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Curated top stories
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel met President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has the power to call elections, after talks to form a coalition German government involving the Free Democratic Party ended earlier today. The talks failed reportedly due to disagreement over the issues of migration and climate change. Steinmeier said Germany it was the worst governing crisis in the 68-year history of its post-World War Two democracy. Merkel said that she would prefer a new election rather than lead a minority government. However, according to AP, polls say a new election would produce roughly the same result, and more importantly for Merkel, it’s not certain whether she would still remain leader in a new contest. After talks with Merkel, Steinmeier said he would meet all German party leaders this week and urged them to rethink their positions, according to The Guardian. “There would be incomprehension and great concern inside and outside our country … if the political forces in the biggest and economically strongest country in Europe of all places didn’t fulfil their responsibility,” he said.
- Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party will begin President Robert Mugabe’s impeachment proceedings on Tuesday. A deadline set by Mugabe’s party for his resignation passed without a public statement, increasing speculation on his next move. However, CNN is running a report that the nonagenarian leader has agreed to exit terms and that a resignation letter has been drafted. Yesterday, Zanu-PF gave him an ultimatum: resign in 24 hours, or face impeachment. Those proceedings will be filed on Tuesday, reports the BBC. Zimbabwe’s constitution allows for impeachment on grounds of “serious misconduct”, “violation” of the constitution or “failure to obey, uphold or defend” it, or “incapacity.” The main charge, senior party member Paul Mangwana said, was that he allowed his wife, Grace Mugabe, to usurp constitutional power.
- On Monday, Mugabe stunned onlookers when he failed to announce his resignation during a speech. See Jack Barton’s article for the international implications.
- On November 15, Zimbabwe’s military executed a bloodless coup to oust Mugabe, who has ruled for 37 years.
- At a meeting in Myanmar of diplomats from 51 countries, mostly Asian and European, China has proposed a three-stage plan to help Rohingya refugees return from Bangladesh to Myanmar. This follows a brutal, three-month “clearing” campaign by the country’s military. First, China called for a ceasefire to take place in Rakhine state, the Rohingya’s historic homeland. Second, once the ceasefire is working, a repatriation solution for the hundreds of thousands of refugees should be agreed between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The final phase would involve a long-term solution focusing on poverty alleviation. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made many of the same points in a visit to Myanmar last week, but also called for credible investigations into reports of atrocities committed by Myanmar’s army.
- Over 600,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in Rakhine state since late August. Human Rights Watch said the onslaught amounted to “ethnic cleansing” and “crimes against humanity”.
- The U.S. relisting of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism received support from Japan and South Korea on Tuesday, with leaders saying the move had the potential to raise the pressure on Pyongyang and push it to negotiate the build-up of its nuclear program. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also backed the decision, which U.S. President Donald J. Trump said was necessary to counter the threats the weapons posed to the U.S. mainland.
What we’re reading
- Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist and hedge fund manager George Soros broke his silence on a highly personal series of attacks on him — and apparently on his Jewish heritage — by the hard-right Hungarian government of Viktor Orban. Speaking to the Financial Times, Soros said: “It’s a tragedy for Hungary that its government seeks to stay in power through hate-mongering and misleading the population.” Huge posters of Soros, suggesting he’s an “external enemy” have appeared across Hungary as well as in mailings from Orban’s party. Soros has funded projects in Hungary and much of the rest of eastern Europe since the fall of communism, including a university in Budapest. Ironically, the FT points out, Orban won a Soros scholarship to attend Cambridge university. FT story might be behind a paywall, but Reuters version is on open access. – Peter Bale
- Like Amazon in the West, Chinese mega-retailer Alibaba is making deeper forays in brick-and-mortar stores that push it beyond its digital roots. Alibaba Group Holding on Monday announced it is buying a 36.2 percent stake in Sun Art retail in a nearly $2.9 billion deal. The South China Morning Post reports this will link the e-commerce giant to “China’s biggest Wal-Mart-style hypermarket operator.” Bloomberg says the new coupling between virtual and offline worlds will help retailers amass immensely valuable consumer data. – Jodie deJonge
- Politico shares voices from economists and healthcare experts in the United States who believe that the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will survive without the individual mandate. These experts cite evidence that the mandate never actually coerced Americans to purchase health insurance as designed. The individual mandate forces everyone in the U.S. to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. – Charles Turner