The World Today for January 20, 2017


Get Ready

Today’s inauguration of President Donald Trump is shaping up as the start to a peculiar era in world affairs.

The United States is potentially going to be the cause of, rather than the solution to, global instability in the next few years if Trump lives up to his campaign promises.

The writing is already on the wall.

“As Trump Era Arrives, a Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World,” read a recent headline in The New York Times.

Chinese leaders “blasted” Trump over his openness to abandoning years of American policy toward Taiwan, an island Beijing views as a renegade province.

France’s top diplomat warned that Trump’s “stubborn” proposal to move the US embassy to Jerusalem – Palestinians dispute whether Israel has the right to make the holy city its capital – would result in serious consequences in the Middle East.

Mexican officials are preparing retaliatory actions if Trump imposes a border tax to build a wall and/or penalize American companies who take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and move south to save on overhead.

The American has some friends.

Workers in a Russian weapons foundry in Zlatoust, a provincial city around 1,000 miles from Moscow, minted a 1 kilogram silver coin to commemorate the new president.

Maybe television advertisements for the coins will be airing soon.

The stature of the American president at home is important to his or her power abroad, too, of course. A popular president can annoy world leaders and still succeed. He’s got the world’s most powerful country behind him, after all.

But only 44 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s behavior during his transition, a recent Gallup poll found.

President Barack Obama enjoyed an 83 percent approval rating. President George W. Bush’s rating was at 61 percent in January 2001.

“Why hasn’t the president-elect been given more respect?” wrote columnist Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, recalling how Trump spent Martin Luther King weekend savaging civil rights icon John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia. “Here’s a fair answer: He hasn’t earned any.”

But there’s no point in looking back. Obama nostalgia is rampant among many Americans who didn’t cast their ballots for the New York real estate mogul.

“Whether he intended it or not, Obama drew a striking contrast between the philosopher president who is leaving and the populist president who is coming,” wrote the French newspaper Le Figaro, as reported in The Washington Post, in a story about Obama’s farewell address.

That’s a nice turn of phrase. But dwelling on the point is a waste of time. The country and world must and will move forward.

Get ready.


Chapo Extradited

The Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” has been extradited to the US – a move that authorities in both countries see as a way to make sure he receives genuine punishment.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was extradited Thursday, a little more than a year after the Sinaloa cartel leader was recaptured following his escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico, NBC News reported.

Several US jurisdictions want to try the former leader of the Sinaloa cartel on federal drug trafficking charges, including prosecutors in San Diego, New York, El Paso, Texas, Miami and Chicago, the news channel said. The Justice Department said he’s been charged in six separate US indictments.

The Drug Enforcement Administration in a 2015 report said that the Sinaloa cartel has the largest presence in the US among various other Mexican cartels. Meanwhile, El Chapo is a popular anti-hero in Sinaloa and across Mexico due to his success evading capture and generating a massive fortune, even though the Sinaloa cartel has been blamed for thousands of deaths, including the murder of police officers and innocent civilians.

Italian Avalanche

Italian rescue workers continued to search for survivors overnight, after an avalanche at a mountain hotel buried as many as 35 people under rubble and snow.

Two bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the Rigopiano hotel, in the central Abruzzo region, and searchers said they had not given up hope of finding survivors despite finding no signs of life so far, the BBC reported.

Two people escaped the avalanche to call for help. But it took hours for responders to verify their claims and arrive at the remote earthquake-stricken zone, the Associated Press reported.

Days of heavy snowfall had knocked out electricity and phone lines across central Italy, and the hotel phones went down early Wednesday, just as the first of four powerful earthquakes struck the region, the agency said. Possibly as the result of the tremors, the avalanche collapsed a wing of the hotel that faced the mountain and rotated another off its foundation, pushing it downhill.

Cops and Criminals

Philippines police officers strangled a South Korean businessman and then extorted ransom money from his family under the pretense that he was still alive last year.

The Philippine Department of Justice said Thursday that the officers seized the businessman, Jee Ick-joo, 53, at his home in a Manila suburb in October under the pretense of a drug raid. They then took him to the headquarters of the Philippine National Police and killed him, the New York Times reported.

Rights groups argued that the corrupt officers were emboldened by the brutal war on drugs being waged by President Rodrigo Duterte, in which extrajudicial killings have been common.

The country’s national police chief said the murder was an “isolated” case and not part of the antidrug campaign, but the rogue officers were led by an anti-narcotics representative, the paper said.

So far, the police haven’t produced any evidence that Jee – who worked for a South Korean shipbuilder — was involved with drugs. It’s not clear yet how the incident might impact international relations, but South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se expressed “grave shock” in a statement and said he was in contact with his Philippine counterpart.


What’s Big and Gold and Likes to Tweet?

The West has settled into 2017. But the Chinese Lunar New Year – which will ring in the Year of the Rooster on January 28 – is still on its way.

In that spirit, one factory in eastern China is racing against the clock to meet the demand for an unusual party supply: a giant inflatable rooster balloon that some say is a dead-ringer for President Donald Trump.

Over 30 of these inflatable roosters – which come in sizes up to 65.6 feet in height and rock styled puffs of golden hair – have been produced at the Zhejiang-based factory so far, with many orders still to be fulfilled before the Lunar New Year arrives, reported Reuters.

Li Haiyan, the manager of the company producing the roosters, said that any likeness to The Donald is incidental, as many Chinese will only associate the rooster balloons with the zodiac animal.

But Casey Latiolais, a Seattle-based graphic artist who designed a statue that Chinese media said inspired the balloon, believes the president elect has much in common with roosters.

“I can definitely say Mr. Trump has a lot of similarities in that he likes to tweet,” Latiolais said.

Check out some pictures of the giant inflatable birds and decide for yourself here.


Threats to Press Freedom around the World.

The following selection is part of a new, regular feature on press freedoms brought to you in conjunction with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And the award goes to . . .

Meryl Streep broke the internet last week when her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes became a call to action on behalf of press freedom. Streep may have won the prize but thanks to the spotlight, the Committee to Protect Journalists has received more than $300,000 in donations since her speech, as well as more than 15,000 new social media followers.

The public support will help CPJ, for example, press for an investigation into the killing of Muhammad Jan, a Pakistani journalist murdered in Baluchistan, a particularly dangerous place for reporters. CPJ is also acting on reports from Mexico this month that police threatened and attacked journalists covering protests in the northern states of Coahuila and Baja California. And CPJ must keep up painstaking documentation of the perpetual media crackdown in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, where reporters are being arrested and charged with terrorist crimes on a daily basis. Yeah, that’s the same president who praised US President-elect Donald Trump for “beating down” CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta at his first press conference.

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