The Polifix: 7th – 14th October

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It’s a trip around the world for this week’s polifix; US Elections, ex-Cambodian kings, same-old Venezuelan presidents, Middle Eastern problems and an European prize make up your weekly political round-up.

The Debate That Didn’t Matter

Biden and Ryan set to lock…lips?

After Obama’s limp display in the first Presidential Debate – and Romney’s great triumph (I mean, even Lindsay Lohan says she will vote for him now) – it was time for their right-hand men to have a go with Joe Biden and Paul Ryan facing off in the Vice-Presidential Debate. Biden came out all guns a-blazing, relaxed and smiling, in order to make up for his running mate and was widely credited as winning the battle; his best moment was a barbed attack “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy” after Ryan made comparisons to his and the former president’s economic plans as well as challenging Ryan calling his arguement “malarkey”. Ryan’s key strength seemed to be taking big gulps of water whenever he seemed at a loss to respond. All in all, unless one of them swore or farted live on television, it was unlikely to figure much in the US elctorates voting plan decisions. In fact, the real winner of the debate was moderator Martha Raddatz who was widely praised for her tough control of the contest, especially compared to Jim Lehrer’s soft approach for the presidential debate. The real debate of the week, however, was that between television talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly who faced off in the “The Rumble of the Air-Conditioned Auditorium“. The aim of the debate was to try and persuade the candidate onto the other side of the political spectrum; with Bill O’Reilly a Republican voter and Stewart a democrat. In fact, Stewart and O’Reilly even agreed over an issue, in that the US shouldn’t have got to Iraq. You won’t be seeing that with Obama and Romney.

Chavez’s Wins Venezuelan Presidency (Again)

For more presidents and prime ministers around the world, winning a second term is victory enough; not for Hugo Chavez who won his fourth term of office (and another six years) last week; defeating Henrique Capriles in the closest Venezuelan election for years. However, Chavez – who is widely popular in both Venezuela and South America – was able to ride his popularity to win and continue his socialist democracy movement. Despite his popularity – and important policies, such as cutting poverty and unemployment in the South American state – many in the West regard Chavez with suspicion and believe the president has become increasingly autocratic in his rule. No doubt due to his anti-US and imperialist rhetoric; though, to be fair, he will now rule for longer than Mussolini, Pinochet and Kim Jong-il.

Bye Bye Abu!

Everyone’s favourite hook-wearing villain

The UK’s second-most famous hook-prosthesis wearing man (after, well, Captain Hook) is going. After a eight year-long legal battle, accused terrorist Abu Hamza is set to be extradited from the UK to the US – along with four other men – where he is wanted for allegedly setting up a terrorist training camp as well as setting helping al Qaeda seize hostages in Yemen. The former Islamist cleric, originally from Egypt, had attempted to get off the hook and delay his extradition on the grounds that he was unfit for trial because of degenerative brain problems, thus was in need of a scan first. Abu was clearly, by hook or by crook, trying to get off. Sounds all a bit fishy to me. (Ed; please stop making hook puns?) Oh right; well, fortunately, the judges didn’t fall for the hook, line, and sinker – and Abu will soon be in a US ‘supermax’ prison.

Turkey & Syria Trade Fire

Turkey and Syria have essentially began to slide into a mini war after an increasing amount of artillery and mortar fire over the border.  The crisis began last week after a Syrian attack killed five Turkish civilians, which has lead to escalating pressure from Turkish authorities and an increase in support for the Syrian Rebels; it is also believed tanks and missile defence systems have been deployed on the border. Diplomats are worried it could mean the civil war spilling over to neighbouring nations.

Things went bad to worse when Turkish jets intercepted a plane on its way to Damascus from Moscow with claims by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that Russia was supplying munitions; who knew, hey? (Russian officials said this was piracy, but having Russian moral high-ground is a laughable concept). In fact, it turned out the plan didn’t have weapons, but “military communication devices” – aka Walkie Talkies – so Erdogan probably looked like a bit of a plonker. The good news is though, with outside influence increasing and more high-profile attacks in the Syrian capital and in Aleppo, it could be the start of the end for Assad as he tries to deal with multipe threats from every side; but then, we’ve been saying this for months now, so we won’t hold our breath

A European Peace?

Some European citizens were less than impressed with the decision

Despite its worthwhile intentions, the Nobel Peace Prize has been given to some strange and controversial winners in its time: in 1973, Henry Kissinger won the prize despite a history of secret bombing campaigns as well involvement in a kidnapping and murder operation in South America; in 1994, Yasser Arafat – regarded by many to be a terrorist- won it for the Oslo Accords; and in 2009, Barack Obama won it for…well, who knows? Basically, for not being George W. Bush. Well, this year, the coveted went to the European Union for six decades of work in advancing peace, democracy and human rights in the continent. To be fair, the EU has created a more stable Europe that, for the west especially, has forgone war for peace; clearly any talk of the Balkans is to be avoided. Indeed, in many ways, the decision seems like a joke. It is strange timing considering Europe is a period of turmoil with the European project severely under-threat from it economic problems. The EU, far from more a continent of closeness and diplomacy, has never looked more fragile and divided. Case in point; who will go to collect the prize?

In Other News…

The IMF have offered another grim assessment on the world’s economy believing it has weakened further than believed, expanding at only 3.3% this year rather than the expected 3.5%.

Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head by Taliban militants. The schoolgirl came to public attention in 2009 after writing a BBC Blog about life under Taliban rule for women, including campaigning for girls’ rights to education in the country.

Five Royal Marines have been charged with murder over an incident that occurred in Afghanistan in 2011; after suspicious video footage was found on a serviceman’s laptop. The five servicemen will face a trial by court martial; it is the first such charge in connection with the Afghanistan conflict.

Norodom Sihanouk, former king of Cambodia, has died in Beijing at the age of 89. Sihanouk, who is the Guinness Book of Records for holding the greatest variety of political positions, led the South-Eastern Asian nation to independence from France in 1953, but could not stop the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Libya have elected a new prime minister, Ali Zidan, after previous PM Abu Shagur was dismissed a week ago. Zidan, a defector of Gaddafi in 1980, beat a candidate linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and has been given 2 weeks to form a cabinet.

And post first-presidential debate polls indicate that President Obama’s lead over GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, has shrunk with most narrowing to 2 percentage points; some even place the Republican candiate ahead. But with two debates left – and coolness like this – Obama is likely to redeem himself from his early mediocre display.

Tune in next Monday morning for your weekly political news fix…

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