Anglo Blog Post Three, 2017: March 12-March 22

Korea Carries Out Missile Test

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The Communist dynasty
After performing five nuclear and several missile launched, North Korea was denounced by western countries with demands that it abandon its nuclear program. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a tour of Asian allies, said US policy to curb North Korean nuclear ambitions has been a failure and a new, more aggressive approach, is called for. If the North Koreans achieve the capacity to hit the US or part of it (Hawaii) with nuclear warheads, the United States would react aggressively, and Tillerson did not rule out armed conflict.

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The Great Leader

North Korea is probably the world’s most closed country, ruled over by the volatile Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il, who in turn succeeded his father, Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. Due to this isolation, little is known about this country except that it has suffered through periodic famines that killed hundreds of thousands of people in the early 2000s and that access to social media is strictly prohibited. This in contrast to its prosperous southern brothers in South Korea, considered one of the world’s economic success stories and recently dubbed one of the Asian tigers, with Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

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Showing its military might

Kim Jong-un is considered to have a volatile nature and has recently purged and executed many of his political rivals including his uncle and half-brother. He clearly sees the acquisition of nuclear weapons as vital to his regime’s survival. With an equally volatile counterpart in the White House, things are likely to get dangerous before too long.

 
King of Rock and Roll Dies

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Chuck Berry, the king of rock and roll, doing the ‘duck walk’

Perhaps the single most important individual for the development of modern rock’ n’roll, Chuck Berry, died in his home town of St. Louis, Missouri. He was 90. Tributes have been pouring in from contemporary musical giants who bestow on Berry a slew of accolades attesting to his importance. John Lennon once famously said, “if you had to try and give rock’ n’roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”

Using an electric guitar, still a novice for many, with deftness and ceremony, Berry appealed to a younger generation born just after the war that was growing up in the stifling 1950s with songs that talked about possibilities, getting on the road, defying the rules set out by their parents’ generation. In Britain, young musicians, such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, immediately revered Chuck Berry and other black musicians, and were unaware of the racial animus in the US that would make such reverence awkward or impossible.

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Clockwise with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen

Angela and Donald: A Match Not Made in Heaven

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Is this guy crazy? Angela merkel and Donald Trump try to be nice to each other

Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington last week was marred by a petulant performance on the part of US president Donald Trump who among other questionable assertions, said Germany owed millions to the US for its protection under the NATO military alliance. Merkel has been chancellor of Germany for 11 years, and almost all her views on how the world should be run clash with Trump’s America First outlook. She believes wholeheartedly in the European Union project and free trade, whereas Trump cheered Brexit and has shown great hostility to multi-lateral trade agreements, promising to renegotiate deals like NAFTA which he says served to harm US interests.

This week has also pitted Trump against the US’s strongest ally in the world after saying that the GCHQ, the United Kingdom’s spy agency, had bugged his Trump Tower offices without presenting any evidence. The British flatly denied it and still Trump refused to back down from his absurd claims that the Obama administration was spying on him. The US, already seen with great suspicion by a good deal of the world, cannot afford to alienate its two closest allies, Germany and Britain. Someone should tell Trump that.

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Anglo Blog Post 2, March 5 to March 12

Wife of Canadian Prime Minister Critiqued for International Women’s Day Post

Sophie Trudeau came under heavy criticism from certain sectors of the “feminist” establishment after she encouraged women to be thankful for the male “allies” in their lives, who alongside them fight for gender equality and equal rights. Posting a picture holding hands with her husband, Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, she used celebration of march 8 International Women’s Day as a forum to urge unity with men sympathetic to the cause of advancing women in society.

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Those critical of the porting, among them a Canadian female MP, said that International Women’s Day was “about women, not men,” She perceived the idea of holding hands as meaning that women needed a helping male hand to make it.

