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TOPIC: corruption


Gaza And Ukraine, Two More Wars Of A World Still Addicted To Oil

Hydrocarbons continue to drive nations' economies and politics around the world, creating both corruption, stagnation and — sadly as we've seen again — all-out war.


MEXICO CITYCrude oil is and will remain fundamental to the countries that produce it, where the sector often comes to occupy an outsized role in policymaking, squeezing out the societal needs that must be the priority of public policy.

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Who Will Save America? An Early Foreign Take On Trump 2024

Despite facing a growing number of charges, Donald Trump continues to rise in the 2024 presidential election polls. His most likely opponent, current President Joe Biden, is raising fears of a worst-case scenario due to his deteriorating health and old age, despite his solid economic record. A French political analyst weighs in from abroad, and from experience....


PARIS — It was February 2009 — almost 15 years ago. Barack Obama had just been inaugurated. I was teaching at Harvard University. In the main square of the campus, it was deeply disturbing to witness middle-class men and women panhandling for change, despite the bitter cold. They had lost their jobs, and many had lost their homes. The deep contrast between Obama’s exceptional speeches on the radio and the reality on the street was troubling to say the least.

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Big Tobacco, Tax Windfalls: The Inside Story Of What Really Feeds China's Smoking Habit

No country in the world has as big a cigarette industry as China. This is the story of how a giant state-backed monopoly created the industry, which provides more tax revenue than any other, and ultimately sabotaged the country's anti-smoking efforts in the process.

Updated October 3, 2023 at 12:15 p.m.

This story by The Examination was supported in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center. It was reported with Germany’s Der Spiegel and the investigative newsroom Paper Trail Media, Chinese-language Initium Media and Austria's Der Standard. The full version of the article can be read on The Examination here.

Chongqing, a booming municipality of 32 million people, was set to join a short list of major Chinese cities that have banned indoor smoking in public.

But in August 2020, Zhang Jianmin, head of the state-run monopoly China National Tobacco Corp., paid a visit to local leaders — including the mayor and the powerful head of Chongqing’s branch of the Communist Party.

When Chongqing’s new smoking law was adopted the next month, it included a significant carve-out long sought by the company: Restaurants, hotels and “entertainment venues” such as bars and karaoke clubs could allow smoking in designated areas.

It was another demonstration of strength by China National Tobacco Corp., the largest tobacco company in the world — and one more missed opportunity by China to live up to a key commitment it had made in signing a major international tobacco control treaty 20 years ago this November.

Under that treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, China pledged to enact a national indoor smoking ban, a measure that both protects people from second-hand smoke, and, researchers say, makes smoking less socially acceptable. But in China, the national law never happened, and efforts by municipalities to implement their own bans have been challenged at every turn by the tobacco monopoly, commonly known as China Tobacco.

Other important elements of the WHO treaty also have yet to manifest. China has not banned the marketing of low-tar cigarettes as safer than other products (they aren’t), and has failed to require that tobacco manufacturers disclose many of the cancer-causing toxins in their products.

China’s tobacco addiction, meanwhile, has continued unabated. Smoking rates have barely budged, even as they have plunged in many comparable countries — and as the country has undergone a remarkable economic transformation.

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Protests Derailed: A History Of Polish Railways Getting Political

Polish state railways have been accused of deliberately keeping protestors from reaching the capital for an anti-government protest march. This is not the first controversy the railways have faced.

Last June, Polish opposition leader and former President of the EU Commission Donald Tusk called on Polish citizens to protest against the “authoritarian” steps taken by the ruling party, PiS. Estimates by state organizers approximate that 500,000 participants marched in Warsaw, with smaller marches occurring in other Polish cities.

“Do you have enough of [PiS’s] lies, theft and corruption?” Tusk asked in a video published on his Facebook page. "Then come to Warsaw on the 4th of June… we will show them our might”.

In the days leading up to the protest and on the day of the event itself, passengers and groups of demonstrators blamed state railways for delayed train permits, inaccessibility for those with disabilities and a deficit in the train's ability to transport participants to the capital.

“This is how rail functions in Poland,” an anonymous passenger told Gazeta Wyborcza, “It is impossible to get to Warsaw for the March at 12 p.m. from Szczecin.” The same passenger told Wyborcza they were “speechless” at the realization, adding that “it’s an outright exclusion of rail communication”.

