaborate web of price and currency controls spun by the previous government. https://www.ft.com/content/f574a3af-fec2-41ed-b093-40bc9b20bdd2

NYT Can the Palestine Authority govern Gaza?

The newspaper considers that the PA is still the choice of foreign politics to run the enclave. But many believe it can be only credible now if it includes Hamas. Today few people on the West Bank regard the authority as capable of governing a post-conflict Gaza. The authority, installed after the 1993 Oslo Accords, is deeply unpopular even where it has control on the West Bank. To many Palestinian citizens Hamas has done a better job in Gaza. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/24/world/middleeast/palestinian-authority-gaza-war.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The European Evangelical Alliance calls to action against antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred: https://www.europeanea.org/cta-against-antisemitism-and-anti-muslim-hatred/

The World Council of Churches published a guide for churches on the prevention of obstetric fistula: https://www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-guide-raises-awareness-of-obstetric-fistula

November 27

FT Why a state for Palestine is the best security guarantee for Israel

The foreign chef of the EU in an op-ed argues that the world must stop paying lip service to the two state solution. Despite the horrors displaced in the current conflict “the central obstacle to solutions is the occupation of Israel of the west bank”. The author maintains that “there will be a tomorrow that neither side is yet able to envisage”. He claims the central path to the future is in a state for the Palestinians. “To move forward, we must aim for a solution based on justice and equal rights for both peoples.” https://www.ft.com/content/e188a90d-e203-42b8-9fbb-896267d596b6

FT Ruling party in India leans on popularity PM in state elections

Five state elections are due in November, three of them in powerbases of the ruling party. The party has sought to turn the state elections into a referendum on the federal government. Polls give the ruling party an edge in Rajasthan and the opposition in Madhya Pradesh. If materialized this would change the previous preference in those states. The opposition has in recent months sought to regroup, winning power in the southern state of Karnataka and forming a national opposition alliance to put up a united front against the party of the popular federal PM. https://www.ft.com/content/bcaa5c36-f76d-489d-a53b-f21477d4f888

TT Thailand pushes for land bridge to alter world economic dynamics

This project looks similar to the plans in Mexico for the Americas, see October 18. Shipping could avoid the very busy and lengthy stretch through the Malacca Strait by docking on one side of the Peninsula and using land transport to the other side, a 93 km stretch. The Thai government promotes it as “cheaper, faster and safer”. The projection is to handle 20 million cargo containers a year by 2040. By the Thai government’s reckoning, it would create 300,000 jobs and help propel the country to annual growth of 5.5 per cent. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thailand-pushes-for-cargo-land-bridge-to-boost-world-trade-xrr3l7p9v

November 28

FT How China is tearing down Islamic life

The newspaper in a “Big Read” documents the spread of the government’s crackdown on Islam from Xinjiang to almost every region of the country. The newspaper shows the effects of the policy on mosques, using satellite images to document how three quarters of 2.312 investigated buildings have since 2018 been ripped of their outwardly visual religious imagery, replacing them with traditional Chinese designs. Some have even been torn down. China is home to an estimated 20 Mn Muslims. The outward changing of mosques is part of a full-scale rearticulation of the relationship between Party and religion, also affecting other religions. The government sees it as “promoting the healthy development of Islamic culture”. https://ig.ft.com/china-mosques/

FT Ecuador arrests alleged leader of powerful drugs gang

This reflects a security pledge of the just sworn-in president. The murder rate in the once relatively peaceful country has jumped almost 500 percent since 2016. Following the arrest gang members set up roadblocks and fired at the police. The gang is estimated to have more than 8,000 members and operates on the streets and in prisons. https://www.ft.com/content/f160842c-8be8-415f-ab1e-6e2a40e3725d

FT City in Mexico reaps the benefits of near-shoring

The city of Pesquería has been nicknamed “Pes-Korea” as it hosts industrial activity for a Korean carmaker that otherwise would depend on factories in Asia. The region welcomes executives of companies from Asia weekly in search of opportunities to produce efficiently nearer to the served markets. While the government is perceived as anti-private sector, it surprised the markets with tax incentives for export production. https://www.ft.com/content/445a2ca2-931b-4556-b735-a9d70f5e7b44

FT India fights back against digital fraud

Financial literacy education is the key to protecting Indians from scams in the era of superfast payments. Many Indians use smartphones and digital banking for the first time and enthusiastically embrace online banking. The lack of awareness of the people is being exploited by criminals. Education and tightening financial regulation is a central topic for the authorities. https://www.ft.com/content/4c384149-bdb1-4bad-87ec-05b7fdec418d

FT In the Netherlands post-election coalition negotiator steps down over fraud accusation

His former employer announced the case in March but the name of the negotiator has been revealed now by a newspaper. He was appointed at the advice of his party, the election winner (see November 24). Some 15 parties have been elected in the 150 member parliament as there is no minimum threshold to enter parliament. https://www.ft.com/content/1f8261e6-014c-440f-a2c1-e06657db8b5d

TT PM of Britain avoids meeting counterpart of Greece for reclaimed colonial treasures

The treasures have been in Britain for more than 200 years. At the time the acquisition was already criticized. Lord Byron used poetry to denounce the arrival: “Come then ye classic Thieves of each degree … Come pilfer all that pilgrims love to see.” Ahead of the meeting with the British PM the Greek PM said the 2.500 years old treasures belong in his country. This offended the British. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/elgin-marbles-rishi-sunak-greek-pm-meeting-mthx6z2zg

November 29

FT Debt brake crisis in Germany ruins reputation of chancellor

The government created unprecedented crisis-fighting spending programs that allowed coalition partners to fulfill campaign promises. Now an accounting trick made the German top court struck down the budget as illegal as it broke the law by transferring €60bn of unused borrowing capacity from the pandemic budget to a “climate and transformation fund” (KTF) (see also November 23) and used the money beyond the budget year. The chancellor takes the brunt. He was originally seen as a quiet professional but now as lacking the communicative skills of his predecessor. https://www.ft.com/content/8d074bee-a59f-4e93-9420-3977b2d5f25c

NYT Malawi plans to send 5000 farm workers to Israel

Israel loses some of its 30.000 foreign farm workers from other countries, mostly from Thailand. Hundreds of Malawians have already travelled to Israel. Opposition politicians and civil society organizations have criticized the move as putting young Malawians at risk. They connect the deal to a recent aid package from Israel. A decade ago the government was embarrassed by a similar deal with South Korea, that did not materialize. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/11/28/world/israel-hamas-gaza-war-news#malawi-plans-to-send-thousands-of-farmworkers-to-israel

NYT Sierra Leone arrest 13 military officials and a civilian in an “attempted coup”

This happened after attacks in the capital on Sunday that left 20 people dead and more than 2,000 prisoners on the loose. The result of the presidential election in June (see June 24) has been rejected by the challenger, contributing to a tense political atmosphere, and the election was considered to be not transparent by many international observers. The government has been praised for its education push, but the president has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/28/world/africa/sierra-leone-arrests-attempted-coup.html

