Europe/Americas update: July 21-22 2018

EUROPE

UKRAINE

The Pentagon announced on Saturday that it will send $200 million in aid to Ukraine for non-lethal military spending. The money will be earmarked for things like logistics, training, and medical needs.

GERMANY

I know we don’t usually talk about sports around here, but German footballer Mesut Özil’s decision to quit the country’s national team, which he announced on Sunday, is I think indicative of where Western politics are at the moment. Özil cited racism as his reason for leaving the team:

It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.

Özil was heavily criticized for meeting and having his photo taken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May, and OK, Erdoğan is loathsome, but Özil says he did it to show respect for the presidency of his family’s country, which is at least kind of understandable. The head of the German football federation, Reinhard Grindel, heavily criticized Özil for the photo and apparently so did a lot of German fans in very colorful language, and Özil said in his statement that he feels like “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.” He’s also apparently tired of being called “German-Turkish” when other German national players of non-German descent don’t have their background hyphenated like that.

A similar kerfuffle broke out recently when Daily Show host Trevor Noah joked that “Africa won the World Cup” after the French national team, featuring a number of prominent players of African descent, won. The French ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, even wrote an angry letter to Noah over his remark. I’m not a huge Trevor Noah fan but I think his response is worth a listen:

In some respects Özil’s complaint and the French anger at Noah are opposite sides of the coin–Özil just wants to be considered “German” while Araud wants to make sure nobody considers French players anything but “French.” But that’s part of what Özil is talking about–of course France wants its players to be thought of as entirely French now, after they just won the World Cup. And both sentiments are wrapped up in the very complicated debate over identity that is driving so much of the European and US political debate these days. I wouldn’t presume to have any solutions to the problems this debate poses, but I just thought this was an interesting intersection of sports and politics.

MALTA

A judicial investigation has concluded that Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did not engage in any financial misdeeds even though he and his wife were named as owners of a company mentioned in the Panama Papers leak. Muscat had said he would resign if the investigation turned up evidence of impropriety, so I guess he’s sticking around.

FRANCE

French President Emmanuel Macron wants a “shake up” of the French presidential office after two of his bodyguards were charged with dressing up like cops and beating May Day protesters. Presumably that shake up doesn’t include Macron’s resignation, so probably it will just be window dressing.

UNITED KINGDOM

Theresa May is doing such a fabulous job negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union that a new poll shows 34 percent of British voters would prefer that the second biggest dipshit in Western politics, Boris Johnson, handle the negotiations instead of her. In response to the turmoil, many British voters are buckling down and getting back to basics, by which I mean they’re getting more racist:

Thirty-eight percent of people would vote for a new right-wing party that is committed to Brexit, while almost a quarter would support an explicitly far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, the poll found.

I’m not sure how the UK Independent Party isn’t rocketing up the polls with numbers like that, but UKIP co-founder Nigel Farage is apparently working with sentient un-lanced boil Steve Bannon on forming a new far right political movement in Britain. So that should be fun.

AMERICAS

ARGENTINA

Thousands of people turned out to demonstrate outside this weekend’s G20 finance ministers meeting in Argentina. Most of the demonstrators were there to protest International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde and the austerity program the IMF has foisted upon Argentina in return for the $50 billion loan it extended to Buenos Aires last month:

BRAZIL

Right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro formally announced his candidacy for president in October’s election on Sunday. Bolsonaro has been leading narrowly in polling since previous frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was imprisoned on a corruption conviction in April, but he’s a polarizing figure and he’s running as the candidate of a minor party that will struggle to get him airtime on Brazilian TV.

NICARAGUA

Protests for and against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega are continuing, as are atrocities on both sides of the dispute. Anti-Ortega protesters say they feel they need to go into hiding for protection from the government:

Nicaragua’s Catholic clergy has increasingly adopted the anti-Ortega line, and that’s making them a target of Ortega’s anger:

Now the priests themselves have become targets. Mr. Ortega devoted much of his speech on Thursday to an angry denunciation of the church, accusing the bishops of working to overthrow his elected government and even of using some churches to hide arms.

“I thought they were mediators, but no,” he said. “They were committed to the coup-plotters, they were part of the plan with the coup-plotters.”

He has refused a proposal by the bishops to move up the 2021 elections to next year, and has branded the opposition as terrorists.

The attacks on the church have been building since Mr. Ortega first condemned “those who curse us and condemn us to death in the name of religious institutions” a couple of weeks ago.

MEXICO

Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has sent Donald Trump a letter calling for “a new chapter in the relationship between Mexico and the United States, based on mutual respect.” “Mutual respect” would suggest Trump actually had the capacity to respect anybody besides, well, himself, but OK. In his missive, López Obrador called for a quick renegotiation of NAFTA and said his government would work with the Trump administration on ways to stem the flow of migrants from Central America.

CUBA

Cuba’s National Assembly on Sunday approved a draft constitution that would dramatically remake the Cuban government. Among other things, it would create a new prime minister’s post to share power with the presidency, establish regional governorships, recognize a right to private property, incorporate the presumption of innocence into the Cuban legal system, and allow for the potential legalization of same sex marriage. The draft now has to go through a series of public meetings around the country and then a referendum before it can become official.

CANADA

This is very much a breaking story, but at least 10 people appear to have been shot outside a restaurant in Toronto this evening. This just happened a matter of hours ago so there’s no discussion of who committed the shooting or possible motives yet.

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Author: DWD

writer, blogger, lover, fighter

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