The World Today for February 03, 2017


The Trump Doctrine

Last week, when US President Donald Trump issued his order banning refugees, he kicked a hornet’s nest with the stroke of his pen.

Now he’s causing chaos with his phone, quipped Politico on Thursday, a busy day for the leader of the free world.

The Washington Post broke the news in the morning that Trump had harangued Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a deal to ship 1,250 refugees to the United States.

American pundits were shocked at the president’s behavior. But much of the Australian press was positive, saying Trump had rightly determined that Turnbull was a “dud.”

The White House also revised regulations that would allow American companies to export electronics to Russia, the Associated Press reported. Sanctions imposed to punish Moscow for its meddling in Ukraine had prevented those sales.

Now US companies have access to Russian markets so long as they get approval from Russian intelligence agents who grant licenses for mobile phones, tablets and other devices, wrote NPR.

In a surprise twist given his stalwart support of Israel, Trump also chastened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, issuing a statement that said more settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank “may not be helpful” in securing peace in the Middle East.

Lastly, Trump also further escalated tensions with Iran in an ongoing dispute over an Iranian ballistic missile test on Sunday that administration officials claimed violated a United Nations Security Council resolution. The president told reporters that he wouldn’t rule out military action against Iran, if necessary.

Vowing to conduct more tests, Iranian officials dismissed Trump’s “baseless ranting.”

Hours later, CNN reported that the president was considering new sanctions on Iran based on preexisting executive orders that President Barack Obama used, too.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius opined that Trump should be careful with Iran and avoid the “haphazard” planning that has marked his first two weeks in office.

But even Ignatius had to admit that Trump was smart to court Russia, Iran’s closest ally, while also putting pressure on Tehran. “That may be a useful point of leverage,” he wrote, suggesting that Moscow might be willing to sacrifice Iran in return for better relations with Washington.

Where Trump’s foreign policy is headed is still up for grabs. There is no doubt, however, that the president is more than comfortable using carrots and sticks to get there.


‘Humanitarian’ Deportations

With European Union leaders set to discuss ways to stop illegal migration from Libya on Friday, Italy inked a deal with the Libyan prime minister to try to prevent such migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.

Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni told reporters Thursday night after meeting Libyan Premier Fayez Serraj in Rome that the two sides signed a memo of understanding for more support for Libyan Coast Guard vessels patrolling the waters off the country’s north and “humanitarian repatriation” of migrants, the Associated Press reported.

The MoU came on the eve of an EU summit on Friday in Malta focused on finding ways to reduce the number of migrants leaving from Libya. In recent years, Italy’s Coast Guard has rescued hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in flimsy, overcrowded vessels.

EU Council President Donald Tusk wants tougher action from the 28 EU leaders to break the smuggling rings that transport the migrants, the agency said. One option may be a repatriation deal with Libya like the one the EU forged with Turkey in March 2016.

Fallen Figurehead

The death of Etienne Tschisekedi, a longtime pro-democracy figurehead in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), casts uncertainty over the movement to oust authoritarian President Joseph Kabila by the end of the year.

The departed 84-year-old Tschisekedi had been ill, traveling between Brussels and Kinshasa for treatment. But he still commanded power and respect in the DRC.

His mere presence electrified thousands and revived opposition to President Kabila’s unconstitutional decision to stay in office for an extra term, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Under Tschisekedi’s leadership, opposition forces had negotiated an agreement to kick start democratic elections by the end of 2017, while also baring Kabila from running. The deal also provided political parties with the power to nominate a prime minister and organize elections.

But without Tshisekedi leading the charge, there’s no clear replacement to pick up the reigns against a government that appears to have no intentions of compromise.

“We are entering murky waters. No one has the popular legitimacy to take over,” Hans Hoebeke, a DRC analyst with the International Crisis Group told the Guardian.

Tough Talk Between Friends

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood up for free speech in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Thursday.

“In such a time of profound political upheaval, everything must be done to continue to protect the separation of powers and, above all, freedom of opinion and the diversity of society,” Reuters quoted Merkel as saying at a news conference associated with the meeting – which marked her first trip to Ankara since a failed military coup in Turkey in July.

She also said she emphasized the importance of freedom of the press in her talks with Erdogan, whose post-coup crackdown has seen the arrest of thousands of soldiers and bureaucrats and the shuttering of several news outlets.

For his part, Erdogan claimed that his planned constitutional changes, which would replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidency, would not squash political opposition. “It is out of the question for the separation of powers to be abolished,” Erdogan said.


Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Scientists have discovered a new life hack for getting rambunctious dogs to chill out: Play them some reggae.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow played a variety of music to rescue dogs at a Scottish animal shelter while measuring their heart rates and observing their behavior.

They noticed right away that the pooches were much calmer while the music played. But stress levels were particularly lower when reggae or soft rock was on the playlist.

One scientist who conducted the study, Neil Evans, told the Telegraph that their research showed how music can offer dogs an outlet for psychological and physiological release, just like it does for humans.

“There is some evidence from work (on) humans that suggests that the relaxing effects of music are related to aspects of tempo or repeated motifs that can be present in the music,” Evans said.

The Scottish SPCA, the shelter where the research occurred, even said it would invest in sound systems for all of its kennels. Two of their centers are already equipped, Gilly Mendes Ferreira of the Scottish SPCA told the BBC.

“In the future, every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist,” she said.

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.

Pretexts and Crimes

In response to Donald’s Trump executive order banning entry for people from seven majority-Muslim countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the US president to “explain” to him the Geneva refugee convention, news reports said. Let’s hope she had a similarly frank discussion this week when she visited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In an effort to prod the conversation, CPJ wrote to Merkel to remind her that at least 81 journalists were jailed in Turkey at the time of its annual prison census on Dec. 1 – a record for any single country since CPJ began keeping records. Turkey’s “state of emergency” allows any cabinet member to shut down a media organization if he or she deems it “a threat to national security.”

Just how often is national security used as a pretext for silencing critical journalists? CPJ’s new #FreethePress campaign aims to draw attention to the practice. First on a list of 10 featured cases is Ahmed Abba, who has been jailed in Cameroon for more than 500 days on charges of complicity in acts of terrorism and failure to denounce acts of terrorism. His actual “crime” was to report for Radio France Internationale on people forced from their homes by conflict and on attacks by the militant group Boko Haram (a.k.a. the Islamic State in West Africa) – without alerting authorities that he was in contact with the extremist group. 

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