November 30

FT Government in Ireland vows to heed social concern after anti-immigrant riots

A government minister denied that Ireland will follow Italy and the Netherlands where 20 percent of voters turned to anti-immigration parties. He said a handful of people peddling a “warped agenda built on hate and anger and dividing society” had stirred anti-immigration sentiment, adding that most Irish are comfortable with immigrants. https://www.ft.com/content/e0449e58-738d-48d6-a13c-c7b5bc4bcb68

FT Justice minister of France cleared by special court of corruption charges

The former celebrity defense lawyer turned justice minister refused to step down during the procedure (see November 6), contrary to the promise of transparency of the government. The decision triggered criticism about the special court for being “overly politicized and ineffective”. The institution is the only one that can judge ministers for alleged wrongdoing committed while in office. Currently the labor minister is on trial on charges of favoritism in awarding a contract. https://www.ft.com/content/44050870-52d6-4764-af7b-0edcdc7de5fa

FT Vietnam raises multinational corporate tax rate

It brings the country in line with a global agreement to crack down on corporate tax avoidance. It could hit foreign direct investment to the country. Some international companies voiced concerns but an analyst said that other facts are more important like “low input costs including electricity and wages [as well as] access to large markets”. https://www.ft.com/content/43db46e0-2744-4b4a-90d5-4cd7097c7d55

FT Sri Lanka strikes debt deal with national lenders to clear way out of bankruptcy

The restructuring deal includes India, Japan and France, paving the way for the country to revive a stalled IMF loan program after it secured a similar pact with China last month. The country has foreign debts of 40 Bn. https://www.ft.com/content/a3fba616-4be5-4b38-938e-0e68420f37c8

NYT President of Kenya internationally in the forefront but criticized at home

Criticism is growing in the country “that has long been an economic powerhouse and a pillar of stability in a tumultuous region.” The president got elected on an entrepreneurial image but made life more difficult through higher taxes, removal of fuel subsidies and raising electricity prices. He claims that he deals with the debt pile of his predecessor. In his first state of the union he said: “The new direction may not be easy, but it is ethical, responsible, prudent, and most importantly, necessary.” Some of his tax plans, for affordable housing and universal health care respectively, have been declared unconstitutional in court. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/29/world/africa/kenya-president-ruto.html

December 1

FT Ruling party in South Africa will eventually fall apart

As a liberation movement it has staying power and it is unlikely to lose outright. A book predicting its demise was written a decade ago, at the height of the party presiding over the looting of the state. In an op-ed the FT Africa editor concludes that South Africa’s economy has not grown in per capita terms since 2007. Nearly two in three young South Africans have no job. Small new parties are placing their chips on the electoral table and there are three mid-size opposition parties. The ruling party may well score below 50 percent in next year’s election, in which case it needs a coalition party. Or the opposition parties pull their act together and join forces to create an alternative. https://www.ft.com/content/f6f12247-46fb-4fa6-bae2-b84d95fde830

FT Supreme Court in Russia bans LGBT movement as extremist

This means a complete ban of any public support for the movement and puts it in the same position as the anti-corruption movement of the jailed opposition leader. This comes at the time the government declared 2024 the Year of the Family amid fears concerning the country’s falling birth rate and its implications for Russia’s demographics. Elections are due next year and observers see the moves as the beginning of the campaign. https://www.ft.com/content/205e42b9-9264-4dc1-9030-f0f4b35c2f9c

FT Youth in Palestine experience a brutal rite of passage

According to Israeli and foreign human rights groups they are held for offences from attempted murder to throwing stones. According to Israel as of September about 146 Palestinian minors were jailed for “security offences”, the youngest was 14. Israel has arrested many more since. As Palestinians arrested in occupied territory, the teenagers are sent to military courts. They are kept separate in prisons, but conditions have deteriorated since the war with Hamas started.  https://www.ft.com/content/a986d105-4e74-4609-a145-778ac341bf05

FT Regime in Afghanistan carries out more than 400 floggings to tighten grip

Corporal punishment is frequently imposed for crimes such as adultery and robbery. Last year the regime, after internal discussion, declared it would impose a strict version of sharia law. It claims to punish only “after a rigorous Islamic legal process”. Many of the punishments were carried out in public places, some of them in front of large audiences. The country is not alone with corporal punishments. Countries including Singapore practice caning, while others such as Saudi Arabia and Iran also enforce strict sharia punishments. https://www.ft.com/content/334a9036-0940-4124-9450-482812549396

December 2

FT Union in Sweden takes on multinational company

The conflict pits the boss of carmaker Tesla with his antipathy to organized labor against the Swedish view of trade unions at the heart of the economic model. It escalates every day. The carmaker branded the actions of the unions “insane” and the union argues the need for collective bargaining for good wages. Other businesses lament that the union should not shy business away from the country. Also the government has criticized the union but cannot intervene as labor is jointly organized by employers and employees. https://www.ft.com/content/e7918954-a803-4e19-bb5e-545ed97e622d

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Latin American Evangelical Alliance celebrates first decade: https://worldea.org/news/24313/latin-american-evangelical-alliance-celebrates-10-years/

December 4

FT Federal ruling party in India wins in state elections

Polls showed a mixed result (see November 26) but the federal ruling party so far took four of the five states voting. One state result is still due but the contest there is between regional parties. This is bad news for the federal opposition united under the acronym INDIA. The coalition meets in the coming days to see how to tackle policy for the federal elections in 2024 and the dawning third term for the popular federal PM. https://www.ft.com/content/399d90cb-12de-4f89-afcd-fbfe7d1abbcb

December 5

FT Ireland says it has run out of room for refugees

The government believes that it has no immigration problem (see November 30). True to fact, Ireland has no far-right political party but anti-immigrant sentiment has soared while the country battles severe housing and infrastructure shortages. https://www.ft.com/content/edbf30f3-7ae0-44ac-95f4-405a69249a59

December 6

FT President of DRC dismisses fears of rigged poll on December 20

The president insists the election will be “transparent and democratic”. The opposition thinks differently and the EU cancelled a monitoring mission “due to technical reasons beyond our control”. The previous election was criticized by the country’s Catholic church. Today the cardinal leading the church said there is “no certainty that the elections will be free, inclusive, transparent and peaceful”. The opposition is split into three candidates, one of them the Evangelical Denis Mukwege, a Nobel peace prize laureate. https://www.ft.com/content/44d76316-3f36-4abc-a8e7-952a07523d76

FT Central bank chief of Sweden warns of risk gang violence for long time growth

The official called the trust between the people and trust in the authorities “one of the country’s greatest assets”, which is now at risk. He called on the government to use the military to assist the police to tackle criminal gang activity. Up till now high levels of trust acted as a “buffer” for the economy. If trust is eroded it challenges productivity and economic growth. The warning comes as the economy faces one of the deepest contractions in Europe, causing sharp interest and unemployment rises. https://www.ft.com/content/b7651979-177d-4bb9-b018-8bae7a8d4a18

