The World Today for June 09, 2017



A Roll of the Dice

“May’s big gamble fails,” read front page of the Times of London. “Mayhem,” splashed the Sun. “Exit poll shock for May,” wrote the Guardian.

Those headlines assembled by CNN illustrate the surprise that unfolded in Britain Thursday in what was called “one of the most sensational night in British electoral history.”: Voters cast ballots in a snap election Prime Minister Theresa May had called in hopes of gaining a mandate as she heads into negotiations this month to pull Britain out of the European Union.

She was assured of victory. Instead, she was all but denied a majority in parliament.

Long derided as a bumbling leader whose far-left views have been out of vogue since the 1970s, Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn was widely viewed as a bust a few months ago.

But May was a lackluster campaigner who stumbled when she proposed, then rescinded, a tax on seniors receiving in-home healthcare and appeared flat-footed during a recent spate of Islamic State terror attacks in London and Manchester. She squandered her former 20 percent lead in the polls.

Corbyn, meanwhile, barnstormed across the country from rally to rally. Long a backbencher who rebelled against the more moderate policies of ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, he was the leader with fire in his belly. “We have already changed the face of British politics,” he told the Guardian on Thursday night.

It’s a been a crazy few years in the United Kingdom.

In 2014, Scotland nearly seceded from the union in an inconclusive vote that did not put the question to rest. The first coalition government since World War II ended a year later, with the Conservatives winning a majority. Last year, Britons opted to leave the EU, a bombshell. Now yet again voters delivered a surprise.

A hung parliament is now expected, meaning May is forecast to lose her majority while Labour is slated to pick up seats.

“If this is true – if this is true – then it is hard to overstate the extent of the calamity for Theresa May,” wrote Telegraph columnist Harry De Quetteville, who suggested May would likely be stepping down.

It’s not clear what happens next if May stays or leaves.

She or a new Conservative leader could form a coalition like the recent one with the Liberal Democrats – whose leader, Nick Clegg, lost his seat on Thursday, by the way. Or some other alliance might form, though it’s doubtful that Corbyn could become prime minister. New elections might occur if nobody could form a government. Or maybe some other option is in the works.

CNN noted that the other parties have pledged not to work with the Tories. The Liberal Democrats, for example, oppose Brexit.

May lost her gamble. Now she or her successor will need to negotiate with her own people – quickly – before they can turn their attention to Brussels.

[siteshare]A Roll of the Dice[/siteshare]



Lonely in the Gulf

President Trump, the UN and Kuwait’s ruling emir all offered diplomatic support to resolve the crisis engulfing Qatar Thursday after five Arab nations severed ties with the tiny, oil-rich nation earlier this week, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Despite the impact of its isolation – Standard & Poor’s lowered its debt rating, its stock market has plummeted and food supplies are at risk – Qatar struck a defiant tone, Reuters reported, denying the allegations and vowing not to “surrender” to pressure.

On Wednesday, Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia issued Qatar a list of 10 conditions it must meet to restore relations, including an end to support for terrorist organizations, such as Hamas.

One Qatar ally is objecting to the blockade – Turkey, which wants to protect its relationship with the country to avoid further isolation in the Arab world, the New York Times pointed out.

“If Qatar gives in to this pressure that will mean that Turkey’s role in the region will be further constrained,” Galip Dalay, the research director at Al Sharq Forum, a Turkish research organization, told the newspaper.

[siteshare]Lonely in the Gulf[/siteshare]


The Andean Wall

President Trump has proposed to build a wall between Mexico and the US, but Ecuador is already constructing one along its 930-mile long border with Peru.

That’s even though Peru this week asked Ecuador to stop construction and to get together to talk things through, Newsweek reported.

Peru claims the wall would cause merchants to lose trade opportunities and could disrupt the water flow in a canal that separates the two countries, raising flood risks for Peruvian cities.

The border between the Andean countries has long been a source of friction, which erupted into a military confrontation in 1995 that lasted three years. Peru claims the wall violates the terms of the agreement ending that dispute, in which the two countries agreed to do no building within 10 meters on either side of the canal.

However, local Ecuadorian Manuel Zumba told Agence France Presse that the barrier is necessary to stop smuggling: He said it won’t hinder movement of people, calling it a project to regenerate the area, reviving trade and tourism.

[siteshare]The Andean Wall[/siteshare]


Terror, Uncontained

Two Islamic extremist groups staged deadly attacks in Nigeria and Somalia on Thursday, raising concerns that both years-long insurgencies are seeing an intensifying momentum.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram launched the deadliest attack in months on Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, killing at least 13 people, Reuters reported.

The Nigerian government late last year declared that Boko Haram had been crushed.

In Somalia’s semiautonomous state of Puntland, meanwhile, heavily armed al-Shabaab extremists stormed a military base killing almost 70, the Associated Press reported.

Al-Shabaab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, killing more than 4,200 in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

The extremist group recently vowed to step up its attacks after the federal government announced a new offensive against it.

[siteshare]Terror, Uncontained[/siteshare]


Hand in Hand

Madrid is already sending strong signals that it’s ready to host WorldPride, a weeklong gay pride festival held every few years in different cities around the globe.

In anticipation of the festivities, 288 traffic signals at 72 intersections around the city have been replaced with either figures of women – recognizable by skirts and ponytails – or figures of same-sex couples walking hand in hand, NBC News reported.

The new additions to Madrid’s streets replace the traditional, gender-neutral figures that normally notify pedestrians when it’s safe to cross the street.

Reuters reported that city officials believe the visual impact of the signs will help to foster gender equality and acceptance. The new signs won’t be taken down after the parade rolls through town.

And while the new signals may seem out of place to some, 82-year-old Maria Antonia, a long-time resident of the city’s well-known gay neighborhood, Chueca, says the display is nothing she hasn’t seen before.

“I’m not surprised by anything whatsoever,” she said. “So here we are for their party. We will just hang in there. But anyway, they don’t mess with anyone. They live their own way, and everyone should just do the same.”

[siteshare]Hand in Hand[/siteshare]

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.

Cameramen: Targets in Yemen

Two cameramen – Takieddin al-Hudhaifi and Wael al-Absi – were killed in the Yemeni city of Taiz on May 26, when a shell hit a building they took shelter in. Al-Hudhaifi’s father, Mohammed, told CPJ that according to witnesses, the pair took cover after coming under fire near the frontlines on the outskirts of the city. They were covering the fight between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and those pledging allegiance to the Houthi militia and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Witnesses told Al-Hudhaifi that the building was hit deliberately. Two other cameramen, Salahuddin al-Wahbani, and Walid al-Qadasi, were seriously injured in the incident.

According to CPJ research, 16 journalists have been killed in relation to their work in Yemen since CPJ began keeping records in 1992.

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