20 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Protesters attend a rally calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 19, 2016. Almost one million South Koreans marched on Saturday night to demand the resignation of President Park Geun-hye over her biggest political scandal since she took office in February 2013. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)

Almost one million South Koreans marched on Saturday night to demand the resignation of President Park Geun-hye over her biggest political scandal since she took office in February 2013.

Organizers said about 600,000 protesters took to the streets in central Seoul. It was half of last Saturday’s rally in size that drew over 1.3 million and surpassed the June 1987 protest against then military dictatorship.

Instead of joining the Seoul demonstration as seen a week earlier, residents outside the capital city chose to hold separate rallies in their respective hometowns.

According to the estimate by organizers composed of about 1,500 civic groups, some 350,000 people held candlelight vigils in around 70 locations across the country.

This Saturday was the fourth protest rally since the scandal involving President Park and her decades-long confidente burst into a fit of rage last month.

Choi Soon-sil, whose friendship with Park dates back to the 1970s, and two former presidential secretaries are scheduled to be indicted by prosecutors on Sunday. Choi is suspected of interfering state affairs behind the scenes.

Public alienation from the Park administration was especially evident in the country’s southeast regions, which are traditionally a political home turf for Park and her ruling Saenuri Party. The regions presented multiple election victories to them since Park entered the political sphere in 1998.

In the southeastern port city of Busan, over 50,000 people gathered on the streets with candles in hand. Over 12,000 protesters marched in the southern city of Daegu, according to local cable news channel JTBC.

Daegu is described as a political hometown of the president, who entered politics by being elected a lawmaker in the city.

In the capital city, three main opposition parties held separate rallies around the Gwanghwamun square. Presidential hopefuls in the opposition bloc joined candlelight vigils in major cities outside Seoul.

Most of the hopefuls demanded President Park immediately step down, while Lee Jae-myung, mayor of Seongnam city in Gyonnggi province, maintained his position that procedures to impeach the president should be launched immediately.

The Seongnam mayor’s support rate recently jumped to the double digits on his active participation in the protest rallies.

Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the No. 1 opposition Minjoo Party, said in her speech in Seoul that President Park will be described as “the worst traitor” in history as the president with an approval rating of 5 percent pushes for a military intelligence pact with Japan, the country’s former colonial ruler.

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US politics >>

Trump vs Hamilton: actor rejects claim Mike Pence was ‘harassed’>>

Brandon Victor Dixon, actor in the hit musical Hamilton, addresses Mike Pence who was booed by the audience at the hit Broadway show in New York on Friday. Dixon calls on the vice-president elect to ‘uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us’

‘Conversation is not harassment sir,’ Donald Trump told by Brandon Victor Dixon, who spoke directly to vice-president from stage after he was booed by patrons

An extraordinary war of words broke out between president-elect Donald Trump and the cast of the diversity-celebrating hit musical Hamilton, after the vice-president elect, Mike Pence, was booed by the audience.

Trump took to Twitter to demand an apology from the cast after its members called on Pence and the incoming Trump administration to respect the rights of all Americans.

“Our wonderful future VP Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theatre by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”, Trump tweeted.

‘I don’t give a damn – no waterboarding’ under Trump>>

Trump University Case settled ‘to focus on our country’>>



Less than two weeks after Donald Trump’s election, pontiff makes thinly veiled criticism of rise of populist nationalism

Pope Francis

Pope Francis made his comments during a Vatican ceremony in which he appointed 17 new cardinals. Photograph: Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/Barcroft

Pope Francis has said an “epidemic of animosity” toward religious and ethnic minorities is hurting the weakest in society, in a thinly veiled assessment of the rise of populist nationalism.

Little more than a week after Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, which has buoyed anti-immigration parties in Europe, the pope said people should not be seen as enemies because they were different.

The 79-year-old Argentinian pontiff has repeatedly voiced support for immigrants, and last year made an impassioned speech on cultural diversity in Philadelphia.

Trump branded Pope Francis “disgraceful” in February after he suggested the billionaire tycoon was “not a Christian” because of his plan to build a wall along the US border with Mexico.

“We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee become a threat; take on the status of an enemy,” Francis said at a Vatican ceremony on Saturday, during which new cardinals were ordained.

“An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the colour of their skin, their language or their social class.
“An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith.”

The pope followed the US election campaign carefully, and four days before the vote cautioned against “social walls” and “false prophets”.

Between 9 November (the day after the election) and 14 November, there were 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment in the US, including 225 that were either anti-immigration or anti-black, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The pope’s candid warning follows the booing of the US vice-president elect, Mike Pence, at the musical Hamilton in New York on Friday night.

“How many wounds grow deeper due to this epidemic of animosity and violence, which leaves its mark on the flesh of many of the defenceless, because their voice is weak and silenced by this pathology of indifference,” he said.

He also said the Catholic church was not immune to “a virus of polarisation and animosity” after four conservative cardinals accused him of sowing confusion on important moral issues.

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Three million people fled their villages during northern Nigeria’s insurgency. Two years later, they are going back

Women in Moda, north-east Nigeria, returned home to find Boko Haram had destroyed their farms.

