January 2

FT Why the Sustainable Development Goals are a bad idea

In an op-ed the Africa editor of the newspaper deplores the UN SDGs as a wishlist, out of it completeness and complexity actually unsustainable. “The sustainable development goals prioritize everything. In the real world, that is to prioritize nothing.” https://www.ft.com/content/ceedd447-a6d1-4773-9a8a-e3b25a50645c

FT The child care system in the U.S.A. is broken

The government wants to be rebuilding America’s industrial economy, and rebuilding its care economy. The latter goal is still in danger, and that has potentially big implications for the labor markets and inflation. Essentially child care is only affordable for elites and government support is needed. The government has acknowledged that but the funding law is very unlikely to pass. https://www.ft.com/content/1cb8cce0-89d9-4be6-8994-8fd29f3425d9

FT West Bank economy ravaged by Israel war with Gaza strip

Palestinians are very limited in travel to Israel for work or shopping. Hostilities with the Israeli settlers and fear of being taken by the Israeli soldiers are also limiting movement. This comes in addition to the withholding of payments to the Palestinian Authority, see January 5. https://www.ft.com/content/d734002c-4377-4d1a-a4d1-02daea6a6189

FT Can the unpopular incumbent in the U.S.A. beat his contender again?

The president’s struggles have triggered a whirlwind of discussion among Democrats about his capacity to win re-election — and whether anyone can do anything to change the dynamic. The elderly president hails the facts about his first term, economically successful, but it does not show in the polls. His opponent is only three years younger but does not suffer from the discussion of being too old to run. The present campaign is only for the party leadership, but the president has now turned to his opponents extreme accusations. https://www.ft.com/content/00e33739-7d5d-4cda-9304-89700d2135c3

FT Rival of PM in Bangladesh handed 6 month jail sentence

The 83 year old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is convicted for a labor conflict. His supporters see it as a vendetta by the authorities of the country. The microfinance banker is not a candidate but the incumbent cracks down generally on dissent. She is known for having described the convicted as a “blood sucker of the poor”. https://www.ft.com/content/94c92a43-eeeb-4c00-b3bb-5abc56696ea2

January 3

FT Women in Afghanistan take education online

Digital education platforms note a surge in demand for online training from Afghanistan since the rulers, who are not recognized by any other government, curbed female education to apply their take of the Koran. UNICEF calculated that some 1 Mn girls are affected by this rule. https://www.ft.com/content/3ac4860f-02dc-4015-88af-e2be74c9d1b9

FT Germany stuck between legal debt brake and investment for prosperity

The court ruling on government debt (see December 14) continues to fuel public debate. The German word Schuld means both debt and guilt, a blurring of morality and finance that, according to the economic historian Holtfrerich, is unique among big trading nations. Back in 2008 the former chancellor evoked the image of the “Swabian housewife” to express the deep conscience that binds the Germans to sustainability of public finance. Politicians of the left and economists want to quit the legal limits but a recent poll showed 61 percent support for the present rule. Among economists, support is 48 percent. Only 6 percent want to abolish it completely. https://www.ft.com/content/90b0a2d0-a9b0-49a9-beac-f8c3bd1b2914

FT Closed copper mine in the midst of independence drive of autonomous island Bougainville, now part of Papua New Guinea

In 1989 a local rebellion against pollution killed 10 percent of the island’s population and caused the closure of the mine. The energy transition increases copper demand to double to 50 Mn tons a year by 2035 compared with 2021. The present autonomous government sees the revival of the project as critical to the island’s economic destiny following a referendum in 2019 that almost unanimously backed independence from PNG. https://www.ft.com/content/2887fcc6-6a54-47d8-9f2b-0c83519fabaa

FT In South Korea opposition leader stabbed with knife and in hospital

The incident happened ahead of the parliamentary election in April. The victim lost the presidential election of 2022 with a margin of less than 1 percent. While South Korean governments are appointed by the president, the outcome of the parliamentary election will determine the government’s ability to pursue its legislative agenda. Polling suggests a close race. The president and the opposition leader differ in their approach to neighbor and former invader Japan. https://www.ft.com/content/07ff559e-992f-41c6-b567-0103079d6471

TT King in Morocco defies civil authorities in his ties with convicted friend

Top officials have broken the rule of staying silent in crown matters and started a claim to the friends’ family, calling them “notorious crooks”. The reports were seen as an attempt to persuade the king, 60, to cool the relationship. On their part the family concerned has started three defamation cases against an authorities friendly news outlet. The case of this friendship has already lasted six years. By mid-last year elites were relieved that the king showed more activity in his reign (see August 21) but he kept a very low profile during the September earthquake. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/king-of-morocco-approved-legal-action-against-website-x7x3xq0wm

January 4

FT Can democracy survive 2024?

The newspaper: “It is the most intense and cacophonous 12 months of democracy the world has seen since the idea was minted more than 2,500 years ago.” It will start on January 7, when Bangladesh will cast the first vote in their national election. The statistics for 2024 are illuminating: 2 Bn people will have elections, eight out of ten of the most populous nations and in total 70 countries are involved. This seems a success for democracy but in reality illiberalism is spreading. There are four distinct electoral cultures at stake: tyrannical leadership (jailing opposition), “performative democracy” (opposition is not allowed to win), “subtle erosion” (genuinely free and fair elections of leaders overseeing illiberal policies) and what the newspaper calls “older democracies” (populism doing its work). The newspaper stresses that diversity of views in a country is important. https://www.ft.com/content/077e28d8-3e3b-4aa7-a155-2205c11e826f

FT In South Africa opposition splinters in battle with ruling party

The fragmentation of the opposition into a host of smaller groups will see them fighting each other and not the ruling party. The main opposition party joined several others in a “charter”, but this is judged as “too little, too late”. The charter members have ruled out a coalition with the ruling party and the third political power, an ultraleft group. https://www.ft.com/content/f1f70d65-7198-4601-aeec-9912771fbafa

January 5

FT President of Sierra Leone until 2018 in court for treason charges

Tensions run high in the country after nationally and internationally disputed elections in which the incumbent won (see June 24). Later, a coup was attempted (see November 29). The president until 2018 was under house arrest but ECOWAS is in the process of mediating his position. He would travel to Nigeria “on a temporary basis”, but the court case continues. https://www.ft.com/content/b339ea42-0a1b-4665-90f1-826504a33f0e

FT Will the election of January 7 turn Bangladesh into a de facto one-party state?

The PM from 1996 – 2001 and from 2009 until now seeks a fifth term. The 170 Mn citizens strong country has been transformed from one of the world’s poorest to a major global industrial hub. The country suffered from global inflation, triggering worker strikes (see November 3), factory owner complaints about the low customer prices (see November 16) but also a clamp down on the opposition. The main opposition party claims at least 20.000 of its members are arrested. It boycotts the election. Some minor opposition candidates seem to tacitly support the ruling party. https://www.ft.com/content/5d853f66-0937-4ea0-bddf-e8541dbeb3c5

FT West Bank Palestinian authority (PA) PM feels his government is pushed to the edge of the edge

Israel in the context of its war with the Gaza strip restricted the PA, withholding hundreds of millions of shekels in tax revenues that it collects on behalf of the PA. The PM said he fears Israel wants to separate Gaza and the West Bank. He said any lasting settlement would require consensus among the Palestinian factions. https://www.ft.com/content/dc9a9d80-7b71-4ece-b9c7-68ef968daf3b

FT In Brazil attempts are underway to revive the historic center of Sao Paulo and save it from its criminal dominance

The operation looks like what happened in European cities in the 18th and 19th century and in New York in the mid-20th century. The question is the economic motor of the efforts. The local administration has over 6 Bn saved from a pension reform in 2017, and years of privatizations and austerity budgets. But citizens also need to be able to benefit from economic opportunity. https://www.ft.com/content/d7d68afb-eb79-40a0-ade0-17d069649fd6

FT In Poland parliament becomes media hit with government change

The YouTube channel of the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, has attracted more than 650,000 subscribers, more than five times that of Germany’s Bundestag. The swearing in session of the new PM got 4.2 Mn views. Behind the success is the new speaker, the PM’s coalition partner and a former host of Poland Got Talent TV show. He got third in the last presidential election but wants to give it another try in 2025. https://www.ft.com/content/3d3bc484-b206-4383-b24b-408e50f9fc91

TT Vatican defends blessing of gay couples after protest of bishops

To placate traditional bishops, the Vatican note (see November 10) stressed the rule did not imply approval of gay marriage. It defined  the blessing as limited to morally acceptable behavior and a short act, 10 – 15 seconds. Bishops in Kazakhstan, Zambia and Malawi refused to adopt the new rule. The Vatican now warns priests of the danger and advises them to act prudently in situations where threats exist with regard to sexual orientation. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vatican-defends-blessings-gay-couples-pope-francis-m3krr920d

January 6

FT Politicians in Germany concerned about protest violence

Following the debt brake ruling the government had to strike a budget deal with deep cuts in expenditure (see December 14). Farmers blocked a ferry with the Deputy Chancellor on board to protest the cuts, despite the already agreed concessions. This turned violent. The chancellor: “This violated all the rules of democratic coexistence”. His affected deputy stated: “The right to protest in Germany is a precious asset. Coercion and violence destroy this asset.” https://www.ft.com/content/2d0af8e4-d573-4bb6-a4c4-70e092802438

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA Secretary General visits the Japan Evangelical Association. https://worldea.org/news/24531/wea-secretary-general-visits-the-japan-evangelical-association/

January 8

FT In Ireland political arm of former liberation army of Northern Ireland eyes power

With two other parties having led the country since partition in 1921, the progressive party is growing in the polls thanks to the charismatic leader. Her focus is on fixing a chronic housing crisis rather than on the party’s core pledge to reunite the island after a century of partition. And she declares to be talking to all other parties after the election, “because that is the democratic thing to do”. https://www.ft.com/content/89dd3b94-d2c8-495c-8be8-a610763e1422

FT Vice-president in Argentina seen as counterbalance to radical president

She built a career on cultural conservatism. She achieved an early win for the candidacy of senate leader, despite the ruling party’s minority in parliament. The president changed his mind on his promise to her and handed the security and defense posts to coalition parties. The vice-president is a gifted communicator and expected to become more vocal when the most rampant economic issues are settled. She is expected to pursue her vision of re-writing the recent history of the country. https://w.ft.com/content/aab162b5-ac73-4682-bc96-8c319eeac43b

FT Scandals surround PM in Japan

The government has just changed its pacifist policy in view of world events but at home nobody cares. Japan’s biggest political funding scandal in more than three decades, and the handling of the January 1 earthquake off the west coast that has killed more than 100 people is causing the ruling party to suffer in the polls. This puzzles the international partners. What will happen if the ruling party loses in elections? https://www.ft.com/content/7f1b0deb-bd0c-4370-a0c7-a2ea9e879ced

FT Elite university in U.S.A. has become ground zero in battle of academic direction

Harvard is a likely target in the country’s broader “culture wars” against higher education. Not only did its president fail to perform in a recent congressional hearing (see December 8), but the university is also accused of too much emphasis on diversity and insufficient breadth of political views. The presidents at more elite universities see strategy, communication and fundraising to be their most important roles, with crisis management an important consideration while far less time was being spent on student engagement. https://www.ft.com/content/16ded3c2-1894-4855-b939-a2b4b7902b04

FT Incumbent in Bangladesh wins fifth term in election

The government arrested thousands of opposition party supporters prior to the election. The main opposition party boycotted the election. Officials said about 40 per cent of eligible voters participated, down from around 80 per cent in 2018.  https://www.ft.com/content/e25fb885-8ddf-4361-99b1-1af393be6368

January 9

FT New government in Argentina faces test over court judgement in U.S.A.

The government has pledged it wants to stop being a notorious defaulter but faces meeting a looming deadline on the $16bn it owes to former private shareholders of a state energy company. The claim goes back to policy in 2012 and is handled by litigation funders. They might want to seize Argentina’s investments in the U.S.A., which is near to impossible as they are protected by U.S.A. law. https://www.ft.com/content/88731450-2019-4375-a544-24d2f511bf28

FT Brazil warns against surge in dengue mosquito-borne disease

The potentially fatal disease is increasing due to extreme weather conditions. It comes in four variants. All of them are now active in the country. Infection by one does not create immunity for the others. Vaccine supply is limited due to manufacturing bottlenecks. https://www.ft.com/content/2f3b9b80-7b9a-42d4-bf7f-ea8492a8da24

FT In Slovakia leader of coalition partner in new Eurosceptic government will run for presidency

The current president last June announced she would not seek another term. This changed the dynamics in the country. The Eurosceptics won the parliamentary election (see October 6). The presidential election will be on March 23 (with possible run off on April 6). https://www.ft.com/content/cde9bed8-d204-4c61-8748-9004d3b409b9

NYT Aide to former president of Gambia faces charges of crimes against humanity in Switzerland

The person is seeking asylum in the country. The former president himself resides in Equatorial Guinea and is also sought after. In recent years perpetrators of crimes against humanity have been convicted in Sweden and Germany. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/08/world/europe/gambia-switzerland-ousman-sonko.html

January 10

FT Violence erupts in Ecuador after drugs gang leader escapes from jail

The newly elected president had promised to reign in on surging violence, see November 28. He insists on continuing  to fight criminal gangs. The government yesterday declared a state of emergency for 90 days. Despite that, several violent incidents happened. https://www.ft.com/content/b40305cd-099b-42f4-a244-1ac16b8e9dd5

FT India grows faster than most larger economies

Extreme poverty has been reduced from 18.7 to 12 percent from 2015 – 2021. This was made possible partly by generous social transfers to the poorest by the government. The digitalization of the banking system was a factor to make this possible. Also the middle class is growing rapidly from 300 Mn in 2014 to 520 Mn now. Youth unemployment is still problematic and women employment actually reduced over the period. Infrastructure development has surged. https://www.ft.com/content/8299d318-7c35-49a0-9a9a-b8e5abeba7be

FT Pakistan top court paves the way for former PM to run in election

The ruling overturns a lifelong ban of politics for people with criminal convictions. The former PM returned from self-imposed exile in October. He was removed as prime minister by the Supreme Court in 2017 over “dishonest practices” following revelations of unaccounted family wealth. His successor as PM is now jailed. A general election is currently scheduled for February 8. https://www.ft.com/content/9e7448ec-caf1-4048-9b39-41ced13dd447

January 11

FT Government of France attempts a reboot to facilitate governance

The young, telegenic and quick-witted 34-year old education minister is appointed as PM by the president, by this favoring a popular politician over a technocrat. It is a risk against the backdrop of social discontent reflected in violent protests last year. The ruling party lacks a parliamentary majority. In an Editorial the newspaper concludes the president, despite a record of successes, is anxious to avoid his far-right opponent to win in 2027. This broader trend in Europe is more serious in France through its presidential system with its options to impose legislation. https://www.ft.com/content/aa96d572-4a49-4604-941c-311eb4d61178

FT Global minimum tax will boost tax havens, according to OECD

In those tax havens tax will increase. Companies will not easily relocate. The new regime, starting from January 1, will land multinationals taxed below a 15 per cent rate in one country to be charged a top-up levy in other countries. https://www.ft.com/content/9236c819-bdc7-401e-a9e2-fe59d06ebe29

NYT Papua New Guinea asks military to restore order after violent protests

Unrest started after hundreds of police and civil servants walked off their jobs to protest at the parliament building. Their wage had been reduced. The PM said that this was not an extra tax but due to a computer problem. The missing amount would be paid next month. The resource rich country suffers from high youth unemployment and other social issues. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/10/world/australia/papua-new-guinea-protest-military.html

January 12

FT The rising threat to democracy of Artificial Intelligence

Around half the adult population of the world can go to the polls in 2024. Online disinformation has been an issue for many years but is now strongly enhanced by AI, making it possible to fake others in a convincing way. The perpetrators remain mostly unknown and the precise impact on the result is impossible to gauge. The efforts of the US-based tech groups to invest in fact-checking and tackling misinformation has also become politicized. One scientist: “This will need a paradigm shift in our head.” https://www.ft.com/content/16f23c01-fa51-408e-acf5-0d30a5a1ebf2

FT Somalia is angry with Ethiopia over its deal to a de facto independent region

On January 1 Ethiopia opened dialogue to formally recognize Somaliland, in return for a 50-year lease of a 20km strip of land around the Gulf of Aden port of Berbera. At the moment Ethiopia exports 95 percent of its production via Djibouti. Having its own base at the sea would give the country more influence in the region. Somaliland declared independence in 1991 but is not recognized by any country. Ethiopia became landlocked in 1991 after Eritrea became independent. Behind the scenes UAE is exercising influence. https://www.ft.com/content/f1a7ffa3-03d8-46e4-a009-3710b4abc27d

FT Constitutional court in Poland shields central banker from prosecution with 3 vs 2 decision

At the same time the court validated the result of the October election. The current PM during election time has repeatedly criticized the central bank governor who reduced the interest rate. This was seen as support for the incumbent. This week two opposition parliamentarians were arrested despite a presidential pardon. https://www.ft.com/content/7e6c99cc-cc8c-47c9-af18-4361e3ff1667

January 13

FT Opposition politician in Serbia accuses secret service of maltreatment

He lodged a complaint with the UN committee against torture earlier this week. The secret service confirmed that the politician is in custody on charges of inciting ethnic hatred, but denied that any violence was inflicted upon him. The politician posted an apology for Serbian war crimes in Kosovo, where Serbians are a minority. He has pleaded for recognizing Kosovo as a sovereign nation. https://www.ft.com/content/46800b6f-e709-42e8-8efc-fe0290fe2367

January 15

FT National opposition party in South Africa  seeks to benefit from success on local level

The party still has the image of a white party and its main black politician deserted it five years ago. But as many of South Africa’s cities have fallen apart, Cape Town (run by them) has gained a reputation for economic growth and improved services. This is attributed to the local leadership but also to its stronger base in tax revenue and tourism. The Cape Town problems are all but solved and local efforts are limited due to the national gloom. https://www.ft.com/content/7acd9224-c5b1-4024-bc21-b3cc22b522c5

FT Half a year after election the winner takes office in Guatemala

Since his shock victory (see August 22) prosecutors, with support from radical rightwing groups in the country, have filed a number of cases against the election winner and anti-corruption candidate. His party also needs coalition partners. The president won with 58 percent of the vote but the party only has 23 out of 160 seats in parliament, the third largest in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/9cb507a8-d6c6-4ea9-8557-7d2907f99107

January 16

FT Third largest party is king maker after election in Taiwan

The party of the new president has 51 of the 113 seats in parliament. The China friendly contender took 52 seats. For the first time a third party stood up to the traditional two big parties. It accepted the cause for Taiwanese independence from China and drew young voters in big numbers by housing pledges. It has 8 seats in parliament and is a new organization founded less than five years ago. The direction of the party is still insecure and will show only after parliament starts. https://www.ft.com/content/8d197c43-ce38-4f29-89e0-7137f08295ee

TT Pope in TV interview claims isolation after lifting gay blessing ban

He refers to the resistance of conservative and regional leaders of the global church towards the recent decision of the Vatican to allow blessing of gay couples (see January 5). https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-gay-blessings-same-sex-catholic-church-vatican-n6fdch60c

January 17

FT Poland struggles in its efforts to let democracy take root

The newspaper dedicates an editorial on the issue and concludes: “if democracy is to take root in Poland long-term, the new government has to act with responsibility and restraint”. The administration has turned from conservative to liberal during the election but the president is still from the conservative party and shows his conviction. He shielded two convicted MP’s in his palace. The highest court also came to the rescue of a conservative appointee, see January 12. https://www.ft.com/content/7132d087-a5c6-4188-a733-fb5411507439

FT In Brazil government wants to deliver but perhaps by leaning on the failed strategy of the past

It looks to strengthen the role of the state in its bid to lift stagnant living standards in the nation of more than 200mn. The president: “I want to transform this country into a middle-class country where people can eat well, dress well, live well, relax well, and take care of their family.” A new tax law has improved the credit rating of Brazil, but relaxed spending rules are looming and cast a shadow of failures in the past. https://www.ft.com/content/5c9d5735-639e-47c0-9eb6-a1fae26096e8

FT North Korea abandons constitutional aim of unification with South Korea

The president ordered officials to close state agencies dedicated to unification and inter-Korean tourism. All reminders of the unification goal, including monuments, will be demolished. An analyst says the country is trying to resolve a “tricky ideological contradiction” between nuclear ambitions and cherishing historic compatriotism. https://www.ft.com/content/206dd3e6-19db-4cdf-932a-033c92a1a221

January 18

FT Lack of transparency is a risk for emerging economies

Foggy statistics add risk for investors, and can raise the cost of capital for developing nations. The problems can arise from government secrecy. A big informal sector can also influence the quality of information. https://www.ft.com/content/187e4183-8e7c-44f3-88c0-444aa0594791

FT PM of India set to attend consecration of temple at place where Hindu God Ram was born

The 161ft tall pink sandstone shrine (see December 29) nicknamed the Hinduism’s Vatican was funded by donations from Indians and the diaspora. The authorities built the accompanying infrastructure, including a new airport. It is one of the three contested sites with the Muslim minority. A decision on a mosque in Varanasi, which sits alongside the Hindu Kashi Vishwanath temple, is expected by June. India’s PM: “No country can progress without securing its heritage along with development.” https://www.ft.com/content/de699b3e-1e47-4248-a036-ad744af0f0b1

FT Amnesty law for separatists in Spain (see December 12) creates uncertainty in business climate

Business leaders and politicians from other regions criticized the law and a radical separatist group issued new threats to businesses. https://www.ft.com/content/bcf55b6b-5531-4c2a-9df8-dea6b6f200a4

January 19

FT Arab nations develop plan to end Israel-Hamas war and create Palestinian state

Israel should allow for “irreversible steps” to form an independent state for the Palestinians. The plan would include western nations agreeing to formally recognize a Palestinian state, or supporting the Palestinians being granted full membership of the UN. In turn Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel. https://www.ft.com/content/11890426-0250-4a3c-ba48-d8523924eb9c

FT Minister in Singapore charged with corruption for accepting gifts

It is “a graft accusation in the city-state that prides itself on its reputation for clean governance and transparency.” The charges came about six months after the anti-graft agency arrested the minister and his donor. His donor is not charged. Singapore’s ministers are among the highest paid in the world, earning about S$1mn a year, in part to discourage corruption. The charges come shortly before the ruling party changes leadership ahead of the 2025 election. https://www.ft.com/content/6db108d8-f44c-4fdc-86ee-e70df8c3177f

