Hugo Chavez, who ruled Venezuela with an iron fist since becoming president in 1999, has died of cancer at the age of 58. Let the conspiracy theories begin. In Russia, Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the powerful Communist Party, said the U.S. had played a role in Chavez’s death.
“How did it happen that six leaders of Latin American countries which had criticized . .policies and tried to create an influential alliance in order to be independent and sovereign states, fell ill simultaneously with the same disease?” Zyuganov said, according to a report by Russia’s state news-agency RIA Novosti. “In my view, this was far from a coincidence.”
Zyuganov was referring to the cancer diagnoses of Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, and the former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. All are left-wing. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor, made similar accusations in announcing his predecessor’s death, which he called “an imperialist plot.”
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama had this to say (comments via The Guardian): “At this challenging time of President Hugo Chávez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the US remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
He did not address the accusations of murder.
No English, please
In China, one in every four people can speak English. The National College Entrance Examination — basically the SATs on steroids — has a compulsory test on the English language. China’s emphasis on bilingualism has helped spur cultural and business connections with the U.S.
But at an important annual government conference, one politician submitted a proposal that would remove the English test from the college exams, popularly known as “Gaokaos.”
“90% of college graduates won’t use a foreign language at all after their graduation. [Learning English] is a typical waste of resources . . . it is a tragedy,” argued Xinlu Wang, who proposed the English ban to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, in comments carried by Phoenix News.
Many disgruntled users on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, agreed. “There is no need for everyone to learn a foreign language!” one Weibo user posted. “A foreign language is just a tool. If we don’t have a chance to use it, why should we spend so much money and time learning it?”
Brazilian politician on most wanted list won’t attend UN meeting
In Brazil, the expression malufar means “to steal from public funds.” The unfortunate etymology of that word is derived from the surname of Paulo Maluf, a current Brazilian congressman and former mayor of São Paulo. Maluf is on INTERPOL’s most wanted list, at the request of a prosecutor in New York City who accused him of diverting public funds into several bank accounts in the U.S.
Now, despite being granted permission by Brazil’s Supreme Court to travel abroad, Maluf has wisely decided to call off a visit to the UN — which is located, of course, in New York City. (Folha de São Paulo has the story for those who read Portuguese.)
Maluf is widely known as a public servant who gets things done, while skimming off the top. As a politician, he seems to have adopted the slogan of an earlier mayor of São Paulo who famously said: “Steal, but give results!”
Maluf served as mayor from 1969-1971 and 1993-1996, as well as governor of São Paulo State between 1979-1982. He was arrested for intimidating a witness in 2005, but his biggest gaffe came as mayor in 1989 when, attempting to combat a wave of sexual violence and murders in São Paulo, he said on live radio: “Okay, you have sexual desires. Rape, but don’t kill.”
“Mother-in-Law Day” a hit in Poland
And, finally, to quote Jon Stewart, your moment of Zen: You probably didn’t know this (or didn’t want to) but yesterday was international Mother-in-Law Day. In Poland, people apparently take this filial duty seriously. Malgorzata Chmielewska-Zdunek — try writing that on a Hallmark Card! — is a Warsaw-based therapist who published some tips for the holiday in the popular Polish tabloid Super Express.
Polskie Radio helpfully translated some of her advice into English for all you long-suffering sons- and daughters-in-law.
“The best thing would be to invite her for a coffee or to the cinema,” Chmielewska-Zdunek writes. “She needs to see that she is not just an accessory to your wife or husband, but a distinct, well-liked and respected person.”
But she knows how quickly things can turn sour.
“When things get bad, and your mother-in-law is criticising your every move, you have to keep your distance and retreat,” she adds. “There is nothing worse than fanning the flames of conflict and having open warfare. You need to calm the atmosphere and keep a low profile for a while so that the emotions can subside.”
Good advice for the whole year round.