FT Unity in Ukraine threatened by political feuds

The mayor of the capital vented his criticism of the president in a culmination of growing personal resentment among the president’s old foes, war fatigue and frustration. The mayor is a former professional boxer believed to have presidential ambitions. The president himself reignited another feud on Saturday by banning his predecessor and political foe from leaving the country for a series of meetings, including one with the PM of Hungary. In addition, there is rivalry between the military commander and the president of the country. All this comes at a time international support for the invaded country shrinks. https://www.ft.com/content/7b317559-795b-48c6-90ea-cec7ff936243

FT Student murder in Italy stokes fury over machismo culture

The 22 year old student was killed by her ex-boyfriend. This is the 58th killing by immediate relations during this year only. The protesters criticize the government for being too inactive and afraid to displease their male constituency. At the funeral the father of the victim appealed to other males to be “agents of change against gender violence. Femicide is often the result of a culture that devalues the life of women”. https://www.ft.com/content/c65cf2b9-76e4-4225-955a-3f78e829bf0d

FT China criticizes credit outlook cut by rating agency

The rating agency sees risks to the “fiscal, economic and institutional strength” of the country as the government uses state companies to support weak regions. The government: “It is unnecessary for the rating agency to worry about China’s economic growth prospects and fiscal sustainability.” https://www.ft.com/content/13d8b396-04bb-41cf-a7d0-196a6c47a776

NYT At U.N. climate summit there is a place to pray

According to the newspaper it is a place for meditation, prayer and hope. In a  video message the Faith pavilion is inaugurated by the pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (Egypt). The interreligious place also offers a chanting session led by an Indian mystic and yogi. Pastors, imams, rabbis and other spiritual leaders can exchange ideas about how to guide people through the effects of climate change. More than 300 religious leaders representing Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Unitarian Universalism and Indigenous faiths are expected to participate in discussions at the pavilion during the two-week climate summit. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/05/climate/cop28-climate-faith-religion.html

December 7

FT The looming land grab in Africa for climate credits

The tradable instrument for tons of carbon removed from the atmosphere or avoided, for example because a forest has been planted or protected from deforestation, is the subject of deals of governments and specialized companies. Blue Carbon, a company directed by a member of the Dubai royal family, is in discussions to acquire management rights to millions of hectares of land in Africa. Deals include a tenth of Liberia’s land mass, a fifth of Zimbabwe’s, and swaths of Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. South Korea, Switzerland, Japan, the UAE and Singapore are among the countries to have struck 95 preliminary deals since the start of 2021 to buy future emission reductions. The local communities are left with vague compensation promises and hence land grab seems likely. https://www.ft.com/content/f9bead69-7401-44fe-8db9-1c4063ae958c

TT Venezuela to pass law to annex territory of neighboring country

The government won a referendum on Sunday to claim the oil-rich disputed land. The leader of Guyana is petitioning the U.N. over the “desperate threat”. The case is based on an historic claim, going back almost two centuries, over part of Guyana known as the Essequibo. The International Court of Justice had ruled in the past that Venezuela should refrain from taking any action to change the status quo in the region. Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to keep communication channels open over the territorial dispute. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/venezuela-to-pass-law-to-annex-territory-in-guyana-0stlw02zv

December 8

FT Moral confusion of America’s elite universities laid bare in U.S.A. Congress interrogation

The top executives of Ivy league universities could not handle a three-and-a-half minute encounter with a member of congress over a hostile argument on campus concerning the war of Israel and Hamas. One of them had to step down. In the background wealthy donors are pressing the point of antisemitism. https://www.ft.com/content/6a93c6d8-eb62-4316-b13a-dbd24794e117

FT Former president of Peru released from jail

He led the country from 1990 – 2000 when he beat back the Shining Path, a Marxist guerrilla group that terrorized swaths of the country, as well as shepherding in a business-friendly constitution that led to an economic boom. After his tenure he was convicted for human rights abuses and corruption, pardoned in 2017 and returned to jail soon after through pressure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Now 85 and in frail health he is pardoned again. https://www.ft.com/content/a6bda413-fef5-4c91-bbc8-f04b12a264c5

FT Can Jews and Arabs still coexist within Israel?

They have different languages and separate sources of news. Each has their own sense of victimhood and a competing version of a shared history blighted by conflict. The recent war with Hamas has strained the fragile and already deteriorating coexistence to the limit. Inside Israel, Palestinians make up a fifth of the population. https://www.ft.com/content/9f7382a5-68d9-48f1-b6de-f1376eb23504

NYT Denmark bans holy books burning

The law came after a series of public Quran burnings in Scandinavia caused uproar in Muslim communities. The Justice minister cited public security as the reason: “This law is introduced out of necessity, not out of desire.” Violation can lead to 2 years in prison. The new law defies the deep rooted commitment to freedom of speech. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/07/world/europe/denmark-quran-burning-ban.html

December 9

FT President of Russia announces bid for fifth term in office

The incumbent is expected to win after years of crackdown on the opposition. The election, according to an analyst, is “a largely staged event with little real competition”. Re-election will keep him in office until 2030 and to a 30-year stint as the most powerful man in Russia. The announcement was made in the presence of the mother of the first soldier to be awarded Hero of Russia, killed on the first day of the invasion of Ukraine. https://www.ft.com/content/2d66a11a-f4e1-4626-8549-302ab9243380

FT President of China warns that economy of the country is at a critical stage

Stated reasons include an adverse international political and economic environment and overlapping domestic cyclical and structural challenges. Separately, the Polit Bureau of the party declared that the country should improve “the quality and efficiency” of fiscal policies while monetary policy should be “flexible, appropriate, precise and effective”. Its meeting called corrupted officials “flies and ants”. https://www.ft.com/content/d1101b45-7f7d-4508-93ff-6703c4a32b78

FT Parliament of India expels firebrand female opposition member

The ethics committee concluded that the outspoken critic engaged in “immoral and indecent” conduct. The probe into the former investment banker lays bare the gender and political divides inside the politics of the nation. Her party called the removal a denial of constitutional rights and the accused pointed towards her former husband and their fight over the custody of the home dog, Henry. The party: “What’s happening is a very poorly run hatchet job.” Analysts said the probe highlighted the difficult position of women in India’s male-dominated politics. https://www.ft.com/content/cebbb022-772d-4411-8b53-2f9a1f6ff32c

NYT Healthcare system in Britain under threat

Free, universal health care — funded from general taxation and payroll deductions — is the founding principle of the National Health Service, one of Britain’s most revered institutions and the most enduring part of the welfare state that the country set out to build after the suffering of World War II. It is now threatened by long waiting lists. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/09/world/europe/uk-nhs-private-health-care.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA co-hosts first ever Faith Pavilion at U.N. Climate Conference in Dubai. https://worldea.org/news/24550/wea-co-hosts-first-ever-faith-pavilion-at-un-climate-conference/