January 20

FT Charismatic leaders and empty parties are a bad recipe for democracy

The author, a Princeton university professor, in an op-ed argues that today’s problems with democracy neglect the role of a seemingly old-fashioned institution: the political party. We do see issue based parties arise and they can be seen as part of innovation. But often they lack the essential role of political member based parties: provide consistent programs over time, and to restrain a leader when necessary. https://www.ft.com/content/9016754a-317a-4371-b3a1-c25165ca6400

FT Mystery politician in Ghana reveals himself as alternative to the two main parties

On billboards his image was hidden. The person behind it was revealed when he was stopped (as #TheNewForce) to hold a political meeting. The authorities said the location was booked by others. He is a successful businessman who wants to pursue value addition to the resources of the country. His attempt may fail as the existing parties are better financed and organized. Elections are due in December. https://www.ft.com/content/c18ba3a8-3b9c-4653-9856-498f9b0f058f

FT Government disagreements in Israel split into the open

A centrist minister and observer to the country’s war cabinet in a TV interview called for new elections and declined to declare his trust in the PM. This former military leader, whose son was killed in action last month, said that the government should stop “selling fantasies” about the result of the conflict with the opponents of his country. The conflict in which the country is engaged “cannot be solved in a military way alone”. https://www.ft.com/content/e1a54af7-2ee7-416c-af2b-e4af42621556

FT Finance minister of Germany typifies his country as tired, not sick

He said the country needed to improve its productivity through structural reforms to strengthen the supply side of its economy, such as by improving the availability of labor, energy and digital technology. He is afraid to start a subsidy race (with the U.S.A.) and raise taxes. https://www.ft.com/content/f6eb32e6-dd1d-4532-af2a-583b26597b99

NYT Thailand imposes longest-ever sentence for criticizing royalty

An activist received 50 years in prison for sharing TV and film content on social media that violated the country’s law against defaming its monarchy. Many other cases are still in court. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/19/world/asia/thailand-sentence-royalty-defamation.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA selects new Youth Commission leader: https://worldea.org/news/25078/wea-selects-new-youth-commission-leader/

January 22

FT Insecurity in the Sahel threatens to spill over to coastal countries

The Accra Initiative, a grouping consisting of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo, aims to prevent the spillover of violence from the Sahel to the coast. Some places in the north of Ghana are too dangerous to visit. Yet, the director of academic affairs and research at the Accra-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, thinks the jihadi’s will not reach for the coast: “It’s lazy scholarship that doesn’t challenge this, and political expediency because it generates a lot of money from Europe.” https://www.ft.com/content/f9c0ca66-8c32-4906-9e22-f2d3fc0e8c67

January 23

FT First mass malaria vaccination campaign begins in Africa

The distribution of nearly 30mn jabs in the coming months marks a milestone. For now 12 countries are involved. In May or June a second type of vaccine will be distributed in 7 countries. In the latter campaign an industry from India is involved, making a bigger scale possible. https://www.ft.com/content/b6f03756-86ab-4912-aad0-9384198673ad

FT In Israel relatives of hostages held by Gaza military group storm parliament committee meeting

Discussion in Israel intensifies how the hostages can be freed and at what cost. https://www.ft.com/content/f59b908f-9d5b-473b-a0c7-9800811aabbf

FT Inauguration of major Hindu shrine turns into nationalism event with PM of India in key role

The giant complex, see also December 29 and January 10, sits on a disputed site. A 16th century mosque was destroyed there decades ago. Hindu’s cherish the site as the birthplace of their God Ram. The 73-year old PM hailed the opening and said that people would be talking about it “for thousands of years”. In the lead-up to the event, the PM had embarked on a nationwide tour of Hindu temples, during which he kept to an ascetic regimen, subsisting on coconut water and sleeping on a blanket on the floor for 11 days. https://www.ft.com/content/77258247-4db0-45d8-acae-5c6644f46c78

FT Japan rethinks business models as world’s fastest ageing society

It runs out of workers. The crisis happens despite the economy doing well or not. One way of tackling the demographic challenge is by introducing artificial appearances, robots and artificial intelligence to the workforce in key sectors. The country is scouting for new technologies all over the world. https://www.ft.com/content/ad850ad2-6752-4ca7-99f6-4b947d0b741e

January 24

FT Landmark genocide case against Israel seen as litmus test for rules based order in the global south

For Palestinians and their supporters, particularly in the “Global South”, the case is a test of the credibility of an international system they have long regarded as stacked against them. Palestinians see Palestine as a case of oppression of them for the past three-quarters of a century. The case will take years but a decision on emergency measures can be expected soon. https://www.ft.com/content/68074594-c625-4f7a-a1b0-6715a7cfc919

FT Nigeria vows to promote democratic ideals

In an interview with the newspaper the foreign minister said: “We should not put more emphasis on the fight against terrorism than strengthening democratic norms”. The new administration wants to reclaim its regional importance. He admitted that the Ecowas role in the Niger coup failed, claiming the mediation involved too many actors. The minister said the country was eager to join the BRICS and deserves a permanent seat in the Security Council, “which should be democratized beyond the five current permanent members”. https://www.ft.com/content/27061214-0c37-4f98-ab44-bbf5423de7d9

FT In China Ministry of State Security pursues more public and political role

It has abandoned its low profile role and advertises itself as fighting “subversion, separatism, terrorism and espionage”. It also took an account at the country’s most active social media platform to highlight interventions. Its political role has grown too. https://www.ft.com/content/f78c7243-2ff5-4f77-93d0-91c20f6b5548

TT 160 nations speak up against Uighur persecution in China

The review is the first since a UN human rights office report from 2022 said the detention of Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity. China denies the accusations and praises itself as a country where human rights are cherished. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nation-after-nation-condemns-chinas-persecution-of-uighurs-qmbgzd5tj

January 25

FT Indonesia looks into policy continuity after election of February 10

The constitutional terms of the president end. The17,500 islands nation with 204mn eligible voters was peaceful under his leadership. A ban on exporting raw nickel ore and bauxite forced industries to set up value addition onshore. The new president needs to find 50 percent of the vote. Otherwise there will be runoff in June. The leading candidate in the polls lost against the incumbent twice and has taken up the current president’s son as vice-president. For him the constitutional age limit was skipped (see October 21). https://www.ft.com/content/affa34ec-41ac-4b43-be4d-87ac9f5ae4f9

January 26

FT Nigeria anti-corruption watchdog raids office of richest African industrialist

This happens at the same time as his new oil refinery is to produce, promising a game changer for value addition of domestic resources. An anonymous official of the ruling party said that there must be a powerful hand behind the raid. The industrialist was close to the former president. https://www.ft.com/content/cd6c0dfa-eafc-4ff2-bcb9-772a6a11be5d

FT In Zimbabwe the opposition leader separates from his party

Following the August election where the party won 102 out of 280 votes the party showed internal struggles with a rival party leader taking hold as interim SG, a newly invented position (see December 20). An analyst pointed to infiltration of the opposition by the ruling party. The departed opposition leader now wants to start a new party. https://www.ft.com/content/08aaa76f-e681-4e02-94f4-34c35ee0d164

FT In France constitutional court rejects part of stricter immigration policy of government

The nine-member body consisting of former politicians and civil servants did base itself on procedural grounds, not on unconstitutionality. Among the rejections were stricter rules on family reunification and a yearly debate in parliament about immigration quota. They had been added to win support from the opposition, as the government lacks a majority in parliament. https://www.ft.com/content/1240bc9d-1e6f-4432-ae91-f8752d95be05

FT Government in Poland accuses opposition of coup attempt

The opposition leader has raised the point of legitimacy of the new government and called for a transition period for what he called an emergency situation (see also January 17). Two lawmakers of the now opposition were arrested and claimed to be tortured. https://www.ft.com/content/ee907f12-8670-4a09-8610-62b662d0381b

January 27

FT The IMF is an anchor adrift in a changing world economy

The western countries are over-represented but there are formidable obstacles to reform. The author considers it unlikely that the original nations will adjust to the relative weight of other stakeholders. https://www.ft.com/content/bd95f714-dc1c-4ee0-ba1b-af89c224c9ff

FT Critical industries and the battle for young talent

Sectors from oil and gas to defense face an uphill battle to find skilled staff. Young people are more value-oriented. There is also a communication gap between corporations and the labor market, according to the newspaper in an editorial. https://www.ft.com/content/3a743eee-b862-4e70-87d1-d8fe65ea5661

FT Sri Lanka raises hopes of resolution to $13bn debt stand-off

The bankrupt nation aims for restructuring soon, but private creditors say they have been left ‘in the dark’. A bondholder committee complained of “a significant lack of transparency” from government creditors about details of the terms that they offered Sri Lanka. https://www.ft.com/content/99333d04-7cba-4017-82cc-c98fd395407b

FT South Korean first lady’s $2,000 Dior handbag triggers graft accusations

The scandal sparks a row within the ruling party and criticisms of ‘authoritarian’ conduct ahead of the general election. She received the bag as a gift from a Korean-American pastor. Supporters of the president see him as a graft buster but this image is fading in his own party too. https://www.ft.com/content/0514da85-52f7-497a-b6ff-4fc97932c566

FT Italy’s central bank boss warns EU against ‘weaponizing’ euro

He says Europe should use the power of having a global currency wisely. If this is not done, other currencies will take up its role. https://www.ft.com/content/df4ac551-2668-410e-b8b5-7fda605602f4

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA contributes to World Economic Forum report released at Davos on faith and business: https://www.weforum.org/publications/faith-in-action-religion-and-spirituality-in-the-polycrisis/

January 29

FT Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger quit Ecowas in escalation of tension

The African states accuse the regional block of being a threat to its members and under the influence of foreign powers. https://www.ft.com/content/3e043c84-dc85-43b5-8f84-c2b96b0774e1

FT India tells tech giants to police deepfakes under ‘explicit’ rules

The technology minister says New Delhi has ‘woken up’ early to the dangers of AI-generated content due to the size of its online population and will hold tech companies accountable for AI-generated deep fake content on their platforms through “very clear and explicit rules”. He said his country positions itself between completely market oriented and completely citizen oriented. https://www.ft.com/content/fc600196-f821-4397-92fc-364ed8d2608a

FT Ecuador rushes to raise cash for costly war against drug gangs

The government aims to refinance the national debt and increase VAT to fund operations against traffickers. The tough line has soared the popularity of the president to 80 percent in the polls. https://www.ft.com/content/d12eaa01-c37a-4e62-96c9-4b1e23878268

January 30

FT South Korea’s birth rate has become a national emergency

A professor of Law in Seoul University wrote this op-ed and concludes that the country’s twin expenses of education and housing is putting young couples off having children. This problem is difficult to fix because it is so intertwined with the country’s culture. South Korean society is deeply competitive. The birth rate is at a worldwide record low: 0,72. https://www.ft.com/content/444a637b-9712-475b-8c14-9b147f4ff244

FT Pakistan battles rising terror threat in Afghan border regions

The government blames the rulers in Afghanistan for harboring militants despite supporting the group during the occupation by the U.S.A. Pakistan had hoped that the Afghan rulers would help rein in the militants in Pakistan. https://www.ft.com/content/f739d848-5061-412e-b55a-027502925a64

FT Medical firm refuses to join Ireland’s mother and baby home compensation scheme

The forerunners of the concerned pharma company tested vaccines at notorious institutions for decades. Some 34,000 survivors of the Catholic institutions where tens of thousands of unmarried mothers were closeted for decades are eligible to apply for compensation by the government. The firm claims to support human rights. https://www.ft.com/content/83867376-ec79-4b79-bf48-a626411c6dd8

NYT Ruling party in South Africa suspends former president

After defending the former South African president during a slew of corruption scandals, the country’s powerful ruling party punished him for endorsing an opposition party. The new party bears the name of the apartheid-era armed wing of the ruling party. The current president said the former president’s walk out came as “a total surprise”. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/29/world/africa/south-africa-jacob-zuma-anc.html

January 31

FT Welcome to the era of the non-state actor

It isn’t China or Russia who will dominate the post-American world. If states are not strengthened from within they give way to sub-state, non-state and anti-state forces. Among them “armed groups with a humanitarian cause”. The International Red Cross calculates that some 195mn are under their control. https://www.ft.com/content/16ec4c4c-b5d6-4198-89be-d825f8d2efaf

FT Former PM sentenced to 10 years in prison ahead of Pakistan election

His party says the latest conviction of the popular former cricket star is an attempt to suppress its vote on the February 8 election. The powerful military in the country is seen as behind the development. https://www.ft.com/content/22001ea1-273e-46d7-90d6-18b10327d574

FT In Spain regional leaders amnesty deal falters as separatists revolt

The hardline faction pushing for independence votes against the bill drafted to protect them. They wanted to involve in the amnesty those who are under investigation for terrorism. https://www.ft.com/content/a5b4bfe8-7949-44c6-8826-7580ce428dc3

FT Government in Ukraine prepares to replace top general

His removal would mark the biggest shake-up of military command since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country and comes after the failed counteroffensive. https://www.ft.com/content/aa9aacfc-c248-4550-bf28-d79ad4c553cb

February 1

FT The hidden cost of supermarket salmon in Europe

The fish sold by major retailers in Europe is harming the food security in west Africa. It uses fish oil and whole fish, crucially affecting west African diets. Locals say the price of sardines is soaring, while stocks of related species are on the verge of collapse. https://ig.ft.com/supermarket-salmon/

FT Nigeria devalues the naira in a bid to attract foreign investors

The new policy leaves the official exchange rate close to the black market rate and follows the removal of the fixed currency exchange rate that crippled free capital flow. https://www.ft.com/content/1729aa7c-3f92-4ff7-9310-c79b5e5cdb84

FT El Salvador’s gang inmates will face life in prison, vows president’s deputy

He is running for re-election as vice-president and defends the government’s sweeping crime crackdown. The country declared a state of emergency two years ago and arrests all people suspected of being part of criminal extortion gangs. https://www.ft.com/content/5ae644b9-8c07-40fd-acfb-2018c88db510

FT The UN agency in Gaza is in crisis. Palestinians may pay the price

The organization helping displaced people could shutter operations in weeks after funding was withdrawn over claims that staff members took part in Hamas attack on Israel. https://www.ft.com/content/bd8c3786-496a-41d2-b001-3b67cd7fe020

FT President of Poland asks top court to review the government budget

The new PM had warned against such an ‘irrational’ move that could lead to snap elections. See also January 17 & 26. https://www.ft.com/content/b509333a-0f4e-4689-9b17-e215997c6e66

FT ‘Dexit’ move would destroy Germany’s wealth, says the chancellor

He calls Brexit an ‘economic disaster’ for Britain in strong criticism of the far-right party’s proposal for Germany to leave the EU.  https://www.ft.com/content/14221be9-4daf-41ca-98c2-5459799499fd

TT Young rebels manage to drive back junta forces in Myanmar

Displaying unusual planning, three ethnic armies calling themselves the Brotherhood Alliance carried out coordinated attacks that took control of 150 junta outposts. A ceasefire brokered by the Chinese government has brought a halt to their advances. But according to Myanmar Peace Monitor, an NGO, ethnic armies and PDF groups have taken control of at least 35 towns across the country. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-teenage-rebels-vowing-to-defeat-myanmar-junta-5kqxvxx7f

NYT Court in Thailand rules that reform push for royal defamation law violates the constitution

Critics call the verdict against the attempt to change the law another blatant attempt to block the people’s will. The court sees the proposed law as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/31/world/asia/thailand-move-forward-loses-verdict.html

February 2

FT Former PM taps A.I. and TikTok to fight Pakistan election from jail

He is barred from next week’s vote, but the former prime minister is using chatbots and social media to energize his party’s supporters. A.I. voice generation is used to deliver his speeches from notes passed to his lawyers. Digital rallies are hosted and the chatbot on Facebook provides information about local candidates for the February 8 polls. https://www.ft.com/content/7c3c5827-c965-453c-8bd1-d1312e90669a

FT India government outlines record capital expenditure in final pre-election budget

The government plans to raise infrastructure spending and trim fiscal deficit as it touts an economic record. The fraying opposition will try to attack the government for failing to create more jobs for labor market entrants, despite the economic growth. https://www.ft.com/content/c668f539-1717-4c4b-b4d2-e0096ecef16e

February 3

FT The professor vs the PM: a political funding probe shakes the government in Japan

A campaigning academic exposed a scandal that threatens to topple the government. The law professor was able to spot discrepancies between the reporting of money raised by political organizations linked to ruling party politicians through fundraising parties and the revenue that the groups declared to the authorities. https://www.ft.com/content/24ca6ce5-8415-4523-ab49-7ea86615cf82

FT IMF chief expresses confidence in ‘pragmatic’ government of Argentine despite setbacks

The IMF managing director says she is “satisfied” by the libertarian plans of the government amid a congressional pushback. The official sees a capable economic team installed and said the new president recognized the need for “more social protection” for poorer Argentines. https://www.ft.com/content/79b4e7e2-9b1a-4b1b-8ff6-efc6f1bd960c

FT The ‘cult’ of a president: El Salvador’s bitcoin-loving strongman heads for second term

The millennial incumbent president is polling at 82 percent amid a crackdown on alleged gangsters. Critics say thousands are jailed without clear gang links. The former marketing manager has focused on changing the image of the country as poor and violent with headline-grabbing moves. He is a descendant of Palestinian Christian immigrants who built a textiles company.  https://www.ft.com/content/9ec562bd-4aef-4867-9ff0-3bd3194dca3d

FT The president of Slovakia is under pressure to ditch the plan to close the anti-corruption office

The Eurosceptic PM faces street protests and opposition from the parliament and the EU over his judicial overhaul. The president called the plan “inadmissible”. The president can overturn a decision of parliament but a second vote can undo that decision. https://www.ft.com/content/ffcf64bb-0b28-4514-87b1-d70b8601ae8c

FT Yes or no to PM?’: the looming choice for voters in Israel

The political class is positioning for an early election as the veneer of October 7 unity begins to fade. The PM would benefit from success in Gaza. If that does not happen, elections may be forced, particularly if the fighting in Gaza reduces. https://www.ft.com/content/d5693fc7-7c13-4509-a45d-db14423dfe77

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The February 2024 issue of Evangelical Review of Theology is available via this link: https://theology.worldea.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/ERT-48-1_web.pdf

February 5

The influence of Iran’s leading moderate leader is waning

The pro-reformist’s absence from the running for the Assembly of Experts highlights the hardliner’s grip on power. https://www.ft.com/content/0dcf0275-a271-442f-b69b-f058b0f6a434

FT Burst pipes and freezing flats plague Russia

Soviet utilities are failing in dire need of investment but the government is focused on defense spending. https://www.ft.com/content/81985842-e20a-4f2a-96b6-69aeddbe5109

FT The government in Argentine clashes with a province over its plans to issue its own currency

The olive-growing region of La Rioja issues a bold challenge to the libertarian central government austerity agenda. https://www.ft.com/content/1258d346-87ca-4c6b-9075-e9e741a51708

February 6

FT Ethiopia food crisis threatens ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

According to a western development minister the crisis has been provoked by drought as well as by a two-year civil war. The head of the federal government’s Disaster Risk Management Commission, said: “The information that the drought has escalated to famine is unfounded and is being propagated by entities with hidden agendas.” https://www.ft.com/content/7f2656fd-1dcd-4f5e-9ea9-5554710899c6

FT A constitutional crisis looms in Senegal after the president delays the election

Opposition groups denounce the ‘constitutional coup’ that jeopardizes democracy in the stable west African country. The delay was announced on Saturday “because of concerns over how the candidates were approved by the Constitutional Council”. Several opposition candidates cannot run as they are imprisoned for “insurrection”. https://www.ft.com/content/68e1959a-91ec-43d8-9b44-9503a46186d6

FT Container cities: Turkey’s earthquake zone one year on

Huge numbers of people still live in temporary shelters despite the pre-election pledge of the president to ‘heal the wounds to a considerable extent’ within 12 months. Engineers and urban planners say that the devastation worsened by lax enforcement of building codes and Turkey’s long history of amnesty programs providing forgiveness for faulty construction. https://www.ft.com/content/8f931f38-7952-44fd-8527-1ef1e402c5e3

FT Government in Poland moves ahead with plans to sack top court judges

The justice minister claims the overhaul is part of Warsaw mending ties with the EU over rule of law. The president (part of the biggest party, now in opposition) can still block a decision of parliament. The reform would then have to wait until presidential elections next year. https://www.ft.com/content/a990c360-e1d1-4554-8444-7c81a0159cc9

FT Russia moves to ban presidential candidate from running against incumbent

The anti-war candidate is in a long-shot bid that has enough supporters ahead of the election in March. The Central Election Commission found a 15 percent error rate in the collected signatures of endorsement. The candidate is going to challenge this. https://www.ft.com/content/54f3ffa0-78a0-4977-968a-78fa66a70e6a

February 7

FT in Italy tensions are flaring over migrant workers

As its population declines and ages, the country is confronting the increased cultural diversity that comes with a dependence on foreign labor. In one town tensions between the mayor and Muslim residents came to a head last year, when the city banned prayers at the local Islamic center that had been held for 20 years. https://www.ft.com/content/45d12b10-1485-4f30-a7c5-1718a11022aa

FT In Thailand the PM clashes with the central bank governor over $14bn handout plan

The stalemate over the move to issue one-off payments to low-income citizens complicates the forecasts for the country’s economic recovery. This e-wallet system has been plagued by questions over how to pay for it and its rollout is delayed. https://www.ft.com/content/4cb030db-32fa-4cae-947a-8905f87d359d

FT In Pakistan political dynasties jockey for power in an election lacking the popular frontrunner

The incoming government will face an economic crisis but lacks a popular mandate for much-needed reforms, analysts warn. Last month, the Supreme Court overturned a lifetime ban on people with criminal convictions from contesting elections, a decision widely seen as paving the way for a former PM to return to power (see January 10). https://www.ft.com/content/6982fea8-e619-4574-b9ea-fda2abcb684c

FT In Senegal the police ejects opposition MPs from parliament after a vote to delay election

