In the news this week #21

Disclaimer, this relies mostly on reliable journalistic sources listed at the bottom and just a bit of my brain to entertain

International shenanigans

UK

 

A fire at the Grenfell Tower in London left at least 58 dead but the toll could be rising. The fire destroyed the 24-story building at a pace that raises questions about its construction, and an outcry is growing around the lack of responsiveness to multiple warnings, and a criminal inquiry has been begun. The consequences were also political, as Prime Minister Theresa May was heavily criticized for waiting three days before meeting the victims and their families.

Speaking of which, Theresa May hangs on to power but faces mounting difficulty, and even maybe a challenge from her own party. Many raise concerns about the highly socially conservative positions of the DUP she’s planning to ally with.

In other good news, Trump’s visit to Britain might be put on hold, potentially following his Twitter row with the Mayor of London.

Russia

Putin critic Alexey Navalny called for protests and was – yet again – arrested in Moscow. meanwhile an assassin pretending to be a French journalist tried to killed two Chechens opponents to Putin.

France

President Macron’s party won a semi landslide in the legislative elections, a feat even more impressive considering his party did not exist 2 years ago. It remains to be seen how many deputies with no political experience will fare in the Parliament, but it seems the French are ready for change. Almost all presidential candidates faced troubles in the election, and some like socialist Benoît Hamon had already been beaten after the first round. Turnout, however, was low with about 50% abstaining.

Macron also met with President Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire to discuss many topics including the environment and closer coordination to fight against terrorism. Macron is set to meet Senegal’s President as well, go to Morocco and attend the G5 Sahel meeting early July as part of a new approach to strengthen links across the Mediterranean and enhance collaboration in the fight against terror.

Macron met with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris, and during the press conference did say that the door remains open for the UK to stay in the EU. Let’s see if the message was heard.

Kosovo

Former rebel leader Ramush Haradinaj and his movement appeared to have win the Parliamentary elections, which could anger neighboring Serbia and continue to fuel the rising tensions in the Balkans.

Brazil

Despite being cleared last week of charges that his (and Dilma Roussef’s) campaign was fraudulently funded in 2014, President Temer is not out of the woods yet: allies might leave his coalition in Congress, making it that much harder for him to push his reforms, and the chief prosecutor could decide to file criminal charges against him for obstructing justice and allegedly taking bribes. He has enough support to remain in power and reform, for now.

Qatar

Tensions continue as Iran now airlifted food and Turkey sent troops to the isolated Kingdom, which is airing (through its channel Al-Jazeera) more and more footage sympathetic to the plea of the Yemenites, squeezed by another Saudi and Emirati blockade. It might be that Saudi Arabia’s attempt to bring them to heel might actually throw them into the arms of outsiders in the region, including Iran. Kuwait, in the meantime, is still trying to calm the situation down.

US

7 US sailors died after their destroyer hit a Filipino tanker off the coast of Japan.

Trump announced he would reverse parts of the deal made by Obama with Cuba, reinstating travel restrictions. Just, why. (The Washington Post says it could undermine Trump’s hotel industry rivals, but I am refusing to believe this is the only reason; that and the support he got from the Cuban-American community).

Otto Warmbier, an American student, was held by North Korea for over a year after his was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing propaganda artifacts while in the country. He was released last week but has been in a coma for months, potentially following a case of botulism.

Afghanistan

The US could send 4,000 more troops to the country as part of a new Pentagon plan, to advise Afghan commanders on tactic and provide intelligence in a scenario close to what is being done in Iraq and Syria. The aim would be to reverse the gains that the Talibans have made in the past two years. Trumps generals sound more and more like Obama’s generals, interestingly enough.

Syria

Russia announced it has killed the head of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi, in an airstrike.

Cybersecurity

The Washington Post announced that North Korea was behind the massive attack that crashed computer at the NHS in Britain, among others; the aim apparently was to raise money for the regime, but it seems that it failed.

Turkey

The opposition began a march on Istanbul to protest the crackdowns, while a Turkish Court sentenced a UN war crime judge to jail on terrorism charges. So, well.

Serbia

The country got its first female gay prime Minister, a yeah!

US Politics

Constitution

Two state attorney general sued Trump for not cutting ties with his businesses when he became president, arguing that he is violating the emoluments clause. The next day almost 22 Democratic members of Congress filed a lawsuit on the same grounds If the cases proceed it might become interesting.

Puerto Rico

As expected Puerto Rico voted to become the 51st state, but the consequences are unclear.

Russia

Attorney general Jeff Sessions testified this week about the Russian interference in the elections, saying the accusations of collusion against him are an “appalling lie”. He refused to reveal most of his conversations with Trump.

Multiple sources reported that Trump is now under investigation for firing Comey. He has attacked the deputy attorney general on twitter, potentially conidering firing the special prosecutor (bu it was not confirmed) and seems more and more at odds with the Justice Department and the FBI. We are now sure, though, that the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, are being investigated. Incidentally, Pence hired a criminal defense lawyer.

The Senate passed a law limiting the President’s ability to lift sanctions on Russia, but the House still has to take it up.

Healthcare

The Senate will work on the healthcare bill behind closed doors, doors that apparently closed even to Democrats. No hearing has been scheduled. This from the people who said the previous version (12 hearings and 11 months) was too rushed for something that important. Go figure.

Emoluments

Trump has retained assets worth 1.4 billion dollars, according to a voluntary disclosure. This could add fuel to the case brought against him for keeping business ties.

Cosby

The judge found a mistrial as the jury was stuck in a deadlock in the case of rape brought against Bill Cosby (the only one, despite a number of accusations). Prosecutors have 4 months to decide whether to try him again on the same charges.

Travel ban

The Administration asked the Supreme Court to revive the travel ban after a second appeals court ruled against the revised version. The opponents were due to file their response to the government’s plea on Monday, probably aiming to sway Judge Kennedy, the most likely swing justice in the case.

Economy

The Fed has raised the interest rate for the 2nd time this year, suggesting confidence in the US economy – which can now boast a 4.7% unemployment rate.

Racism

The police officer who shot Philando Castile, an unarmed black man, during a routine control was acquitted but dismissed from the police force, causing an outrage.

The Education Department has announced it will scale back civil rights investigations and will not consider them mandatory anymore.

Immigration

Trump has announced he would not fulfill his campaign promise to deport the “DREAMers”, undocumented immigrants who came to the US as small children, and would continue the Obama-era program that protected them.

Climate

The Energy Department closed the Office of International Climate and Technology, another sign that they’re definitely not looking in the right direction when it comes to climate change.

Extremism

A series of anti-Islamism protests took place in the US last weekend, ostensibly against sharia law (one might wonder why they felt that need) but the group behind it has repeatedly associated all Muslims with terrorism and sharia. Luckily, most protests were dwarfed by counter protests of people with a better understanding of what the problem is.

A man shot five people including a Republican house member on a baseball field in Virginia. He was then shot by police, and has been described as an anti-Trump fanatic

Favorite article

Japan never ceases to amaze: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/business/japan-gold-smuggling-crime-rates.html?_r=0

For your trivia needs

The Turkish government has banned many websites including Wikipedia, in an effort to control information. it can be darker than it sounds: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/world/europe/turkey-wikipedia-ban-recep-tayyip-erdogan.html?_r=0

The information contained in this article mostly comes from:
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Foreign Policy
The Guardian
The Hill
Le Monde
Le Courrier International
The Christian Science Monitor
Pink News
The Advocate
LGBTQNAtion
Human Rights Campaign
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