December 11

FT In Argentina new president sworn in to handle policy reform

In terms of support from parliament he is the weakest president in decades, despite his convincing 56 percent win in the election. In society the well organized trade unions and social movements have pledged to oppose some of the promised reforms of his party formed in 2021. He needs to rely on his coalition partner to go forward. Internationally his foreign minister visits neighboring Brazil to ease tensions after the president-elect during the campaign called the Brazil leader “corrupt” and a “communist”. https://www.ft.com/content/d996c6a9-b494-404c-a86e-7597bca9fd3b

FT Election in China’s Hong Kong draws record low numbers

Only 27.5 percent of the 4.3 Mn strong electorate went to the ballot. Only 20 percent of the 470 representatives was directly chosen. The rest is appointed by committees and the city’s central government appointed leader. The government hoped for a better turn out, seeking approval of its policies. https://www.ft.com/content/84ed9283-7693-41bf-8e8f-029061d40b8b

FT In China 19 million in 2022 drop out of health insurance system as premium steeply rises

Citizens also respond by stronger savings for serious medical situations, damping the prospects of the economy. A decade ago China established a strong medical coverage system. Many citizens have come to doubt the value of coverage, as extra payments have been asked for treatment in better facilities. https://www.ft.com/content/0ef68e30-bbe7-4b6e-8d17-479a552be994

TT In Egypt election victory of the incumbent is assured, but what does it mean for the citizens?

The president is largely seen as having wrecked the economy but with dissent silenced he will have a third term, something that was not possible when he started in 2014. His economic policies have centered upon leveraging the state to give lavish contracts to regime-owned companies for large, often ill-studied and unnecessary projects. Egypt currently ranks 136 out of 142 countries in the World Justice Project’s rule of law index. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/debt-vanity-projects-and-fraud-but-victory-is-assured-for-sisi-zfv355066

December 12

FT Catalonia region of Spain will pursue its right to a referendum

Following the amnesty law for regional political prisoners and fugitives (see November 18) the president of the Catalonia region in an op-ed advocates the right of the region to choose its destiny. He reminds that regional parties have supported the Spain PM to remain in office and demands more than “conciliatory words” from the Spain PM now. And by this he means a referendum for the region. His claim is that 80 percent of the region’s citizens want that. https://www.ft.com/content/7931e7a9-9169-495a-8f64-3190bfffdff3

FT Israel, Palestine and the mirage of a two-state solution

The foreign affairs commentator of the newspaper considers that Hamas and the government of Israel have in common that both don’t want a two state solution and both want to destroy the other. With Europe openly stating it will not rebuild Gaza, the U.S.A. and Egypt rejecting the idea of Gazan citizens to be pushed to Egypt, the quest is what Saudi Arabia wants to achieve. They have always advocated the two state solution but seem to be more focused on their own modernization. They will demand more substantive Israeli commitments to a future Palestinian state in return for funding the rebuilding of Gaza. https://www.ft.com/content/bb8a4db4-0a6a-4cb4-a004-73971b7426c2

FT India bets on worker dormitories to handle reshoring of industrial activity

The country’s ambition to be a “China plus one” manufacturing hub may depend on how the country and foreign investors resolve one glaring issue: how and where to get enough workers in the right place. The country hopes the workers are ready to stay on the site of factories. Bussing them in and out from home towns will not be sustainable. The situation has a special urgency as the female workforce is important in electronics and is met with regressive social and cultural norms. To facilitate scale-up solutions the states in India need to step in. https://www.ft.com/content/d3977a01-6c74-4ff8-8b3b-c6884d886350

FT ‘Catastrophic’ conditions in Gaza strip as Palestinians reach the end of the line

With Israel stepping up the war to the south of Gaza and Egypt repeatedly stating it will not allow for what is describes as the Israeli campaign to push Gaza citizens to enter Egypt, the ordinary people are stuck. https://www.ft.com/content/5e2b06cf-9ee4-473e-8bd8-bd0ff9d454a4

FT Parliament in Poland votes in leader of minorities coalition as PM

The coalition prevented a last ditch effort by 248 to 201 votes in parliament for the biggest party to remain in office. The change is a repetition of what shaped Polish politics for the past two decades as the parties of the leaving and coming PM have alternated in office, despite their totally different views on their country in the context of Europe. https://www.ft.com/content/c86aad61-2ebd-4c57-a07c-096089000d91

FT Government in France loses parliament vote on immigration reform

The interior minister blasted that the “alliance of opposites” had blocked the reform for “bitter political reasons”. The motion to pre-emptively dismiss the draft law and stop the planned debate passed by 270 to 265 votes. The proposals were to tighten the asylum system but also allowed for giving work permits to undocumented people employed in sectors with labor shortages. https://www.ft.com/content/a3468afb-f0c0-4478-b52c-ae71a9def315

NYT In Guatemala anti-graft campaigner wins election but will he take office?

His foes intensify efforts to bar the president-elect from taking office just weeks from now. The president-elect, educated as a sociologist in Israel, is the most progressive winner since democracy was installed in 1985 in Central America’s most populous country. He laments that in the past coups were staged by military but now by parliamentarians “with the pretense of institutional continuity. But the truth is that the institutions are hollow shells where legality has been cast aside.” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/11/world/americas/guatemala-president-elect-arevalo.html

December 13

FT Letter to the editor of government heads of five countries

The heads of all Scandinavian countries and Iceland protest the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. They warn that waning support for Ukraine would be a disaster: “Russia is eager to exploit divisions. We must continue to stand united against Russia’s illegal and immoral war just as we have done since the invasion.” https://www.ft.com/content/4ab5a177-1c04-424d-a200-78d74a7a32a1

FT Universities must protect both freedom of speech and student safety

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to the recent row in the U.S.A. concerning three university heads called to justify their policy (see December 8). It concludes that freedom of speech — even speech that we find repugnant — is different from conduct. And also that the universities in recent years started to err on dissonant views and now found themselves “straddling an uncomfortable line between protecting individuals and protecting free speech”. The newspaper concludes: “If there is a clear and present danger to someone’s safety, then speech that provokes that danger should be prohibited”. And also that rules need to be applied equally. https://www.ft.com/content/76e7c915-9b53-477f-a696-1266e896d112

FT In Iran the wife of the president steps out of the shadows

The 58-year-old author and academic told the newspaper: “I’m a teacher and I’m focused on philosophical theories.” Concerning the Hijab issue she points out that the problem is the cult of fashion and consumerism, not Islamic dress code. She claims that a lack of morality leads to the destruction of the environment, culture, civilization and humanity and that moral corruption destroys the human race sooner than an atomic bomb. https://www.ft.com/content/67350960-6007-46cb-bab5-b28f69679ae2