The government’s move to postpone the election sparks protests in the capital. The delay bill was introduced by an opposition lawmaker from a party that voted alongside the ruling coalition in the eventual vote. https://www.ft.com/content/e8364da9-90d4-4c2c-86ab-5b2a67b3a4ac

FT In war torn Gaza citizens search in vain for medicines

Cancer, diabetes and heart disease patients are among those facing chronic shortage of treatments. “Like other kinds of humanitarian supplies, medicines do not enter Gaza in sufficient quantities to meet the need,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza. https://www.ft.com/content/1cd7faf1-5850-474c-b3e2-98b25ff00061

TT India prepares to pass uniform civil code overturning sharia law

The draft “uniform civil code” forces Indians of all faiths to subscribe to the same laws on marriage, divorce and inheritance — banning polygamy and giving women and men equal rights to inherit. It is rolled out in a 10 mn citizens state but a federal minister wants to bring it to the federal parliament as “promoting the unity of the country”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/india-prepares-to-pass-law-overturning-sharia-in-muslim-crackdown-3fxngt3fg

NYT Cult leader in Kenya is charged in the deaths of 191 children

When he preached that the world was about to end, many of his believers starved themselves to death. He has now been charged along with 29 others. The country’s interior minister last week declared the pastor’s church, Good News International Ministries, “an organized criminal group”. The accused was a taxi driver who reinvented himself as an evangelical pastor about two decades ago. The president of the country, an evangelical Christian, compared the episode to “terrorism” and appointed a commission to investigate the deaths. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/world/africa/kenyan-cult-leader-charged.html

February 8

FT The U.S.A. should not allow its trade program with Africa to die

In an Op-ed a director of an NGO Africa program argues that the so-called Growth and Opportunity Act should be reimagined and made fit for an era of renewed great power competition. The author proposes to rebrand the program to “Strategic Economic Partnership with Africa” to convey the shift from a quasi-aid instrument to a strategic trade partnership fit for today’s geopolitical realities. https://www.ft.com/content/9a758373-4c5b-40e7-859e-04e5beaa7e4f

FT Zambia raises hopes it will complete its long-delayed debt restructuring

The finance minister says that the dispute over the bondholder deal could be resolved in the first half of the year. Setting a time-line would be imprudent. Creditors complain on the terms offered for relieving their debts. The country works with a company from the gulf to finalize the debt problem. https://www.ft.com/content/6120619e-899c-4262-8580-36778850493c

FT Argentina’s congress deals a setback to the new government’s reform bill

The government withdrew legislation from the lower house’s floor after the opposition lawmakers rejected measures, whereas the week before they agreed to the whole package. The government called that “betrayal”. https://www.ft.com/content/d916ff3e-b9a8-4ce9-b4a8-6de350106863

FT China removes its head of market regulator as it battles a stock meltdown

The securities commission chair is seen as a ‘scapegoat’ for the plunge in share prices in recent months. The senior party official is replaced by an official who made a name for himself cracking down on brokerages. https://www.ft.com/content/d4b5d691-8a45-4545-9b31-86e1bccbe116

FT In the Netherlands rightwing election winner struggles to find coalition partners for government

One of the other parties walked out of the talks after new information emerged about the financial position of the country. https://www.ft.com/content/099f0264-78a9-4fe4-8053-45d055975929

TT Ecuador becomes the second Latin American state to allow euthanasia

The move came as a response to a legal claim of a terminally ill patient that was passed by the constitutional court. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ecuador-becomes-second-latin-american-state-to-allow-euthanasia-wxm3p05ss

February 9

FT West Africa should protect its fisheries from foreign fleets

Responding to a newspaper “Big Read”, see February 1, the Chief Scientist of the NGO Oceana in a letter to the editor advocates for protection of indigenous fishery. This will help rebuild critical fish stocks, protect artisanal fishers and processors, and work towards long-term sustainability of the sector, ensuring livelihoods and nutrition security. https://www.ft.com/content/5ffdf85b-a25d-4ff2-b55e-1af0184c50fc

FT Senegal’s ‘constitutional coup’ is part of a global democratic backsliding

The west African country is missing its election deadline. This has repercussions beyond its borders. The coup was milder than those of neighbors where weak leaders were elbowed aside by soldiers. The author, the newspaper’s Africa editor, concludes that perhaps that makes it even more significant. https://www.ft.com/content/c650b8cb-23b0-43a2-be9f-8243336642ca

FT Turkey central bank chief warns of new short-term price pressures

The official says some of the government’s policies are complicating the task of taming inflation. His predecessor resigned last Friday, blaming a smear campaign against her in the domestic media. https://www.ft.com/content/7200a1a9-f8d9-4161-bdf9-e215b76c4175

FT Ecuador arrests 6,000 people in month-long gang crackdown

The government escalates the ‘internal armed conflict’ as violence continues to roil the Andean country. The president can be compared with his colleague in El Salvador, see February 3, also a millennial and very popular among the population. https://www.ft.com/content/2a61dacb-0ec0-489a-9c12-8adb5b45aec7

FT In Brazil the former president is ordered to surrender his passport in a ‘coup plot’ probe

Three aides to the former president were arrested as the police set out details of an alleged plan to prevent the current administration taking office after the 2022 polls. https://www.ft.com/content/e51a8b98-96e1-4b2f-bdd0-e2439cd8cef4

FT Government in Ukraine dismisses the head of the armed forces

The move follows months of tensions between the president and the top commander. https://www.ft.com/content/b48ddc17-9384-490e-b3c4-a9d2ae2a72db

February 10

FT The incumbent kicks off the pivotal South Africa election campaign

In his State of the Nation address the president promises land for the poor and action on infrastructure ahead of an expected close-fought election. Though the president did not announce the date of the election, the country’s 27.5mn registered voters could head to the polls as early as May or as late as August. An opposition politician called the announced plans “a work of fiction”. https://www.ft.com/content/cc950b43-fbb5-4e84-8506-210b1ffd6665

FT Senegal cast into turmoil by  a ‘shockwave’ constitutional crisis

One of Africa’s most stable democracies reels after the election postponement to replace the president who served his maximum terms. With the opposition favorite in jail the president reiterated his “solemn commitment” he would not stand again. On the streets there were riots, while parliament voted to delay the election until December. https://www.ft.com/content/a6ca92be-52a1-4f2e-aae3-a1f748ec5294

FT Ivory Coast’s football ‘Zombies’ eye an improbable Afcon victory

The team of the host country overcame the odds to take their place alongside Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations final. The Afcon tournament, which cost an estimated $1bn to organize, has been a celebration of African football at its most dynamic, with a new record for goals scored in the competition’s history. https://www.ft.com/content/3939399b-ca6a-41f4-8253-ccf0a28b288e

FT Loyalists of the jailed former president win a shock victory in the Pakistan election

The so-called independents from the jailed former PM’s party will be the largest group in parliament but will struggle to form a government . They defied a military-backed campaign of arrests and harassment to mount an unexpected bid for power in the country of 240mn. They won 97 seats, compared to 66 seats for the party of the competing presidential candidate and 51 seats for the party of an assassinated former PM. https://www.ft.com/content/35a6dd5b-2924-40ad-a650-004ec6379e00

NYT A friar became the Vatican’s go-to guy on A.I.

He advises the Roman Catholic Church on the tricky questions, moral and otherwise, raised by the rapidly advancing technology. At a conference organized by the ancient Knights of Malta order, an observer to the UN, the ethics professor told a crowd of ambassadors that “global governance is needed, otherwise a social collapse is risked ”. He does not believe in the industry’s ability to self-regulate and thinks some rules of the road are required in a world where deep fakes and disinformation can erode democracy. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/09/world/europe/italy-artificial-intelligence-ethics.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The International Institute for Religious Freedom launches the Violent Incidents Database. https://iirf.global/news/the-iirf-launches-the-violent-incidents-database/

February 12

FT Greece set to defy the Orthodox tradition and legalize gay marriage

The law backed by the center-right government will formalize same-sex unions and parenthood. The government needs the support of the opposition since part of the ruling party is against the new law. And so is the Orthodox church to which 80 percent of the Greeks belong. The church decided to abandon the protest plans as it “did not want to divide the country”. https://www.ft.com/content/6fddfacf-5eca-4a5c-95fb-b49f08d3ceb2

FT Outgoing president in Indonesia still rises high in approval ratings

After a decade of stability in a country not known for it, his performance will be a hard act to follow. He could have run his terms on his populist features, like his modest youth, but he chose to focus on the country’s unity. https://www.ft.com/content/1e1179f6-1977-4b01-82a2-4ea32b3393ae

FT Pakistan plunges into power vacuum after former PM defies election odds from jail

The success for the former PM’s supporters standing as independents as their party was banned, deals a blow to the military establishment and heralds more instability for the nuclear power in financial trouble. It is said that the election result represents a rare repudiation of the powerful army’s long-running manipulation of elections. The other parties swiftly began coalition talks. https://www.ft.com/content/4b38857e-ffcd-46fe-aa90-6c4b3551fda4

FT In the U.S.A. gambling city Las Vegas diversifies itself as a sports arena

Back in 1970 the city decided otherwise but now it is pushing to expand the economy into higher-productivity sectors. The recent Super Bowl and attending girlfriend of a player, also an entertainment superstar, pushed publicity to the highest levels. https://www.ft.com/content/566bbcd8-4f94-42f4-9b40-1ccaef37fd39

February 13

FT Is football in Brazil the next frontier in global sport?

The country is unrivalled as a talent factory, but its clubs are barely known overseas. International investors hope a new league could change that. It would include a new league modelled on English football and is aimed at tapping the potential of sport as a peaceful and profitable activity. https://www.ft.com/content/eea1962a-ae17-4d92-9fe8-d5407c17f2a6

FT Anatomy of a coup plot: how Brazil’s former president tried to cling to power

The police say the far-right former leader and his allies had a detailed scheme to prevent his successor from taking office. After his competitor won the vote in October 2022, the plot fizzled out because the outgoing president feared that he did not have enough support from the army. https://www.ft.com/content/97582a42-cad7-467a-8f52-9b02d6d5dc16

FT How low will rates go? The hunt for the elusive ‘neutral’ level

Economists debate whether the real interest rate seen as key to balancing economies has risen from the pre-Covid lows. The so-called neutral rate, defined as keeping economies growing steadily, with full employment and inflation around 2 per cent, is not a holy grail. In the past decade it was influenced by productivity growth, savings and in the west ageing population. https://www.ft.com/content/e0f27da0-b735-4b73-b5a9-06dbc186842f

FT Finland elects a new president

“This is the greatest honor of my life,” he said as he declared victory. “We are facing a new era in foreign policy where rules are being challenged, and there is a war next door.” https://www.ft.com/content/ce3aa2f8-c77a-4a0a-8f22-9113ffbe4608

February 14

FT From banned general to dancing grandpa: how Indonesia’s favorite to lead the election emerged

The support from his popular predecessor has lifted the 72-year-old, once barred from the U.S.A. over human rights concerns. Polls indicate he may win without a runoff among the more than 204 Mn citizens eligible to vote, about half of them younger than 40. He is the son-in-law of a past dictator and ran a soft campaign focusing on the young. He took the 36 year old son of the incumbent as running mate, see also January 25. https://www.ft.com/content/0e365a05-e87e-4cd1-a2b9-09e843e9403a

TT Farmers tear gassed by drones in fight to reach capital of India

The police and paramilitaries have ringed the city with concrete to prevent a siege by the protesters. The protests are a repeat of action in 2020 and 2021 against agricultural reforms, when farmers camped on the city’s borders for a year, to demand, among other things, that the government set a minimum price for their crops. The government promised to repeal planned reforms, but did not keep this promise. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/delhi-behind-barricades-as-farmers-march-on-capital-again-fwnpdvkqt

NYT Its forces depleted, Myanmar junta says it will enforce a military draft

Three years after it took power in a coup, the regime appears to be on the defensive. The shadow civilian government, the National Unity Government, headed by ethnic leaders and ousted elected officials, says that its forces have seized hundreds of military outposts and 41 cities and towns in upper Myanmar since late October. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/13/world/asia/myanmar-junta-military-draft.html

February 15

FT India opposition alliance (INDIA) fractures as support for incumbent soars

The coalition seeking to unseat the successful PM is hit by infighting, defections and arrests. While the ruling party aims at a “super majority” in the next election, the opposition complains that the government weaponizes the judiciary. Lack of unity is a sure threat to the opposition. https://www.ft.com/content/890aec31-fa87-405c-a5d4-d9f10687dac8

FT Ghana replaces finance minister who negotiated $3bn IMF bailout

The dismissal is seen as the ruling party’s attempt to draw a line under the economic debacle. It is linked to the election of December. Protesters focus on the economic problems. Inflation is on the rise. https://www.ft.com/content/34ce1229-94d4-44ef-a4d0-d491e67fbb56

NYT Opponents of jailed former PM in Pakistan reach a deal to shut his allies out of government

After days of wrangling, two parties run by political dynasties joined forces and will nominate a formerly acquitted PM to be the country’s PM. In a stunning upset, candidates allied with the jailed former PM routed the two longstanding major parties, defying a months long military crackdown on their own party and delivering a sharp rebuke to the country’s military. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/14/world/asia/pakistan-election-coalition-government.html

February 16

FT Supreme Court in India strikes down fundraising scheme in a blow to the government

The envisioned electoral bonds could lead to ‘quid pro quo’ relationships between donors and politicians, according to the top court. The court decision struck down the country’s main legal mechanism for corporate and individual donations to political parties, introduced in 2017 to fight corruption. Opposition politicians and an NGO had petitioned the ruling. https://www.ft.com/content/cbc04ebd-2faf-48f2-917f-1e5a2bb64dd8

FT What the presidential election win in Indonesia means

The former general is expected to adopt a more populist stance than his predecessor, Analysts said the relationship with the incumbent — former electoral foes turned allies — would be critical for the direction of the incoming administration. https://www.ft.com/content/77c92c62-68a1-48b0-9c8b-73ba85e56f74

February 17

FT Pakistan’s old guard confronts shock upset to jailed PM in Punjab heartland

The surge for the jailed former PM’s candidates in the traditional base for dynastic parties could weaken the incoming ruling coalition of minorities. https://www.ft.com/content/74e278ac-8a4c-4c10-a899-7a16d38f38de

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA contributed to the Global 2033 International Leaders’ Summit in Poland: https://worldea.org/news/25523/global-2033-international-leaders-summit-in-krakow-poland/

February 19

FT Citizens in Russia risk arrest to mourn death in custody of opposition leader

The small, unsanctioned Moscow gathering was just one of the many spontaneous vigils for the opposition leader that sprung up in hundreds of cities over the weekend. Across Russia, more than 340 people had been arrested at memorials in the 24 hours following the news of the death. In St Petersburg an Orthodox priest was detained after he announced he would hold a memorial service for the deceased. https://www.ft.com/content/236e5702-5fff-4bf8-aa00-aadf91e36bf9

FT South Africa central bank chief signals caution on rate cuts

The banker says inflation still poses a risk, even as other emerging markets start to loosen policy. “The growth challenges that South Africa is facing have nothing to do with the demand side but instead reflect supply-side and structural problems”, he said. https://www.ft.com/content/b9e4e476-80a5-4334-b986-234dc53a3766

FT Inside the divisive campaign of the new government to restore democracy in Poland

The PM is using an ‘iron broom’ to sweep aside the influence of the previous government, but critics question whether he is going too far. The change of administration has become a case study for how a newly elected administration can restore the norms and institutions that got reshaped or erased by the previous government. The new PM claimed a moral victory as soon as he saw the exit poll, closing the door on any kind of reconciliation and dealmaking. https://www.ft.com/content/e3b10baf-c508-4af1-ad25-8188cf60b174

February 20

FT The wife of Haiti’s assassinated president is accused in his killing

The widow was charged by a Haitian judge with conspiring in his assassination. She was seriously injured in the attack. The 122 page indictment states that she and other accomplices gave statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, suggesting that they were complicit in the killing. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/19/world/americas/haiti-assassinated-president-wife-accused.html

FT Can the Olympics rejuvenate one of the poorest corners of France?

The authorities hope an Olympic Village can transform a Paris suburb known for poverty, crime and violent riots. “The issue is how do you transform no-go zones into welcome zones,” said the Socialist mayor. There is heavy investment in the area to accommodate the games. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/20/world/europe/france-olympics-paris-st-denis-poverty-immigrants.html

February 21

FT Scale of crisis created by Sudan’s ‘hidden’ war alarms refugee chief

The internal conflict has been largely ignored due to the Ukraine and Gaza wars, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council chief: “This is mind-boggling if you believe in human civilization and progress. Those who wage war do not lack resources.” The head of OCHA, the UN humanitarian arm, recently told the FT that: “Sudan is probably the place of the greatest suffering” in the world because of what he called a “hidden war”. https://www.ft.com/content/d06c3638-c1d9-45e2-8661-16f0e4100ef0

FT Widow of opposition leader takes on the struggle against the government of Russia

After two decades of shunning the limelight, the widow becomes the face of her late husband’s activist movement. In a video she stated: “I was by his side all these years: elections, protests, house arrest, searches, detention, prison, poisoning, protests again, arrest again and prison again.” https://www.ft.com/content/3810f09d-2a21-4bc4-84a7-7bfde547a2a1

February 23

FT South Africa to tap $8bn from foreign currency account to pay down debts

The move comes ahead of a general election as the ruling party seeks to quell unease at its handling of the economy. The government heads into general elections on May 29 with public finances strained by weak growth and a shortfall in revenue due to the impact of rolling blackouts and blockages at South African ports. https://www.ft.com/content/e1df3bc2-f6ef-4169-a396-5ad926fdf3b5

FT Pirates in Somalia and West Africa are targeting ships diverted from the Red Sea, warns the UN shipping chief

The maritime body fears resurgence of vessel seizures in the Gulf of Guinea and off the Somali coast after fresh piracy incidents. “We don’t have the capability to provide security ourselves,” the CEO of the IMO said. “We’re reliant on support from member states.” https://www.ft.com/content/a4abcbac-a608-4450-908b-a8d903c8d884

FT How Pakistan’s economy fell into crisis

High debt, low growth and raging inflation will challenge a new government lacking a public mandate, as was demonstrated in the election. The newspaper reveals a detailed economic oversight. https://www.ft.com/content/fbdf57c2-cce4-4c35-827a-1528899f5fb7

February 24

FT The troubling decline in the global fertility rate

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to this issue. Developed economies need to be better prepared for a drop in younger workers. But by the end of this century almost every country in the world could have a shrinking population. All this despite people getting much older. Immigration could be a solution, but the politics of it remains difficult. And it is only a short-term option to propping up workforces with developing countries set to age too. https://www.ft.com/content/008a1341-1882-4b98-83d4-0d7dc08a4134

FT Senegal leader vows to step down at end of his term in April

The president aims to set a date for the election next week after his decision to delay the poll sparked a constitutional crisis (see February 10). In a televised interview late on Thursday, the president vowed to leave office at the end of his second term on April 2. Earlier parliament voted to extend his term until December 15, but the constitutional council last week declared the decision making unlawful. https://www.ft.com/content/e50b07be-a835-4251-9e76-4b9d074a1ad8

TT Who owns the moon? Lawyers are getting nervous

The landing of the private spacecraft Odysseus this week highlights a vacuum in humanity’s lunar rules. “Anything goes on the moon for peaceful exploration right now,” said one space law expert. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, negotiated by the United Nations, requires its 114 signatories to show due regard to one another and exercise responsibility in space. The expert said the treaty contained “so many gaps”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/who-owns-the-moon-lawyers-are-getting-nervous-h8h32l2nv

NYT Africa’s donkeys are coveted by China. Can the continent protect them?

