The World Today for October 25, 2016
NEED TO KNOW
A region of Belgium with a population of 3.6 million actually can scuttle a trade deal involving almost 550 million people and $70 billion annually.
On Monday, Belgium announced that, unlike the other 27 members of the European Union, it could not sign a major trade agreement with Canada – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – because Wallonia’s lawmakers opposed the pact.
In a club of developed nations where unanimity is essential for all major decisions, a third of a chronically fractured kingdom is dictating terms to everyone else by saying No.
A few months after Brexit, Wallonia’s socialist leaders have made common cause with anti-globalization activists who believe CETA hands big multinational corporations too much power, the BBC reported.
“We will never decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure,” said Walloon Minister-President Paul Magnette.
Along with the rise of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and virulent opposition to the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe, Belgium’s veto-by-gridlock is a reminder of the new forces that are rocking democracies around the world today.
“We’ve been bending over backwards trying to accommodate the new pockets of new nationalism, socialism, anti-globalism,” former Canadian Ambassador to the EU Jeremy Kinsman told Bloomberg.
Wallonia is also a reminder of the EU’s fecklessness. From the Eurozone financial crisis to Ukraine, terror attacks, Brexit and the Syrian refugee crisis, Brussels hasn’t been excelling at finding solutions.
Still, the development is a reminder of Belgium’s psychoses. It’s split between its French-speaking and Flemish-speaking regions and Brussels, a French-speaking city in Flanders that is also the capital of the country and the European Union.
Between 2010 and 2011, Belgian lawmakers were at an impasse over forming a government, leaving the people without an elected government for almost 600 days. Its decentralized police forces were also blamed for allowing the creation of terror cells that pulled off major attacks in Paris and Brussels over the past year.
Not a great partner for a business deal.
“It is now evident to me, evident to Canada, that the European Union is incapable of reaching an agreement,” said Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland in Bloomberg’s report.
British politicians have cited CETA as a potential model for trade relations between Britain and the EU after the former’s departure from the bloc, even though the BBC noted that the services sector that comprises 80 percent of the British economy would fare worse under CETA than it does as a member of the EU.
In any case, while some claim CETA might still pass, it’s not going to be so easy to replicate it now.
WANT TO KNOW
South Korea’s sitting president is angling to scrap term limits. And for once, the move is no would-be dictator’s play to become “president for life.”
Currently, South Korea limits the president to a single, five-year term, which President Park Geun-hye says undermines stability, Bloomberg reported.
It’s the first time Park has called for a revision of the system, and it comes as opinion polls place her popularity at an all-time low.
She did not propose any specific alternative to the present system in the speech before parliament where she first broached the subject, and if the constitution were changed, she would not be eligible to run for re-election.
The single term limit was put in place in 1987, when the former military junta agreed to a revision of the constitution that allowed for the president to be chosen by the people through a direct election. Two-thirds of the parliament would have to agree before the limit could be changed.
Bulldozers and Jungles
The forced evacuation of migrants living in the notorious Calais squatters’ camp known as “The Jungle” began Monday, as the first buses began transporting residents to reception centers around France where they can formally apply for asylum.
Some 60 buses are slated to move around 3,000 migrants out of the slum-like camp, which will be destroyed at the end of the week, the Associated Press reported.
Migrants have flocked to Calais for nearly 20 years, living in smaller squatters’ colonies. But the sprawling Jungle became emblematic of Europe’s migrant crisis, expanding as migrant numbers grew and quickly evolving into Europe’s largest slum, noted the Associated Press.
Complicating the issue, some of the migrants living in Calais have traveled there after being registered as asylum seekers in other countries. According to EU rules, if they’re caught, they would be required to return to the country where they were first processed – which can mean abandoning family and other support networks.
Slow Progress in Mosul
The Iraqi operation to take back Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) is making slow progress, as the militants continue to put up fierce resistance in the surrounding belt of towns and villages.
IS troops are using mines and other explosive devices to disrupt the assault, as well as suicide truck bombs, rockets and mortars. Meanwhile, the terror group launched a massive assault on the city of Kirkuk, some 170 kilometers (100 miles) away, killing at least 80 people over two days of fighting.
Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers have surrounded the city of Bashiqa, which lies on a crucial supply route 8 miles from Mosul, and are preparing to launch a full assault, according to the BBC.
While that’s good for the fight against IS, it could also cause problems: If the Peshmerga succeeds in retaking Bashiqa, it would give the Kurdish troops and their Turkish backers a clear run to northeastern Mosul – even as Iraqi President Haider al-Abidi continues to object to Turkey’s involvement in the fight.
Don’t Touch That Dial!
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised its former two-hour time limits on media consumption for children over the age of two, saying that some screen time for the little ones might not be as deleterious as previously believed.
But don’t switch on an all-day marathon of Spongebob just yet, parents.
The new guidelines differentiate between educational programming, such as Sesame Street, and other media, like Facebook, Twitter, or streaming services such as Netflix.
This new framework is meant to combat a rise in media addiction that tend to develop early on in life, the Washington Post reports.
As such, consumption limits remain strict for infants under 18 months. But the AAP says that minimal exposure to video chatting with relatives should be just fine.
Restrictions begin to loosen as a child gets older. After 18 months, kids can start to watch snippets of educational programming in line with a balanced lifestyle that also prioritizes “creative, unplugged playtime.”
Striking a balance is crucial: The AAP recommends parents set up a media plan that fits the family lifestyle and doesn’t dominate real-world social activities and sleep patterns.
Translation: Parents, don’t go overboard on the Baby Einstein.
“Even though the media landscape is constantly changing,” said Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, one of the authors of the study, “the same parenting rules apply.”
Curious about what it means to be addicted to the internet? Then check out this breakdown of the phenomena by technology writer and Pulitzer Prize nominee Nicholas Carr.