This is not the first time that the state-run rail lines have come under fire for allegedly political acts.

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Pierre Haski

Gabon And Niger Coups Are A Wake-Up Call To Confront Kleptocracy In Africa

After a series of coups in West Africa, what will happen to the corrupt systems set up by past rulers — will they endure, or could reform be ahead?


PARIS — In a video captured more than 10 years ago, Cameroonian President Paul Biya can be seen surrounded by other heads of state, complaining to his peers about the so-called "ill-gotten gains" investigation in France.

He accused his opponents and the media of being behind the investigation, which stemmed from complaints that the president had embezzled public funds. He brushed off the allegations as a mere nuisance, if not the work of conspiracy theorists.

The "ill-gotten gains" case originated from a complaint filed in 2007 by non-governmental organizations in France against several African heads of state, regarding real estate properties in Paris allegedly purchased with embezzled funds.

This scene gains new significance in light of the recent coup that toppled President Ali Bongo of Gabon. The Bongo family is central to this extensive investigation launched in France into the origin of the funds that allowed several ruling families in central Africa to acquire real estate holdings in Paris.

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In The News
Valeria Berghinz, Chloé Touchard, and Marine Béguin

Putin on Prigozhin, Trump’s Mug, Greek Leap

👋 Chào!*

Welcome to Friday, where Vladimir Putin offers a chilling assessment of Yevgeny Priogohzin’s life and presumed death, Donald Trump’s mug shot is prime front page material and the World Track and Field Championships in Budapest offer some soaring images. We also feature a collection from Valeria Berghinz of some of the world’s most notable defunct vacation hot spots, which evoke the memories of bygone summers years after being abandoned.


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Jawhar Sircar

Modi, The Price Of One Man's Loyalty Obsession

Narendra Modi's fixation with unflinching loyalty from those close to him is a worrying trait that betrays the Indian prime minister's own insecurities.


NEW DELHI — There is no doubt that the increasing politicization of the bureaucracy has been corroding, for quite some time, the pillars on which fair and efficient administration rest. The pains taken by the founding fathers of our constitution to protect and insulate the civil service from political interference had ensured a large degree of neutrality, for several decades — except perhaps during the so-called "Emergency," following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's calling a national state of emergency in 1975.

What is more important is that it created a culture of looking down at any suspiciously close liaison between politicians and bureaucrats (for mutual personal gain) to be illicit and adulterous.

The recently passed Delhi Services Act runs counter to this ethos and legitimizes the babu-neta nexus. While asserting the supremacy of politics and administration (euphemistically called the executive) over the judiciary, it ensures that the Union government’s political agenda is thrust on an elected chief minister. This law damages the very federal structure, to uphold which, the all India services were created. The chief minister’s control over the civil service, enshrined in List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, is undermined by legally empowering the chief secretary and the home secretary of Delhi to overrule him.

The root of the success of political governance that lies in the subordinate position of the bureaucracy is, thus, uprooted – which, in effect, exposes officers to a field that is full of pits and mines. It is not that senior bureaucrats have never differed from chief ministers, but officials believe that when two persons ride a horse, one has to ride behind.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Mikhailo Dubinyanskiy

What Orwell Could Tell Ukraine About Corruption In Wartime

War can unify a nation, but it can also contribute to the deepening of social tensions — especially when times get tough on the front line. A reflection forward, and back, including the experience of George Orwell calling out the bad Brits during World War II.


KYIVGeorge Orwell left this entry in his diary on September 17, 1940, as London faced Nazi air raids:

“There has of course been a big exodus from the East End, and every night amounts to mass migrations to places where there is sufficient shelter accommodation. The practice of taking a 2d ticket and spending the night in one of the deep Tube stations, e.g. Piccadilly, is growing . . . . . . Everyone I have talked to agrees that the empty furnished houses in the West End should be used for the homeless; but I suppose the rich swine still have enough pull to prevent this from happening.

The other day 50 people from the East End, headed by some of the Borough Councillors, marched into the Savoy and demanded to use the air-raid shelter. The management didn’t succeed in ejecting them till the raid was over, when they went voluntarily. When you see how the wealthy are still behaving, in what is manifestly developing into a revolutionary war, you think of St. Petersburg in 1916.”

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Throughout World War II, the legendary British writer was very much a contrarian : he predicted British defeat in the war, criticized Prime Minister Winston Churchill and was outraged by the behavior of "rich pigs" who did not show enough solidarity with the common people.