Governments are seeking to curb donkey skin exports to China, where demand for traditional medicine and other products is threatening animals that rural households in Africa need. For years, Chinese companies and their contractors have been slaughtering millions of donkeys across Africa, coveting gelatin from the animals’ hides that is processed into traditional medicines, popular sweets and beauty products in China. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/23/world/africa/africa-donkey-china.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The WEA children network will gather from the 29th in Thailand: https://www.christiandaily.com/asia/forum-to-address-key-issues-provide-hope-amid-global-crises.html

February 26

FT Citizens’ assemblies could help repair toxic political cultures

Reflecting on political polarization in Britain in an Op-ed the author discusses citizens’ assemblies. They do not replace parliaments — and certainly shouldn’t allow politicians to swerve accountability. But they could help forge a braver politics, in which parliament works with the public to navigate the trickiest questions of a nation. https://www.ft.com/content/6de680af-834e-4a14-a3f3-38b277b5d472

FT The forgotten war in Sudan

The newspaper dedicates its editorial to the conflict that is a threat to regional stability — and millions of lives. Some 2mn people have fled Khartoum alone. In all, some 8mn Sudanese have been driven from their homes, nearly a quarter of whom have left the country. Diplomatic efforts are stalled, not least through the fact that the conflict is influenced by foreign powers. The newspaper refers to what it calls “a side show”: a report in The Guardian that Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian mercenaries in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/2c02cb6a-552b-478a-9b66-0d0bd5fe92d5

FT In India ruling party taps influencers ahead of India election

The party is ‘massively ahead’ of its rivals in using social media stars to boost support among the young. Social media stars offer a particularly valuable chance to connect with young people in India, a country where two-thirds of the 1.4bn population is under 35 and that has more YouTube and Instagram subscribers than any other country. https://www.ft.com/content/dc383dfa-6d94-4a21-b2b7-0bb49daedfde

FT Controlled Belarus elections set to cement regime’s grip on power

The exiled opposition and pro-democracy groups condemn the local and parliamentary polls as farcical. It is the first time in four years the ballot is cast after the contested 2020 presidential elections which prompted large-scale protests that confronted the dictator president. A brutal crackdown followed. The choice this week is between four regime friendly parties. https://www.ft.com/content/651c1766-7237-4e3d-ab3c-6f1f7c76cc92

February 27

FT Ecowas fails to persuade Niger junta to release former leader

He remains under house arrest despite the bloc lifting sanctions on the country. Ecowas is seeking to dissuade the three junta-controlled countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from leaving the bloc after they threatened a joint withdrawal last month. https://www.ft.com/content/f531f38d-ab12-4f87-87be-8b4ee7c1ccf1

FT Nigeria’s economic crisis puts fuel subsidies removal under scrutiny

Many are questioning the wisdom of abruptly eliminating the subsidies without a shock-absorbing plan. The IMF had advised compensation measures for the poor. https://www.ft.com/content/29752a06-adea-4175-b278-22e0632c375a

FT China’s plans to reshape world trade on its own terms

Friction with the west has prompted the country to build its own alternative system focused on developing nations. At the accession of the country to the WTO in 2001 its president warned that America’s real motive was to “westernize and divide socialist countries”. Based on the Belt and Road Initiative the country builds alternatives. The EU warned against unfair trade policies. https://www.ft.com/content/c51622e1-35c6-4ff8-9559-2350bfd2a5c1

FT Glitch leaves U.S.A. university students in the dark about cost of studies

The malfunctions in the financial aid system raises the fears that lower income applicants will pull out of university. Nearly 400 universities have delayed the traditional May 1 deadline for accepting places for the next academic year. https://www.ft.com/content/be80dc02-a439-4f5e-99e7-0dafe384b813

FT PM of Palestinian Authority resigns

The politician says different arrangements are necessary to address the ‘new reality in Gaza’ and the need for national consensus. The two Palestinian territories split apart after Hamas’s violent takeover of the coastal enclave in 2007. The president instructed the PM and his ministers to continue in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.  https://www.ft.com/content/495b0a48-9f90-4ddd-9c7b-1efb148d3f3d

FT Israel plans $60bn debt raising and tax rises to fuel defense spending

The country also plans to freeze government hiring. The war shrank the economy by 20 percent. The finance ministry accountant general says the demobilization of reservists will boost the economy. https://www.ft.com/content/b84aae92-3bbb-49db-b021-befbeb0fb0f1

FT Chairperson of Republican party in U.S.A. resigns as former president solidifies his party control

The resignation sets up the prospect of a leadership team that could include the former president’s daughter-in-law. She is said to be destined for co-chair. https://www.ft.com/content/0c7d62af-dc28-4697-93cd-2e1eb1d1bc77

FT Brazil rolls out dengue vaccines as cases rise sharply

Infections have quadrupled from last year after warnings that warming temperatures will increase cases. Argentina and Paraguay have also reported a surge in dengue cases. The number of dengue cases typically peaks in April before tapering off. https://www.ft.com/content/bb78b972-83d9-4809-9fd2-84c6af42904a

February 28

FT Nigeria raises interest rates to 22.75%

The new central bank governor aims to tackle the soaring inflation after the cut back of fuel subsidy and stem the national currency slide. He also advocated to improve agricultural production. Security concerns caused by jihadist insurgents, criminal gangs and conflict between nomadic herders and farmers have driven many farmers from their plots in northern Nigeria. https://www.ft.com/content/708812c0-34a3-469e-ada5-038ff0f48831

FT The problem with the U.S.A. politico-entertainment complex

Why moderate to win power when life is cushier in opposition? In most western democracies, the defeated can go on to make a living in business. America is almost unique in being able to keep election-losers in handsome employment within politics. There is more income, less stress and often larger audiences to be had as a touring windbag than as a minister. This makes an important check on extremism fall away. https://www.ft.com/content/61829797-170b-4194-8579-35b9b8f71887

FT Russia jails activist as government widens crackdown on critics

The former head of the banned rights group Memorial is handed a 30-month sentence for an anti-war article. The convicted: “The state controls not only the public, political and economic life. It also seeks total control over culture, over scientific thought and invades private life.” https://www.ft.com/content/7e69a3e4-b3df-449c-ac66-89e59271d9a8

NYT Hunger, terrorism and the threat of war: Somalia’s year of crises

Terrorism, hunger and devastating floods have roiled the Horn of Africa nation. The country recently signed security deals with Turkey, the U.S.A. and Uganda. It faces an even bigger challenge: the prospect of war with a neighbor, Ethiopia. This country signed a preliminary deal with Somaliland, a province and self-declared breakaway republic. It allows landlocked Ethiopia commercial and naval access to the sea. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/27/world/africa/somalia-ethiopia-al-shabab-conflict.html

February 29

FT Billionaire forms an unlikely alliance with Mexico’s leftist leader

The telecoms magnate and the president share their interest in history, baseball and mega-projects. Over decades the two aging men have formed a close, if unlikely, partnership. It enabled the entrepreneur to benefit hugely as a monopolist or oligopolist. He successfully avoided claims after a construction collapse implicated his company. https://www.ft.com/content/9f61d2f5-e973-4933-a9ac-1baa9d5e73fe

FT South Korean doctors’ strike exposes tensions over ageing population

The physicians complain of overwork and low pay as the healthcare system faces a looming demographic crisis. The country has among the lowest number of doctors per head in the developed world. https://www.ft.com/content/6ceebcc4-558d-4bd2-b347-cb7b42c86ebf

March 1

FT Maths underachievement is a blight on social mobility

Tens of thousands of children are veering off-track during their transition from primary to secondary school. One of the reasons has a sociological background. Disadvantaged pupils, particularly the most high-attaining, are more likely to move into social groups that have negative attitudes to learning. https://www.ft.com/content/eaa51b98-b5e6-4d80-b8dc-953aee877764

FT President of Argentina says he doesn’t need congress to save the economy

The libertarian president argues that ‘capitalism, savings and hard work’ are the way to exit poverty for the country. He believes he has avoided hyperinflation. He slashed the budget on points he did not need the opposition dominated parliament. His comprehensive reform agenda, turned down by parliament, is now postponed until after midterm legislative elections late next year. In the election he wants to expose politicians as “enemies of change”. https://www.ft.com/content/4d789837-0408-4513-a0d7-0d6ce5a8c740

FT Government minister of India: green trade rules are ‘biased’

He said that trade policy has no role in tackling climate change . He considers the attempt to embed sustainability into agreements as an attempt of the rich world. He points to other international institutions. such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Labor Organization, to fight climate change. https://www.ft.com/content/51dc962a-6cc0-49ad-b941-0e0942216d63

FT Iran holds elections as Supreme Leader’s succession looms

The conservative leaders wield tight control over the vote for parliament and for the assembly that may choose a new head of state when the 84 year old current leader dies. Social media posts suggest an official attempt to lighten the public mood and encourage voting. The regime seeks to tread a fine line between narrowing the field of candidates and winning popular support. https://www.ft.com/content/65b5e1bb-e882-4b5e-a734-1e78f53eb0e8

March 2

FT Far-right former trainee priest and football pundit shakes up Portugal

The 41-year old populist leader capitalizes on economic despondency of the young in his election campaign. In his zigzagging life he changed time and again and left the center-right party over xenophobic remarks. He might be a king maker by achieving 20 percent of the vote in the next election. Last year’s decision for snap elections plays to his hand. https://www.ft.com/content/25221a34-8234-45dd-9234-ac04ecff592d

FT Thousands defy the government in Russia to show up at the funeral of the opposition leader that died in custody

The mourners gathered outside the church chanted ‘Putin is a murderer’ to blame the president and also ‘No to war’. The government spokesman said the government had nothing to say to the family and declined to comment on the political side of the situation. https://www.ft.com/content/9f46ccf7-792f-4f61-84f8-35bc6d0b9b34

NYT Main opposition leader in Chad is killed in a shootout months before the elections

The person was expected to run for president in May. He was killed along with many others in a gun battle in the capital at his party headquarters, according to the national prosecutor. The opposition leader — a former rebel who was the cousin of the country’s president, as well as his most vocal critic — leaves a void in Chad’s political opposition less than three months before national elections are set to be held. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/29/world/africa/chad-yaya-dillo-killed.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA met Muslim Council of Elders in Abu Dhabi https://worldea.org/news/25651/wea-met-the-secretary-general-of-the-muslim-council-of-elders-in-abu-dhabi/


March 4

FT Paraguay’s former president accused of orchestrating the expulsion of a prominent senator

The high-profile expulsion of the anti-corruption senator puts South American country’s rule of law in doubt. The senator claims that the former president (still president of the ruling rightwing party and the owner of several media outlets) is behind the expulsion. He is on the sanction list of the U.S.A. The current president is a technocrat, relying on him. https://www.ft.com/content/a8a0eb56-aa2d-4f32-bf29-8d67c6bd5c6e

TT Church of England told to build £1bn slavery reparations fund

A £100 million pot announced by the church last year is “insufficient” to address the “enduring harms from enslavement” that persist today, an independent report has found, calling for a tenfold increase. The Church Commissioners, who manage the church’s huge assets, have accepted the recommendations in the report. The money will not be used to pay “compensation” to individuals, but will be used to provide grants and “seed capital” for projects and businesses in black communities around the UK. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/church-of-england-told-to-build-1bn-slavery-reparations-fund-p5dwvvxtj

TT France set to enshrine abortion rights in constitution

The president pushes for a ‘global-first’ vote to create a constitutional right for a woman. The minimum two-thirds vote in favor appears certain after both houses gave heavy backing to the revision. Opposition has come from the Roman Catholic Church and some senior figures in the Republicans party. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/france-abortion-rights-emmanuel-macron-constitution-zwvcqsbrd

March 5

FT The Church of England’s historic gesture on slavery, see March 5, holds lessons for investors

Critics are bound to attack the fund but it provides a template for others. The author compares it to the post-WWII Marshall Plan, which sought to rebuild a continent that was destroyed — and to unleash human potential, ingenuity and innovation at the same time. He also reminds of the lobby at the end of slavery in the U.S.A. It wanted to help the slaves but in the end the slave owners were compensated instead. The author: “The Church Commissioners have charted a different course, one that is righteous, wise and financially savvy.” https://www.ft.com/content/6213e9f2-ee1d-4591-bf59-ba535bb1f185

FT Anti-LGBT+ law puts Ghana’s IMF and World Bank funding at risk, finance ministry warns

The department says the bill could derail billions of dollars in multilateral financing if signed into law. Ghana’s parliament last week passed a sweeping anti-LGBT+ law called the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill. The bill received bipartisan support and is also supported by religious and traditional groups. Many in the global south see western finance thresholds as human rights imperialism. https://www.ft.com/content/22eefd82-5edb-4b30-868b-ed6bce67242d

FT China tries to stabilize pig population as pork prices plunge

The government acts to tightly monitor the herd size as falling prices add to a wider climate of deflation. The herd size, half the global total of pigs, was devastated by an outbreak of African swine fever between 2018 and 2021. High prices pushed production after that. China’s consumer prices fell 0.8 per cent in January, driven by a 5.9 per cent decline in food prices and a 17 per cent drop in the price of pork, its staple food. https://www.ft.com/content/c2535517-956e-40fb-b2c2-37afb8a746ba

FT Haiti declares 72-hour state of emergency and nightly curfew after mass jailbreak

The PM hopes a Kenya-led multinational force will shore up security in the country as armed gangs overrun the capital. Benin last week offered 2,000 troops for the mission. One diplomat involved in earlier crises in the country: “The police force is overwhelmed and has broken up into factions themselves.” Elites depend on hiring private security. https://www.ft.com/content/c50073b3-3582-44a6-a381-551fded8a8bc

March 6

FT Houthi attacks reveal the murky world of ship nationality

The Missile strikes aimed at Israeli, US and British vessels sailing near Yemen expose the flag and ownership ambiguities. One sunk ship is said to be British in maritime databases which give a flat in Southampton, England as the owner’s address. But the owner is registered elsewhere, flew the flag of Belize, was partly managed by a Beirut-based ship management company, was on a voyage organized by another Lebanese operator and had a mostly Syrian crew. https://www.ft.com/content/90c55ef3-90e6-4f68-af8a-aafe87f8744b

March 7

FT Haiti’s prime minister turns up in Puerto Rico with his country in chaos

His whereabouts had been unknown as a prison breakout exacerbated violence in the Caribbean country. He was last seen in Nairobi. The Kenyan government has committed to lead a stabilizing operation by sending 1,000 police officers, but has not revealed a timeline for their deployment or published details of the deal. The U.S.A. and Canada have pledged $260mn in funding between them. https://www.ft.com/content/503019d1-b28b-4de4-9c6c-9a0a6bed124a

FT Venezuela sets presidential election for July amid growing repression

The incumbent is expected to announce his candidacy for another term as tensions with the U.S.A. rise. The opposition leader, who overwhelmingly won an October primary, has been disqualified. The U.S.A. has earlier lifted sanctions partially after a deal that candidate bans would be lifted and political prisoners released. https://www.ft.com/content/be7183ec-b36b-40d7-bfce-1976999e4db1

FT Egypt secures $8bn IMF deal after removing currency controls

The fund agreed to inject cash after Cairo allowed its pound to drop to a record low against the dollar. The measure was made possible by a $35bn investment from Abu Dhabi to develop 170mn square meters on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. The $35bn creates enough buffer to avoid a total currency collapse. https://www.ft.com/content/155edd32-f611-4b33-b5bb-0d1b19010ddd

FT Peru president tries to steady rule after scandal forces out PM

The president names a new PM as her ratings fall, while the nation remains politically and economically vulnerable. An audio recording was published in which the leaving PM amorously advanced to a 25 year old, who received state contracts in 2023 worth more than $14,000. Both did not deny the tape but claimed it was edited and out of context. The political crisis runs much deeper, see also February 14, 2023. Both opposition and government politicians are afraid of election exposure. https://www.ft.com/content/ff030ed7-67a5-4a2f-8031-b8f79c4ae5b7

March 8

FT A rotten system for sovereign debt restructuring needs fixing

A member of the newspaper’s editorial board in an op-ed concludes: “The state of New York is right to push for reform, despite objections from Wall Street”.  The change matters since half of all emerging market bonds, worth an estimated $870bn, have been issued under New York law. As it is now, hedge funds who buy debt benefit while legal costs in western courts are so expensive for poor nations to fight private creditors that they often cave in to their demands. Inside countries bankruptcy rules are common, internationally there is no equivalent. https://www.ft.com/content/6119d0e1-e804-4540-98c9-fef1c9bc5cbe

FT Ireland votes on changing women’s ‘duties’ in constitution

The proposed amendments to the constitution aim to axe references to women ‘life within the home’ and change the definition of what a family is. In the past the country has repeatedly updated its 87-year-old constitution. It ended bans on divorce and abortion despite opposition from the Roman Catholic church. Support of changes now proposed is not as clear-cut. Polls show many voters have yet to make up their minds how to vote on each question. https://www.ft.com/content/5e024d85-1c55-4087-b8f3-16f109dc98d5

TT Government in Spain agrees new amnesty bill with Catalan separatists

The leader of the separatist party is currently staying in Belgium to avoid facing charges. His group appears to have won further concessions after the previous deal faltered, see January 31. Before the January 30 vote, the ruling party said they would not cede to the separatist demands. The ruling party needs the support of the separatists to run the government. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/spanish-pm-agrees-new-amnesty-bill-with-catalan-separatists-30gls8cqw

NYT Female genital cutting continues to increase worldwide

Campaigns in some countries have reduced the practice, but it remains widespread in countries with high rates of population growth. The United Nations has set the goal of eliminating female genital cutting by 2030. At the moment 230 million females have undergone it, an increase of 15 percent over the last estimate. It is a worldwide phenomenon, also existing illegally in some immigrant communities in western countries. Displacement and conflict contribute to the prevalence. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/07/health/female-genital-cutting.html

NYT President in Senegal breaks up his cabinet and sets March 24 as date for the presidential election

He previously postponed the election without setting a date. On Wednesday, he also fired the PM, his party’s candidate for president. The election is likely to be one of the most closely watched in Africa this year. Among the uncertainties is who will lead the country if a runoff is needed as the president earlier announced he would step down on April 2. The  government has softened its stance against the opposition and civil-society groups, allowing demonstrations again and adopting an amnesty law that benefits political prisoners. It is unclear whether the main opposition candidate would benefit from this. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/06/world/africa/senegal-election-macky-sall.html

March 9

FT Armed men in Nigeria kidnap hundreds of children from their school

The incident revives the memories of the infamous abduction of 276 students from Chibok a decade ago. Almost 100 of the children taken that day by terror group Boko Haram are still in captivity, according to Amnesty International. In 2023 4,300 abductions were recorded. It is a lucrative industry with concerned families often crowdfunding for ransom and even negotiating directly with the criminals. https://www.ft.com/content/2c6856dc-1ce7-4022-ab0d-ec6fd10250e5

FT Opposition leader in India bets on 6,700km trek to stop the incumbent’s election juggernaut

He is traversing the subcontinent to court voters left behind by the Hindu nationalism of the ruling party. He did the same last year, focusing on the increasing divisions in society. This year he focuses on economic discontent and the close ties of the ruling party with industrial magnates. The ruling party has much better funding and outsmarts the opposition in both conventional and social media. https://www.ft.com/content/81d29438-6913-4971-ac17-6c782e09e93d

FT A gangster named ‘Barbecue’ controls Haiti’s violent slums

The publicity-hungry ex-policeman is calling for a revolution to topple the embattled government. This week he showed a streak of political ruthlessness as he moved against the government, casting himself as a revolutionary acting on behalf of the downtrodden. While the president was outside the country he organized the mass jailbreak, see March 5. The police are outmatched by the gangs that control 80 percent of the country and have ties with political elites. https://www.ft.com/content/e5060468-dd3d-4753-b7db-8dfe0e921ae9

FT Hong Kong city government fast-tracks tough new national security law

The bill imposes life imprisonment for treason and increases sentences for crimes such as sedition. It fuels the concerns of erosion of civil liberties as the territory aligns with mainland China. The UK government warned that the proposed bill would breach the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration that governed the territory’s handover to China. https://www.ft.com/content/5248f9dd-7369-411e-a648-70ea9545ef77

FT Spain’s supermarket thieves covet olive oil as prices surge

The thefts of olive oil (called ‘liquid gold’) surpass those of ‘ibérico’ ham, cured cheeses and alcohol in most Spanish regions. The price of olive oil has increased from under 5 euro per liter to 14 euro per liter. https://www.ft.com/content/895f452b-fc16-4e85-8393-5bf85bc9b6d5

FT Referendum voters in Ireland reject with 70 percent constitutional changes on women and the family

The government concedes defeat over proposals to redefine ‘family’ and scrap references to women’s ‘life within the home’. The PM recognized that the proposals were “defeated comprehensively on a respectable turnout”. He considered the referendum a “value statement about what we stand for”. https://www.ft.com/content/5683810e-c5b5-4bcc-a861-79c54ffe7427

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA is in, are you? https://worldea.org/news/25659/wea-is-in-are-you/

March 10

NYT Pope says Ukraine should have the ‘courage of the white flag’

His words have raised questions about whether Francis was suggesting that Ukraine would surrender, but a Vatican spokesman said the pope meant “cease-fire and negotiation.” According to footage of the pope’s interview provided by the public broadcaster, which is to be aired later this month, Francis responded to a question by saying the fear of encouraging the aggressor was “one interpretation, it’s true. But I believe that the strongest is the one who sees the situation, thinks of the people, and has the courage of the white flag, and to negotiate.” https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/09/world/europe/pope-ukraine-white-flag.html

March 11

FT Europe faces ‘competitiveness crisis’ as U.S.A. widens productivity gap

The U.S.A. reaps the benefits from the green fiscal stimulus, rehiring and a surge in new businesses. Labor productivity growth in the U.S.A. has been more than double that of the eurozone and UK in the past two decades. The difference is attributed to having a younger population but also more production per working hour. Europe also failed to benefit as much from the advantages of digitalization. https://www.ft.com/content/22089f01-8468-4905-8e36-fd35d2b2293e

FT ‘No one is number 2’: president looms larger than ever over China

The cancellation of the PM’s parliamentary press briefing increases leadership opacity amid economic turmoil. Also relevant is a legal revision further enshrining the ruling Communist party’s control over the State Council. In their stage-managed approach the government wants to show ethnic and social harmony. For the outside it decreases understanding of China’s performance. https://www.ft.com/content/71b6981d-5acb-4e9d-abae-d1efabea33f0

FT Starvation stalks children of northern Gaza

Their families resort to eating weeds, cactus and livestock fodder in the struggle to survive the war. The Palestinian police refuse to secure convoys from looters because Israeli air strikes have targeted their colleagues as vestiges of the authority of Hamas, the militant group Israel is determined to eradicate. https://www.ft.com/content/d236431b-b9bd-4d6c-b5a1-de36a7a0cf5c

FT China’s indebted provinces meet state bankers to discuss debt relief

The regional officials petition lenders for refinancing on the sidelines of the annual political gathering in the capital. The regional governments accumulated enormous liabilities over a decade-long, debt-fueled building spree. This initially helped fuel growth but now puts the $ 13tn debt burden center stage. The central government clamps down on the situation to prevent public default and avoid secret lending. https://www.ft.com/content/d91153fd-a1f0-425a-910b-722b1b104150

FT The precarious future facing Brazil’s new boomtowns

Agriculture is creating fast wealth and boosting the nation’s economy. It drives towns to grow. But can the ‘green gold’ survive an increasingly extreme climate? Fueled by surging global demand for food, particularly from China, the sector has in recent years emerged as a key engine of Latin America’s largest economy. But weather extremes already show an impact. https://www.ft.com/content/1e991b99-3978-4c87-838a-aea6130b6fe5

FT The uncertain path to the promised land of the new president of Argentina

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to the subject and concludes that the country has long been an unhappy exception among the world’s steadier-performing middle-income economies. The president needs to build a coalition to support his radical economic reforms. His pre-election communication was very clear and resonated in the election result. But he seems too comfortable with his image of a prophet in the desert, modelled after his professed hero Moses. https://www.ft.com/content/24b6e483-f972-4282-a1ce-3c2106cc50c8

March 12

FT India implements ‘discriminatory’ citizenship law

The legislation is widely seen as anti-Muslim and put into practice by the ruling party ahead of the expected general election. The act provides a fast track to Indian citizenship for Hindus and members of five other minority religions (Sikhs, Parsees, Buddhists, Jains and Christians) who arrived in India before 2015 from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, India’s Muslim majority neighboring countries. https://www.ft.com/content/8be6ac20-541a-48f4-844d-ccacefb5904e

FT How high will borrowing costs go once Bank of Japan ditches negative rates?