Women in Moda, north-east Nigeria, returned home to find Boko Haram had destroyed their farms. Photograph: Robin Lustig for the Observer

The men with the guns arrived in Moda early on a Sunday morning. There were only a dozen of them, but they were enough to send the villagers fleeing for their lives. Now, two years later, most of those who fled have come back, to find their homes destroyed, their livestock gone and their fields ruined.

They are among the more than three million people in north-east Nigeria who were displaced in what has become one of the world’s worst – and least reported – humanitarian disasters. The UN has warned that up to 75,000 children could die within the next 12 months unless more help arrives urgently.

The villagers are the invisible victims of a jihadist insurgency by Boko Haram, the same Islamic extremist group that in April 2014 abducted more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, 100 kilometres west of here. They are invisible because once they left the camps where they had been sheltering, officials assumed that they would be able to cope without further assistance. Only now is it becoming clear that returning home has brought no improvement in their living conditions and a major international effort to save them is swinging into action.

The UN and other agencies are urgently appealing for additional funding to help the forgotten victims of Boko Haram. The children’s agency Unicef has raised barely a quarter of the $115m it says it needs.

With the world’s attention fixed on the crises in Syria and Yemen, as well as on the domestic political upheavals in the US and Britain, the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Nigeria, Peter Lundberg, says the crisis here is worsening rapidly. As many as 14 million people could soon be in need of help; an international funding conference is to be held in Geneva next month.

Unlike the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, whose perilous journeys to Europe have rarely been out of the headlines, the people of north-east Nigeria have remained almost entirely below the media radar.

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Survey shows 36m trees have died since May, as record low snowpack and warm temperatures leave trees thirsty and prone to beetle infestation

Dead trees, such as these seen in Yosemite national park, increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

Dead trees, such as these seen in Yosemite national park, increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The California drought has killed more than 102m trees in a die-off of forests that increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires and other threats to humans, officials said on Friday.

The latest aerial survey by the US Forest Service shows there are 36m more dead trees since May in the state and there has been a 100% increase since 2015.

“These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur and pose a host of threats to life and property,” the US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said in a statement.

California has endured five years of drought marked by a record low mountain snowpack and warm temperatures. The drought has left trees thirsty and prone to infestation by bark beetles.

Late last year, Governor Jerry Brown formed a taskforce charged with finding ways to remove the trees that threaten motorists and communities.

Vilsack called on Congress to act, saying more federal funding goes toward fighting fires than forestry management, such as removing dead trees to improve forests’ health.

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An American tragedy>>

Why are millions of trees

dying across the country?



Mike Pence leaving the Broadway play Hamilton, where cast members urged him to respect the rights of minorities, women and gay people.

Mike Pence leaving the Broadway play Hamilton, where cast members urged him to respect the rights of minorities, women and gay people. Photograph: Andres Kudacki/AP

Trump voters sure are sensitive lately. They’re upset that the cast of the hit play Hamilton made a statement to vice-president elect Mike Pence, and that the audience booed him. They’re displeased that their vote is costing them relationships with family and friends. And for some reason not entirely clear to me, they’re unhappy with Starbucks and decided to demonstrate as much by … buying lots of coffee at Starbucks.

The same people who wear shirts that read “fuck your feelings,” and rail against “political correctness” seem to believe that there should be no social consequences for their vote. I keep hearing calls for empathy and healing, civility and polite discourse. As if supporting a man who would fill his administration with white nationalists and misogynists is something to simply agree to disagree on.

Absolutely not. You don’t get to vote for a person who brags about sexual assault and expect that the women in your life will just shrug their shoulders. You don’t get to play the victim when people de-friend you on Facebook, as if being disliked for supporting a bigot is somehow worse than the suffering that marginalized people will endure under Trump. And you certainly do not get to enjoy a performance by people of color and those in the LGBT community without remark or protest when you enact policies and stoke hatred that put those very people’s lives in danger.

Being socially ostracized for supporting Trump is not an infringement of your rights, it’s a reasonable response by those of us who are disgusted, anxious, and afraid. I was recently accused by a writer of “vote shaming” – but there’s nothing wrong with being made to feel ashamed for doing something shameful.

I suppose I should not be surprised by this reaction; people are taking cues from Trump himself, a man who feels so entitled to universal adoration that he whines about protests being “unfair”. Indeed, after Pence’s uncomfortable evening at Hamilton, Trump tweeted that the quite respectful statement from the cast was “harassment”. This from a man who has mocked a disabled reporter, encouraged violence at his rallies, and spent a lifetime denigrating women.

The president-elect even wrote that the theater should be a “safe” place. Apparently “safe space” is politically correct nonsense when women don’t want to get raped at college, but vitally important when a powerful man who advocates conversion therapy wants to enjoy a Broadway musical.

Since Trump won the election, hate crimes are being reported at a rate higher than right after 9/11. Just a few blocks from my home in Brooklyn, a woman was punched in the face by a Trump supporter and a swastika was drawn in a nearby children’s park. We have a president-elect who just settled a class-action fraud case for $25m. But yes, by all means, let’s talk more about your hurt feelings and “civility”.

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