The World Today for June 07, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

INDIA

Got Beef?

Indians are practicing a new form of civil disobedience. They are eating beef.

“Eating beef has become a political act,” the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday, referring to residents of the southern city of Kozhikode who hold beef-and-rice feasts as a “convivial form of protest.”

The feasts are in reaction to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial nationwide ban on the sale of buffalo and cattle for slaughter last week.

Billed as an anti-animal cruelty measure, the ban is widely viewed as advancing Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda. Hindus, who comprise 80 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion, revere the cow as a sacred animal.

A Kerala lawmaker from the opposition Congress party even abandoned vegetarianism in protest of the law.

“I have been living without eating meat, fish or eggs since 1998,” VT Balram told the BBC. “But now the time has come break it and uphold the right politics of food assertively.”

Under the new rules, seller and buyers can’t trade cows, buffalo or calves without attesting that the animals won’t be slaughtered for meat or leather. Cows now only produce milk or work in the fields, Reuters reported.

Eating beef is not a crime in many Indian states. But, in most of the country, killing a cow without authorization can land perpetrators in jail for seven years.

But the issue is about more than faith and crime.

The new regulations will likely collapse India’s beef market, an export industry worth $4 billion annually, argued Tim Worstall, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, in Forbes.

Muslim livestock traders – Muslims comprise 14 percent of the population and dominate the meat industry – are expected to be especially hard hit, the Financial Times reported.

“What are we supposed to do?” Mohammad Qureshi, a 31 year-old a beef trader from Maharashtra told the Los Angeles Times. “I have a family to look after and this shop is all I have. By imposing these rules, the government is making lives difficult for minorities.”

Beef prices are already on the rise, reflecting a drop in supply that could ripple to the US, the Wall Street Journal noted. “Some investors are already betting that worldwide beef supply could become tighter,” the newspaper wrote.

As Hindu nationalism continues to rise on the Indian subcontinent, so too have vigilante attacks against Muslim beef traders, NPR reported, adding to the historically bloody strife between the two religious groups.

Many predominately Muslim states have already contested what they call an “undemocratic and unconstitutional” measure.

But with court cases still pending, it seems this beef is long from over.

[siteshare] Got Beef?[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

SYRIA

A Long-awaited Battle

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday said it launched an attack to capture Raqqa, the self-declared capital of Islamic State’s caliphate, the Associated Press reported.

SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters the fighting would be “fierce because Daesh (Islamic State) will die to defend their so-called capital.”

The US-led coalition estimates that 3,000-4,000 Islamic State fighters are in Raqqa, where they have erected defenses in preparation for the assault, including a ring of land mines.

Raqqa was among the first cities taken by Islamic State, in January 2014, and is the base from which its leaders planned the November 2015 Paris attacks, among others.

The Islamic State is increasingly cornered not only in Syria but in Iraq, where US-backed forces are in the final stages of a push to take back the Iraqi city of Mosul, the last major city the militants hold in the country.

[siteshare]A Long-awaited Battle[/siteshare]

RUSSIA

Fraught Borders, New Walls

In another sign of Moscow’s discomfort with NATO’s growing presence on its borders, a Russian fighter jet intercepted a US B-52 bomber on Tuesday as it flew near its border over the Baltic Sea, Reuters reported.

The plane, which was escorted until it left the area, was not the only intercept of the day. Later Russia scrambled a MiG-31 jet fighter to intercept a Norwegian patrol plane near its border over the Barents Sea.

What might seem a normal game of cat-and-mouse has steadily ratcheted up since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, observers said.

Last May’s deployment of 1,000 NATO troops to Poland and each of the Baltic states has put Moscow on edge.

Still, the latest annoyance for Moscow is Montenegro, which flew its flag outside NATO headquarters in Brussels for the first time Tuesday, a day after it joined the Western military alliance. The new status for the tiny Balkan state has angered Russia, which considers Montenegro a special zone of interest and will now have less influence in southeast Europe, the AP noted.

Meanwhile, with Moscow planning war exercises in September on its western borders, Lithuania has begun building an unprecedented fence along its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, to “prevent provocations,” Reuters said, quoting Lithuanian Interior Minister Eimutis Misiunas.

[siteshare]Fraught Borders, New Walls[/siteshare]

FRANCE

Macron Magic

Emmanuel Macron’s shake-up of French politics is marching forward as his party En Marche! (the Republic on the Move) looks set to win the largest parliamentary majority for a French president in postwar France, Reuters reported.

Macron’s centrist party is expected to take 29.5 percent of the vote in the June 11 first round, polls show. That means it will likely capture as many as 415 of 577 seats in the lower house of parliament in a June 18 second round of voting.

His centrist appeal has syphoned off support and official from the Socialist Party and the Republicans, the two parties that have dominated French politics for decades, Bloomberg noted.

A solid parliamentary majority is essential if Macron is to follow through on plans to loosen France’s extensive labor laws and change the pension and unemployment benefits system. Such a change is necessary, says Macron, to move France’s sluggish economy forward.

Meanwhile, the far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen – who lost to Macron in the presidential election – has two seats in parliament and hopes to increase its share. But polls show that goal is unrealistic.

[siteshare]Macron Magic[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Rude Britannia

The iconic white cliffs of Dover are often the first sign of England seen by seafaring visitors from continental Europe as they approach the United Kingdom.

But visitors were in for a rude welcoming on Monday as they reached British shores thanks to a giant scaffold on the cliffs hanging an effigy of Prime Minister Theresa May telling them to get lost.

The scaffold showed May smiling while wearing a Union Jack skirt and making a V-sign with her left hand – a rude gesture in the UK when the back of the hand faces outward.

The structure’s origins remain a mystery, according to the Huffington Post. But the UK’s upcoming national election – where May is seeking a strong mandate for Brexit negotiations – might have something to do with it, they noted.

Even though Dover voted nearly two to one in favor of withdrawing from the EU, some area residents were not amused.

“Whether you agree or disagree with Brexit, it was crass, vulgar and insulting to any Europeans coming into Dover on the ferry,” local resident Simon Hare told local website Kent Online.

The giant effigy of May has been taken down, but you can check out a picture of the scaffold here.
[siteshare]Rude Britannia[/siteshare]

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