In the news these weeks #25

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

International shenanigans

UK

Negotiations between the UK and the EU around Brexit have officially begun, for better or worse – according to EU negotiations witnessing chaos and controversial statements from UK negotiators, it could begin with the worst.

Iraq

Commentators believe Iran is shaping up to be the largest winner of the conflict in the country, despite – massive – US involvement as its influence has grown exponentially in the region. Depriving ISIS of its territory might not be the only thing needed to calm the region down.

Iran

Speaking of which, the Trump administration had to certify that the country is holding its part of the 2015 nuclear deal, but Trump was reportedly very unhappy to do so and commented on the danger that Iran poses to its region yet again. Tensions are not diminishing.

Pakistan

The Supreme Court has disqualified the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, from office. He stepped down – a year before the end of his third mandate – and chaos might ensue.

Qatar

The crisis has not gone away, and revelations that the United Arab Emirates was behind a hack of Qatari government websites in May is not helping.

France

Macron seems to be having troubles with his army, as the papers reported trouble and a high-ranking general resigned.

Libya

France hosted peace talks between two main factions which led to an agreement around a process of political reconciliation. Italy, which has been calling for help as Libya is partly responsible for the migration crisis the country has been dealing with, might however not be happy with its neighbors becoming to invested in its former sphere of influence.

US

Trump reportedly ended a CIA program to arm Syrian rebels, a big win for Russia’s interests in the region – this in no way related to the fact that he had an undisclosed, off the record, one-hour long private meeting with Putin at the G20. It seems.

Secretary of State Tillerson announced he would shut down the State Department office in charge of war crimes because you know, Yemen and Syria are fine and there is no need for that kind of humane nonsense. Yeah.

Congress also voted new sanctions against Russia for the aggression against Ukraine, despite Trump’s opposition. His press team seemed divided on whether he was considering vetoing then.

Just because, Trump nominated former republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrinch’s wife Callista as ambassador to the Vatican. The move is perceived as an insult to the Pope considering her inexperience. Maybe Trump is not over that letter on climate change.

Speaking of Ambassador, the new pick for US ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra is apparently a tea party founder known for his anti-LGBTQ equality and anti-abortion stances. That should sit well in one of the most progressive nations in Europe.

China

The country sent military personnel in its first overseas base in Djibouti, and began its first naval exercise in the Baltic Sea with Russia. It’s not the first time China and Russia do this, and a clear sign that China stands behind Russia in the region.

Also it seems the honeymoon with Trump might be over as the latter complained again that China does nothing to contain North Korea.

Saudi Arabia

The New York Times revealed that the change in heir to throne, from the Sultan’s nephew to his son, was actually not as seamless as public announced as it seems the former heir was held against his will and forced to give up his claim in favour of the Crown Prince.

Venezuela

The US ramped up its sanctions against the Maduro regime but it does not seem to have an impact as violence against the population and opposition continue. The Parliament, led by the opposition, appointed new Supreme Court judges to replace the current ones accused of being too close to the President and about 42% of the population (a number violently disputed by the opposition) seems to have voted in the election for the new Assembly, which should redact a new Constitution feared to give too much power to Maduro.

Poland

The government is under severe criticism from the EU and its own population after the lower house of Parliament passed a bill authorizing the President to sack Supreme Court judges. The other house passed it, potentially giving increased powers to the executive – and raising questions on the nature of the democracy in a country already ruled by an authoritarian, right-wing party – but the President unexpectedly vetoed it.

 Israel

The decision to place metal detectors at the entrance of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, seen as an insult by many Muslims, led to tensions and attacks in Israel and the colonies. The government announced they would be taken down.

Turkey

Relations with Germany got even more tensed after the arrest of human rights activists including a German citizen. This might prove complicated since the biggest Turkish diaspora is in Germany, which is the first importer of Turkish goods.

Meanwhile the trial of 17 journalists from the biggest opposition paper has begun, with the prosecutors claiming that the journalists colluded with the Gulen community, which is accused by Ankara of being responsible of the failed coup attempt last year. A very practical coup, which allowed them to get rid of thousands of judges, state employees, etc.

South Korea

The new president’s pro-dialogue policy will be tested as South Korea proposed military talks with the North. Considering current tensions, it would be interesting if that took place – especially since the North shot another missile and the US retaliated by flying bombers over the peninsula. Good times.

