Babylon Radio’s weekly column is here to provide you with a quick insight into some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Mass demonstrations, natural disasters and a string of arrests. The past week has conjured up a variety of notable moments across the globe. South African protesters flocked to Pretoria’s High Court demanding the removal of President Zuma, following allegations of corruption. Similar unrest gripped the streets of Hong Kong when police officers and anti-China demonstrators clashed. For the third time in three weeks, central Italy played host to a devastating earthquake, which left 15,000 people seeking temporary shelter. In Turkey, opposition figures have been subjected to a spate of arrests, as President Erdoğan intensifies his bid for absolute control.
On the South American continent, peace talks between the government and its political opponents represent a last-ditch effort to pluck Venezuela from the edge of a violent, internal conflict. Closer to home, Google’s tax returns made for interesting reading, with the Dublin-based firebrand appearing to contribute less than its fair share.
South Africa’s political scene is in disarray. A long-awaited report into corruption within the government was published on Wednesday. The report’s aptly titled name, ‘State Capture’, outlines the worrying relationship that exists between key government institutions and a wealthy South African family known as the Guptas. The document’s release was met with a wave of anger, as the Economic Freedom Fighters organised a mass protest outside the capital’s High Court. The Gupta’s are alleged to have influenced the workings of the government, throwing South Africa’s democratic processes into disrepute. Since the report’s publication, there has been a flurry of voices calling for President Zuma’s removal. Yet, it seems that the President is intent on keeping his cherished position, boldly claiming yesterday: “I’m not afraid of jail”. Whether his fears, or lack thereof, are justified will only become evident as he battles through a vote of no confidence in parliament next week, as well as an impending investigation.
Hong Kong and China’s Fractious Relationship Reaches New Low
According to organisers, 10,000 protestors hit the streets of Hong Kong to vent their fury at China’s apparent interference in Hong Kong politics. The fraught relationship that exists between the two entities was tested today, with demonstrations taking place outside the Chinese representative office. Whilst the march on the whole was peaceful, there were reports of scuffles between police officers and protesters. The most recent quarrel between China and the Hong Kong people concerns the former’s attempt to prevent Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, two pro-independence politicians, from taking up their seats in the Legislative Council. The pair used their swearing in ceremony last month to display their pro-independence views by displaying a banner that read: “Hong Kong is not China”. A decision on whether the legislators can assume their roles or not is expected on Monday.
Italy Rocked by Earth-Shattering Quake
An earthquake that registered a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale struck Italy on Sunday. The town of Norcia bore the brunt of the earthquake with extensive damage to historic sites and people’s homes. Italy’s latest earthquake was so powerful that the city of Rome, over 100km away from Norcia, had to close its Metro system as tremors penetrated the city. From the sensible to the strange, many opinions have surfaced about the recurring earthquakes that seem to be ravaging central Italy. Scientists warned that the region may be subjected to further large earthquakes in the future, whilst an Italian priest claimed that the recent seismological activity was divine punishment for same-sex marriages.
The Net Tightens: President Erdoğan‘s Opposition Face Increasing Pressure
Since the military’s unsuccessful coup back in July, over 110,000 state employees have been imprisoned. As President Erdoğan continues to solidify is hold on power, his latest act highlights the worrying trend that has now become a common habit. On Friday, nine MPs, including the co-leaders of Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish Party: People’s Democracy (HDP), were all arrested by government forces. As joint leaders of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are the figureheads of Turkey’s third largest party. Their arrests were met with wide condemnation, both internally and internationally, and were followed by several more arrests the following day of politicians and journalists from a secularist, opposition newspaper.
Last Chance Saloon
Vatican-sponsored talks are seen as the final opportunity for Venezuela’s political crisis to reach a peaceful end. Following intense pressure from the opposition party, as well as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Caracas last month, President Nicolas Maduro rejected calls for an early election on Friday. Having won a convincing victory in the presidential elections last year, President Maduro sees little need in having another election. Yet, the opposition’s hold in the National Assembly, coupled with a failing economy, have ensured that President Maduro’s challenges are set to continue.
An Irish Love Affair: Google’s Tax Haven Persists
Last year Google earned an astonishing €22 billion from its operations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Based in Dublin, the Irish branch of Google accounted for a third of the company’s worldwide revenue. However, despite the vast income that Google can lay claim to from its Irish offices, the amount of tax contributed by the firm remains little more than a token gesture. Google paid just over €47 million for its dealings last year. That’s less than one per cent. A lot less. Despite pressure from the international community, Ireland remains a hospitable host for Google’s activities, and has promised to implement changes to its tax structure only after 2020. The employment of nearly 3000 employees cannot be ignored, but the firm’s tax avoidance is, at best, controversial, and at worst unethical and deceitful. For now, this Irish love affair shows little signs of waning anytime soon.