This reaction speaks to a rupture between the certain inward-looking characteristics of identity politics and its interaction with ideas of human universalisms. Populations who have traditionally been marginalized often retreat into the negation of the humanity of those who have been oppressing them, understandable enough, of course. But recoiling from celebrating alliances with those who wish to see a more progressive agenda all around, turns off many who would otherwise be sympathetic to their plight and their struggle to attain equality.
Celebrated Artist Moves On

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On March 9, British artist Howard Hodgkin died in London at the age 84. In his own words as a “representational painter and not one of appearances,” his unique style resulted in winning the prestigious Turner Prize among many other awards over the course of a long career. He was considered a great observer of all kinds of human exchanges and cited Matisse and Degas as strongly influential on his abstract style. He described art as a “slow and painful process.
From Negro Spiritual to Sporting Anthem: Swing Low Sweet Chariot

The languid and passionate slave spiritual, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, has been transformed by fans of England’s rugby team into an anthem through which to inspire their team to victory. This is an unlikely journey; from the brutal conditions on southern plantations which spawned the song, to one being sung by 80,000 fans at the iconic Twickenham Stadium, and has triggered an interesting debate about cultural appropriation.

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Some lament the song’s transformation, finding it disrespectful to the historical suffering at the hands of generations of blacks in chattel to service in the building of the US. On the other hand, most people singing it at rugby games likely have no clue of the song’s origin, though one of several explanations for the song’s transformation is that it was used to encourage the first black player to represent England (1988) when he was playing particularly well.

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Who owns culture? Those who produce it, those who consume it? Cultural products move and adapt and morph into sometimes almost entirely different products. But does culture articulated under duress belong alone to those who produce it. Others who’ve not experienced the same degree of suffering can never truly understand and therefore its appropriation is a violation or a disrespect.

ANGLO BLOG POST ONE: MARCH, 2017

The first forty days of the Trump presidency have been marked by characteristic mean-spiritedness, chaos, mismanagement and general confusion. An executive order banning the entry into the US of travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries was nullified by the courts, and promises to unveil a new plan have yet to occur, is just one of many examples of a general cluelessness with how to govern on the part of the new president and his staff.

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The propensity toward mendacity is quite alarming, his spokespeople and even Trump himself inventing things and that are blatantly incorrect, outright false, or simply didn’t occur, like a terrorist attack in Sweden. This disregard for the truth is swatted away by the administration by claims that the mainstream news media, which had of course been wildly biased against him, just printed lies and fake news. Since there is a deep distrust in the country at this elitist, mainstream media, these kinds of accusations resonate with his supporters. Trump’s barring of correspondents of CNN, the Guardian, BBC, The New York Times and others from the latest White House press briefing demonstrates his willingness to take them on. Perhaps this will be his undoing.

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The world is on egg shells to see what this new administration will bring. At times bellicose, at times more conciliatory but always incoherent, Trump’s foreign policy agenda is basically unknown. On the bright side, this presidency has been a boon for comedians.

Obama for President

A letter from French voters, distraught over their choices for the French election this year, has been sent to former US president Barak Obama asking him to run. This is of course impossible, since Obama is not a French citizen, but reflects the dismal reality that could see French elect a proto-fascist in the face of Marie le Pen, whose National Front party advocates policies deeply hostile to immigrants and nationalist in the aggressive way many had hoped to have been abolished with the defeat of Nazism. The left is in disarray and the center-right candidate considered most able to compete with le Pen, Francois Fillon is embroiled in a scandal in which his wife is alleged to have been paid hundreds of thousands of Euros of public money in a non-existent job.

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Fascists looking civilized

Le Pen, whose father Jean Marie le Pen ran for president in 2002 and lost in a landslide, has tried to put a civilized face on her uncivilized values. She appeals to the same nationalist electorate who feel marginalized by globalization and that immigration is altering (negatively) the character of France. The resurgence of ultra-right parties in Europe is one of the many worrying phenomena that seem to be sweeping the globe at the moment.

Suing the state of mistreatment

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The Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who went on a rampage in 2011 killing a total of 76 people, was suing the Norwegian state for human rights abuses while in jail. The Norwegian state ruled against him. Norway is always top or near the top of the world’s most attractive countries to live, but even in this, one of the world’s most enlightened societies, monsters can emerge.