FT UAE holds mass trial to crack down on dissent during climate change summit

Eighty-seven citizens are summoned to a court for “setting up or supporting a terrorist organization”. A protest in the UN administered “Blue Zone” of the conference had to be delayed several times as activists negotiated terms of the action with the UN, including having to remove written references to the detainees. https://www.ft.com/content/f9249386-fb39-4786-b43d-f27933475b87

FT Soccer comes to a standstill in Turkey after violence to referee

The referee had to be hospitalized. The soccer federation suspended the competition. Soccer and politics are deeply intertwined in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/0f7571b7-79c5-4280-8020-4638c8ffefcb

NYT In Nigeria military air strikes kill worshipers, herders and refugees

Last week two drone strikes killed at least 85 people who had been out celebrating a Muslim holiday in a village. In June, dozens of herders and their cattle were hit from the sky, in the state next to the country’s capital. And in 2017, around 100 people were killed in an airstrike on a refugee camp in the country’s northeast. The repeated errors raise pressing questions on the quality and the trainers of the military from the U.S.A. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/12/world/africa/nigeria-military-air-strikes.html

December 14

FT New climate deal to decarbonize struck but maximum 1,5 temperature rise goal might be lost

The 200 nations signed a deal to move away from fossil fuels but the compromise is protested by some, including 39 small island nations, as not enough. After the deal was struck, the world’s largest oil and gas producer expressed an understanding for countries in Africa and Latin America that are economically reliant on fossil fuel production. https://www.ft.com/content/91941c3e-5016-47dc-8068-3e66f42b6f65

FT Somalia will rejoin global financial system after reaching debt deal

The country battered by civil war, terrorism and near economic bankruptcy will rejoin after an absence of 30 years. The IMF and World Bank approved a debt write-off after Somalia reached so-called completion point following the implementation of 13 out of 14 requirements related to expenditure, tax collection, governance, statistics and poverty alleviation. Following the Somalia deal, Eritrea and Sudan are the only eligible countries yet to complete the process. https://www.ft.com/content/a47a8e0f-83e0-407b-b19f-ac8093494c56

FT In the U.S.A. trade unions experience an unexpected revival

The unions are simultaneously tapping into and feeding a rising assertiveness in the US labor movement, which has seen union membership dwindle for two generations. The union of car factory workers booked a particularly important victory, but the rising awareness goes beyond. The leader of the car worker union explains that the working class got behind, while the rich strip the communities. “Only uniting for a common cause can stop that.” https://www.ft.com/content/72917cda-5eea-41f5-bd9b-19436269344e

FT The left in Argentina vows to stop government budget cuts

Union leaders called urgent meetings as the newly elected maverick libertarian president announced more details of his “shock therapy” plans. The government wants to halt the persistent deficits and extreme inflation. The pre-election propaganda turned to “relatively conventional” measures. One bank CEO: “So far, the new president has just swapped the chainsaw for the blender.” https://www.ft.com/content/5178b17c-da6a-468c-ad0a-a8683b42c5b2

FT Government in Germany strikes budget deal after court ruling (see November 29)

The coalition seals the 2024 spending plan after approving deep cuts to transport, industry and green projects. The chancellor stressed that funding to support Ukraine will continue and if necessary the debt brake would be temporarily suspended to that effect. For the rest social cohesion will sought to be strengthened and the debt brake remains an important asset. https://www.ft.com/content/0548df98-40de-481f-8b58-c5741c29af54

FT Guyana vows to defend itself against possible invasion of Venezuela

The international arbitration in 1899 that led to the two countries’ current border is leading for the government. The country seeks cooperation with allies, including the U.S.A., to defend itself. Venezuela wants the possible oil wealth in the region, at the time the world tries to negotiate to decarbonize. Its president also seeks ways to put his mark ahead of the elections in his country. https://www.ft.com/content/061c41ab-c1ce-40af-885d-5f2528eb8f03

NYT In South Africa court ruling threatens rule of tribal king of Zulu’s

Since the death of the former king in March 2021 after a 50-year reign, royal family members have lobbed heated accusations at one another, including claims that wills were forged, that rivals were poisoned, that secret meetings were convened and that the successor is living a socially deplorable life. The drama has captivated a nation home to about 14 million Zulus, whose language is the most widely spoken in South Africa. In March 2022 the president of the country gave the necessary legal approval of the king but the judge now considers that the king did not heed the necessary requirements for dispute settling. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/12/world/africa/zulu-king-south-africa.html

December 15

FT PM in Japan fires four ministers to avoid political collapse

The ruling party is investigated for political funding scandals and the popularity of the government is suffering. The PM: “There is no political stability without the trust of the people”. The scandal may “dramatically alter” the post WWII power balance shaped by the ruling party. https://www.ft.com/content/e0d20d72-91cf-4f26-a0e6-2363eee1f930T

FT Ruling party in Argentina needs to make concessions due to fragmented parliament

Argentina’s ruling libertarian party according to its new leader in the lower house however “will not drop the president’s plan and end Argentina’s decline. We won’t negotiate on the ideas.” https://www.ft.com/content/1dfa676b-b7de-41ac-9f45-7981831886c3

December 16

FT Former Swiss bank CEO starts campaign to lead Ivory Coast

First he has to become the leader of the fairly well organized center-right party. He left the country 25 years ago after a coup. He also has to give up his dual citizenship. His mother is a niece of the founding president of the country. At 61 he is relatively young in the country’s politics. The incumbent, also a banker by profession, is now 81. https://www.ft.com/content/1ea10b39-b9bc-49c7-a233-e55550956f95

FT In Iran dancing taxi driver becomes anti-regime hero

A video showing the 70 year old dancing at a fish market went viral, after which the government decided to clamp down on it and labelled it anti-Islamic. His Instagram account was closed down and people that supported him reprimanded. This triggered a social media storm with people posting messages of solidarity. In a recent posting the dancing taxi driver assured he was never arrested and treated well during the ordeal. https://www.ft.com/content/39b47e62-001d-48c5-8c17-e6568d9160af

FT Hong Kong media tycoon set for trial in China

The rags-to-riches 76 year old is already three years in prison. He is tried under the 2020 National Security law that was introduced in 2020 in the wake of the pro-democracy protests. One analyst said that the media tycoon, who also has British citizenship, is the regime’s no. 1 enemy. https://www.ft.com/content/152a0093-7443-4ad2-98c3-dee5c3a9eb03

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Evangelical Christians stand in solidarity for creation care: Reflecting on the outcomes and challenges of COP28: https://worldea.org/news/24918/evangelical-christians-stand-in-solidarity-for-creation-care-reflecting-on-the-outcomes-and-challenges-of-cop28/

