The World Today for June 14, 2017



Oh, Canada

To Western nations shaken by populist uprisings, Canada – with its robust economy and charismatic, outward-looking prime minister – looks like a beacon of stability and liberalism.

But underneath Canada’s placid and polite exterior, the US’ northern neighbor is grappling with its own breed of homegrown separatists.

Officials from the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec recently reignited a long-dormant debate over the Canadian constitution.

This week, the Globe and Mail said the announcement kicked off an “anxious season of separatism.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard unveiled a 200-page manifesto detailing his government’s vision for Quebec’s revamped role within Canada, saying the time was right for the province’s “distinct character” to be officially recognized, reported Canada’s CBC News.

Quebec was the only province not to sign onto Canada’s constitution in 1982, though it narrowly voted against leaving Canada in a 1995 referendum.

But according to Coulliard, Quebec hopes negotiations will lead to a constitutional deal that increases the provincial government’s powers.

Among Quebec’s demands are veto powers over constitutional changes, increased immigration controls and a guaranteed seat on Canada’s Supreme Court, wrote Reuters.

Many Canadians greeted Couillard’s demands with indifference. But some of Canada’s indigenous First Nations groups welcomed Quebec’s push for constitutional renewal, wrote the Globe and Mail.

Other critics dismissed the move as an electoral ploy ahead of Quebec’s 2018 regional elections.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rebuffed Quebec’s advances and vowed that he would “not reopen Canada’s constitution.”

The timing of Quebec’s maneuvers is not exactly fortuitous for Trudeau.

Regional elections held last month in British Columbia – Canada’s westernmost province – put a left-leaning, minority government coalition of the New Democratic Party and the Greens into power.

The provincial vote poses a major setback to Trudeau’s Liberal Party and could have some serious consequences for business given British Columbia’s importance to the Canadian economy, said Bloomberg.

In particular, the new government could endanger some of Trudeau’s high-profile energy projects like the Trans Mountain crude oil pipeline expansion on Canada’s West Coast, wrote Fortune.

That puts added pressure on Trudeau, who is already bracing himself for the upcoming renegotiation of NAFTA with the US and Mexico, said CNBC. Talks are set to begin in August under a bruising 90-day timeline.

Between those looming talks and domestic political pressure, Trudeau might find it easier to meet Quebec halfway.

As Reuters noted, his Liberal Party will have to pick up seats in the Francophone province if it wants to prevail in Canada’s next elections in 2019.

[siteshare]Oh, Canada[/siteshare]



Pay the Piper

Nearly 2,000 asylum seekers won a $53 million settlement from the government of Australia over allegations of harsh conditions and systemic abuse at a remote detention center in Papua New Guinea.

The government agreed to the settlement with 1,905 men who were detained at the facility on Manus Island between November 2012 and December 2014 on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The sum will be distributed based on the length of time served by the inmates and the severity of injuries or illnesses they suffered while in custody.

Australia said it agreed to the deal to avoid a long and costly trial, and the agency noted that the settlement removes one of the remaining hurdles to shutting down the country’s controversial offshore detention scheme altogether.

Separately, the European Union launched a formal “infringement procedure” against three of its member nations – the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland – for failing to comply with a 2015 agreement to harbor asylum-seekers, the Atlantic reported. That, too, could ultimately result in financial penalties.

[siteshare]Pay the Piper[/siteshare]


Oh, What a Relief It Is

The European Union’s currency commissioner said Wednesday that Greece will likely ink a deal with its creditors this week that focuses on debt relief, rather than a debt cut.

That means fresh loans and longer repayment schedules, Reuters quoted European Union Currency Commissioner Pierre Moscovici as saying in an interview with Germany’s Funke newspaper group.

Eurozone finance ministers are likely to agree on Thursday to pay out the third and last tranche of loans, Moscovici said. After that, Greece is slated to become “a normal member of the euro zone,” enabling it to return to the capital markets in 2018.

Greece needs fresh loans to make the payments on existing debts that come due in July.

Meanwhile, on Monday it outlined a plan for the gradual lifting of capital controls it imposed in July 2015 to safeguard its banks.

At present, account holders can withdraw up to 840 euros in cash every two weeks, but face no limit on money they have deposited in banks after July last year. Unless it was originally brought into Greece from overseas, the monthly limit for money transfers abroad is just 1,000 euros.

[siteshare] Oh, What a Relief It Is[/siteshare]


Towering Inferno

Several people died and more than 50 injured after a massive apartment building in West London was engulfed by flames early Wednesday, according to initial reports by CNN.

Neither the death toll nor the cause of the massive blaze is yet known, CNN reported. But pictures show fire spewing from windows across many of the Grenfell Tower’s 20-plus stories.

CNN quoted the London Fire Brigade as saying the flames reached almost the entire building and noted that it’s likely to prove the worst such incident since 2009, when a fire in the southern part of the city killed six people.

At least 200 firefighters and 40 engines were deployed to fight the conflagration, according to the Guardian. Various people who escaped the blaze said they did not hear fire alarms, but were awakened by knocks on their door or apartment smoke alarms.

A two-year, $12.75 million refurbishment was completed last year, the BBC reported. However, even after the renovation the local Grenfell Action Group continued to claim that the building was a fire risk, the Evening Standard reported.

[siteshare]Towering Inferno[/siteshare]


A Growing Army of Moons

As far as planets go, Jupiter is not one to mess with.

Not only is Jupiter both the biggest and the oldest planet in our solar system, but its army of moons keeps on getting larger.

The planet was never exactly lacking in company. Now, astronomers have discovered two more Jovian moons, bringing the total number of its known satellites to 69, wrote Gizmodo.

Astronomers spotted the two moons accidentally on March 8, 2016 and March 23, 2017, respectively.

“We were continuing our survey looking for very distant objects in the outer solar system, which includes looking for Planet X, and Jupiter just happened to be in the area we were looking in 2016 and 2017,” astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science told Sky and Telescope.

Planet X refers to a suspected extra planet in the solar system.

So far, not much is known about the two moons – dubbed S/2016 J 1 and S/2017 J 1 – aside from the time it takes them to orbit Jupiter and their small size. They measure only one or two kilometers across. S/2016 J 1 needs 1.65 years to fully orbit Jupiter, while S/2017 J 1 completes the trip in 2.01 years, said Gizmodo.

But more research is undoubtedly forthcoming on Jupiter’s new crew, they added.

[siteshare]A Growing Army of Moons[/siteshare]

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