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Goalkeeper Bruno to be released from jail

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Former Flamengo goal keeper Bruno Fernandes, who in 2010 was convicted of killing his former girlfriend, has been released after serving six and a half years in jail. A body was never found, though Bruno now admits his error and said “he paid a steep price.” If Bruno had committed the same murder in many other countries, he would either be in prison for many years, or in the US he could have received the death penalty.

Anglo Blog Post Eleven, September 11 to October 12, 2016

War in Syria

 
Despite hope that negotiations between the US and Russia would find bring some relief to the beleaguered country of Syria, racked by civil war since 2011, which has caused the death of over 400,000 civilians. As the ceasefire was about to start, the Americans, by accident according to them, bombed Syria and in the process killed 62 Syrian soldiers. A few days later, Syrian and Russian forces were accused of bombing and destroying a convoy of dozens of trucks carrying aid and ready to enter Aleppo.

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An aid convoy apparently bombed by the Assad regime and the Russians. Earlier, the US had bombed Syrian positions and killed 62 Syrian soldiers and with it the cease fire

This essentially torpedoed the ceasefire and fighting has been raging ever since, with hundreds more victims and others fleeing the country and contributing to Europe’s already precarious refugee situation. Future generations will wonder why the major global actors let this carnage continue right under their noses, seemingly indifferent to the massive suffering and resulting instability that could lead to a more widespread global conflict the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades.

US Presidential Debates

 
There have so far been two presidential debates, one on September 24, the other on October 9 between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. In the first debate, Trump appeared unprepared and took Clinton’s bait with a certain predictability. He at one point suggested that the fact he had paid no taxes showed how intelligent he was. In the second debate, Trump after half-heartedly apologizing for a tape recording where he boasts about being able to grope woman because of his fame, went on the attack. He claimed that, among other things, Clinton was the devil and she should be in jail.

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When they were friends at Donald Trump’s wedding in 2005

The first debate performance resulted in a precipitous drop in approval ratings for Trump, especially among suburban women, a key voting bloc. His lewd taped comments further damaged his standing with that group. What is difficult to fathom is how Trump’s support has not crumbled, given the outrageous things he has been saying. It shows how much ire there is among certain groups of people (basically the white working class) toward the system whose much touted globalization has left them behind.

 
First Baby Born with DNA from Three People

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First baby born from the DNA of three people

For the first time in history, a baby has been born with the DNA of three people. A new procedure has been launched, namely the removal of the nucleus of a woman’s egg, which contains the code for horrendous congenital diseases, can be replaced with the uncontaminated nucleus from another woman’s egg. Advances in medical research are astounding and often the ethical implications of these new breakthroughs are not considered at the time, or at all. Nonetheless, this will be welcome news for mothers who carry devastating congenital conditions that would inevitably be passed on to their offspring without this treatment.

 
Colombia’s President Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

 
Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after the population voted in e referendum to repudiate the peace accord he negotiated with the FARC and for which he was being honored by the Nobel Committee. For the last 60 years, Colombia has suffered from brutal internecine political violence resulting in perhaps 500,000 deaths. Under the auspices of Cuba, a peace accord was finally achieved between Santos’ Colombian government and the FARC rebels, who in exchange for amnesty and guaranteed political participation, would give up their armed struggle. The country narrowly rejected this, those voting in favor unhappy at crimes perpetrated by FARC going unpunished.

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There have been controversial Nobel Peace Prize winners such as former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, apparently for his efforts to negotiate a peace accord between the US and North Vietnam. Kissinger has been accused of war crimes for his secret bombing campaign in Cambodia in 1969-70. Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were also controversial choices, recipients for the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993 that have since collapsed, who themselves were responsible for acts of violence against the other side. Barak Obama got the prize for no apparent reason except winning the US presidential election, such was the symbolism of the US having a black president less than fifty years after formal segregation was ended.