December 18

FT The world’s biggest economic problem is Africa

One of the newspaper’s regular columnists in an op-ed claims countries in Africa have been unable to capitalize on their demographic dividend. Elsewhere a baby bust is slowing growth but in Africa a baby boom fails to bring the possibility of the opposite. In Africa the scenario of the past in Asia (with annual growth of 9 percent) does not yet happen. Over the past five years, only three of the 54 African economies have grown at an annual rate of more than 6 per cent: Ethiopia, Benin and Rwanda. The columnist: “In Asia, strongman rulers guided the region’s postwar rise to prosperity; in Africa, the strongmen tend only to perpetuate themselves.” https://www.ft.com/content/178bdc1c-256b-475b-b7c1-a9f68df9f933

FT The high stakes in de DRC election

The newspaper believes that a “successful vote” could lead to a minerals-driven boom that could lift millions out of poverty, but the opposition says it is not a fair fight. The incumbent points to his main contender as a ‘candidat de l’étranger”, making clear this contest is of regional importance. The country is a state the size of western Europe bordering nine countries at the heart of the world’s poorest but perhaps also the continent with the most potential. The government likes to push aside allegations of electoral fraud that have dogged the first term of the incumbent. In his campaign he relies on nationalist rhetoric. https://www.ft.com/content/2781543f-8099-4275-914b-b798db3e69f2

FT Cardinal convicted of embezzlement in landmark Vatican court case

A cardinal who oversaw the financial management of the church state from 2011 to 2018 has been convicted of multiple counts of embezzlement and fraud in a landmark corruption case. In total 7 people were convicted. The case was centering on an ill-fated London property investment, see June 23, 2022. https://www.ft.com/content/1aef2852-93b2-4761-afce-e96b1b846918

FT Kuwait’s ruler dies at 86 after brief reign

He pursued policies to bring greater cohesion to the oil-rich country. Among them a political reset with concessions to the opposition, political amnesties and anti-corruption moves in the ruling elite. His three year rule started when he took over from his 91 year old half-brother. Two of those years daily decision making was done by his 83 year old half-brother, who will now take over from him. The line of ageing rulers contrasts with younger leadership elsewhere in the Gulf. A crown prince will be named at a later date. https://www.ft.com/content/2ea257fb-efee-48a2-80a6-fe7d3efdeb80

NYT In shift to the right, New Zealand reconsiders pro-Māori policies

It is a rarity among nations that were once colonized: a country that widely uses its Indigenous language, where a treaty with its first peoples is mostly honored and where Indigenous people have permanent representation in the halls of power. The decades-long push to support Māori, New Zealand’s Indigenous people — who lag far behind the wider population in terms of health and wealth and have higher incarceration rates — is now in peril. The government denies the shift in policies. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/16/world/australia/new-zealand-maori-rights.html

December 19

FT Ruling party wins election in Serbia and opposition allege fraud in capital

The ruling party did better than the polls suggested and can now govern without a coalition partner. The opposition claims fraud in the capital, where public transport was seen near polling stations, allegedly with people from the outside who voted. The winner has nationalist credentials but came close to agreeing a deal on neighboring Kosovo where a Serbian minority is in a protracted conflict. This did not hurt his election result. https://www.ft.com/content/c9f66d7f-c783-478d-bf20-92ccf6257084

FT Protests in Panama against critical commodities mining exposes risks energy transition

A mine delivering 1,5 percent of the world’s copper and 5 percent of the GDP of Panama was closed through a court decision after massive protests. Litigation claims rising to as big as 50 Bn threaten. The foreign company and the government are accused of mishandling communication with the indigenous population as the case reminds of a similar case in the 1980s. One analyst talks of an “undervaluation of the need for social acceptability”. https://www.ft.com/content/1d3e72fb-9c6d-48da-963d-31afd456850f

FT Citizens in Chile reject second attempt to rewrite constitution

This was an attempt from right-wing politics after the attempt from the left last year was rejected too (see September 6, 2022). The current attempt protected private business rights in education, health and pensions, promoted expulsion of illegal immigrants and limited strike rights to those engaged in collective negotiations. The clear rejection is seen as a defeat for politicians failing to tackle social discontent. The leftwing ruling party has pledged not to start another attempt to draft a new constitution. https://www.ft.com/content/70611572-1563-47d1-b0d7-0bc9aadf9138

FT Global chip producer casts shadow over election Taiwan

Voters question the influence of the giant company that dominates the country. The production of chips costs huge amounts of water and energy to the detriment of the environment and other business options. On its part the government fears efforts by countries to reshore the chips industry. https://www.ft.com/content/da2a81fa-2c0c-439d-9ab0-cc585ad1aeff

FT In the U.S.A. academics at top university fight back against influence of donors

The hostile arguments on the war in the Middle East have undermined the “longtime consensus” between the board, donors, alumni, faculty and administration (see also December 13). An activist donor of Penn university challenges the governance structure of the university. The president of the American Association of University professors: “Donors are taking advantage of a terrible situation to undermine higher education.” Funding of once state funded universities is undermined by the influence that comes with private donations. https://www.ft.com/content/0c180bcd-3882-4a3d-ad04-6166284984ab

December 20

FT Debts of poor countries keep too many people in destitution

The concerned countries need more support from wealthier countries. The cost of debt service has soared in poor countries. The total number of countries in this category is 75 and three quarters are from Africa. Whereas many of them are poorly managed, this does not tell the whole story. They are fragile in multiple ways and therefore are caught in poverty traps. https://www.ft.com/content/395f178d-50b4-454a-b971-72116919aa4c

FT Opposition in Zimbabwe protests after disappointing election result

At the August general election the government did not secure an overwhelming majority. In due course it threw the opposition leader out of parliament and organized by-elections without him and other critical candidates from his party. Another opposition party member declared himself interim SG. In this way the ruling party seeks to organize a two-third majority to be able to change the constitution and allow for more than two presidential terms. https://www.ft.com/content/00dba960-57ff-4da7-9a8d-29062bc2d22f

FT Fear and anger stalk Israeli citizens in communities at frontier with Gaza

They were told to be safe in the past which proved not true. Despite this shock the support for the war with the neighboring Gaza strip is overwhelming and people want Gaza to be handled like the neighbor on the other side, the Westbank. This feeling exists across the country. https://www.ft.com/content/d7997655-25ca-445b-a4f9-6e4d27b8ce22

FT Capital of Germany needs to rerun federal election

Two years after the election the country’s top court decided results were unsound. Earlier this year the city election also had to be rerun and the socialist party lost the city’s majority for the first time in 100 years. The rerun of the federal election in 20 percent of the voting districts is sufficiently limited not to hit the smaller communist party to be thrown out of parliament for losing to meet the electoral threshold. https://www.ft.com/content/f59ed1d4-1140-46f7-9acd-56f7cac142b4

FT Letter to the editor on the December 12 article about worker dormitories in India

