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Nigerian Toll, China/Russia Gas Deal, French Rail Fail

Hundreds of Thais protested the army's decision to impose martial law.
Hundreds of Thais protested the army's decision to impose martial law.
Worldcrunch

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

U.S. UPS RHETORIC AHEAD OF UKRAINE ELECTION
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden threatened Moscow with tougher sanctions if it undermines Sunday’s planned presidential election in Ukraine. “If Russia undermines these elections on Sunday we must remain resolute in imposing greater costs on Russia and we must be equally resolute to invest in the NATO alliance," Reuters quoted him as saying. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that Washington had spent $11.4 million “to support free and fair elections in Ukraine,” adding that the OSCE had sent 1,000 election observers, Interfax reports.

  • Australia has expanded its list of people targeted by asset freezes and travel bans, adding 38 names from Vladimir Putin’s close circle of friends and allies, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

  • The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, also weighed in on the crisis, as he reportedly told a Polish survivor of Nazi Germany’s regime during a visit in Canada: “And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.” Some voices in the UK have urged Charles to avoid making such baldly political comments.

THAILAND ARMY LEADER TO MEET POLITICAL LEADERS
General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the leader of Thailand’s army, is chairing a meeting with representatives of both ruling and opposition parties in a first step towards national reconciliation, one day after declaring martial law,South China Morning Post reports. The current caretaker Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan is believed to have been left out of the meeting. On Tuesday hundreds of Thais protested the army's decision to impose martial law.

DEATH TOLL RISES IN NIGERIA ATTACKS
The toll is at least 118 confirmed dead, with more bodies feared trapped under the rubble, in the central Nigerian town of Jos after twin bombings yesterday brought down several buildings, The Nigerian Tribune reports. So far, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but many suspect the terrorist group Boko Haram. This morning, the Islamist group was also accused of carrying another attack which left 17 people dead in a village close to where it abducted close to 300 schoolgirls last month. Read more from the BBC.

VERBATIM
"In 20 years of politics, I have never insulted anyone,” Silvio Berlusconi told Jeremy Paxman in a rare TV interview. Right.

CHINA-RUSSIA SIGN 30-YEAR GAS DEAL

China and Russia signed a 30-year gas agreement that will see Moscow export 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year beginning in 2018, RT reports. No price details were disclosed, but Financial Timesestimated the deal’s value at $456 billion. The historic deal, which comes after 10 years of negotiations, was described earlier this week by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as one that would help Moscow diversify into new markets, amid growing tensions with Europe over the Ukrainian crisis. According to AP, the agreement is “a financial and diplomatic boost” for Vladimir Putin and Russia and should end China’s gas shortages.

50 MILLION
In an embarrassing blunder, the French train operator SNCF announced it must spend at least 50 million euros to reconfigure hundreds of platforms after it turned out the 2,000 new trains it ordered were too large.

U.S. TO RELEASE DRONE STRIKE MEMO
The American Justice Department is set to release a secret memo that justified the killing of American citizens abroad as part of the drone strikes campaign against suspected terrorists,The New York Times reports.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
Taking a sizable stake in Deutsche Bank, Qatari investors are once again showing a strategy that is single-minded by definition, write Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Simone Boehringer and Thomas Fromm: “The amount of money involved is indeed formidable. The Qatar Investment Authority boasts an estimated $200 billion, which means they’re not too choosy with their investments as long as they bring in high returns. The firms on the Qatari shopping list include the Merck Fink, Credit Suisse and Barclays banks, the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club, Siemens, the beleaguered manufacturer of photovoltaic products Solarworld, Royal Dutch Shell — but also Tiffany's, Louis Vuitton, the London stock exchange, Lagardère and German construction company Hochtief. What such portfolios show is that Gulf investors tend not to limit themselves to specific kinds of companies, and certainly not to individual countries.”
Read the full article, What's Driving Gulf Cash To European Holdings.

EGYPT’S MUBARAK SENTENCED TO JAIL
A Cairo court sentenced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to three years in a maximum security prison after finding him guilty of corruption,Daily News Egypt reports. Mubarak, who was toppled during the 2011 uprising, has been kept in a military hospital since being freed in August after last summer’s coup. His sons Gamal and Alaa were sentenced to four years of imprisonment on several charges, including corruption.

9/11 MUSEUM OPENS IN NYC
The National September 11 Museum at Ground Zero in New York City opens to the public for the first time today, amid a series of controversies that include its admission price ($24), the decision to expose some 8,000 unidentified human remains and the gift shop, leading the father of a victim to say the museum was a “revenue-generating tourist attraction.” Read more from CNN.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

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Geopolitics

The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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