The World Today for July 13, 2017



Making Nice

When President Donald Trump meets French leader Emmanuel Macron for a two-day visit starting today, the two will be doing more than just enjoying the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower in honor of Bastille Day.

These two nascent presidents haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye since their respective inaugurations, as evidenced by their tense, white-knuckle body language toward one another and myriad policy disagreements.

Take the European Union, for example.

Trump supported the Brexit referendum last year that slated Britain’s departure from the 28-member bloc. He also backed Macron’s primary contender, the far-right Marine Le Pen, a strong proponent of “Frexit.”

For his part, Macron has always taken a very pro-European stance and hopes to sideline Euroskeptics via policy making that strengthens Europe’s economic prowess and its labor markets, while at the same time remedying confusion over its massive bureaucracy, Bloomberg reports.

“What is dividing Europe today, leading to Brexit and sewing doubt in our countries? It is a Europe that is no longer understood by its citizens,” Macron told reporters last month.

The 39-year-old French president has also publicly voiced his disapproval of America’s policy reversal on global climate change, exemplified by Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords.

In response, Macron has vowed to invest some $33.4 million into climate research and famously encouraged American climate scientists to immigrate to France where they can help to “make our planet great again.”

On other issues, however, the two leaders could find some common ground, CNN contributor and USA Today columnist David A. Andelman opined.

Trump has an opportunity in France to assure Macron that America stands behind France in drawing a red line against chemical warfare in Syria, for example. It’s a promise that was broken by Trump’s predecessor, much to the political embarrassment of France’s president at the time, Francois Hollande.

But while Macron’s fairytale political ascension in both presidential and parliamentary elections in France may indicate solid support, his critics are many, the New York Times reports.

He’s been called Machiavellian with a mix of Bonaparte-gusto, labels that were affirmed by his grandiose, unorthodox address to parliament earlier this month, which cost taxpayers over $680,000.

And Macron’s attempt to make nice with Trump isn’t being well received, either, a sign that the atmosphere outside of talks between the two leaders could turn tumultuous.

Protests are planned with “No Trump Zones” being set up in parts of the city such as in Place de la Republique.

“Why’s he coming – after all, he doesn’t like Paris,” Marie Billoteau, 24, a student in Paris who is planning to take part in the protests, told USA Today, referring to Trump’s quip earlier this year that “Paris is no longer Paris.” “Why doesn’t he just go to Pittsburgh?”

[siteshare]Making Nice[/siteshare]



The People vs. Lula

Crusading Judge Sergio Moro sentenced former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to nine and a half years in prison on Wednesday for taking 3.7 million reals ($1.1 million) worth of benefits from a construction company in exchange for favors.

Investors hailed the move – which will keep the populist leader out of the 2018 presidential elections. But opposition from Lula’s millions of supporters may result in political turmoil, Bloomberg reported.

Until now Moro’s anti-corruption crusade has enjoyed broad support. But Lula inspires fervent loyalty among the country’s poor, thanks to anti-poverty measures he took as president during Brazil’s rapid economic rise amid a boom in commodities prices.

Lula’s Workers’ Party, or PT, issued a statement calling the verdict an “attack on democracy” and demonstrators had already begun gathering to protest or celebrate the decision in Brazil’s main cities on Wednesday night.

For his part, Lula will appeal the judgment, even as President Michel Temer faces a congressional vote on a corruption charge filed by the nation’s top prosecutor.

[siteshare] The People vs. Lula [/siteshare]


Another Pearl

China deployed troops to its first overseas military base, sending ships loaded with soldiers to Djibouti in a bid to establish a beachhead in Africa.

An editorial in the state-run Global Times said the base “is not about seeking to control the world” but rather to support Chinese warships operating in the region in anti-piracy and humanitarian operations, CNN reported.

The US, France, Japan and Italy already have small military installations in the country. Located on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, Djibouti borders troubled neighbors Somalia and Yemen and is positioned to be a gateway to the Suez Canal – one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

China is the largest investor in the Suez Canal region, and the route is part of its “Belt and Road” initiative. But the US and India see its military presence in the area as a threat – potentially forming part of a so-called “string of pearls” encircling India in the Indian Ocean.

[siteshare] Another Pearl [/siteshare]


Head to Toe

The European Court of Human Rights upheld Belgium’s 2011 ban of the burqa and other full-face veils, saying it did not violate the rights to private and family life and freedom of religion, or discrimination laws.

The court found Belgium had the right to impose restrictions designed to protect the principles of “living together” and the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others,” the Independent reported.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed two separate cases – one appealing Belgium’s nationwide ban and another on a 2008 bylaw adopted by three municipalities.

Two women had challenged the nationwide ban, arguing that it had affected their lives as Muslims. One said she’d stopped wearing the veil due to fears of being jailed or fined, while the other said the ban had forced her to stop going out in public.

In the second case, a third woman argued that the municipal bans infringed on rights guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights, with no “legitimate aim.”

Belgium was the second country in Europe after France to institute the ban on the full-face veil.

[siteshare] Head to Toe [/siteshare]


Drink Another Cup, Live Another Day

Even the most devoted coffee drinkers have occasionally had a guilty conscience over their caffeine consumption.

But it turns out there’s no need for coffee lovers to feel remorseful for pouring themselves another cup – because it could be helping them live longer, wrote the BBC.

A new study of over half a million people over the age of 35 from 10 European countries – recently published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine – suggests an extra cup of coffee could lengthen a person’s lifespan by up to three months.

Specifically, researchers found that drinking more coffee is linked to lower risks of death for heart diseases and diseases of the gut – regardless of whether the beverage is caffeinated or not.

But while these findings bode well for coffee fiends and the caffeine averse alike, they’ve come under fire from critics who remain skeptical of coffee’s “protective effect,” said BBC.

They argue it’s impossible to say whether drinking coffee delivers these benefits or whether coffee drinkers are leading a healthier lifestyle in general.

Instead, those looking to boost their life expectancy should stick to activities that are clearly proven to be beneficial like taking a brisk walk… to their nearest Starbucks, perhaps.

[siteshare]Drink Another Cup, Live Another Day[/siteshare]

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