The director of one of India’s largest garment manufacturing businesses in this letter makes the notable observation that women in Southern India are not interested in working overtime to earn extra money. They want to go home in the evening. If workers are needed for a sustained period of time housing complexes should be considered. He points to a Tata project of 1907, Sakchi, named Jamshedpur in 1919. https://www.ft.com/content/d5413b4b-c6f9-49b8-9b95-eab8a89987a3

NYT In Myanmar disappearances create a climate of fear

At least 16 young men disappeared last month. The ruling military, which is struggling with recruitment, denies abducting young men and boys to fill its ranks. But five men say it happened to them. At least 4,500 soldiers have defected from the army, according to a human rights group. While that accounts for a small percentage of the army’s total personnel, estimated at 280,000 to 350,000 people, the number of deserters has doubled since the start of the year. In the past the army was known to have relied on forced labor. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/19/world/asia/myanmar-disappearances-military.html

December 21

FT Election in DRC hit by delays

In the interior the rainy season turns the surface to mud. In the capital of 17 Mn inhabitants FT found polling stations still not open two hours after voting was meant to be started. The incumbent, who took office after much criticized elections in 2018, faces 18 contenders. FT: “Congo’s Catholic and Protestant churches are among the most trusted institutions in a country.” They are expected to deploy tens of thousands electoral observers. The final result is not expected before December 31. https://www.ft.com/content/0143b97e-a8ae-4908-9d64-4710d0ca5702

FT New government in Poland takes state TV channel off air

The new government says it acts according to campaign pledges and “restoring legal order and common decency in public life”. On his part the president of the country warned the new government to “respect the constitution” and not to circumvent media regulation. https://www.ft.com/content/4321e681-f81c-4111-b3b5-13260a6c2d33

FT PM of India: our nation is in a cusp of a takeoff

The 73-year-old leader is broadly expected to be reelected for a third term next year. The opposition claims democratic backsliding — which the ruling party rejects — at a time when leaders around the world are betting heavily on India as a geopolitical and economic partner. The PM considers fears of amending the constitution as meaningless. He endorses the right to critique but also allows this right for both sides. He laments “insults to the intelligence of the Indian people” and also underestimation of the “deep commitment to values of diversity and democracy” of the Indian people. India aims to be a developed nation by 2047. Religious persecution (of Muslims) is countered by the PM by pointing to the Parsi “micro-minority”, persecuted elsewhere and living happily in India. https://www.ft.com/content/af288ffd-89f2-4cc0-ab71-92f00a9faab9

NYT In Sudan rebel forces take over town south east of Khartoum

The swift takeover on Tuesday of a major city in Sudan’s agricultural breadbasket by the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group has sent shock waves throughout the country. It raises doubt over the position of the Head of State, also the leader of the official army. Removing him may be difficult as he handles contacts with foreign allies. The leader of the rebels on social media said his forces would “not become an alternative army”, suggesting he wants to take the position of the army chief. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/20/world/africa/sudan-army-rsf-wad-madani.html

December 22

FT Inflation in Russia an issue in the prospect of presidential election

The pressure of common citizens are an issue and a crude joke by the president in his yearly interactive media presentation influenced import tax reduction to curb inflation. At the same time the central bank maintains a “hawkish” policy; the interest rate is higher than in Ukraine. https://www.ft.com/content/b3206a9f-e667-4e53-8a16-a8096188d4ae

FT Chancellor in Germany faces set back in case of tax write off for private banker during his time as city mayor

While the federal government grapples with coalition infighting, low public support and a worsening economy in Europe’s powerhouse, the chancellor is implicated in a court case against a private banker. The 371 page indictment mentions the chancellor in his previous role 28 times. The banker also made a contribution to the party of the chancellor. The seized diary of the banker contains explosive content, despite the denials of the concerned. https://www.ft.com/content/c39bc15e-9287-41ca-9231-4d5a758113d5

FT In China private statistics of falling home prices differ from state statistics

The newspaper, through interviewing more than a dozen brokers, found that house prices in the capital have fallen 10 – 30 percent from their peak in 2021. NBS, the national statistics bureau, calculated that house prices dipped 1.4 percent last month and were up 5 percent from 2021. A property platform had to apologize to the government for publishing that 12 percent of completed apartments in 28 major cities in China were empty. https://www.ft.com/content/0053c80f-886e-4f2f-8b5e-194185bbf01c

TT India rids penal code of the “slavery” of the British colonizers

The reform focuses on crimes against women and the need for swift justice. The minister of home affairs called the British “a foreign ruler”. It echoes remarks of the federal PM who consistently attacked the “slave mentality”. The 1860 code has been modified 80 times since liberation in 1948 but certain elements remained, particularly rules with regard to homosexuality and adultery. The act of obtaining sex by promising marriage to a woman will be treated as a crime for the first time and will carry a ten-year sentence. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/india-rids-penal-code-of-last-vestiges-of-the-raj-x57gz2t92

December 23

FT Migration issue pushes countries in Europe to the right

In 2015 the chancellor of Germany made her famous “We can do this” outcry to sustain the welcome for asylum seekers. Today the number of undocumented people entering Europe is actually lower. Yet, country after country is turning to the political right with migration as the main unresolved issue, even though asylum seeking is far lower than regular migration. Europe scrambled recently to make migration rules more strict. It may be too late to avoid France also turning to the right. https://www.ft.com/content/aad0afd4-57cf-4d34-ae42-7397354600de

FT Think tank of former British PM reaches record budget as governments seek for advice

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change peaks to 1,000 staff and the former PM himself as a volunteer. More than forty governments are seeking its advice and there is a waiting list. If things do not progress well in a country, the institute pulls out. The first thing a government is asked for is: Do you have a plan? A government needs direction. The second vital stand is to have technology deployed. Right now the institute works in 16 countries in Africa. https://www.ft.com/content/bcf1f1f5-a38f-4078-98f8-ab1ff7378895

December 24

FT In Chad new constitution approved in referendum

The government claims the vote will create an era of democratic rule even as the referendum was marred by opposition boycotts and allegations that it was a fix. The turnout was 64 percent and the approval rate was 86 percent. The old constitution was repealed after the former strongman was assassinated in 2021. A group of military personnel bypassed the constitution succession rule and made his son president. https://www.ft.com/content/b5243ef0-3bf5-45b3-bdc6-c31a7a338c8e

December 26

TT Bank chief presiding over national finance in Nigeria from 2014 until May 2023 accused of corruption

A former central bank governor has been accused of stashing £543 million in UK accounts and stealing £5 million from the vaults of the bank. He kept 593 accounts in banks in Britain, the U.S.A. and China. He is known for controversial policies, like the pre-election bank note swap that descended into chaos (see February 9). He is perceived as obstructing the presidential election winner on behalf of the retiring president. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/disgraced-nigerian-bank-chief-accused-of-hiding-543m-in-the-uk-0p82kq3rk

