The World Today for January 09, 2017


Reaping and Sowing

Britain is preparing to reap the harvest of seeds sowed in 2016.

On Sunday, the potentially dire consequences of Brexit became clearer as Prime Minister Theresa May discussed her plan to officially begin Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Referring to the two years of Brexit negotiations expected to begin in March, the Conservative prime minister suggested she would take Britain out of the EU’s single market, the economic bloc where commerce flows uninterrupted among more than 500 million people.

“We will outside the European Union be able to have control of immigration and be able to set our rules for people coming to the UK from member states of the European Union,” May told Sky News on Sunday.

Her comments made a splash because, up until now, many Brits were hoping against hope that their country would somehow leave the EU but retain the same access to their major trading partners.

Even May said her goal was an “ambitious trade deal” that would allow British companies to operate in the single market – though she didn’t say how exactly.

CNN noted that those sentiments reflected the “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” that led the British ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, to resign last week, a move that many interpreted as a near-crippling loss of expertise in European rules and regulations from May’s negotiating team.

Rogers has said that Britain would need at least 10 years to extricate itself from the EU.

In support of Rogers, Canadian diplomat Jason Langrish, who recently helped seal an EU-Canada trade deal, bluntly wrote that he was “shocked at Brexiters’ ignorance” in an op-ed in the Guardian Sunday.

Nobody knows whether naysayers like Rogers and Langrish are right. But May’s dilemma is clear: Under EU rules, the free flow of people must accompany the free flow of goods.

European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said they won’t let Britain cherry pick the benefits of access to European markets without permitting Europeans to work and travel in Britain freely – a direct challenge to Brexit supporters up in arms over Polish plumbers and others who are supposedly taking their jobs.

Seeking to demonstrate that Britain had alternatives to its relationship with Europe, May also said she intended to work closely with incoming President Donald Trump to improve British trade.

Trump appeared open to talking. “I look very much forward to meeting Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington in the spring. Britain, a longtime US ally, is very special!” he tweeted Sunday.

Given Trump’s proclivities on trade, however, May should think twice before assuming Trump is going to open American markets to British goods that Republican voters could just as easily produce in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Death of Reformer

A former Iranian president who was a leading proponent of reforms died of a heart attack on Sunday, in what could have an impact on presidential elections in May and the choice of a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who is 77 and has been treated for prostate cancer.

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the most influential figures in Iran since the Islamic revolution, died Sunday at age 82, the Washington Post reported.

President of Iran from 1989 to 1997, Rafsanjani had significant influence on the Assembly of Experts, which will choose Khamenei’s successor, the paper said. His death might also influence the upcoming elections, as incumbent President Hassan Rouhani was his protégé.

Though he was accused of being complicit in the murder of various dissidents during his presidency, Rafsanjani’s death leaves “a huge vacuum” in the reform camp – which seeks greater political freedoms as well as closer ties with the West. With his funeral scheduled for Tuesday, analysts will be looking to see whether his death galvanizes reformers or allows hardliners to further consolidate their power, the Post said.

Israel Attack

Amid US sparring over the future of the US-Israel alliance, Jerusalem was hit by a terrorist strike over the weekend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has alleged may be linked to the Islamic State.

Palestinian driver plowed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers as they were getting off a bus in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, killing four and injuring 17 others in what local police described as a terrorist attack, the New York Times reported.

On Monday, Netanyahu said in a televised statement that “all the signs” suggest the attacker was a supporter of IS, the BBC reported. The prime minister did not provide any evidence to back up the claim – which links an issue generally viewed as a local problem to the primary foe in Washington’s current war on terror.

The attack follows a controversial UN resolution condemning Jewish settlements in the West Bank as an obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as a speech by outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry that strongly criticized Netanyahu’s settlement policy.

American Shooting

Mexican authorities arrested an American citizen in connection with the shooting of a US consular officer in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.

The suspect has not been identified, but local media named his alleged victim as Christopher Ashcraft, who has been a consular officer in Guadalajara since March. Ashcraft is in stable condition, the New York Times reported. The suspect will be deported to the US for possible prosecution.

Surveillance video of the attack suggests that the gunman stalked Ashcraft, possibly intending to kill him. The footage shows the gunman follow Ashcraft into a parking garage and then wait for him to exit the parking garage in his vehicle before shooting into the car’s windshield, the Associated Press reported.

The agency noted that the violent Jalisco New Generation cartel holds sway in Guadalajara, but said there was no immediate evidence of any cartel link to the attack. Similar incidents of attacks on US consular officers have occurred in Mexico in the past, but in those cases the attackers have mostly claimed the officers were targeted by mistake.


Trim the Fat

Here’s yet another reason to stick to that New Year’s resolution to shed pounds: A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children of obese parents may be more susceptible to behavioral issues.

The study examined the weight of both parents after childbirth and analyzed that poundage against the behavior of their children up to age three, the Boston Globe reported.

The study found that children of obese mothers were almost 70 percent more likely to fail tests for fine-motor skills. Meanwhile, the children of obese dads were 75 percent more likely to fail measures of social competence.

Children with two obese parents were three times more likely to fail problem-solving tests.

The study doesn’t confirm causation between childhood development and a parent’s weight.

But researchers who conducted the study said in a statement that “physicians may need to take parental weight into account when screening young children for delays and early interventional services.”

Now everyone has yet another reason to avoid chocolate…until early February.

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