The World Today for June 16, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

FRANCE

Man of the Hour


Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron is set to become one of the most powerful politicians on Earth.

He trounced his opponent last month. He faces no potentially debilitating investigations or scandals. No crises, like, say, France withdrawing from the European Union, are on the horizon.

And now, polls forecast his political party – La République en Marche (Republic on the Move) – will win as many as 470 out of 577 seats in the lower house of parliament in legislative elections on Sunday.

“Electoral victory will make France’s president a potent force,” read the headline in the Economist. The article quotes a supporter as saying Macron walks on water “with only a hint of irony.”

The 39-year-old president is pursuing a moderate agenda that mixes pro-business policies with a strong social safety net and other left-oriented measures.

He recently unveiled a new tech visa to attract developers and coders to jumpstart his country’s slow-growing economy, for example. Unemployment is 10 percent in France but 25 percent among young people.

“I want France to attract new entrepreneurs, new researchers, and be the nation for innovation and startups,” Macron told CNBC on Thursday. “I want this country to become a country of unicorns.”

“Unicorn” is a Silicon Valley term for a startup company valued at more than $1 billion.

Still, he has also vowed to review the recent sale of the French shipyard at Saint-Nazaire to an Italian company, Bloomberg noted, saying it was a “strategic industry,” a term often used to mask protectionism.

There is some concern in France that the lack of restraint on such power could have downsides.

For example, voter turnout in the first round of parliamentary elections on June 11 was the lowest since 1958. Critics could attack the president’s legitimacy considering that only around 50 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, the Washington Post wrote.

The new president must therefore beware of pursuing an agenda that further alienates his constituents who are fed up with politics.

He’s making permanent a state of emergency that was enacted in the wake of terror attacks in November 2015, for example, a move that raises serious concerns about civil rights.

“Mr. Macron could face temptations to abuse executive power,” the New York Times warned in an editorial.

Some counter that Europe needs a strongman like Macron.

The continent is confronting a host of challenges, including rightwing leaders who want to break up the European Union, waves of Syrian and other refugees and a resurgent Russia meddling in Western elections and Ukraine, wrote author David Andelman in a CNN opinion piece.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing elections in September. Until she knows whether she’ll remain in power, Europe will be riding on Macron’s shoulders.

Meanwhile at home, some celebrate – not Macron or his party – but because there is a quiet, persistent feeling that there is some kind of turning of a corner for France.

“For years, we only really a choice between the plague and malaria,” said one French voter, referring to the two booted-out establishment parties – the Republicans and the Socialists – that have dominated French politics in the postwar period. “Now we get to try something else.”

[siteshare]Man of the Hour[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

TURKEY

Talking Back


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the US for the filing of criminal charges against a dozen of his security personnel in connection with an attack on protesters demonstrating against the controversial leader during his visit to the US last month.

“What kind of a rule, what kind of a law is this?” the New York Times quoted Erdogan as saying. “If those bodyguards would not protect me, why I am bringing them with me to the US?”

Erdogan’s government also summoned the US ambassador to Turkey to a meeting with the foreign ministry in Ankara, where he was informed that the charges are “wrong, biased and lack legal basis.”

The 12 men have already returned to Turkey but Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said the charges should “send a clear message” about the US position on freedom of speech.

On the other hand, the standoff may further complicate Washington’s already difficult relationship with Erdogan – who resents US support for Syrian Kurdish forces he says are linked to Kurdish nationalists fighting a guerilla war against Turkey.

[siteshare]Talking Back[/siteshare]

GREECE

Mo’ Money


Greece reached an agreement with its European creditors on Thursday that allows for the release of $9.5 billion in new loans, which will allow Greece to make payments on its existing loans that come due next month, the Associated Press reported.

“The main point of today’s decision is that – for the first time – there is a clear Eurogroup commitment to support Greece’s market access,” said a statement from the office of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Greece has effectively been closed out of international capital markets since its first bailout in 2010.

The deal allows for a possible 15-year extension in payments due European creditors, as well as measures to postpone repayments in the event of an adverse shock to the economy. In return, Greece committed to running a budget surplus through 2060.

The country still owes creditors around 320 billion euros, which is nearly three times its GDP, largely because the Greek economy has contracted around 25 percent.

[siteshare]Mo’ Money[/siteshare]

CHINA

Terror in Kindergartens


An explosion at a kindergarten in eastern China that killed eight people and injured 65 others was due to a bomb made by a 22-year old man who also died in the blast, police said Friday.

The bomb went off late afternoon Thursday near the entrance of the kindergarten in Xuzhou, in the coastal province of Jiangsu, Reuters quoted the official Xinhua news agency as saying. The agency also reported that police are investigating the incident as a criminal offence and already have identified a suspect.

Eight of the 65 people injured were reported to be in critical condition. However, local authorities said the incident didn’t occur while parents were picking up children after school and no kindergarten students or teachers were hurt in the blast.

Last month, 11 children died when a bus packed with kindergarten pupils burst into flames inside a tunnel in eastern Shandong province. A subsequent probe indicated that the driver had started the fire deliberately, the BBC noted. In that incident, police said the driver was angry that his overtime and night shift pay had been cut.

[siteshare]Terror in Kindergartens[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Of Chickens and Solar Systems

As various companies race to be the first to launch private journeys into outer space, one firm might have them all beat: KFC.

No, the fast food chain isn’t planning on widening the breadth of its business model to include space travel.

But Kentucky Fried Chicken is teaming up with Arizona-based World View Enterprises to send a fried chicken sandwich into the stratosphere.

World View Enterprises has plans to eventually send tourists soaring above the earth using high-tech balloons for as much as $75,000 per person.

But before a model complete with a cabin can be tested, they’re demonstrating the balloon’s core technology in a launch scheduled for June 20, the New York Times reported.

As a marketing stunt for the US debut (or “launch”) of the KFC Zinger, a spicy fried chicken sandwich will also be its first cargo.

Since the Zinger’s debut in 1984, it’s been sold in more than 120 countries, but not the US.

The sandwich will remain in orbit for four days, and interested parties can watch a live stream of the launch at kfcin.space, a site that redirects to yesweareactuallysendingachickensandwichto.space.

Even KFC thinks its out-of-this-world marketing is a tad unbelievable.

[siteshare]Out of This World[/siteshare]

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