The World Today for June 26, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

ITALY

Trap of Luxury


Living desperate and homeless on Italy’s tiny Lake Como might seem impossible.

But that’s the plight of Ivory Coast refugees who fled to Europe as migrants in recent years.

“I can’t go anywhere,” Fofana Abdoulaye, 31, a migrant from the Ivory Coast, told the New York Times.

Abdoulaye and his fellow migrants’ plight – they cannot find jobs and fell into bureaucratic limbo – propelled victories for right-wing candidates running for mayoral and other local elections in Italy on Sunday.

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, a Five Star Movement member, wasn’t running for reelection. But her anti-immigrant rhetoric spoke for her candidates.

“Rome is exposed to strong migratory pressure – we can’t go on like this,” wrote Raggi on Facebook, according to the Financial Times. “We cannot allow the creation of further social tension. This is why I believe it is impossible as well as risky to think of creating other reception centers” for migrants.

The success of that rhetoric could be a harbinger for national elections within the next year.

The roster included candidates associated with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an 80-year-old media mogul whose success arguably foreshadowed President Donald Trump. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant Northern League and anti-establishment, ex-comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement won more than half the vote, Reuters reported.

They all argued that the ruling Democratic Party had failed to deliver on its promises of growing the economy. Grillo advocates for leaving the Eurozone – a move that could fragment the currency bloc, the Hill argued.

It’s true that Italy’s financial system has long been feared to be unstable.

One of the Democratic Party’s problems was that it is now wrestling with a banking crisis that could cost taxpayers $19 billion – not a small sum considering the size of bank bailouts in the US.

The Italian banking system holds almost $400 billion in bad loans, or around a third of the Eurozone’s total bad debt, the BBC said.

It’s not clear what would happen to that debt if Italy exited the Eurozone. The country might try to inflate away its debt, or investors might punish it and demand greater interest since the new currency would be riskier.

Earlier this month, to avoid facing either option, EU regulators shepherded Santander’s rescue of collapsing Banco Popular to the tune of nearly $8 million.

Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan had little time for political rivals throwing stones.

“Those who criticize us should say what a better alternative would have been,” he told the BBC. “I can’t see it.”

[siteshare]Trap of Luxury[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

JAPAN

Give War a Chance


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to submit a proposal to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution before the end of the year.

Abe plans to propose the first ever amendment of Japan’s post-World War Two constitution during an extraordinary session of parliament that will be convened later this year, the Japan News reported.

The prime minister aims to amend Article 9 by 2020 to officially recognize Japan’s Self-Defense Forces as its military, a change that could anger China and South Korea – which suffered under Japanese occupation during the war. It would also mean a dramatic change in how modern Japanese view themselves. Supporters of Article 9 see it as the foundation of Japanese democracy, while many conservatives see it as a humiliation imposed by the United States after Japan’s defeat in 1945, Reuters said.

Previously, experts had expected Abe to wait until next year to propose the changes, which will require him to win the support of two-thirds of members of both houses of parliament and a majority of votes in a referendum.

[siteshare]Give War a Chance [/siteshare]

QATAR

Picking Sides


Iran and Turkey voiced their support for Qatar in the Gulf country’s ongoing diplomatic skirmish with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations over the weekend.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that a “siege of Qatar is unacceptable,” referring to the move by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to boycott and cut ties with Qatar on June 5, Reuters reported.

Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed calls for Turkey to close a military base in Qatar and called the four Arab states’ action against the country an unlawful intervention against the Gulf state’s sovereignty.

Though the Saudi-led block accuses Qatar of supporting terrorists, its 13 demands included calls for Qatar to sever diplomatic relations with Iran and close the Turkish military base. The main purpose of the blockade appears to be to dismantle Qatar’s interventionist foreign policy, which has included backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt before it was overthrown in 2013, Reuters noted.

Saudi Arabia, of course, has also been accused of providing material support to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

[siteshare] Picking Sides [/siteshare]

PAKISTAN

Unnatural Disaster


More than 150 people were killed in Pakistan on Sunday, when an overturned oil tanker exploded as many gathered to try to collect free fuel.

A huge crowd rushed to the spot of the crash in Pakistan’s Punjab province shortly after 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, and they continued to try to collect fuel even as police warned them of the danger, the Los Angeles Times quoted local police chief Raja Riffat as saying.

“About 10 minutes later, the tanker exploded in a huge fireball and enveloped the people collecting petrol,” Riffat said.

The scope of Sunday’s tragedy was a first in Pakistan, reported the Associated Press. Still, in cases of massive oil leaks in impoverished countries, many of the poorest often rush to the scene to collect the spilled fuel, unaware of the danger: In recent years, such incidents have been reported in Nigeria and Sudan, the wire service said.

[siteshare] Unnatural Disaster [/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Belgian Bugs


With its refined chocolates, namesake mussels and centuries-old tradition of beer, Brussels has deservedly earned a reputation as one decadent, high-caloric foodie heaven.

But an eco-friendly start-up has set its sights on making the Belgium capital a destination for a different kind of culinary revolution by serving up crunchy crickets.

That’s because raising crickets is less burdensome for the environment than cattle farming, said cricket breeder Nikolaas Viaene of Little Food, a company that specializes in promoting crickets as a nutritious food.

“For the same amount of protein as a cow for instance, they (crickets) need 25 times less food, they need 300 times less water, and they produce 60 times less greenhouse gases,” Viaene told Reuters.

Little Food’s crickets can be eaten dried or turned into flour. They come in various flavors, including garlic and tomato. Other firms are promoting cricket-based protein bars and other such supplements in the US and Canada.

Still, Brussels denizens so far seem wary of making this delicacy a staple of their own diet – though it’s common in countries like Thailand and Mexico.

“No, I’m not eating that,” one Brussels resident told Reuters after being offered a cricket. “No, no, that looks awful, no, no… no.”

[siteshare] Belgian Bugs[/siteshare]

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