Japan’s central bankers grapple with normalizing monetary policy and unwinding the balance sheet. A tricky question is whether the bank should abandon the complicated three-tier system of interest rates for deposits with the central bank. Inflation in the country is low. The bank wants to retain continuity and not return to deflation. https://www.ft.com/content/add7d18c-cf64-414c-a54a-7316a1830f9a

FT The bullish case for South Africa

The often pessimistic Africa editor now sees grounds for medium-term optimism after years of negative news. The energy crisis took a positive turn through effective decision making. The same seems happening in the transport sector where a Filipino company took over the management of Durban harbor to reduce queueing off the coast. The budget delivered showed no election handouts. The editor predicts that the ruling party in the election will come close to 50 percent of the vote. https://www.ft.com/content/0c180e49-008a-4e48-b030-1d92b8997099

TT Haiti PM resigns as gangs run rampant

Earlier the government declared a state of emergency after an alliance of gangs threatened to take over. Now the unelected PM makes way for a transitional government. He resigned at an emergency summit in Jamaica, where the U.S.A. secretary of state offered $100 million to establish a security force, which Kenya will lead. The leader of the criminal gangs ramped up his rhetoric:  “We’re not in a peaceful revolution. We are making a bloody revolution in the country because this system is an apartheid system, a wicked system.” In a statement, the regional body Caricom said Haiti’s new transitional presidential council would have seven voting members who would make decisions by a majority. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/haiti-pm-ariel-henry-jimmy-barbecue-cherizier-gang-leader-0jb9mt2dg

March 13

FT Nigeria’s kidnapping racket is a symptom of a failing state

The government needs to start by improving security and stabilizing the economy. In an editorial the newspaper concludes that much of Nigeria is in effect ungoverned. It claims that the last president relied on state intervention that fueled corruption. “Economic hardship does not exonerate kidnapping gangs. But it helps explain them.” And “The deeper problem is the failure of the Nigerian state.” The newspaper wants Nigeria to act on the “nuts and bolts” of a decent society: health and education. https://www.ft.com/content/24107f54-4287-4521-8999-5f25739f5fca

FT The future of ‘communist capitalism’ in China

The question is raised whether Xi-ism is killing Deng-ism. The Chief economics commentator of the newspaper takes into account a study of the economic history of the country, showing that from 980 – 1840 the country was in a Malthusian trap. Will this happen again soon? “The force of 1.4bn people wanting a better life is extremely powerful. Will anything be allowed to halt it?” The answer, the commentator suspects, is still “no”.” https://www.ft.com/content/58bb9713-2d71-4a50-b825-f7213907491b

FT Pirates in Somalia seize ship as global naval forces focus on Yemen Houthi threat

The capture of a Bangladeshi bulk carrier is the first successful hijacking since December 14. Last month the UN maritime body warned of a resurgence, see February 23. Some local media reports have suggested the issue has re-emerged partly because of the anger of fishing crews in Puntland, on Somalia’s coast, with the provincial government. https://www.ft.com/content/6685dbd3-d69b-4b75-a18c-cea7d65748e3

FT Hungary government takes cue from Russia in suppressing dissent, say NGOs

A new agency targets politicians, journalists and activists for receiving funding from the U.S.A. Foreign funding has been a fact of life for most Hungarian NGOs and politically active organizations, which have struggled to raise money at home where individual and corporate donations are insufficient. https://www.ft.com/content/fa45b0b5-1932-4700-870c-607a4f45ada0

FT Switzerland opens first criminal probe over Russia sanctions ‘violations’

An investigation by the attorney-general examines claims against an unnamed company. This is a first sign that the country known for banking secrecy and commodity trading is willing to cooperate in sanctions follow-up. The country has never before acknowledged launching a criminal probe into Russia trade. https://www.ft.com/content/c625d34e-6e9c-4db2-8aac-d4d88e1a0639

March 14

FT Nigeria hit by wave of food looting as economic crisis deepens

The ransacking of warehouses, reported across the country, and a deadly stampede at a grain sale spark fears of a breakdown in law and order. The African Development Bank warned in last month’s Africa Macroeconomic Performance report that a failure to address rising food costs threatened social unrest. Productivity is low, with agriculture dominated by subsistence farmers. https://www.ft.com/content/8a69bc80-fa5a-4beb-8989-fbd04d2330ac

FT China’s treatment of regional debt ‘ulcer’ threatens growth target

The central government clamps down on infrastructure spending of provinces, many of them less-developed and far from the coast, even as it tries to stimulate the economy. This is called ‘a balancing act’. China’s economy is still bearing the impact of a real estate sector crisis that began after authorities sought to rein in developers’ vast borrowing. https://www.ft.com/content/901bc68e-ad35-42eb-97e0-542c631b9033

FT Workers in Japan secure biggest pay rise in three decades

The wage increase underlines the inflationary trend and bolsters the case for Bank of Japan to begin raising interest rates. The pay rise will help cover the sharp rise in living costs and fight a deepening labor shortage.  For decades pay rise had stagnated until now. https://www.ft.com/content/4dded4bb-a608-4f9a-9f54-e6af47caef8f

TT In South Africa new party joined by former president could be knockout blow for current president

The former president could inflict serious harm against his rival in May’s general election, now that he has joined a new party named after the former anti-Apartheid paramilitary group. The ruling party legally challenges using the name. The new party is polling significantly. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/jacob-zuma-plots-downfall-of-rival-ramaphosa-r0f9vc507

March 15

FT Is the rich world stuck in an ‘upper-income trap’?

Further economic growth is possible, but the right policies are needed to unlock it. The primary culprit for stagnation is lackluster productivity; average annual growth in GDP per hour worked in the G7 has dropped. The remedies — upskilling, boosting infrastructure and innovation — are well established but fail to work. The author says rich nations fail to make innovation effective, ageing hampers spending on educating the young and the democratic process is choked by interest groups. https://www.ft.com/content/bc830276-c8d0-465a-88fc-e06eb83be90b

FT The pandemic’s stark legacy: widening inequality in health and education between countries

The debt burdens resulting from Covid-19 have impeded poorer nations’ ability to invest. The latest Human Development Index, a UN initiative, signals that the coronavirus pandemic ended two decades of convergence between the world’s most and least developed economies. Wealthy nations have recovered but 18 of the 46 least developed nations still score below their pre-pandemic level. https://www.ft.com/content/fee3dd30-c6ab-4063-b561-27c0f553e8a5

FT War comes to the capital of Sudan — at vast human cost

Previous conflicts in the country have played out in remote areas, but this civil war is different. The battle has raged for a year, with no sign of a decisive winner. Millions of people have fled the capital. Even the government (one of the parties) has decamped to Port Sudan, 670 kilometers north-east on the Red Sea coast. Their recent pushback into the capital came at huge cost and is inconclusive. Abuse claims abound. https://www.ft.com/content/c3bfe4cd-80fc-4fcc-987b-f8b108cf3d5a

FT The lost future of the young in Gaza

The war with Israel has robbed the prospects of promising talents and decimated the education system. Academics warn that a brain drain will follow. Returning the disproportionately young population — around 65 percent are 24 or younger — to their lessons will be one of the biggest challenges they will face once the war has ended. https://www.ft.com/content/c3ad9050-b245-4286-91fc-a6796cf06fbd

FT Marriage holds the key to Japan’s falling births

For reversing the ageing population trend more is needed than just economic incentives. If boosting fertility rates had simply been about improving the economic lot of parents, why not pull out all the economic stops sooner? The answer may be that Japan’s government knows, deep down, that marriage is what counts and the government cannot play matchmaker. https://www.ft.com/content/8e198165-546f-46df-a6e2-a0cdfa45f006

FT Snap poll in separatist region rocks the government’s plans in Spain

The announced snap poll forced the PM to roll over the budget. The announcement came after an amnesty law was passed, tailor made for the separatist leader in exile. The law will not come into force before Catalonia’s May 12 election date. https://www.ft.com/content/e9ac40b7-c97d-44ab-8c9c-da0187be2d8b

FT Nationalist party in Ireland struggles to keep ‘angry vote’

The party soared in the polls but has leached support to small anti-immigration rivals. One dilemma is how to straddle a varied base of support, which spans young liberals as well as more socially conservative working-class voters. The party supported the government in the lost referendum on family values, see March 9. https://www.ft.com/content/27568219-a5e0-4ff9-a95a-d7d202bfca80

TT Two thirds of citizens in India back autocracy as the incumbent eyes third term

It is the world’s biggest democracy — yet polling before this year’s general election suggests many citizens do not insist on keeping it that way. The PM on his part has Abki baar, 400 paar (“this time, 400”) as slogan, aiming his party and its allies to win 400 seats of the 543 in parliament, comfortably more than the 353 that the alliance won in 2019. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/two-thirds-of-indians-back-dictatorship-as-modi-eyes-third-term-h5bvpx8dm

NYT Gangs have taken over Haiti

“The situation totally changed, because the gangs are now working together,” a Haitian consultant said. Their unity forced the prime minister to resign. It is unclear how strong the alliance is or whether it will last. What is apparent is that the gangs are trying to capitalize on their control of the capital to become a legitimate political force in the negotiations being brokered by foreign governments. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/14/world/americas/haiti-gangs-ariel-henry.html

March 16

FT Senegal opposition leader released from prison

Supporters take to the streets of Dakar as a high-profile critic of the retiring president is freed from prison. An amnesty law passed last week made the release possible. The opposition leader cannot run in the election due to his defamation conviction. His preferred candidate was also released and can run as he was not yet convicted. The election is scheduled for March 24. https://www.ft.com/content/ab524ea0-af1a-4b19-ac47-91c9a9469c03

FT South Africa’s infrastructure crisis deepens as Johannesburg taps run dry

Parts of the country’s biggest city have been without running water for almost two weeks amid a heatwave. The ageing water supply lacks sufficient maintenance. Only about 30km of its pipelines are being upgraded each year, rather than the 200km required. https://www.ft.com/content/55b10bbf-9e02-437f-9971-301187d1f6ef

FT How citizens in Russia plan to protest against the orchestrated presidential re-election of incumbent

Dissidents plan to hold ‘political flash mobs’ at polling stations on Sunday to honor the memory of the opposition leader who died in custody: showing up to cast their ballots en masse at the same time as a symbolic rejection. The incumbent barely bothered to campaign. The three government-controlled opponents on the ballot admit they’re not trying to win. https://www.ft.com/content/c9aa86f6-1500-44aa-a27c-524f25d798ae

FT China eases tourist visa restrictions to boost economy

The government hopes giving easier access to people from some European countries will revitalize the multibillion-dollar tourism sector. There is a differentiation in the policy and tourists from the U.S.A. and its closer allies are not served in the new policy. https://www.ft.com/content/ef5d613b-8f9a-43bd-9d5e-3aa245e4341b

FT Lottery entrepreneur in India emerges as crucial political donor

His company bought $165mn in electoral bonds between 2019 and 2024. Electoral bonds, one of India’s main legal forms of political contributions from 2019 until they were banned in January, allowed individuals and companies to make anonymous donations to political parties. The constitutional court demanded the publication of data on donations. https://www.ft.com/content/6f972d1e-8abf-4ae2-aab7-4e961ff5f518

FT Academics boycott a gender journal after an ‘anti-woke’ shift in policy

The backlash highlights the dilemmas of publishers trying to remain profitable in a disrupted industry. On their part the nearly 500 advisers, reviewers, contributors and readers that have written resignation letters to the publisher complain of limiting their academic freedom in an increasingly polarized society. They criticized the publishers for appointing an editor-in-chief with expertise in marketing and entrepreneurship. https://www.ft.com/content/60370640-f464-4330-8579-a9de637a6228

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA Geneva Office meets Salvation Army new Permanent Representative to the United Nations at the UN Human Rights Council: https://worldea.org/news/25835/wea-geneva-office-meets-salvation-army-new-permanent-representative-to-the-united-nations-at-the-un-human-rights-council/

March 18

FT World Bank lender to poorest nations seeks record funding haul

Debt and climate-change-related crises increase the need for the International Development Association to provide cheap loans and grants to 75 developing countries. Cuts to aid budgets limit the spending appetites of IDA’s biggest donor nations such as the U.S.A. and Britain. In addition China has stepped back from lending. https://www.ft.com/content/e4cb61c5-14b9-4e14-8e31-7670039c6865

FT The simple idea behind Latin America’s star economy

The Dominican Republic bucked the region’s economic funk despite sharing its island with a completely failed state, Haiti. It is now the seventh biggest economy, overtaking Ecuador and Venezuela. The recipe is simple: the country is pro-business but at the same time increases social spending. In an interview to the newspaper the president said investment in higher education, hospitals, public transport and targeted welfare programs is key to the government policy. https://www.ft.com/content/5e73b3fc-41ef-4d88-9fa3-21cbd1d1bec5

FT India fires starting gun for election campaigning in the world’s largest democracy

The ruling party is hoping to win 370 seats (400 with its allies) when voting begins on April 19. Over more than six weeks in seven phases across states and territories the election will be concluded with a final round on June 1. Votes are set to be counted on June 4. https://www.ft.com/content/9fe9f973-f190-40f0-a7d8-fbdff658e700

FT The incumbent cements his rule of Russia for another six years

The president is to hold office until 2030 as the war economy rebounds, dissent is quashed and its troops regain the initiative in Ukraine. https://www.ft.com/content/5aa91ea1-6a57-4325-a0a0-ae2959c81b04

NYT Niger orders American troops to leave its territory

The West African country’s military junta said the presence of the U.S.A. forces was “illegal.” Increasingly, West Africans are questioning the motives of Western countries operating in Africa. Niger spoke of a “violation of all constitutional and democratic rules which would require the sovereign people to be consulted on the installation of a foreign army on its territory”. An analyst considered the rhetoric “aggressive negotiation tactic”. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/17/world/africa/niger-orders-american-troops-out.html

March 19

FT Rare protests break out in Cuba amid electricity and food shortages

The president blames the unrest on “mediocre politicians and social media terrorists” in South Florida. The country relies on its allies Russia and Venezuela for fuel and food supplies. https://www.ft.com/content/dcad78e4-6b3f-4bc8-87dc-e11e6f2ae6c8

FT Threat of regional war intensifies as DR Congo rebels close in on Goma

Aid agencies warn of humanitarian catastrophe as the M23 militia fights its way through the mineral-rich region. M23 is one of about 100 armed groups operating in eastern DRC. In December, a UN report provided evidence that M23 fighters had been trained in Rwanda and that the Rwandan army had provided it with troop reinforcements and directly intervened on Congolese territory. Ethnic divisions are behind the armed groups and some other groups are claimed to be supported by the DRC government. https://www.ft.com/content/8aa1d210-f593-4558-9cd0-8048b01b64f0

FT The divisive politics of India’s movement to ‘reclaim’ temples

Hindu litigants are mounting court challenges to allow them to worship at mosques in moves Muslims see as intruding on their rights. The places concern Hindu places of worship replaced by mosques during the time the country was run by Muslim rulers. The Hindu nationalists see it as a decolonizing reclaim. https://www.ft.com/content/32a3bb3b-7183-4ec9-b102-9f7786acc6fc

FT Britain’s levelling up agenda is failing to deliver

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to the 2019 election promise that regional inequality would be addressed. Today the country remains one of the most centralized and geographically unequal economies in the OECD. The next government must close the gap between rhetoric and reality. https://www.ft.com/content/901235ed-5426-4281-ab37-87592c9092d2

NYT U.S.A. foreign secretary warns of disinformation threat to democracies

At an international forum, the secretary of state said artificial intelligence’s ability to disrupt the global flow of information could prove politically perilous during a year of elections. He promoted “digital and media literacy” programs and warned that increasingly powerful generative A.I. programs can “fool even the most sophisticated news consumers.” Also discussed was the threat of commercial spyware to monitor and intimidate journalists and political activists. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/18/world/asia/blinken-artificial-intelligence-threat.html

March 20

FT The era of the unfixable problem

The newspaper’s international politics commentator in an op-ed reflects on refugee flows, low birth rates and left-behind regions in countries and their persistence. According to him this is because there is no answer, not because politicians are useless. Consider his take on birth rate rise: “At some point, the childless or one-child trend has to be seen for what it is: a byproduct of affluence and secularization. Undoing these things, even if we were minded to, would require a bizarre kind of government.” https://www.ft.com/content/2095fc43-abf7-4397-827c-0520d8977954

FT Brazil police recommend criminal charges against former president

The former leader faces the first potential indictment on claims of false vaccination certificates and ‘criminal association’. He denies the accusations. Since leaving office he was repeatedly the subject of investigation. Last year he was banned from running for political office until 2030 for spreading misinformation about the electoral system during the 2022 election. https://www.ft.com/content/bbacb76f-8e5f-486a-9c24-d4bd9ed5bdd7

TT The new autocrats driving global democracy to a 20-year low

The German Bertelsmann Stiftung’s latest index reveals the rise of media censorship, unfair elections and curbs on civil protests. Four more countries — Benin, El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan and Tunisia — were classed as autocracies, as they outnumbered democracies by a larger margin than ever before. The Bertelsmann transformation index (BTI), released every two years since 2005, assesses 137 countries classed as developing — largely the world’s poorer nations, or transitioning — such as former communist bloc states in Europe. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/world-democracy-index-2024-two-decade-low-vc6zt7fq9

March 21

FT Zambia’s $13bn debt stand-off an ‘indictment’ of global system, says president

The president says that the ‘long overdue’ agreement with China and others has greater urgency by the devastating drought. The southern African country has become a symbol of the failures of the G20-endorsed common framework meant to expedite solutions to debt crises in poor countries. https://www.ft.com/content/c528daac-fd80-490e-aee1-29a18154f79b

FT Corruption purge and tycoon’s $12bn bank fraud trial shake Vietnam

One of the world’s biggest embezzlement cases is part of a crackdown that could upset foreign investment to the country. The alleged fraud amount is almost three times that involving Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which foreign officials have described as the world’s largest incident of kleptocracy. https://www.ft.com/content/87cc326d-541b-4941-859d-9dce37e9a6f1

FT PM of Ireland to step down

The PM will also quit as leader of his party, saying his reasons are both personal and political. The parties in Ireland’s ruling coalition do not expect the bombshell resignation to trigger a general election, for which the opposition has asked. https://www.ft.com/content/0b779688-4248-4304-840d-db8bc758985a

NYT Extreme heat wave pushes South Sudan to close schools

Climate change has already worsened floods and droughts in the young nation. Now, soaring temperatures are forecast for two weeks. The civil conflict, a worsening humanitarian crisis and a tense political environment have made it even harder to mitigate the turmoil of climate change. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/20/world/africa/extreme-heat-south-sudan-schools-climate.html

March 22

FT ‘New climate reality’ stretches global freshwater supply

Population growth, climate change and industrialization are compounding the problem, but there is no shortage of solutions. These lie primarily in a more targeted use of water. Often, the sensitivity for this is lacking as water is considered readily available from taps. https://www.ft.com/content/aa0c75b6-524e-4090-9dfc-0d40ef8bccbd

FT Declining fertility rates will transform global economy, report in The Lancet medical journal says

The proportion of births in low-income countries is projected to nearly double to 35 percent by 2100. “These future trends in fertility rates and live births will completely reconfigure the global economy and the international balance of power — and will necessitate reorganizing societies.” By 2100, just six countries are expected to have fertility rates higher than 2.1: Tajikistan in central Asia, the Pacific islands of Tonga and Samoa, and the African nations of Somalia, Chad and Niger. https://www.ft.com/content/318ff981-d189-4bd6-b608-a9709097eedc

FT New government in Argentina takes “chainsaw” to state companies

Its election symbol, the chainsaw, is implemented to slash costs in state companies amid resistance to privatization in parliament. The attention is now changing to within the companies and reducing government funds. The Interior minister claims these companies spend 80 percent of their budget on management costs. https://www.ft.com/content/947ec43d-9694-423f-a645-ada46c1677e6

FT Senior opposition politician in India arrested ahead of general election

The Enforcement Directorate for economic crimes detains the Delhi chief minister as part of a money laundering probe. His party managed to win the capital in state polls in 2015 and 2020 despite the ruling party’s formidable campaign machine. The main opposition party, National Congress, complained that campaigning for them is impossible as bank accounts are frozen due to a tax dispute. https://www.ft.com/content/b3a9821b-3b39-4f5d-a88b-e4abdb145857

FT Ireland’s ‘accidental politician’ plotted a path to the top

At the stepping down of the PM he is set to achieve a long-held ambition when he becomes the country’s youngest “taoiseach”, the traditional name for PM. A councilor aged just 22, a member of the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament, at 24, a junior finance minister at 27, health minister at 29, higher education minister at 33 — set to become PM at 37. Critics view him as an opportunist. https://www.ft.com/content/3da864ff-c544-44ef-8578-fbaa599ed481

FT In Portugal Centre-right politician nominated as PM

The Democratic Alliance leader is set to head a fragile minority government after he shunned a potential far-right partner that shook up the political landscape, see March 2. The DA has 80 seats of the 230 seats parliament. The Socialists lost the election due to a corruption scandal. https://www.ft.com/content/41021fe6-c9cf-4e15-a78a-214f9bcb582c

March 23

FT The pursuit of happiness

On the occasion of “World Happiness Day” the newspaper dedicates an editorial to the subject and concludes that “a valid goal for governments is to reduce the causes of discontent”. But also: “Cross-country comparisons can be nonsensical, and mood-based surveys are influenced by everything from the time of day to the weather.” The World Happiness Report shows that life evaluations can be largely explained by six factors: GDP per capita, levels of social support, health, freedom, generosity and perceptions of corruption. https://www.ft.com/content/0f1fb65e-f5b2-4e9e-b5ca-9145c1af60ff

FT Young ‘super-revolutionaries’ in Iran lay claim to legacy of Islamic revolt

The radical-right newcomers accuse the older generation of corruption and nepotism. The approach of the super-revolutionaries, according to one hardline politician, is “driven by a desire to eliminate western and liberal influences in culture, economy and even foreign policy”. They operate within a complex political system characterized by opacity and where influential players operate from the shadows. https://www.ft.com/content/323a60d1-1685-49a5-ad33-6ef57b5e5983

FT Iceland to harvest more corn and less bitcoin, says PM

The PM tells the newspaper the island nation needs food security in a hostile world and also to respond to EU regulations that aim to reduce farming in the bloc. The country attempts to rein in energy-hungry bitcoin miners who have turned the island into a data-center haven. The renewable energy needs to be used in a more democratic way for the citizens. Iceland produces most of the animal products it consumes, but only 1 per cent of its cereals and 43 per cent of its vegetables. https://www.ft.com/content/6432a24b-b7c4-4c2f-85a8-79108dbe0644