December 27

FT Bandits kill at least 160 people over Christmas in Central Nigeria

The region is particularly vulnerable to decades-long intercommunal violence between different ethnic and religious groups. The groups who travel with motorcycles are locally referred to as “bandits”. Human rights groups claim the government does too little to stem the violence. The office of the president declined a request for comment. https://www.ft.com/content/9adc2cdd-4516-4533-9a17-9625651ba977

FT Egypt to open landmark museum about its own ancient history in 2024

The minister for tourism & antiquities: “This museum will be about how 30 dynasties over a few thousand years created one of the earliest states in history and the values on which it was based.” The museum has been prepared for several decades. The building offers panoramic views of the pyramids. There are 100,000 pharaonic and predynastic artefacts to choose from. Five million tourists are expected to visit in its first year. https://www.ft.com/content/4a9ca541-bc2b-460d-ae95-ff7a5e684c87

FT Head of Unctad: Rich world uses green policies to hold back poor countries

In an interview with the newspaper the SG of Unctad explained that trade rules forbidding policies that can be used by developing countries can be circumvented by rich countries by subsidizing in the areas that are beneficial for the environment. She also lamented a case against Indonesia brought to the WTO by the EU. Indonesia wanted to move up the value chain and not just export raw material. They lost and the appeal stalled as the U.S.A. blocked the formation of a WTO appellate body. https://www.ft.com/content/e8b9d884-a210-46a7-9ad2-00cb07cfb08e

December 28

FT The unwelcome resurgence of war

The newspaper reflects on 2023 in an editorial under this tale telling title. It concludes that conflicts have surged and the civilians all over suffer. Apart from well publicized conflicts the newspaper also lists the conflict potential in the South Asian sea, in the Middle East, in the Sahel, Sudan and Myanmar. The newspaper claims there is no single explanation for the rise in conflicts but for Africa it lists the breakdown of central authority, climate change effects and the mineral boom. A peaceful perspective is lacking and the newspaper advises a combination of diplomacy, deterrence and prevention to make progress. https://www.ft.com/content/b3a9aaf2-f45d-4775-940d-9d70bc2f59a1

FT In France a move to the right is possible as the present government is increasingly unpopular

The present government will sit until 2027 but the opposition has newfound legitimacy since winning an unprecedented haul of seats in parliament last year and momentum in the polls since entering into the institutional mainstream. The government badly needs to provide effective solutions to the problems of the citizens, among them the cost of living, access to quality education and health and crime prevention. It survived a no-confidence vote over tightening immigration law after watering down its proposals to accommodate opposition support. https://www.ft.com/content/06147dd8-e8ad-41bd-8aa6-b400058b32e9

FT Environment minister in Brazil demands ceiling to oil production

The well-reputed Evangelical is interviewed by the newspaper, casting her in opposition to the government’s own plans of turning the nation into one of the biggest crude producers by 2029. The minister puts the ceiling to production in an international perspective. Still it raises questions over the two sides the present government tries to accommodate: climate change and economic progress. The government recently joined the OPEC+ group, though the president says it will only be as an observer. The environment minister now says tripling renewables cannot be done without a ceiling to fossil fuels. Illegal deforestation in the Amazon reduced by 50 percent under her administration, but the minister stresses victory cannot yet be claimed. https://www.ft.com/content/0a1745ef-39f2-45ad-a5ef-d89b96d039db

December 29

FT The morals of inequality over time

The Chair of the editorial board dedicates an op-ed to the morals of wealth accumulation in the western context since coin and paper money became the norm 700 years ago, the latter as an invention from China. In medieval times accumulation of wealth was considered connected to sinfulness and in the 21st century the moral unease seems to be entirely consumed with the exception of “the idea of using wealth overtly to control politics, culture or intellectual life”. https://www.ft.com/content/5c87d10e-76ed-487e-a78d-663df81edaa3

FT Central banks rethink forecasting after failures

The western central banks overlooked the potential of global price rises following their interest rate policy after the end of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ECB head: “What we should have learned is that we cannot just rely only on textbook cases and pure models. We have to think with a broader horizon.” httbvps://www.ft.com/content/5d7851f3-ef7c-4599-8a5c-c34cecb83511

FT New government in Poland puts state media into insolvency

The move represents a political struggle between the government and the president, who is from the ranks of the rightwing election losers. It comes after the president vetoed the budget as it contained funding for a state broadcaster styled by the new government. The government risks a snap election if a budget is not accepted before the end of January. https://www.ft.com/content/1861164c-1e41-4640-95a1-5615a0e9ba39

FT New government in Argentina puts 664 article bill in motion for radical overhaul of the political system of the country

Parliament must approve the bill but it will work already as a decree until that happens. In case approval of the bill is not achieved, the new president announced to organize a non-binding referendum “so that parliament can explain its motivations”. https://www.ft.com/content/4f10131f-7f5b-4888-8402-b11db3095964

TT Giant Hindu temple being constructed in India on disputed plot following a court decision in 2019 after a 27 year long case

It will be inaugurated on January 22. With almost 400 pillars, gigantic gold-plated doors and space for 200,000 worshippers, the priests in charge of the Hindu temple being constructed in Ayodhya — the largest in India — say it has been built to last “a thousand years”. For this reason no concrete and iron are used, only stone. Soil from hundreds of Hindu holy sites across the country was transported and used in the foundation. The construction of all three floors of the temple will be completed by 2025. The cost of building the Ayodhya Ram temple has been estimated at about £170 million. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/modi-welcomes-gilded-hindu-temple-built-to-last-a-thousand-years-6kpr96jb3

TT Investors in Scandinavia rise up against Tesla as it fails to respect national labor culture

The dispute is a collision with the company’s notorious disregard for unions, see also December 2. The company boss recently claimed trade unions “create a lords and peasants sort of thing”. In Scandinavia there exists a grand bargain between labor and capital. In the meantime Tesla advertises for a “Nordics public policy and business development manager” to ensure that local conditions “support Tesla’s mission”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/teslas-battle-with-nordic-trade-unions-alarms-investors-dsx7hjn8j

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Global Forum for a World Without Orphans, February 29–March 3: https://worldea.org/news/24934/global-forum-for-a-world-without-orphans-february-29-march-3-2024/

December 31

NYT In Burundi president suggests gay people should be stoned

In a Q&A the president railed against what he called western sexual freedoms and said they should not be allowed in countries in Africa. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/31/world/africa/burundi-president-gay-people-stoned.html

NYT In DRC incumbent declared winner of presidential election

18 million out of 44 million registered voters casted the ballot. The president won more than 13 million of them, according to the results published by the electoral commission. Five opposition leaders declared events a “sham” election.  Logistical chaos marred the election that cost 1.25 Bn to run. The electoral commission insisted that extending the vote did not undermine its legitimacy. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/31/world/africa/congo-election-results.html


FT = Financial Times, TT = The Times, NYT = New York Times. Nearly all Africa related items in the FT and all religious life oriented items are included. Original articles may be editorials, news reports or blogs. The focus is on (potentially) enduring trends in statehood, valuable for SDG16.