 
Yet another referendum

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Refugees walking across Europe

In Hungary, results from the country’s referendum on whether to shut out refuges completely in defiance of the European Union insistence that the refugees fleeing terror and other conflict areas be distributed throughout the EU. Many attribute Britain’s decision to leave the EU to voters wanting immigration restrictions, and not having to abide by the Shengen Treaty guaranteeing free movement of people within the 27 countries of the trading bloc. The Hungarian vote was declared null due to the failure to reach the minimum threshold for voter turnout of 50%. According to the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Oban, who orchestrated the referendum, “The arriving masses from other cultures are a threat to our way of life, culture, our habits and our Christian traditions.”
It was thought fascism was felled with the defeat of Hitler and the creation of the supra-national European Union. With right wing parties tapping into their citizens’ anxieties about immigration, poisonous views are once again circulating, as they tend to when humans feel insecure.

 
Hapless Haiti

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Widespread destruction in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew, just what the country doesn’t need

The poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti seems to be constantly castigated by nature, compounding its many social, economic and political problems. The latest pummeling came from Hurricane Matthew, and although the death toll was 800, small in comparison to the 200,000 thought dead in the 2010 earthquake, physical destruction has been massive. This has led to another outbreak of cholera, the disease having arrived with Nepalese United Nation’s workers in the aftermath of the earthquake six years ago, and absence of clean drinking water could greatly exacerbate the situation.

Haiti, despite becoming the first independent nation of Latin America in 1804, the result of a decade long slave revolt, was from the start forced to pay a massive illegal debt the French calculated for their losses of slaves and land during the revolt of around US$15 billion, only paid off in 1947. It has had a checkered political history, with a brutal father and son duo, Baby Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier, misruling and fleecing the national treasury for 29 years between 1957 and 1986. Most people are mired in poverty and these intermittent national disasters accentuate their hardships.

Anglo Blog Post Ten: August 15-September 10, 2016

Hong Kong and China

Elections were held in Hong Kong on September 4 for its Legislative Council where candidates advocating independence from China made significant gains. China quickly made known that it was “resolutely opposed to independence.”

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Hong Kong and China: different and tied

Hong Kong is one of the more curious places in the world. It is one of the Asian tigers (the others are Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, whose independence China refuses to recognize) which have dramatically grown their economies in the last 30 years. Up until 1997, Hong Kong had been a British colony, the spoils of the British Empire’s humiliation of the Chinese in the Opium Wars between 1839 to 1860, for 150 years.

As a British colony, it thrived and was a showcase for capitalism while mainland China was going through mass starvations and cultural revolutions after Mao tse Tung and the Communists took power in 1949. Even as China liberalized its economy, it has a remained a one-party dictatorship where opposition to the regime is not tolerated.

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Ever since the devolution to China in 1997, the relationship between the Honk Kong population and their new masters in Beijing has been in flux. For China, it is a golden goose, and not in the country’s interest to change the way it works, so it has adopted a “one country, two systems” approach. Economically this works well, politically it has been problematic.

Used to having some political autonomy under the British and with functioning democratic institutions, a power struggle over how much say China has in Hong Kong’s internal political events has been ongoing. In September 2014, the “umbrella protests” against Chinese meddling lost steam and China conceded to none of the protester’s demands.

Pro-independence candidates have been warned by China. If they stay quiet, China will likely let things run the way they have been. If not, the Chinese regime is never afraid to bring out the tanks.

Money in the US Presidential Election

The two candidates running for president of the US, Democratic former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Republican businessman and reality television star Donald Trump, have between them raised over one billion dollars, the equivalent to the annual budget of the city of Salvador which serves 3 million people.

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Despite this spending, both candidates are mistrusted and not generally liked. Donald Trump has been advised to tone down some of the more outrageous things he says, but this lull is unlikely to last. Hillary Clinton’s political expediency and the wealth she and her husband have accrued from giving speeches to other wealthy people hardly make her appealing to middle class people feeling the pinch. The debates are coming and could determine the election.

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At the moment, the odds seem to favor Hillary simply because she seems less bad than Trump. But her victory in November is by no means a given.