NYT Democracy teetering in African countries once colonized by France

A wave of military coups and presidents clinging to power are two sides of the same anti-democratic coin plaguing Francophone Africa. These states modeled their constitutions on France’s, concentrating power in the presidents’ hands. And France maintained a web of business and political ties with its former colonies — a system known as Françafrique — often propping up corrupt governments. Support for military rule is increasing. None of the nine African countries ranked as “free” by Freedom House, a pro-democracy group, is a former French colony. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/22/world/africa/democracy-senegal-africa-france.html

NYT Uganda’s president names son to top military post, fueling talk of a succession plan

Nicknamed General Twitter, he has a reputation for provocative late-night tweets and has been working to position himself as heir apparent to his father. The president for nearly 40 years has no plan to step down and will run again in 2026. In recent months, the 49 year old son has been trying to polish his image and consolidate his support nationwide. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/22/world/africa/uganda-president-son.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

In the U.N. Human Rights Council the Geneva office last week promoted multi-faith dialogue to counter religious hatred, and reported on the situation of Christians in Sri Lanka and Algeria: https://un.worldea.org/reports-statements-geneva/

March 24

FT Senegal’s politicians jostle to replace incumbent in delayed vote

The previously stable west African democracy was hit by protests ahead of the Sunday election. Nineteen candidates have been campaigning to replace Sall, in office since 2012, but only a handful stand a realistic chance of winning power in the west African country of 17mn people. https://www.ft.com/content/97e790f5-b510-41e4-855f-5358936e2402

FT 137 Kidnapped children freed in northern Nigeria

The release of pupils snatched in Kaduna state is a boost for the government. Earlier 287 children were reported to be kidnapped. Analysts say the school may have been unsure of the exact number. Almost 4,000 people were seized in 2023, the highest level in five years. Kidnapping is turning into a commercial activity. The government has criminalized the paying of ransom. https://www.ft.com/content/986a6b11-a4db-41d2-8ae5-ba64c1f6e56b

March 25

FT Opposition candidate poised for triumph in Senegal’s presidential race

The ruling party rival concedes defeat as preliminary results point to a big win for the main opposition candidate. The outgoing president called the election “a victory for democracy”. The run-up to the election was marred by turmoil after the government postponed the polls, which were originally scheduled for February 25. The constitutional council intervened, see February 24. https://www.ft.com/content/6862a82b-1e38-42a5-8503-83634fa88e2c

March 26

FT Ukraine, Gaza and the rise of identity geopolitics

The global conscience moves in mysterious ways. The two conflicts mentioned in the heading get most and often also selected attention. But the Sudanese conflict has been largely ignored by the wider world. This also seemed to happen back in 2020 when “Black lives matter” consumed most attention, but not the conflict in Ethiopia about Tigray. The author, the newspapers chief foreign affairs commentator, seeks the answer in “identity politics”. He continues that international media focus on what draws the attention of the audience. This triggers a circular process. https://www.ft.com/content/c9173148-22d9-444b-8a8c-b14585a7db26

FT Letter: Don’t make African farmers bear the brunt of EU green policies

Measures like the carbon border adjustment mechanism, the likely new supply chain law and the deforestation regulation of the EU are combining to create new pressures to consolidate value chains among producers. In the process smallholder farmers in Africa are being displaced by large agribusinesses. https://www.ft.com/content/e5f601aa-fc25-4603-9641-b0139e97b9d5

FT The Trump machine: the inner circle preparing for a second term in the U.S.A.

In 2016, the election winner was the ultimate political outsider. If he wins this year’s election, he will be backed by a group of experienced former officials eager to apply his ideas. Trump is vowing a much more profound break from what used to be his party’s orthodoxy. And there is a team waiting to help him. https://www.ft.com/content/8aa2d8c1-cc3a-46fe-9145-53d05b19a50d

FT Who gains from India’s endless election?

Voting across India will take six weeks, stretching the already limited resources of opposition parties. There will be a record 968mn eligible voters. And, for reasons almost unique to India, they won’t be in a hurry and will take 6 weeks to complete it. India has some of the world’s brightest digital minds and solutions. Could this not be used to do a quicker job? The short answer, analysts and officials say, is no. https://www.ft.com/content/280e7d9a-f9a2-41e8-8796-2f4ace8a4c64

FT Government steps up interventions in Brazil’s largest companies

The government involvement in Petrobras and Vale alarms investors, especially as the president calls the market a ‘voracious dinosaur’. Several (alleged) interventions were mentioned and the president said: “Brazilian companies need to agree with the Brazilian government’s development thinking. That’s what we want.” The newspaper recalls previous mandates of the incumbent, which initially brought steady societal growth but later became statist, largely under his successor.  https://www.ft.com/content/0826a3ab-a5d0-444d-84ca-48606b682876

FT The threat to the government from Israel’s ultra-orthodox army exemption

The war with Gaza has laid bare the tensions in the ruling coalition over religious students skipping military service. One of the religious parties: “All these secular people don’t understand that without [religious schools], the army would not be successful . . . The soldiers only succeed thanks to those learning Torah.” These ultra-orthodox Jews, known as Haredim, claim they would move abroad if forced to serve in the army. https://www.ft.com/content/c35044ef-8c4c-4e56-95ab-e0fe25ed2d60

FT Zambia agrees deal to restructure nearly $4bn of bonds

The bankrupt southern African nation moves closer to exiting default with a revised bondholder arrangement. The president said that China and other creditors are satisfied. The next step is a deal with commercial lenders, including Chinese banks. A deal is urgent as inflation soared. https://www.ft.com/content/b15eb6bc-de7f-4883-8b90-ffb534e23d3b

FT Opposition candidate poised for triumph in Senegal’s presidential race

The ruling party rival concedes defeat as the preliminary results point to a big win for the young opposition candidate (just turned 44). The defeated ruling party candidate congratulated his competitor: “I wish him a lot of success, for the wellbeing of the Senegalese people.” Some 7mn of the 17mn people were registered to vote. The turnout is around 70 percent. The outgoing president called the election result “a victory for democracy”. https://www.ft.com/content/6862a82b-1e38-42a5-8503-83634fa88e2c

TT Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia church in Spain ready by 2034 if new stairway approved

The vast basilica, under construction for 140 years and funded simply by the entry tickets of 3 million visitors each year, could be finished in a decade if the town council agrees to demolition of adjacent homes. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/barcelona-sagrada-familia-finished-gaudi-spain-6rtl6532t

March 27

FT The only real chance to end the chaos in Haiti

This subject is raised by the newspaper in an editorial. It is answered like this: an international security force needs to be beefed up and quickly deployed. FT: “A caretaker PM backed by the international community proved unable to govern and unwilling to hold elections.” He ceded power to a seven-member transitional council drawn from politics, civil society and business. It should appoint an interim government. The newspaper ends its comment like this: “The alternative is Somalia in the Caribbean.” https://www.ft.com/content/52c6c197-e0d7-465b-83ca-5857f27ea903

FT Incumbent in Venezuela thwarts main opposition candidates ahead of election

The Socialist government clears the way for re-election of the president in the July vote. The person most likely to mount an effective challenge complained on Monday that she had been unable to register her candidacy ahead of a midnight deadline. https://www.ft.com/content/2906403a-9644-4e7c-adc1-421c1537d15a

NYT Display of battered men was Russia’s warning to the public, analysts say

Videos showing the torture of four men, accused of the recent terror attack, have circulated widely in a sign of the Russian state’s growing willingness to show its violence to the public. One of the most disturbing videos showed one defendant having part of his ear sliced off and shoved in his mouth. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/26/world/europe/russia-terror-attack-torture.html

March 28

FT From a jail cell for defamation charges to Senegal’s presidency within one month: the rapid rise of a politician

He is the country’s youngest ever leader after a stunning first round victory. And he faces ‘massive expectation’ from the voters. The practicing Muslim and husband of two thanks his release to an amnesty law introduced after a rapprochement between the ruling party and the opposition coalition. The also released opposition leader and confidant (he named a son after him) could not run as he is convicted. https://www.ft.com/content/2be4b5d0-6994-4c65-b1e8-b620e44b70d1

FT Haiti has good reason not to trust the international community

In an op-ed a university rector from Haiti concludes that the political crisis has no obvious solutions. It seems that every time the world intervenes in the politics of the country, it is to its misfortune. Those who seek solutions for Haiti need humility, nuance and historical depth if they are to come up with appropriate answers. https://www.ft.com/content/fe55d71b-9cdd-4bc8-9fda-65a465889254

TT The Isis ‘emir’, 14, who rules Syria detention camp by fear

Five years after the fall of Islamic State’s caliphate, a new generation of extremists has grown up behind the wire in Roj camp, home for 2,600 detainees, 1,673 of whom are under 18. Two teenagers among them run gangs of boys to do their bidding, threaten adult women in the camp with death for perceived transgressions, make improvised weapons, and preach extremist doctrine to children in weekly khutbah sermons. 95 Percent of the women in the camp, from 55 countries, have either chosen to wear the niqab again, or been forced to. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-isis-emir-14-who-rules-syria-detention-camp-by-fear-9jsd0rxtj

March 29

TT India’s ‘ticking time bomb’ as educated youth remain unemployed

A report by the International Labor Organization, released jointly with the Institute for Human Development in Delhi, found that young Indians comprised nearly 83 percent of the unemployed. Worse still, it showed that two thirds of that group had secondary or higher education. Some 7.33 percent of India’s population overall is currently unemployed. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/india-ticking-time-bomb-educated-youth-unemployed-q0h8wjbd0

NYT A French-Malian singer is caught in an Olympic storm in France

Her music is one of France’s top cultural exports. But reports that she might perform at the Paris Olympic Games have prompted fierce debates over identity and language. It has led to a barrage of racist insults online against her. The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation. The singer responded on X: “you can be racist, but not deaf.” Naturalized in 2021, the singer has dual French and Malian citizenship. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/26/world/europe/france-olympics-aya-nakamura.html

March 30

FT How religion became entwined with politics

The newspaper is giving a try at the subject by dedicating an editorial to it. Societies have not all become more secular as they grew richer. They may find it worth pondering a story of a spiritual leader who said his kingdom was “not of this world”, refusing the political role many supporters expected of him and his detractors feared. The newspaper warns again (see also March 26) for “the dark side of identity politics”, what it calls “identity based tribalism” and concludes that re-separating politics from identity is something religious: “insistence on the dignity of every human being”.  https://www.ft.com/content/3acd44f3-ceba-41d2-add9-5e52e0f29c8e

FT Italy’s births drop to historic low

Just 379,000 babies were born in 2023, despite the PM’s efforts to reverse the demographic decline. Experts warn for quick fixes. They say it will require long-term policies that address the real economic and social reasons for not having babies. After all, the PM herself is a mother of only one. https://www.ft.com/content/ad9c108f-32a6-4cb1-8394-fbad78864f4c

FT Battle for Istanbul puts power of president in Turkey to the test

The race for mayor of the important city pits the ruling party’s candidate against Turkey’s most important opposition figure. The president, according to the newspaper “the most preeminent leader since its founding father of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk”, is giving his urbanization minister all possible support to defeat his archrival and incumbent mayor. This includes a star status in government friendly media. https://www.ft.com/content/40b8ab24-4d77-43ce-84ef-c3e7a627bd2d

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

In the UN human rights council WEA calls on Canada to repeal euthanasia for those whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable: https://un.worldea.org/wea-calls-on-canada-to-repeal-euthanasia-for-those-whose-natural-death-is-not-reasonably-foreseeable/

March 31

FT How African immigrants have revived a remote corner of Canada

Hundreds of newcomers from Africa have filled a shortage of workers in Rouyn-Noranda, creating a new community in a remote mining town. Newcomers from Africa are everywhere — in the streets, supermarkets, factories, hotels, even at the church-basement boxing club. They fill in the space offered by the widespread labor shortages. Canada’s immigration policy has traditionally focused on highly educated and skilled immigrants but now also on less skilled jobs in manufacturing, the service industry and in the rural areas. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/30/world/canada/rouyn-noranda-immigration-africa.html

April 1

FT Election in South Africa turns populist as parties play anti-foreigner card

Rivals to the ruling party have pitched the death penalty and mass expulsions to a restless electorate. The parties range from a new party joined by a convicted former president to an white settler party advocating the independence of the Cape province. Xenophobia is rife, also against the workers who arrived from other countries in Africa. https://www.ft.com/content/fab05c4c-27ea-49a5-8750-7649e6b08fd9

FT Singapore has lessons for countries worrying about debt

Tight fiscal rules have helped the 6 million citizen state to thrive. The constitution prevents borrowing for current spending. But the authorities intervene to prevent the currency from appreciating too much. Also there is a public-private social security system. Third, the government understands the importance of maintaining a liquid bond market. https://www.ft.com/content/0ea2bcc4-1378-4dec-81af-0fb688edda31

NYT Amid health concerns, the pope delivers a strong Easter message calling for a Gaza cease-fire

Francis did preside over the Holy Thursday ritual of washing the feet of the faithful at a women’s prison in Rome. On Easter Sunday he delivered a major annual message that touched on conflicts across the globe, with explicit appeals for peace in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine. Referring to the stone that had blocked the tomb of Jesus before his resurrection, Francis said that “today, too, great stones, heavy stones, block the hopes of humanity.” https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/31/world/europe/pope-francis-easter-speech.html

April 2

FT A construction company in South Korea offers staff $ 75,000 for each baby born

Companies and politicians try new strategies to encourage workers to start families. The fertility rate in the country is expected to fall below 0.7 percent this year. The president of the country: “Time is running short, I hope every government agency approaches the issues of low birth rates with extraordinary determination.” https://www.ft.com/content/bd481991-959b-46ba-98f0-a5d323d4d15c

FT Indonesia to accelerate nickel output despite low global prices

The deputy minister targets ‘price equilibrium’ to support sustainable demand for electric car batteries and avoid nickel-free options such as lithium iron phosphate batteries take over. In 2020 the country banned raw ore export forcing smelters and battery makers to set up value addition plants in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/ba1e9856-66aa-4082-b6cd-261b798d050f

FT In Turkey economic mis-steps are behind the electoral defeat of the ruling party

The president misjudged voter anger and the threat from opposition in local polls. The president did, according to the newspaper “almost unthinkable for him”, concede defeat. The main opposition party is said to have learned to play the “Polarization game”. It got 38 percent of the popular vote, against 36 percent for the ruling party. Turnout was 78 percent. https://www.ft.com/content/ae5ceec4-94b6-49bf-a6b0-897008a33873

FT Ultra-orthodox draft exemption sharpens threat to government in Israel

A Supreme court interim ruling freezing subsidies to yeshiva students has piled greater strain on Israel’s war cabinet. Leaders fear it is the harbinger of a full draft. The orthodox camp threatens a revolt, considering the problem a make-or-break issue. The military exemption struck with ultra-Orthodox leaders in the early days of the state allowed 400 yeshiva students to devote themselves to full-time Torah study. In exchange they agreed to support the Zionist project. https://www.ft.com/content/80283350-86fa-4dd1-a5f2-847b9b4690b0

FT Israel passes bill to shut local Al Jazeera office

The government is given powers to close down news channel’s operations and broadcast networks deemed a “security risk”. The PM called Al Jazeera “a mouthpiece” of the enemy of Israel in Gaza. The program director for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said the organization was “deeply concerned” by the law. https://www.ft.com/content/61672660-0e8c-4847-962e-65b84dc3e533

April 3

FT Can Africa one day help feed the world’s growing population?

The continent is a big net importer of food but optimists say better seed varieties and greater use of fertilizers are potentially transformational. Today average yields from cereals in Africa are half those of India and a fifth of those of the U.S.A. The green revolution has yet to arrive in most of the continent. The UN estimates that a global population of 10bn people by 2050 will require 60 per cent more calories. Despite climate change, analysts say Africa can be the main producer of this. https://www.ft.com/content/99958fff-8f69-42ca-b90b-5e2e2677845b

FT For all its faults, democracy is still better than autocracy

In an op-ed the newspaper’s chief economics commentator remarks that all the evidence shows that despotism cannot consistently deliver the economic goods in developing countries. He raises the issue as the appeal of tyranny is growing. The author maintains that democracy delivers accountability for governments and voice for citizens. That is far better for us than serving the whims of despots. https://www.ft.com/content/9285ed6e-fb71-4b10-bf5c-b4f83a140675

FT In India, the gap between pro-democratic rhetoric and reality is widening

This is the conclusion of an editorial. In a few weeks from now close to 1bn people are expected to vote in its 44-day-long general election. What is alarming now is a sharp step-up in state enforcement agencies apparently being used to stifle opposition parties and politicians as the election approaches. The newspaper finds it puzzling that the authorities are squeezing at all, since the ruling party is cruising to victory. https://www.ft.com/content/c0daecb8-ae56-4721-877c-35550e095f39

FT Violence in Argentina’s drug capital tests the government’s small-state vision

Gang attacks on civilians have paralyzed the port city of Rosario. The criminals responded to the authorities showing brutal treatment of prisoners. The new government had strong support in Rosario on a promise to deal with criminality. But it slashes funding at the same time, dealing with the chronic deficit. A local official: “The gunfight is what you hear. But behind that there are all kinds of social problems and infrastructure issues.” https://www.ft.com/content/0a9aa9d5-5ac7-43cd-90d8-54c13b7071c2

FT In the U.S.A. Florida voters to decide whether to protect abortion rights

The November ballot referendum on a flashpoint issue will make the state a closely watched political battleground. The state is among other states that use the overturning of the federal abortion ruling by the Supreme Court, see June 27, 2022, to introduce stricter rules. https://www.ft.com/content/7e7ff5f4-197d-4f6e-8577-9030eb8bd9c2

TT Protests erupt in Turkey after pro-Kurdish mayor is removed

The newly elected official took 55 percent of the vote but was prevented from taking his post. The government replaced him with a candidate from the national ruling party, who only got 27 percent. It revoked a ruling that had allowed the winner to run in the elections, despite him having served a prison sentence that could have barred him from holding office. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/protests-erupt-in-turkey-after-pro-kurdish-mayor-is-removed-tskc72bbq

April 4

FT The next pandemic is coming. Will we be ready?

Member states of the WHO are struggling to agree the terms of the first global treaty to deal with the threat of another Covid-19. Low and middle-income countries are pressing rich nations and pharma companies to go much further than they have previously done on sharing life-saving health resources. In the background geopolitical tensions play out. The WHO CEO: “It’s time for give and take”. https://www.ft.com/content/d40a3add-8151-4910-aabd-3f1dafabcc35

FT President of Peru threatened by Rolex watch scandal

The president of the politically struggling nation (see March 7) replaced six ministers in the face of a probe into her illicit enrichment of watches. The police authorities raided her house in search of evidence. The president considered this “arbitrary, disproportionate, and abusive”. A political science professor of the Pontifical Catholic University said that politicians respond to individual interests, sometimes criminal.  https://www.ft.com/content/4938c2a4-5657-45e9-813b-09d4f2035e6a

FT Government in India offers welfare ‘freebies’ to the poor that are an election boost

The Indian PM has expanded welfare programs, many of them prominently featuring his name and picture. India saw an expansion of its welfare state under former governments led by the center-left opposition, but they were prone to corruption and waste. The current government managed to fight that by linking entitlements to biometrics such as fingerprints via its digital ID system. https://www.ft.com/content/dc053d10-5caa-4684-b5fb-01eb88c7d1eb

April 5

FT Zimbabwe to launch ‘gold-backed’ currency to replace collapsing dollar

Many in the southern African country prefer to keep their money at home. The currency value has fallen by three-quarters against the dollar benchmark in 2024. The deputy finance minister, also the president’s son, said that the plunge was worsened by “anxiety and anticipation” ahead of the new currency regime. At the same time the president called a state of disaster over the drought, saying that 2$bn was needed for a response. https://www.ft.com/content/0de75e8f-40c8-4eb7-9d40-282cfd81e3bc

FT Bringing South Africa to its knees would be self-sabotage for the U.S.A.

