Week in Review
20 July 2018
NICARAGUA IN CRISIS. President Ortega of Nicaragua has ruled since 2006, at first he demonstrated competency with the highest growth rate in Central America and ensuring a stable country. He kept his people content through generous social programming, largely supported by their socialist neighbour Venezuela. With Venezuela’s collapse, Nicaragua has had to adjust including cutting pensions and increasing worker’s contributions; their economic situation has declined too rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets backed by the Catholic Church and an alliance of businesses. Ortega has responded by killing three hundred protestors over past three months and refusing to step down.
JIHADISTS WERE DEFEATED IN IRAQ, BUT NOT ELSEWHERE. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Africa has been mostly forgotten by major media outlets. From 2010, Jihadist groups in Africa have been killing at least twice as many people than those in the Middle East. The major two groups, Boko Haram and al-Shabab, have destabilized much of northern and western Africa. Even Nigeria has lost territory to Boko Haram, threatening to disrupt Africa’s largest economy. African states are looking to the west, but the west must reflect on their failures in the Middle East before becoming too involved.
ISRAEL EMBRACES JEWISH NATIONALISM. Prior to the Knesset’s (Parliament) summer recess, it passed a contentious law that declares the Jewish people’s exclusive right to self-determination in Israel. Further, it omits any mention of democracy and downgrades Arab from an official language to special status. While the Arab parliamentarians denounced it as apartheid, it demonstrates Prime Minister Netanyahu’s determination to degrade the democratic institutions in pursuit of protecting the Jewish population.
NO COUNTRY CAN ESCAPE CLIMATE CHANGE. Sweden is one of the most recent victims of the rapid climate change and extreme weather that humans have yet to slow down in any significant capacity. This year Sweden has had heavy snow, large spring floods, and now extreme droughts. These droughts have led to wildfires, reaching as far as the Arctic Circle. Sweden has called on other European nations to assist its growing crisis. Even Italy has sent planes to help drop water on the wildfires. Sweden has become so dry that it is noticeable from satellite imaging and this is only a microcosm of the effects of an increasingly hot Earth.
FACING AUTOMATION, COMPANIES MUST BE INVENTIVE. A New Zealand firm has experimented with a 32-hour work week, while paying their employees for 40 hours. Researchers found that the employees were more productive while enjoying a better work-life balance. The company is seeking to continue the system permanently. Sweden tested a similar design and had similar outcomes. Yet, France instituted a 35-hour work week and companies complained of additional costs and lower competitiveness. This certainly needs more testing, but in the face of a changing global economy, it could prove useful.
OBAMA SURFACES, WARNS DEMOCRACIES. Mr. Obama spoke in South Africa at an event celebrating Nelson Mandela. He warned on strongmen who embraced “politics of fear, resentment and retrenchment”. While he did not mention President Trump by name, it was clear he implied the current president as a culprit of such politics. He also mentioned how lying in politics has been normalized now much more than ever before. He drew from the values of Mandela: promoting the acceptance of humanity as a whole regardless of visible differences; admitting that protecting national security and borders are important, but they are not diametrically opposed to respect of human rights.
A RECORD FINE WON’T DO GOOGLE IN. The European Commission fined google $5 billion USD this week, which is a record amount for an antitrust penalty. While this appears to be a significant amount, for the tech giant, it will be relatively unaffected. It is the underlying sentiment and meaning of the fine that could have lasting consequences. The case argued that Google is structuring its services as an all or nothing scheme. Its customers must either purchase all of its services or none. Experts warn that the European Commission’s punishment of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, a daily fine of five percent of its revenue, will not outweigh the benefits of its current business model. Unless the Commission specifies its punishment, there may not be anything that will change.