Mother Teresa Made a Saint

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born as Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Skopje, the capital of present day Macedonia (she was ethnically Albanian) in 1910 and after a life devoted to helping societies castaways, was made a saint by the Catholic Church 19 years after her death in 1997.

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Mother Teresa administering to the poor

She founded The Missionaries of Charity to help lepers, HIV victims, orphans and the desperate poor of Calcutta and today the organization has 4500 sisters and is active in 133 countries around the world. For her works, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
There were some detractors who claimed that Mother Teresa’s fundamentalist Catholic ideology whereby she spent her life opposing the empowerment of woman, and her assertion that suffering was a gift from God besmirched her character and make her inappropriate for sainthood.

Proxima B

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A new planet, named by MASA Proxima B, has been discovered orbiting the nearest star to the sun. Slightly bigger than earth, scientists also believe it might have similar characteristics to our planet and the possibility that water exists there. Even if it turns out to be habitable, however, based on the current space technology, it would take 70,000 years to travel the 4.2 light years of distance between Proxima B and Earth.

Anglo Blog Post Nine: July 26-August 14, 2016

The Olympics

 
This unique global sporting/cultural event has been taking place over the last two weeks, bringing the global audience to Brazil, whose marvelous city, Rio de Janeiro, has been the games’ host. The exuberant opening ceremony showcased Brazil at its best, this effervescent country much admired in the rest of the world.

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The Rio Games, 2016

Despite some of the disdainful coverage of the foreign press, the Games so far have been a great success, with sporting legends such as Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps living up to their status with magnificent wins on the track and in the pool. While it is extraordinary that Brazil is not among the global sporting power houses, given the huge talent available in the country, there have nevertheless been memorable performances by Brazilian athletes and the medal count should be respectable.

Staging the Olympics is a massive logistical challenge and the gleeful sneering and predictions of disaster by some international observers should be rebuked with pride as, so far at least, no major disaster has besieged these games, a tribute to the Brazilian organizers.

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Jesse Owens in Berlin, 1936

This has not always been the case when international politics has featured prominently at several Games. The Berlin Games of 1936 were presided over by the burgeoning Hitler, getting ready to invade his neighbors and establish German domain over the rest of Europe. Unfortunately for him, the African-American athlete Jesse Owens won five individual gold medals, debunking the myth of Aryan racial superiority.

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Tommy Smith and John Carlos doing the Black Power salute in Mexico City, 1968

The US Civil Rights movement appeared in full regalia at the 1968 Mexico City Games, when the 200 meter gold medal winner, Tommy Smith, put up his hand in a Black Panther salute, joined by his third-placed team mate John Carlos. This caused a stir in the US, where racial tensions were boiling from Martin Luther King’s death on April 4 of the same year.

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A hooded kidnapper negotiating with authorities in Munich, 1972

The most tragic event occurred at the 1972 Munich Games when 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and later murdered by members of the Palestinian Black September group during a botched rescue operation. The smoldering Israeli-Palestinian conflict has yet to be solved, many thousands of deaths on.

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New Zealand’s rugby team’s tour of South Africa caused many African countries to boycott the games in Montreal, 1976

Politics once again intervened in the 1976 Montreal Games, where 20 African countries boycotted the games due to New Zealand’s rugby tour of South Africa that had occurred earlier in the year. Apartheid secured South Africa’s pariah status in the world and due to this brutal system of racial oppression, was excluded from the Olympics from 1964-1988 and suffered a sporting boycott.

Cold war politics shaped both the 1980 Moscow games and the 1984 Los Angeles games. After the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the US and 66 other countries, including Argentina and Chile, then under brutal, US supported right-wing dictatorships, boycotted the games to protest the Russian action. Four years later, the Russians and 19 other countries boycotted Los Angeles, citing security concerns and the anti-Soviet hysteria then sweeping the US.

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Olympic boycotts 1976, 1980, 1984

Sports and particularly the Olympics were where the superpower enemies could square off against each other to prove the worth of their respective economic systems. But a look at results would suggest that the Socialist countries had a more successful system of producing athletes. From 1948–1992, the Soviets topped the Olympic medal tables 6 times, compared with four times the US occupied the top spot. The dismantling of the Soviet Union now leaves China as the US’s biggest rival for medal hauls.