In an op-ed the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the country concludes: “Our bilateral relations have always been economically beneficial on both sides”. The direct reason for her essay is a bill proposed in the American House of Representatives based on the notion that her country “has a history of siding with malign actors”. The op-ed concludes that apart from failing to adhere to sovereign rights the bill would also lead to the conclusion expressed in the title. https://www.ft.com/content/291ee4aa-ccc9-4546-93dd-15d2154b027d

FT ‘Made in Australia’ drive aims to shift economy from ‘world’s quarry’ label

The government puts funds into a manufacturing revival to reduce reliance on resources and agriculture and avoid vulnerability on supply chain shocks. In the last decades reliance on China has caused a dip in manufacturing. https://www.ft.com/content/f84d2312-23ce-4af6-99aa-a30e515016d3

FT Opposition leader who joined war cabinet in Israel calls for elections in September

Normally the election would be in 2026. He wants to conduct them before the anniversary of the current war and re-establish the trust of the people, while continuing the drive for security. His party leads in the polls but his competitors say his party is disintegrating. It is not clear if he would leave the war cabinet if his plea falls on deaf ears. https://www.ft.com/content/4abdba91-1333-452c-a786-7ab5fa34c687

FT Authorities in Turkey yield to protesters over local election

An opposition politician who defeated the ruling party candidate is reinstated to the mayor’s office in Van. After his win he was disqualified, see April 3. Large protests broke out. https://www.ft.com/content/1a19275c-a877-444e-bdaa-5aa4ee88f20a

FT Germany considers revival of national service in ‘landmark’ military reforms

The restructuring aims to make armed forces better prepared to defend the country and participate in defending NATO territory. A so-called Scandinavian model in which any military service would in effect be voluntary and gender neutral, as is the case in countries such as Sweden, is seen as a likely candidate. https://www.ft.com/content/414e11a6-9fb6-406b-941e-2ea6fdd4e1e3

NYT Iran says 17-hour battle with separatists leaves 28 dead in 2 cities, 10 security officers and 18 militants

An ethnic Baluch group, designated by the U.S.A. as a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The gunmen tried to take over military bases belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The two cities are near the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The predominantly ethnic Baluch and Sunni, have long accused the central Shiite government of systematic discrimination. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/04/world/middleeast/iran-terrorist-attacks.html

April 6

FT In Israel citizens turn on peace activists amid trauma of war

In a society largely united by the fight against Hamas, those seeking coexistence with Palestinians face abuse and even arrest.  When a court ordered the release of an arrested Jewish pro-Palestinian activist for “behavior that may violate public peace” the security minister of the government wrote: “This is what domestic enemies look like. Shame.” https://www.ft.com/content/b9626124-168e-436f-9d53-cc17e8775140

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA accepts Secretary General’s resignation for health reasons: https://worldea.org/news/25935/wea-accepts-secretary-generals-resignation-for-health-reasons/

April 7

NYT From the horror to the envy of Africa: Rwanda’s leader holds tight grip

Thirty years after a devastating genocide, Rwanda has made impressive gains. But ethnic divisions persist under an iron-fisted president who has ruled for just as long. Even a gospel singer pleading for reconciliation on both sides of the ethnic divide was convicted, jailed and blacklisted as a singer after release. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/06/world/africa/rwanda-genocide-anniversary.html

NYT Challenged by uprising, Myanmar junta cracks down harder

The country’s military rulers have signaled a new wave of detentions and, rights groups say, conditions for existing prisoners have deteriorated. Since the coup in February 2021, more than 1,500 people have died in the junta’s detention, according to a rights group. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/06/world/asia/myanmar-junta-prisoners-death.html

April 8

FT South Africa proposes ‘innovative’ medical tourism plan allowing use of rhino horn

This controversial biodiversity strategy is part of a wider strategy designed to extract more economic value from the country’s wildlife. The policy is designed to give poor people in rural areas an incentive for conservation. https://www.ft.com/content/8cc47694-e71f-40c3-b3ed-3c5e2d8766a9

FT Blackouts spark fears of grid ‘collapse’ in Brazil’s biggest city

The power outages in São Paulo reflect chronic underinvestment in the country’s infrastructure. The government declared it would increase investment but the data show a reduction, while the share of private investment increased. https://www.ft.com/content/6c1356e6-bd9e-45e0-95fd-7b083384f5da

FT Pro-Russia candidate elected Slovakia president

The winner got 53% of the votes and defeated the former foreign minister. This consolidates the grip of the ruling coalition who won the election last year, see October 6, 2023. The party of the new president came third in last year’s election but took part in the coalition on the promise he would be supported in his presidential aspiration. https://www.ft.com/content/4bd9bd86-69bb-40a1-8570-e40930208300

FT In Poland the government overhaul of public TV boosts the commercial competition

The state broadcaster got rid of the conservative narrative but also of many viewers who switched to the commercial Republika along with former state TV anchors. https://www.ft.com/content/748b55eb-431a-4817-8748-a8deb78ee37e

April 9

FT Italy’s government radical plan: rewriting the post-fascist constitution

The PM says the current system leads to unstable governments. Opponents say her plan would weaken parliament and the president. The core of the proposal is giving Italian voters the ability to directly elect PM’s for five-year terms in order to create more societal stability. The concept was tried in Israel from 1992 but abandoned after a decade. The fear is that elections for parliaments would be more frequent. https://www.ft.com/content/b6af5da4-e40f-4df3-bcc3-c8001c41503d

FT Ireland’s new PM pledges to fix housing crisis as election looms

The general election will come in less than a year and housing is the voters’ main concern and affecting their preference. Since the humiliating 2011 EU and IMF bailout the country has fared extremely well, except with housing. https://www.ft.com/content/3ac840c9-300f-4ae7-8969-cebf7ee6f477

NYT Vatican document casts gender change and fluidity as threat to human dignity

The document, five years in the making, according to the newspaper is likely to be embraced by conservatives and stir consternation among L.G.B.T.Q. advocates who fear it will be used as a cudgel against transgender people. The document states that the sex a person is assigned at birth as an “irrevocable gift” from God and “any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception.” On surrogacy the document states that it makes the child “a mere means subservient to the arbitrary gain or desire of others,” irrespective of the intention of the mother. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/08/world/europe/vatican-sex-change-surrogacy-dignity.html

April 10

FT President of Ecuador displays strongman credentials with Mexico embassy raid

The crime-ridden nation’s youthful leader gambles that the brazen attack will pay off domestically. With crime the number one concern of citizens, his poll rating soared. The embassy attack, according to the newspaper “a move rarely attempted even by military dictatorships” and a breach of the 1961 Vienna Convention, was to capture a former vice-president inside who was released from prison early after serving a conviction for corruption. https://www.ft.com/content/74380595-de35-4da8-8ef1-ed4d0d5c3547

FT Ireland’s ‘TikTok PM’ vows new social contract

The 37-year old said: “Now is an opportune time to build a new social contract . . . To protect our hard-earned economic success. To use its benefits to deliver tangible outcomes to society.” The biggest problems are housing and health waiting lists. https://www.ft.com/content/7383b4fd-ec6e-4162-a081-6f77e9d77a6b

FT Myanmar’s junta loses key base to rebel forces

The defeat is the latest setback to the regime as it struggles to bolster the army and reassert control in the country. The most significant losses have been in territories close to the China, India and Bangladesh borders. https://www.ft.com/content/a39e2b69-6db6-4542-ab61-5f5cd4b36dec

TT President of Russia compares himself to Jesus in his battle to uphold tradition

His mission of protecting the Russian youth from the creeping influence of the West was compared to the efforts of Jesus Christ recruiting Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, to spread the word of God. At a meeting last week to start Soviet style youth groups, he insisted he did not want to share a solely Christian message and referenced the four “traditional religions” of Russia — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vladimir-putin-jesus-christ-comparison-russia-7720bgz7w

April 11

FT Hungarian sex abuse scandal hits close to home for PM

The cover-up of pedophilia at an orphanage near the PM’s village dents his reputation and leads to the rise of an internal challenger who started a new party. The president of the country stepped down over the scandal. The case centers around a secret pardon by the president of the orphanage deputy director convicted of influencing a witness. The orphanage director is still in prison for his misdeeds. https://www.ft.com/content/7a4c631e-3fc4-48de-a0bf-8f4ef4a852fb

April 12

FT South Africa’s bickering opposition fractures ahead of national vote

The newer parties clash with the established ones as they vie for a chance to be kingmaker in any coalition government, now that the ruling party since liberation polls below 50 percent. There is no electoral threshold in South Africa. An alliance of opposition parties is crumbling as participants do not want to exclude a coalition with the ruling party. https://www.ft.com/content/b7cb955d-df99-45af-813f-0741de1bc8a8

FT Coalition in Poland split on abortion rights

The first cracks emerge within the alliance as parliament debates abortion.  Currently, a near-total ban on abortion is in force after being installed by the previous government. Its reversal was one of the current PM’s main campaign pledges last year. But the coalition partners differ on what the newspaper calls “social issues”. https://www.ft.com/content/911e5150-66ec-4a24-83cd-d336ecd26e9f

FT South Korea’s opposition achieves a clear majority in the 300 member parliament

One of the candidates in the election is a convicted former justice minister who is appealing his sentence for corruption. His prosecution was the work of the current president, who is now implicated for corruption, see January 27. The new majority alliance fell short of a 200-seat threshold that would have allowed them to circumvent a presidential veto. https://www.ft.com/content/747fa044-81e5-4bbe-8c97-eb4145a9783c

April 13

FT Haiti in crisis sets up ruling council, clearing way for an acting leader

A governing council was finalized after a month of negotiations. It is tasked with restoring law and order by appointing an acting prime minister. The council’s formation, announced in an official state-run bulletin, comes after gangs who have a brutal grip on much of the capital prevented the PM from returning to the country after a trip overseas and ultimately pushed him to announce his resignation. The council includes members of Haiti’s main political parties and coalitions as well as representatives of the private sector, civil society, the Haitian diaspora and religious leaders. The council must first be sworn in at the National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, the scene of some of the heaviest clashes between gang members and the Haitian police. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/12/world/americas/haiti-transitional-council.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

In the U.N. WEA and other organizations submitted a joint written report on the right to education in Norway: https://un.worldea.org/norway-right-to-education-report-to-the-upr-47th-session/

April 15

FT Africa has a chance to leapfrog outdated farming practices

This letter to the editor responds to the article of April 3. It reminds of the negative influence of the green revolution in Asia. According to the author, Africa can avoid that and leapfrog outdated agricultural practices and embrace agroecology for sustainable development, supporting local farmers and nurturing biodiversity in the process. The nurturing of farmers’ ingenuity and resilience through environmentally sustainable, low-input agricultural practices, can forge a path towards food security and prosperity for all. https://www.ft.com/content/27adcbc8-01e9-4981-b94f-d7bd7f926dc6

TT Sudan’s people-traffickers exploit conflict in their  nation

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, warns for the gangs as the civil war is entering its second year: “We know very well that this region is full of criminals who want to take advantage of the misery of refugees and displaced”. The death toll is estimated to be in the tens of thousands, with war crimes committed by both sides. The revival of markets of female slaves are reminiscent of the 2004 genocide, aid agencies said. Taking advantage of the panic, smuggling gangs are using TikTok, Facebook and WhatsApp groups. An expert on the region: “The state has collapsed and the path to rebuilding it is long and fraught.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sudan-people-traffickers-target-europe-war-bhjbrtslm

April 16

FT ‘Wrecking ball’ ex-president upends South Africa election

The former leader of the ruling party has been the surprise package of the campaign, drawing packed rallies and unnerving one-time allies. After his suspension from the ruling party, see January 30, he joined a party that started in September 2023. The candidacy of the 82 year old is approved by the Supreme Court, as he was previously convicted. His new party polls at 12 percent. https://www.ft.com/content/5396ae18-9d00-48fc-939b-b160ee4d1296

FT Singapore’s PM to step down after 20 years

The finance minister is to become the city-state’s fourth leader since 1965. He was named heir apparent in 2022. On social media he said: “I accept this responsibility with humility and a deep sense of duty.” The current PM and son of Singapore’s founder originally intended to step down before turning 70. He is now 72. The delay is caused by the pandemic. The city state is in competition with other business centers. https://www.ft.com/content/0cef9677-3af4-41cf-92ce-02d04aa32b81

NYT Stabbing of bishop in Australia during live streamed service was act of terror, according to the police

A 15-year-old boy has been arrested in the attack, in which several people were injured. An official said the episode appeared to have been motivated by religious extremism. The attack happened at Christ the Good Shepherd Church, an ultraconservative sect of the Assyrian Orthodox church. The police:  “We believe there were elements satisfied in terms of religious motivated extremism.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/15/world/australia/stabbing-mass-wakeley-australia.html

April 17

FT Inside the formidable grassroots operation of India’s ruling party

The party has built one of the most efficient electoral machines in modern democratic politics. A party-run app called Sangathan (Organization) assigns volunteers to jobs. One volunteer said: “We can understand more or less who is not voting for us and why, so we focus on them.” The approach can involve anything from social service to personal talks. In this way a lot of organizational depth is added to the popularity of the PM. https://www.ft.com/content/d5a1dfaa-ecfb-45c5-b60d-458f89228ea3

April 18

FT Haiti names transitional council to handle crisis

A nine-member body will take over from the acting PM in an effort to end the power vacuum that has allowed gangs to thrive. It is made up of politicians, business figures and civil society leaders and has a mandate until February 2026 to appoint a new PM and hold the first election since 2016. The next step is the installation of the council at the national palace that is surrounded by the criminal gangs. https://www.ft.com/content/5eb13d5d-32db-4e42-b00c-883d8c5e9a90

FT Result of snap poll in Croatia not enough for ruling party to promote more EU centered new government

The sitting PM is unlikely to achieve an outright governing majority. The rivalling PM and president (“two alpha males”) cast their shadow not only over the upcoming presidential election in December but also over the European election in June. The PM of the 4 mn citizens nation is more EU oriented; the president is Russia-leaning. Inability to form a government in Croatia soon may harm the re-election of the current EU president. https://www.ft.com/content/a1d3e537-4e82-4fe2-b7d2-3da0cdf6b8b5

April 19

FT Western nations must engage with dictatorships in Sahel, according to thinktank former UK PM

Talking with juntas in the volatile region of the Sahel is essential to counter the growing terror threat. The region accounts for half of all terrorism deaths worldwide in 2023, according to the Global Terrorism Index. The thinktank pleads for “a new compact” of the region with the west and the middle east to stem “the influx of predatory actors”. The report builds on the notion that the anti-terrorism efforts of the west so far were in vain. https://www.ft.com/content/4ee581bf-c09c-4277-8e9a-b9f5292331be

April 20

FT Political rally in Georgia against ‘foreign influence’ law protesters say is modelled on Russia example

The protests and parliamentary scuffles raise the alarm about the government’s attempts to clamp down on civil society. The law would require NGOs and media that receive more than 20 per cent of their funding from abroad to register with the justice ministry or face fines. The president, a critic of the ruling party, has sided with the protesters. https://www.ft.com/content/924bc1f0-15cf-40cb-b113-1ded0207309c

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA in the Universal Periodic Review on human rights reported on three cases of abduction and detention of South Korean Christians by the authorities of North Korea: https://un.worldea.org/north-korea-abduction-of-three-south-korean-citizens-report-to-the-upr-47th-session/

April 22

FT Is South Korea’s economic miracle over?

Decades of growth are tapering off as the country struggles to reform its model and reduce its dependence on manufacturing. Having led the world in 36 of 120 priority technologies identified by the Korean government in 2012, by 2020 that number had dropped to just four. With low labor productivity, outdated energy infrastructure and a tense political culture, progress is limited. https://www.ft.com/content/b34e8bc8-9f78-45c8-a15b-3df9cdfd858f

FT Mexico’s presidential frontrunner vows to prioritize U.S.A. trade ties

The ruling party candidate to succeed the president strikes a contrast to her combative mentor and predecessor by promising consensus-based policies if she wins the June vote. She has an eye on the opportunity of the near-shoring agenda of the Northern neighbor. https://www.ft.com/content/eb1fbdc8-8d1f-4b61-b41d-0bdc6cfc28ab

FT Singapore gives top-level briefings to reassure foreign banks on stability

The city-state is keen to bolster its image as a reliable financial center at a time of rising U.S.A.-China tensions. In meetings organized by the PM office, officials discussed US-China rivalry, the Middle East conflict, the Ukraine war and the $2.2bn money-laundering scandal that rocked the city-state in August. The city-state has plotted a careful path as a neutral financial center. The ministers attending the briefings were the top. https://www.ft.com/content/cdea5463-3fd8-4642-94aa-d8ccd45c90b6

FT Who pulls the strings of power in Iran?

Recent events highlight the dominance of the 85-year old supreme religious leader and the political military Revolutionary Guards that he shaped into a powerful institution. A keen reader of global history, philosophy and literature, the supreme leader seeks to make Iran the pre-eminent regional power. Historically, clerics maintained their independence from government institutions through their strong ties to wealthy bazaar merchants. Who will succeed the Supreme leader? A 88 member Assembly of Experts is responsible for this. https://www.ft.com/content/92bee739-88bd-45dc-bbd5-70ecfa76c2e8

April 23

FT The government of the U.S.A. knows that the global south has a point

Rich countries espouse an active industrial policy at home while continuing to impose outdated policies abroad. Their climate and security policy at home is at odds with their global policy which is still decidedly focused on maximizing short-term private sector profit. In an op-ed the newspaper’s global business columnist recalls that the U.S.A. government announced a climate and trade force “for a “postcolonial” trade system that prices in carbon load and labor standards”. https://www.ft.com/content/6482a6b9-56ea-4d79-ab18-ec5c6fa8f3e0

FT Extreme weather threatens potato output in Ireland

Climate change is blamed for difficulties facing the world’s biggest consumer of potatoes. This reminds of a devastating blight beginning in 1845 wiped out potato plants and triggered a famine that shaped Ireland’s history. The newspaper even quotes a recent prayer request of the Methodist Church for the current situation. https://www.ft.com/content/bdd2a9de-af10-49c5-a978-59c1a631343e

TT Outcry as incumbent in India calls Muslims ‘infiltrators’

The opposition accuses the PM of dividing through hate at the start of a 40-day election. On his part the PM told a crowd in Rajasthan that the opposition would prioritize Muslims for resources when in power. This month he also declared that the opposition manifesto bore the “imprint of the Muslim League”, a political group that in the colonial time lobbied the British government for the creation of Pakistan as a separate state for Muslims. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/outcry-as-narendra-modi-calls-indian-muslims-infiltrators-lfjkr5vqp

April 24

FT The young in South Africa rethinking Nelson Mandela’s legacy

Some of those born after the end of apartheid take inspiration from the radical politics of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Many hold the view that the Black majority was short-changed by the terms of the transition. It underscores the deep disillusion many citizens feel about the state of their country. The classic explanation that the first 15 years after apartheid were better does not hold for them. https://www.ft.com/content/2bfe3bf9-8666-43f9-9f5c-ed3d8bc64560

FT Ireland forecasts €8.6bn budget surplus this year

The government has room to offer a generous pre-election budget but warns that the era of bumper tax receipts may be waning. Taxes paid by global tech and pharma groups with European headquarters or large operations in Ireland have been booming for a decade and doubled from 2020-22. https://www.ft.com/content/6e923f7a-cef0-4efa-bc6a-3cc2e8910442

April 25

FT A message to economists: geopolitics matters

The western policymakers ignore the changing global power relations at their peril. In an op-ed the author, a retired central banker and author of the book “Global Discord”, notes that in recent top gatherings of the west this subject “rarely surfaced at all”. “Economic models take peace and order for granted.” “… [The U.S.A.] role in keeping the sea lanes open [necessary for a stable dollar], depends on the Federal Reserve engineering a return to domestic price stability.” The author admits he is exaggerating but wants policy makers  “to recognize the profound shift in the geopolitical backdrop”. https://www.ft.com/content/f05826c0-d030-4fa4-89d1-72a1b73dec3d

FT Russian troop arrival spells end for U.S.A. military presence in Niger

The military junta joins the Sahel neighbors in pivoting away from the west. The Russians filled the void and flew in air defense material, apparently to guard against a foreign intervention. One analyst: the Russians protect the new regime. Last week the Niger PM, in Washington for IMF and World Bank meetings, insisted with the U.S.A. deputy secretary of state to withdraw the U.S.A. troops. https://www.ft.com/content/c2970e46-76ea-47f2-a25d-ae1d246ef157

FT PM in Spain considers quitting as his wife faces a corruption investigation

The PM will announce a decision on his political future next week. The judiciary investigates allegations that the PM wife had received favors from private businesses that won government tenders and were awarded public funds. In the backdrop the amnesty law for regional separatists plays a role (see March 8). https://www.ft.com/content/0844ee97-9e73-4e8f-850a-9b24dea9c9f7

NYT Myanmar’s junta recaptures town that was a significant gain for rebels

The resistance soldiers were forced to leave the town, a key trading center on the border with Thailand, weeks after capturing it. It happened after a well-armed local militia known as the Border Guard Force, which had briefly switched sides and joined ethnic Karen rebels and allied pro-democracy forces, rejoined the junta army. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/24/world/asia/myanmar-junta-rebels-myawaddy.html

April 26

FT PM in Haiti steps down amid gang crisis

A transitional council is to run the poverty-stricken country in a deal backed by regional nations, expiring in February 2026. The finance minister serves as interim PM until the council appoints a PM. The council was sworn in at the National Palace on Thursday. https://www.ft.com/content/47990fcb-f95b-4bba-be94-9680b4ea5e8d

FT Allies of bruised PM in Spain urge him to stay on

The opposition accuses him of a power vacuum as the PM decries the ‘harassment’ culminating in graft investigation into his wife. The group that brought the accusations to the judiciary acknowledged that some of the stories could turn out to be false. https://www.ft.com/content/e75c0e1d-0686-4375-95a5-aaaef9a2b894

April 27

FT With his challenger in court, can the incumbent in the U.S.A. take control of the election?