Today we know that internal social conflict did not prevent Britain from defeating the attacking enemy. But we also know how much war contributes to the aggravation of social tensions and class hatred. This knowledge comes not only from the past, but also from what we are living through now in Ukraine.

The main Ukrainian anti-heroes of the current summer are the same "rich swine" that Orwell branded back in 1940. In the midst of a bloody war, they spend their downtime in the Maldives and buy villas in Spain ; they import luxury cars into the country and take their well-to-do children abroad; party in elite nightclubs and take major bribes.

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Hamid Shirvani

Helpless At Home, Friendless Abroad: How Can Iranians Bring About Change?

With the suppression of last year's anti-regime protests in Iran, its people can barely stomach the West's resumption of its business-as-usual approach with the Islamic Republic. The key to challenging the renewed status quo, the author writes, may very well lie with the country's women.


LONDON — The world is familiar with the Iranian regime's terroristic activities beyond Iran's frontiers. Inside the country for over 40 years now, a corrupt and cynical leadership has used religion as an excuse to suppress rights and run a once-prosperous country into the ground. While two thirds of Iranians are living in relative or abject poverty, the state continues to plow billions of dollars into a contested nuclear program that compounds that poverty and stokes tensions with neighbors and the West.

What could change all this? If I had to choose a single word as an answer, that would be women.

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Harish Khare

"Untouchable" For President — Could A Dalit Leader Unseat Modi?

India goes to the polls next year, with a united opposition hoping to unseat Prime Minister Modi after 10 years in power. Mallikarjun Kharge, who may be the best candidate, is from India's "lowest" caste system.


DELHI — If Novak Djokovic, the greatest grass-court player ever, can be defeated, then India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, can be vanquished in next year’s court of the people. Modi has been in power since 2014 and appears to have a tight grip on power.

But even though India's opposition political landscape remains extremely untidy, it still has a Carlos Alcaraz up its sleeve. His name is Mallikarjun Kharge. If the opposition leaders play the game intelligently, India could have its first Dalit prime minister next May. Dalit — previously known as "untouchable" — is the lowest stratum of India's deeply entrenched caste system.

The messiness of the opposition’s unity or lack of it revolves round the vexatious issue of leadership. That issue, itself, is predicated on a few givens.

The leaders of 26 Indian opposition parties are meeting to firm up their strategy to take on Modi's party in the next year's general election. Taking on Modi's BJP, which won more than 300 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha (the lower house of India's parliament) in 2019, will be a big task, even for a united opposition. The question still is who will lead the opposition.

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Miguel Henrique Otero

Venezuela's New Trick For Killing Democracy: Make Official Statistics "Disappear"

The absence of accurate official statistics in Venezuela is no accident. Rather it is a symptom of the breakdown of the rule of law and hides the regime's criminal failures.


BUENOS AIRES — Any web user consulting the website of Venezuela's INE or National Statistics Institute, as I last tried to do one day early last month, may find this is a waste of time. Our country stopped quantifying its population in 2011. Even the last census from that year, shown on the website, appears as a mass of words and stats that mean little to the general reader. There are no charts or diagrams to give an idea of trends or the bigger picture: just data used as "filling".

The webpage has a section for sectoral reports on consumer patterns, say, or the environment, but not beyond 2013 or 2014. Elsewhere, based on the 2011 census, INE estimates that Venezuela's population will reach 33,728,624 by June 30, without any mention of the seven million or more Venezuelans who have left since 2011. The number is likely rising by the day — not that it bothers the INE — which means there are no figures on how many of us are living inside and outside Venezuela.

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Pierre Haski

What Five More Years Of Erdogan Mean For Turkey – And The World

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cemented his already tight grip on power in Turkey, winning an unprecedented third term as president. The West had hoped for a slightly less unpredictable leader, but they will have to make peace with an emboldened Erdogan, who may become even more autonomous.


PARIS — The re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not come as a surprise, as Turkey's incumbent president’s lead in the first round was reaffirmed yesterday.

The real surprise had occurred in the first round, contradicting Turkish polls and analyses that predicted the president, in power for 20 years, would be penalized by the deep economic crisis and the devastating earthquake in February. However, that was not the case — or at least not entirely: Erdogan had to face a second round for the first time but was not threatened by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of the united opposition.

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