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Florence Griffith Joyner and Ben Johnson, the stars of Seoul in 1988

Since then, doping has come to hover over the sport, most notably in the 1988 Seoul Olympics when the men’s 100 meter sprint winner, Ben Johnson of Canada, was stripped of his gold medal for doping. Another star of those games, Florence Griffith-Joyner, whose 100m and 200m sprint world records still stand, died of kidney failure at 39 years–old. All Russian track and field athletes were banned from competing in Rio due to evidence of systematic doping involving government authorities.

The political and economic mess Brazil finds itself in has not impacted the Olympics as might have been expected. Rigid laws to restrict protests against the government has made it difficult to get those appalled by the current situation message out to a global audience largely ignorant and insouciant about Brazil’s rotten politics.

Anglo Blog Post Eight: July 12-July 25, 2016

Coup attempt in Turkey
On July 15, 2016, factions within the Turkish army attempted to overthrow the elected government of Recep Erdogan by staging a coup d’état. It was unsuccessful and within six hours was crushed by members of the army loyal to Erdogan and opposition in the streets. The plotters made two serious blunders in their execution of the coup; not taking over the presidential palace (instead they shot up the parliament) and not taking over any media outlets which would have allowed them to divulge their message.

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Turkey is the bridge between Europe and Asia, west and east, Christianity and Islam (and there is literally a bridge connecting Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Straits

A series of mass arrests followed, with an estimated 50,000 people, including 12,000 teachers, being hauled in for questioning. For many opponents of Erdogan, they see this as the perfect opportunity for the authoritarian president to criminalize any dissent against him within the society. Erdogan has ruled Turkey for the past 12 years and has sought to consolidate his power by imposing more aspects of Islam onto this traditionally strongly secular country. He has called for the execution of the coup leaders, which if carried out would make Turkey’s desired entrance into the European Union almost impossible since to become a member of the EU, countries with the death penalty are not welcome.

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Turkey is a vital country, a bridge between East and West, Christianity and Islam and its stability is of paramount importance for the world. It has taken in almost two million refugees fleeing the war in Syria, and also confronts an internal threat from separatist Kurds seeking more autonomy. The country is also a member of NATO, the western military alliance. All eyes will now be on that country which seems very divided at the moment between those wanting a secular, modern and liberal state and those desiring more conservatism, traditionalism and a wider role for Islam in the population’s daily life.

Donald Trump officially the Republican candidate for president
After four days of a tumultuous and often chaotic Republican Convention, Donald Trump was finally officially crowned as the Republican candidate for president on July 21st in Cleveland, Ohio. He will now begin to campaign against the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton until the election on the first Tuesday of November.

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Melania Trump appears to have plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech from eight years ago

The convention started off with anti-Trump delegates making a last-ditch rally to impede his path to the nomination, which was unsuccessful. Then Trump’s ex-model wife, originally from Slovenia, made a speech a good portion of which turned out to have been plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s Democratic convention speech in 2008. To top it off, Trump’s main primary rival, Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas, gave a speech during which he refused to endorse Trump.

All these factors, and a slew of accusations of Trump being a racist, unethical, a bully, a narcissist, a megalomaniac and generally temperamentally unfit to be president, seem to have zero effect on his supporters. Trump has cleverly tapped into deep anger and resentment of working class whites who feel left behind by globalization and who make barely enough money to get by. Ironically, many of the policies Trump advocates are traditionally made by Democrats (protectionism, defending union workers, etc.) and have made the Democrats look like the party advocating naked neo-liberalism and having been bought by Wall Street. Since Trump can finance his own campaign, he can portray himself as an outsider, unsullied by the corrupt workings of Washington.

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Maybe the future President Trump

In this writer’s view, this is an extremely dangerous situation and the prospect of a Trump presidency is quite terrifying. For those of us who think this way, our hope is that the demographics of the US have changed enough so that there are not enough angry white men to elect a president. We shall see.