Newscoop Footnotes: April 15, 2019

Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes —

the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.

The world’s in a strange kind of upheaval this week. “Strange” because, while many events are ugly and discouraging, some of it also bodes well for development of civil society around the world.

  • In China, the photojournalist Lu Guang who disappeared last November, has been confirmed as arrested. For more than 40 years, Lu was a thorn in the side of the Chinese government as he documented industrial pollution and environmental degradation in China. Now, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Lu is one of more than 47 journalists imprisoned by China.

    Lu is an American resident, as was journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered by the Saudi government. And as with Saudi Arabia, Trump and his administration have refused to hold the Chinese government responsible for its shocking violations of human rights norms and treaties.

  • And an April 8th New York Times article headlined “Arab Spring, Again?” announced a development we all should be watching. The people of North Africa are rising up once again, demanding an end to the autocratic regimes that have deepened the economic problems in their countries.

    In Khartoum, Sudan, protestors filled the streets until dictator Omar al-Bashir finally stepped down. Same thing in Algeria, as President Bouteflika was forced from office. And all of this while in Libya, pro-Qaddafi general Khalifa Haftar advanced on the capital city of Tripoli, hoping to install himself as the country’s next autocrat.

    Protestors in those countries are now confronting the difficult challenge of transitioning from corrupt and authoritarian regimes that had previously controlled their countries — as cronies and loyalists who were part of those corrupt systems seek to fill the void when the dictators step down.

    Commenting on the protests in North Africa, journalist and editor Rami Khouri tweeted on April 12th:  Historic lessons learned by Arabs demonstrating for their rights in Sudan/Algeria: the root cause of our ailments for half a century has been prolonged security agencies’ control of government, so the antidote must be civilian authority. Truly historic development.”

    President Trump has a somewhat different attitude. Trump’s continual embrace of authoritarians around the world does not offer encouragement to those who struggle for democratic governance. Last Tuesday, he hosted Egypt’s authoritarian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House, announcing “I think he’s doing a great job…great president.” In fact, al-Sisi has one of the worst human rights records in the world. And he’s now seeking a constitutional amendment that would keep him in office for the rest of his life.

  • But while Donald Trump’s words surely embolden autocrats, and weaken the struggles of protestors under those regimes, his policies also simply shorten many lives around the world. Recent reports from the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Development Programme show a deepening of global poverty under the Trump administration — including in America.

    A report released in June 2018 by Philip Alston for the UN Human Rights Council found that almost 41 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and about 5 million in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.” In response to the UN report, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said:  “…it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.”

    And although such poverty did not begin with Trump, all assessments are that it’s been deepening dramatically as the Trump administration works vigorously to remove the social safety net for poor Americans. America already has higher rates of income inequality, youth poverty, incarceration and infant mortality than any other developed nation.

    So… as shocking as it’s been to watch Donald Trump embrace dictators and cut funding for the poorest and neediest countries of the world, people should remember:  his policies do not apply only to what he sees as “shithole” countries. America’s also in the hole.

This has been the latest edition of Newscoop Footnotes – important events getting too little attention.

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