Japan

Trouble is not over at Fukushima as a robot uncovered what seems to be melted fuel within one of the isolated reactors. TEPCO, the company operating the nuclear plant, said it was figuring out what it exactly is and how to remove it.

US Politics

Military

Trump tweeted that transgender people would not be allowed to serve, in any capacity, in the military, citing healthcare costs. This goes against the previous administration’s policy, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the situation that goes beyond words. There goes the so-called pro-LGBT Trump, annd the so-called pro-soldiers Trump as well. Luckily the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that until her receives a former rules change, nothing will change.

Discrimination

While we’re at it, the Administration weighed in on a current discrimination case, saying that the Title VII of the anti-discrimination act (which prohibits discrimination based on sex) does not protect people against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Thanks for that, too.

Healthcare

That was a saga. The Republican Obamacare replacement seems to be dead after other Senate Republicans came out against it. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced then that the Senate would therefore vote to repeal the ACA without any replacement, clearly showing that a political victory (of sorts) matters more to him than any kind of common sense or empathy. The Senate did vote to open debate on the law, to then fail to do anything to it so far – as the repeal alone and the skinning of the ACA failed, the latter thanks to opposition from John McCain.

Trump had also told Republicans to go back to the drawing board and prepare another repeal of Obamacare after the spectacular failing of their current attempts, after first saying that they should just let the ACA fail. I don’t know which one is pettier.

Russia

Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort agreed to testify before Congress on the Russia thing – which could be even more interesting than before since it seems Jr lied, again, about who attended the meeting and at least 8 people including a former Russian counterintelligence analyst were there. Also Trump he would not have appointed Sessions if he had known he would recuse himself on Russia, which does not sound suspect at all, and continued to nag him on twitter – Sessions said he would stay on as long as appropriate despite the public criticism from the president and GOP Senate members are not amused. The atmosphere must be fun.

During the testimonies Kushner said he did not collude but the Guardian revealed he made a real estate deal with Russian oligarchs connected to a current investigation into money laundering, so not all is white apparently.

The New York Times also reported Trump aides are apparently investigating Robert Mueller’s team – yes, the prosecutor investigating the Russia scandal – looking for ways to discredit him. But no obstruction of justice there of course, it’s not as if Republicans leaders actually had a backbone.

Meanwhile the special prosecutor has reportedly begun investigating Trump’s financial affairs, while Trump and the White House warned him not to do that because he should keep his investigation on topic. This is just turning into a joke.

To add to the fun, Congress passed stronger sanctions on Russia – giving Trump no choice but to accept that, or veto the bill. Moscow has seized US diplomatic properties and order a reduction of staff at the US embassy as retaliation – 755 personnel from US missions need to be cut.

Travel ban

The Supreme Court let the ban stand by limitee refugee entries but broaden the definition of relatives to be allowed in

Election

Also a member of the commission specially appointed to study voter fraud (by the winners of the elections, might I add) said we would never really know the exact results of the election (even though we do). Yeah, I know.

Also

Senator John McCain has made public his surgery was actually due to a cancer, which did not stop Mitch McConnell from having him fly in a week after to vote on health care. It turns out it was rather good for the ACA, and rather bad for McConnell.

ExxonMobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s former employer, is in trouble with the US Treasury for doing business with and ignoring sanctions on… Russia. Yeah, of course. Meanwhile Foreign Policy reports that he is constituting a team that would be separated from the rest of the staff, answer directly to him, and therefore remain untouched by the massive cuts envisioned to the Department. FP describes it as an unprecedented attempt to undermine the diplomatic corps, underlined by the fact that the US presence at UNGA in September will be massively scaled back. Talk about retreating from international diplomacy.

Sean Spicer resigned as Press Secretary, allegedly because of Trump’s choice as communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. He shall be missed…

Scaramucci has also launched direct – and very foul-mouthed – attacks at cheif of staff Reince Priebus and strategist Steve Bannon. It is unclear at this stage how much of an internal war is going in within the White House but it ain’t pretty.

It seems however that for now Scaramucci is winning as Reince Priebus was fired, replaced by Gen. John Jelly. I don’t know which is worse, that the probably last moderate, establishment Republican was kicked out of the White House or that he was replaced by another general in a civilian post.

 

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For your trivia needs

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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