As polls show the race is tight, the president is campaigning around the country and his opponent is stuck spending his days in a Manhattan courtroom. The legal problems helped the opponent with the party primary contests but now polls show the two candidates are almost even. One analyst: “It is easy to see how people on both sides see their beliefs reinforced by the trial”. https://www.ft.com/content/74f85659-27b0-4332-a840-046a9909ae15

FT Gut or guile? PM resignation threat leaves Spain on edge

The country is left guessing by the PM’s unusual tactic ahead of the announcement on his political future set for Monday. One analyst: “It’s either childish narcissism or its maximum Machiavellianism.” The PM is regularly described as a ruthless schemer who has led Spain for nearly six years thanks to high-risk gambits to eliminate internal rivals, vanquish opponents and sweet talk voters. https://www.ft.com/content/022a1e68-ee10-470b-99d0-2df675abdc0a

FT Yen sinks to 34-year low after Bank of Japan holds interest rates near zero

The bank governor says the weakening currency is having ‘no major impact’ on the underlying inflation. The BoJ has long struggled to maintain price rises at sustainable levels to keep the economy out of deflation. Consumer spending remains low. https://www.ft.com/content/30c39c56-3aee-4120-9490-5ce09c187322

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Deputy SG Dr. Lin visited Japan, a country with less than 0.1% evangelical Christians. This compels Evangelicals all around to work together for the sake of the gospel. https://worldea.org/news/26073/uniting-with-japanese-christian-ministries-for-the-sake-of-the-gospel/

April 30

FT In Sudan war closes in on Darfur’s besieged capital

The battle encapsulates a multi-layered conflict that analysts say is spiraling out of control. The UN human rights commissioner late last week said he was “gravely concerned by the escalating violence in and around the Darfur capital”. Some of the militia’s ally with the government army while the main rebel leader controls 4 out of 5 states in Darfur. Nationally he also is losing after initial successes. https://www.ft.com/content/c64d91cd-7797-4552-b56f-d42d07899d3f

FT PM’s gambit in Spain revives the discussion over his perceived role in politics

The PM widens the political chasm by blaming the right-wing opposition for attacks on his wife. The Socialist leader sought to take the moral high ground on Monday after his wife became the target of a corruption investigation, appealing to his compatriots to help end the toxicity of national politics. https://www.ft.com/content/9adc591b-f7de-460e-85a1-18bc6fb0753f

FT In the U.S.A. the state of California moves to cut medicine prices with novel deal on opioid overdose drugs

The state is to buy naloxone nasal spray from a generics maker and distribute the medication under its own brand. The state is disrupting the drug industry by securing life-saving drugs at lower and transparent prices. The goal is “maximizing taxpayer dollars and saving more lives with this miracle drug”. https://www.ft.com/content/4f6dc0c5-6c75-45a1-b7f3-90f94b44f4cf

FT Nine accused of violent coup plot face treason trial in Germany

The case highlights the threat to democracy from far-right extremists. It is the first of three mammoth trials of 27 people in total. They are accused of conspiring to overthrow the government, install an aristocrat Prince as national leader and declare martial law. The indictment says that after deposing the federal government, the plotters intended to contact the Russian government to negotiate a new order for the country. https://www.ft.com/content/f8e37582-c8b3-4f4c-8953-bbe88c91d148

FT The incumbent increases anti-Muslim rhetoric in India election campaign

The PM seeks to mobilize Hindu voters amid signs of a low turnout and anti-incumbency sentiment that would threaten the goal to achieve a supermajority, see March 18. https://www.ft.com/content/43a6d2b1-ccb2-4f68-b6ab-fe634e6ef546

FT Households in Argentina face financial crunch as markets cheer the new government

Investors say that the austerity measures are needed before the economy turns the corner. The government announced the first quarter of fiscal surplus since 2008, calling it “a feat of historic, global proportions”. It hopes that despite their daily struggles, the citizens will be patient. Thousands of soup kitchens say they are on the brink of closure after the government cut funding in a bid to curb graft. https://www.ft.com/content/ca038001-731a-48d6-8719-1d6a5699a29c

TT Taiwan removes statues of former dictator to assert sovereignty from China

Hundreds of statues of the dictator who ruled the island after he was driven from the mainland are being relocated or removed entirely. The parliament has been told that officials have been ordered to remove the remaining 760 statues, using government subsidies provided for the purpose. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/taiwan-removes-chiang-kai-shek-statues-to-distance-itself-from-beijing-93qbsqbv6

May 1

NYT Flash floods kill at least 45 in Kenya

Heavy rains have been pounding parts of East Africa for weeks, and the flooding has killed many  people in recent days. Also in Tanzania many casualties are recorded. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/29/world/africa/dam-collapse-kenya-africa-floods.html

May 2

FT The rapid deterioration of the Sahel

In an editorial the newspaper says that development of the Sahel countries is the only long-term answer to terrorism and the growing Russian influence. The region is on top of the list of terrorism deaths. Groups loosely affiliated with Isis and al-Qaeda, exploiting local grievances and joining forces with criminal gangs, are the main culprits. Western policies have not been working. Sanctions and withdrawal of aid as a response to coups have only hastened changes. The newspaper points to Europe for outside answers and advises strengthening ties with the West African coastal states first of all. https://www.ft.com/content/cf7f6153-f27f-4433-bdec-6dd2286a1c56

FT Sister of the president fights his political battle in Argentina

The former baker holds the keys to senior government roles but her growing prominence worries politicians and business leaders. During the campaign her brother nicknamed her “the boss”. She managed his successful campaign and is now his general secretary and omnipresent in the president’s circle. She is quiet, not charming but also not shy. She concentrates on building the party. https://www.ft.com/content/c782ee1b-ad41-4448-97d8-df7c0770f748

FT Third candidate in the U.S.A. taps the nostalgia in bid to upset incumbent and challenger

The vaccine-sceptic scion of the political Kennedy dynasty says Americans must not vote out of ‘fear’. He raised a host of issues plaguing America — chronic ill health, national debt, a “poisoned” food supply — that he said his opponents were not even discussing. On the foreign policies he is more right leaning. https://www.ft.com/content/1bbbdf52-5aad-4028-8d42-981d0d8509a1

NYT Ruling party in Scotland looks to a stalwart after its leader since last year quits

The new leader also led the same party two decades ago. The party has been in a state of crisis since the departure last year of the previous first minister, once one of Britain’s most popular politicians. For much of the past year, the ruling party has been enduring the fallout of a police investigation into the handling of funds it raised for a future referendum campaign. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/02/world/europe/scotland-snp-first-minister.html

NYT Frustrated citizens in South Korea blame the president in standoff with doctors

A walkout by physicians has dragged on for weeks, as they protest a plan by the government to increase medical school enrollment. A majority of respondents in a recent poll said that the government should negotiate with the doctors to reach an agreement quickly or withdraw its proposal. The doctors contended that the government was continuing to ignore systemic issues like uneven compensation that make essential services like emergency care unappealing career choices. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/01/world/asia/korea-doctors-strike-yoon.html

May 3

FT Immigration boom helps boost growth in rich countries, says OECD

The organization of affluent countries raises the forecasts this year for the global economy as the jobs markets strengthen. In this situation North America does better than Europe. The immigration boom helps with labor productivity, transfer of knowledge and ideas and labor mobility. The newspaper notes that “some economists are more skeptical about the scale of any effect”. https://www.ft.com/content/05497710-ba0a-494d-adba-85479ae0d522

FT Political tensions weaken battle against biggest diseases, warns health charity chief

The new head of one of the world’s biggest biomedical charities says that geopolitical divisions risk harming action on pandemic responses and ‘superbugs’. The remarks come as the World Health Organization’s member states make a final push to agree a landmark treaty on pandemic preparedness ahead of a late May deadline. https://www.ft.com/content/108dc966-4e43-42da-9dfe-23608d2841e4

FT Campus protests become a political liability for the ruling party in the U.S.A.

The unrest amplifies the party’s divisions over the Gaza war and gives the challenging party fodder for campaign attacks. They portray the country as spiraling out of control under the present government. Their candidate praised the police for a rapid intervention at a demonstration. The government is walking a very fine line between denouncing protests that are unacceptable and not alienating young progressive voters it needs to turn out. https://www.ft.com/content/a35aff0c-1c6c-4ddf-83ad-b42f07ccfb1b

FT In Panama politics are influenced by a former president from the Nicaraguan embassy

He fled to the embassy and lived there with his dog Bruno since February, avoiding arrest on a money laundering conviction that barred him from the presidential ballot. He is still popular. The presidential election consists of just one round and analysts expect congressional elections at the same time to deliver a divided assembly. https://www.ft.com/content/9f6738c0-8fef-4524-881f-3e8d276cbdfb

FT Births in Germany fall to lowest for a decade

The declining birth rate will put downward pressure on the labor force and economic growth, experts warn. Marriages are also down and the population is rapidly ageing. The economy is barely growing. The country needs 400,000 immigrants per year to have the workforce stay on the same level. https://www.ft.com/content/401c4ed2-ac6b-46f7-9883-1d63787b6a0f

FT Italy’s far-right leader fights for political survival

The party leader is called ‘an egoist’ as party activists revolt and defect ahead of EU elections. He selected a controversial former military to lead the list of EU candidates. Many in the party defect to other right wing parties. The far-right leader won the 2019 election on an anti-immigration campaign but his popularity is waning ever after. https://www.ft.com/content/63e31bcf-beed-45be-8f12-612941530dc1

FT Italy can seize ancient statue in the U.S.A., European court says

The government has tried for decades to repatriate the ‘Victorious Youth’ statue from the Getty museum in Malibu. The statue, which dates back to 300-100 BC and has been attributed by scholars to the artist Lysippus, is one of the world’s few surviving life-sized Greek bronzes. The statue was fished out of international waters by Italian fishermen in 1964 and disappeared one year later. Despite the government’s claim it was purchased by the museum. https://www.ft.com/content/2a88f04b-0f1d-4b78-9180-42a6b9a94e82

May 4

FT Kenya brings in emergency measures to combat ‘unprecedented’ floods

More than 200 dead and 160,000 displaced as torrential rain wreaks havoc in the east African country. The government has introduced a series of emergency measures. The president: “No corner of this country has been spared from this havoc.” https://www.ft.com/content/7d37a457-a939-4a14-a340-b9e357347a0d

FT South Korea cracks down on ‘shrinkflation’

The government in a new rule threatens producers with fines when they cut the size of products while keeping their prices unchanged without informing consumers. The governments of the U.S.A. and France have raised the same issue in their countries. https://www.ft.com/content/61c3975d-ca0e-4043-bc47-79120bb19347

FT Crushing losses for ruling party in local election in Britain pile pressure on government

The opposition unseats the mayor in a ruling party flagship region. In the capital a close call was expected but the sitting administration, an opposition politician, won easily.  A leading critic of the PM in the ruling party: “These results are awful and should be a massive wake-up call.” https://www.ft.com/content/0bb4fa46-0bcb-4afe-a2a9-530bfe3a2be2

FT Japan used $59bn to prop up the yen but consumers may still cut back

Government interventions this week fail to ease concerns about the plunging currency. Historically, a weaker yen has been welcomed because of the boost to exports and corporate profits earned overseas. But now chief executives warn of higher raw material prices and weaker consumption. https://www.ft.com/content/a22643db-1e86-421b-acc1-5332bc99415d

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

Evangelical leaders from the M iddle East and North Africa gathered for the General Assembly in Jordan. https://worldea.org/news/26078/mena-leaders-gathered-for-general-assembly-in-jordon/

May 5

NYT The bleak life of the deposed president of Niger and his wife, held captive

Nine months after a coup the president remains locked in the presidential residence. He is cut off from contact with anyone but his doctor, who brings him food once a week. He is held captive by his former security guards. The once-loud calls for his release have grown quiet. Many of his closest allies — his cabinet members and advisers — have been thrown into jail or forced to flee the country. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/04/world/africa/niger-bazoum-captivity.html

May 6

FT The $9tn question: how to pay for the green transition

The bill for meeting climate goals will be immense. Governments worldwide are trying to figure out how to foot it. Across the industrialized world, politicians expect the private sector to be prominent in financing many aspects of the shift to a greener economy, but taxpayers will also have to foot some of the bill. The International Energy Agency figures that the ratio will be 70/30 percent. https://www.ft.com/content/6873d96e-3e40-45c6-9d84-8ce27b7b23e1

FT President in Chad looks to shore up regime as he seeks new alliances

The election on Monday in the central African country comes as the president attempts to legitimize his rule. He took over from his father three years ago, when the latter died on the battlefield. The takeover was considered unconstitutional by opponents. The president is supported by the UAE and it is said that this support also benefits one of the fighting parties in neighboring Sudan. https://www.ft.com/content/b362024b-6fea-45a8-aa5a-4b26d9deae48

FT Election in U.S.A.: who is winning with six months to go?

Despite the challenging candidate’s criminal charges, the election is on a knife edge, with the challenger on a small polling lead. It marks a stunning reversal for the challenger after he left the government in 2021 with a record-low approval rating of 29 percent when a mob of his supporters stormed the parliament. Voters see the challenger as better for the economy. https://www.ft.com/content/6b1763dc-b290-4c76-b9a9-582909ebffd5

FT Israel shuts down Al Jazeera in the country

The government accuses the Qatari-funded satellite channel of being a ‘mouthpiece’ for the rulers of Gaza and a threat to the national security of Israel. The news agency sees the decision as “deceptive and slanderous”. https://www.ft.com/content/140294f0-e482-4f5c-a0c1-a6bbe71e5d0a

FT PM in Britain told to show some vision as local polls leave his party in a hole

Senior politicians of the ruling party warn the PM that action is needed as despair at the recent local election results grips the party. His position is not in danger but he needs to convince the voters that the country needs the ruling party for another term. https://www.ft.com/content/33b3f678-a643-4575-ae58-000a99202ea6

TT One children’s hospital in Italy takes 500 children from abroad each year

It is offering treatments that are unavailable, refused or deemed pointless in their home countries. It has been Vatican-owned for the past 100 years. The government in Italy helps with airlifting patients. The hospital helps not only with offering life-saving surgery but also with palliative care — meaning making life more comfortable for a patient with little chance of recovering. The hospital head: “There is a difference in terms of cultural approach and sensibility — Catholicism has one approach and Protestantism another. It is a difference in the approach to people, rather than in the research.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-cannot-say-no-the-childrens-hospital-taking-the-most-hopeless-cases-j7bqtdw7x

NYT Remains of people taken from DRC as a war trophy. Will Belgium finally return them?

For decades, Belgium failed to return the remains of hundreds of people taken by force from former colonies. A draft law could change that, but critics say it is not going far enough. It requires an official request from the concerned government. The DRC government expressed surprise it was not consulted. Descendants are struggling to have remains returned, their efforts unfolding against the backdrop of a larger debate about Europe’s responsibility for the colonial atrocities, reparations and restitution of plundered heritage. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/05/world/europe/human-skull-africa-belgium.html

May 7

FT South Africa ruling party treats biggest business as a love and hate subject

The company is berated one minute and urged to invest the next. As much as the government wants to blame big business, it also needs its help. Only a profitable and confident private sector could pay enough taxes and provide enough employment to keep the party’s dreams of social transformation alive. https://www.ft.com/content/266d1981-1219-4e16-ac85-999cb6106e93

FT Finland boosts war readiness in the face of Russian aggression

The country tested its ability to run a war economy. The government argues that power consists both of the will and the capacity. The country has fought many conflicts with Russia, most infamously the winter war of 1939-40 in which the Nordic country inflicted hundreds of thousands of casualties on the invading Soviet army and ceded 11 percent of its territory to Russia. https://www.ft.com/content/cf28a55d-31d2-433a-a651-e582cca28fa5

FT Georgia’s puppet master turns towards Russia

The powerful oligarch influences mostly in the background but last week he delivered a conspiratorial, anti-western speech in which he depicted the country as a victim of a “global party of war” and its alleged agents among civil rights groups. The country is in a societal struggle of forces that are either pro-Russia or pro-EU. The oligarch in his speech reiterated that it was still the country’s objective to join the EU but his political machinations are towards Russia. https://www.ft.com/content/07e24da4-5220-4389-9ae7-4b8297932fd5

FT Last-minute stand-in wins Panama presidency

The winner pledges to try to reinvigorate the economy and manage the migration flows from South America. The presidential campaign was highly unusual, with the winner, who did not participate in any presidential debates, facing doubts over his candidacy until this week, when the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. His popular promotor campaigned for him from the Nicaraguan embassy, see May 3. https://www.ft.com/content/0a1b5180-e694-429f-ba87-94dd69c22b98

FT Journalists in Italy strike in dispute with the right-wing government

The public TV is hit by protests over editorial interference and work conditions. The labor union last week accused the board of the broadcaster of transforming the network “into the megaphone of the ruling party”. On their part the board accused the union of “fake news” and the PM demanded more plurality of the broadcaster. https://www.ft.com/content/7fa1e71c-386d-45b6-b1ae-ec71bdace399

TT ‘No Putin means no Russia’: the cult of a modern-day tsar

The president has successfully positioned himself as the living embodiment of Russia before his inauguration on Tuesday. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a key government ally, has hailed the president’s rule as a “miracle of God” and described his murderous invasion of Ukraine as a holy war against “Satanic” forces. The presidency has arguably been one long attempt to reshape reality to a form that is more of his own perception, irrespective of the consequences. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vladimir-putin-inauguration-2024-russian-president-term-87x6xlnmj

NYT In China, ruled by men, women quietly find a powerful voice

Women in Shanghai gather to reclaim their identities as the country’s leader calls for China to adopt a “childbearing culture”. China’s ruling Communist Party has identified feminism as a threat to its authority. Female rights activists have been jailed. Concerns about harassment and violence against women are ignored or outright silenced. But groups of women around China are quietly reclaiming their own identities. Many are from a generation that grew up with more freedom than their mothers. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/06/business/shanghai-china-feminism.html

May 8

FT India’s caste census becomes election faultline as opposition targets PM

Political rivals of the ruling party argue that hierarchy remains the defining social structure with Hindu nationalism leaving the marginalized behind. They vowed to conduct the first nationwide census of caste groups in nearly a century if elected, in a contentious attempt to galvanize marginalized voters. On their part the ruling party claims the opposition’s “hidden agenda” is dividing Hindus. https://www.ft.com/content/900da4c0-17f2-4df4-86b0-1b519a42358c

TT In Sudan a dark skin is a target in the Darfur region

Twenty years after ethnic killing on an industrial scale, the feared Janjawid militia has been reborn, prompting fears of a ‘second genocide’. The civil war now concentrates on the part of Darfur not yet in the hands of the rebel forces. If the whole region falls into their hands, a partition as in Libya is possible. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/my-dark-skin-is-a-death-sentence-in-darfur-rm293xb9g

NYT It took decades, but working women in Japan are making progress

In 1986 the country launched an equal opportunity law. Recently to assist the sputtering economy, employers have taken steps to change a male-dominated workplace culture, like encouraging male employees to do more around the house, or setting limits on after-work outings that can complicate child care, But women still struggle to balance their careers with domestic obligations. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/07/world/asia/japan-working-women.html

May 9

FT Kenya president set for landmark state visit to the U.S.A. as Russia builds Africa influence

The president hails the relationship and pushes for an extension of the Africa trade pact with the U.S.A. Mutual trade is clearly rising and the U.S.A. ambassador last month expressed confidence that the trade pact would be extended, despite worries about corruption. The U.S.A. also has a security interest in Kenya. Domestically the president for two years drew criticism (slow response to medical strikes and floods). The president points to reduced inflation as a positive trend. https://www.ft.com/content/1fb554f2-57e8-4126-8598-ef926f64e09a

FT Angola agrees unusual deal with Chinese state bank to ease debt crunch

Africa’s second-biggest oil producer unlocks cash held as collateral for a multibillion-dollar loan from a Chinese-controlled account to pay interest on a crucial loan. The deal offers a rare window into behind-the-scenes efforts by Chinese banks to provide payment support short of outright debt relief to poor countries that are struggling to pay them back. https://www.ft.com/content/7f29687d-d6eb-498c-97ba-774f617f0e0b

FT Burning flag ad divides South Africa ahead of pivotal national vote

The main opposition party warns voters of a possible deal between the ruling and two radical parties that analysts see as “unlikely”. The party leader defended the video as “the most successful political advertisement in our democratic history”, viewed more than 3mn times within 48 hours. But it provoked a heated backlash from challenging parties to disrespect “a symbol of triumph against apartheid”. https://www.ft.com/content/c754de6f-0452-426e-920b-99999de5e4ec

FT In China Hong Kong court bans protest anthem deemed seditious by city officials

The judgment raises pressure on tech companies operating in Chinese territory to block the song. The song, composed in 2019, quickly gained popularity during citywide pro-democracy protests that year. The composer “intended [‘Glory to Hong Kong’] to be a ‘weapon’, and so it had become”, the court’s ruling said. https://www.ft.com/content/d0e0dfe3-c01e-4dae-8d3d-e3e1a93e10f3

FT Mexico’s presidential frontrunner defends sweeping legal reforms

The candidate wants to see the supreme court and election commissioners to be chosen by voters, arguing that popular votes for top judges will enhance democracy. Investors “have nothing to worry about”, she told the newspaper. She added that the aim was of bringing greater social justice, improving public services and burying a “neoliberal” economic model that she says brought “atrocious poverty and inequality”. Her election as a female would dent the traditional male culture. https://www.ft.com/content/ea9e3435-3b87-4a82-9c0f-6611b869cfca

FT Record Brazil floods kill 95 and cause $1bn damage

The extreme rainfall displaces 200,000 as some scientists link the disaster with climate change. The air force has deployed Israeli-designed Hermes 900 reconnaissance drones, equipped with high definition cameras and sensors, which operate alongside helicopter teams to locate and rescue victims. The president visited the concerned state twice, promising to rebuild damage. https://www.ft.com/content/dec816f8-1f53-4c47-939c-874efb8218c6

TT Traitor or savior in Spain? On the campaign trail with Catalonia’s exiled leader

Crowds gather to support the European MP, who aims to win a regional election on Sunday. For two weeks, the separatist leader has performed nightly election rallies to ecstatic crowds in the French border town. He would be arrested if he stepped over the border. His amnesty is still at stake but he promised the crowd to attend the investiture of the region’s next president. The excitement may be short-lived as support for independence of the region is waning. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/carles-puigdemont-the-fugitive-on-the-campaign-trail-for-catalonia-7z9brk7st

May 10

FT DRC’s ‘forgotten’ war becomes a fight for survival

The battle for Goma pits the government forces and allied militia against the Rwandan-backed M23 rebel group. M23 — which the government, the UN, US, EU and the powerful Catholic Church all say is supported by Rwanda — has fought its way to within 20km of Goma, a city of 2 mn. Both sides have sophisticated weaponry. Rwanda denies involvement but its president at the recent genocide commemoration in his country mentioned that Congolese Tutsi’s are denied their rights. https://www.ft.com/content/495ee17e-aa2f-4674-b56f-a4dbae161d87

May 11

FT Hardliners at odds with ordinary citizens in Iran over fate of park in capital

A row over the plan to build a mosque in a rare green space highlights divisions in an increasingly polarized society. A petition opposing the project so far garnered nearly 150,000 signatures. The mayor wants to move ahead and claims no mature trees will be felled for the project. Some see the opposition to the plan as a way of seeking less confrontational ways to signal discontent in the wake of the recent protests and a sign that civil discontent is alive. https://www.ft.com/content/774d64db-cb8d-4393-b2a1-a2842329547a

FT PM in Poland reshuffles cabinet amid Russia spy scandal

An outspoken critic of Russia is appointed to run the interior ministry. The reshuffle follows the lifting of immunity of a judge who defected to Belarus, clearing the way for an arrest warrant on spying charges to be issued on his name. The judge claims to be persecuted by the new government. https://www.ft.com/content/fc9e049c-58cd-4141-b8ec-e20a20a31535

FT In Spain separatist amnesty is on the ballot in regional election

The vote in the separatist region highlights the enduring rift between those in the region who want to stay in Spain and the independence movement. The national arm of the socialist party needs the regional separatists to stay in power, but their regional party is in favor of the region staying in Spain. The amnesty for separatists is needed to lift convictions for an illegal 2017 vote. https://www.ft.com/content/9f64c4b6-f455-4826-9d0c-0870cfa9e50a

NYT UN General Assembly adopts resolution in support statehood for Palestine

The vote comes after the United States last month vetoed a Security Council measure granting full UN membership to a Palestinian state. The resolution was approved by a vote of 143 to 9 with 25 nations abstaining. The General Assembly has long supported Palestinian statehood, the resolution was the first time the body had voted on the issue of full membership. The vote provides more privileges for the Palestinian authority but only the SC can grant full membership. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/10/world/middleeast/un-resolution-palestinian.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

‘The Other Wing’ in African Christian Academia: ‘The Other Wing’ in African Christian Academia | World Evangelical Alliance (worldea.org)