The World Today for June 08, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

FRANCE

The Loudest of Backfires


As Americans await news of Russia meddling in their electoral politics, it may be instructive to consider the consequences of its meddling in the recent presidential elections in France.

Earlier this month, France’s cybersecurity chief declared that Russians did not break into then-candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign computers and leak information to the public.

But on the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was “theoretically possible” that “patriotic” Russians could have tried to hack Western elections. He also said his government would “never” hack an election and didn’t believe hackers could sway voters’ minds.

One could be forgiven for not knowing whom to believe.

Putin openly supported two of Macron’s rivals – the conservative Francois Fillon and far-right populist Marine Le Pen, the latter an open admirer of Putin, Deutsche Welle noted.

The two men have understandably frosty relations as a result.

When newly elected President Macron met Putin at the palace of Versailles late last month after the Group of Seven meeting, the encounter was anything but courtly, noted Politico. Macron said he held a “frank exchange” with Putin at the meeting on issues like the crises in Ukraine and Syria.

The two powers back opposing sides in both civil wars, explained the BBC.

Still, the leaders signaled their determination for a new beginning in Franco-Russian relations, which hit a low when Putin abruptly canceled a visit to Paris last year after then-President Hollande said Russia could be charged with war crimes for its actions in Syria.

But the whiff of Russian subterfuge has already killed chances of the EU lifting sanctions against Russia over its occupation of Crimea, noted Bloomberg.

And, in early May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Putin on a visit to Russia that Germany could handle any Russian disinformation campaigns in the run-up to federal elections in September, reported France24.

In France, at least, alleged Russian meddling has had little impact: Macron is on track to keep winning.

On Wednesday, early voting returns from French voters abroad suggested his La République En Marche party (the Republic on the Move) was heading for a landslide victory in parliamentary elections held in two rounds on Sunday and June 18, the Guardian reported.

An En Marche majority in the legislature would give Macron a clear path to implement his agenda and a strong position as he represents the country abroad. It’s anyone’s guess what that means for relations with Russia in the future.

One thing, however, is clear: If Russia was meddling in the French presidential elections to benefit Le Pen and Fillon, it backfired.

[siteshare]The Loudest of Backfires[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

No Landslide Here


British voters will head to the polls Thursday to choose its next government with Labour candidate Jeremy Corbyn hoping his late momentum will cause an upset and Tory leader and British Prime Minister Theresa May looking to reverse that surge.

The result is likely to be somewhere in the middle, according to the latest polls.

Preliminary figures for the last ICM poll of the campaign showed the Tories slipping to 46 percent on the eve of the election from 48 percent on April 24, while Labour has risen seven points to 34 percent, the Guardian reported.

In other words, May should nab a majority in parliament, but not the landslide she expected when she called snap elections in April. Meanwhile, the left-wing Corbyn should rally unexpected support from voters who responded to his emphasis on social policy rather than Brexit.

If that’s the case, May will not achieve her mission of extending her majority to gain a stronger mandate for negotiating Brexit.

Pollsters say the results will come down to turnout, which is hard to predict, especially by younger voters who generally favor Corbyn and have registered in large numbers.

[siteshare]No Landslide Here[/siteshare]

IRAN

Widening Front


Islamic State claimed responsibility for its first attack in Iran on Wednesday, as suicide bombers and gunmen struck the Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, killing at least 12 and wounding about 40, the BBC reported.

In a statement, the extremist group said five of its fighters had taken part and warned of further attacks against Iran’s Shia Muslim majority. All five died in the assault.

During the past two weeks, the Islamic Front has taken its bloody campaign to two new locations – Iran and the Philippines – suggesting that it is opening new fronts as its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq faces defeat against US-backed forces, the news outlet said.

Compared with Europe and North Africa, Iran had remained comparatively free of terrorist attacks.

The attack also occurred against a backdrop of rising tensions between Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shia-led Iran: Saudi Arabia and several Sunni allies including Egypt led a regional effort on Monday to isolate Qatar, accusing it of backing Tehran and militant groups such as Hamas in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, as messages of condolences poured in from around the world, Iran rejected one from the White House, the Washington Post reported, calling it “repugnant.”

[siteshare]Widening Front[/siteshare]

EUROPE

A Defensive Position


The EU announced on Wednesday its first ever investment toward common defense, committing $6.2 billion in research and hardware, such as purchases of tanks, helicopters and drones.

The investment does not overlap with the NATO alliance and does not mean the EU is creating its own army, Agence France Presse reported.

Instead, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said it was not “about substituting neither the alliance nor the United States but it’s a matter of focusing on what we can do more for our own purposes, our own interests.”

That focus could only have sharpened after President Trump took his European partners to task on military spending at a NATO summit last month.

But the Brexit vote, a more assertive Russia and continued terrorist attacks have also reinforced the EU’s sense of common purpose, the news agency said.

The defense initiative was led by Germany and France, which seized on Brexit as an opportunity for further defense cooperation given that Britain has always opposed such ties in favor of security based on US-led NATO, the news agency said.

[siteshare]A Defensive Position[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Early Bloomer

Often embarrassing and nearly always awkward, puberty is simply another one of life’s many tribulations.

But for those from lower-income households, that confusing and emotional period of adolescence may come earlier than for others, bringing with it the potential for some serious health issues later in life.

That’s the conclusion of a study published recently in the journal Pediatrics where researchers asked the parents of around 3,700 children in Australia to report on the tell-tale signs of puberty in their kids from ages 8 to 11, including growth spurts and skin changes or, for girls, menstruation.

Researchers then cross referenced that information with household income.

According to their analysis, boys were four times as likely and girls two times as likely to enter puberty earlier than their richest peers if they came from impoverished households.

Researchers still haven’t pinpointed the exact cause of the early bloom. Some say the stress of a low-income household could have a biological trigger, the researchers wrote in an article republished in Quartz.

But what they do know is that early puberty means a greater risk of developing obesity and cardio metabolic diseases like diabetes later in life.

[siteshare]Early Bloomer[/siteshare]

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