Trump’s been busy since the end of his impeachment trial and the Democratic primary has been grabbing attention as well. The world doesn’t begin and end at the United States shoreline, though, and events which happen elsewhere can often be warnings to us or have lasting implications on our future. Here are some of the events from the week gone by:
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is getting international recognition for being a greater boor than President Trump. Bolsonaro and his cabinet members have been under investigation for a number of corruption allegations, both accurate and not. One of those investigations was triggered by a story from award-winning reporter Patricia Campos Mello, and in a congressional hearing one of the administration officials attempted to cast doubt on the story, saying that Mello had offered him sex in exchange for information. Mello’s news organization immediately released all transcripts, e-mail and texts, demonstrating the allegation as false. Nevertheless, it appears that the idea germinated at the top levels or that it struck Bolsonaro’s fancy; since Tuesday Bolsonaro has repeated the debunked charges and is attempting to smear the reporter.
Germany had a flare-up of white nationalist violence on Wednesday as a 43 year old man identified as Tobias Rathjen engaged in mass shootings at a hookah lounge and a cafe. He had posted an online rant exhorting native Germans to support the complete extermination of “races or cultures in our midst”, then walked into places in the city of Hanau where people of foreign background were known to gather. According to survivors, he calmly shot people at each location before leaving. Upon returning home, he killed his mother and then himself in an apparent murder/suicide.
Nine people died in the attacks with many more injured, and the victims were both immigrants and native German citizens. The manifesto posted has drawn particular attention because it is not only a simple racist diatribe but also tied deeply to conspiracy theory, with talk of a secret organization within the government that is controlling everything and trafficking in the sexual abuse of small children via underground tunnels. While there is no direct link to QAnon, “Deep State” and Pizzagate, the parallels are obvious and authorities are investigating efforts to promote the AfD (Alternative for Germany) anti-immigrant party by using similar propaganda.
Meanwhile, in Syria, Assad’s forces are pressing northward into Idlib, in an effort to take the last large stronghold of opposition forces. Assad is backed firmly by Russia in their operation, while the insurgency forces are supported by Turkey. In the midst of the fighting, nearly a million civilians who live in the city are being forced out, with nowhere to go. Syrian Kurds are attempting to build temporary shelters for the refugees, but they have limited resources. Also problematic is that the Kurds are negotiating with Russia for support in the area, after their abandonment by the United States convinced them that the US was untrustworthy. Putin and Assad alike seem interested in conducting a full slaughter of both soldiers and civilians from Idlib, based on events from other towns and cities. It is therefore uncertain how much aid the Kurds are going to feel comfortable in granting to the refugees.