The World Today for July 20, 2017



A Neighbor, A Beacon

Whereas many Western countries are seeking to cut down on immigration, one exception stands out: Canada.

Designed to draw in well-educated, highly skilled workers, Canada’s “ruthlessly rational” immigration policies have created the world’s “most prosperous and successful immigrant population,” according to the New York Times.

That openness – an astounding 82 percent of Canadians say immigration has a positive effect on the economy, reported the Times – has become a symbol of Canada’s upward trend under charismatic Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

International media have lionized Trudeau. CNN recently gave fawning coverage to an encounter between the prime minister and two-month-old Justin-Trudeau Adam Bilal, the son of Syrian refugees living in Alberta, Canada who named their child after the politician.

In other areas, Canada is also sparkling, namely the economy.

In fact, the country is gearing up for a potential boom by putting the brakes on its years-long love affair with rock-bottom interest rates.

In an acknowledgment of the economy’s strengths – Canada boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the G7 according to the Financial Post – the Bank of Canada raised interest rates earlier this month for the first time in seven years.

As a result, investors and fund managers are plowing money into shares of Canadian industrial and technology companies, reported Reuters. Many investors predict the Canadian stock market rally is just getting started. Canada’s economy is expected to grow 2.8 percent this year.

Indeed, Canada appears to be doing well on both the political and economic fronts as the country is preparing to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) with President Donald Trump and Mexican leaders.

American businesses have already affirmed their support for free trade with Canada. More than half of firms polled in a recent survey said free trade has made the US economy better off, wrote the Globe and Mail.

Trade with the US was a prominent topic during this week’s three-day summer meeting of the Council of the Federation – the group comprising all 13 of Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers – reported Canadian media.

These negotiations matter because the rest of the world will be watching.

European leaders will have their eyes firmly trained on Trudeau as he and his government try to find common ground with the US, wrote Canada’s Global News.

After all, the European Union’s parliament approved a free-trade agreement with Canada, CETA, earlier this year.

That’s while the US talks tough about trade, about “America First,” about unfair balance of trade.

Indeed, the US has imposed tariffs on Canadian lumber and dairy products – a potential harbinger of other protectionist measures Trump might take against other trading partners in the near future.

That makes Canada a shiny lure.

[siteshare]A Neighbor, A Beacon[/siteshare]



Not So Secret

US President Donald Trump has halted the not-so-secret covert program to supply arms to the Syrian rebels fighting for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, signaling a change of US strategy in the wake of the most recent ceasefire agreement with Moscow.

Trump decided to scrap the program more than a month ago, the New York Times reported. But the move was never formally announced, just as former President Barack Obama never formally announced the scheme – which many were skeptical could succeed and worried might have unanticipated consequences.

The decision comes amid gradual acknowledgment that Assad will have to stay on to achieve lasting peace, a condition that Trump apparently accepted in his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month. That meeting yielded yet another truce, but also increased the likelihood that Syria will be carved into zones controlled by different foreign powers, with Assad firmly in place on the populous west coast, the Economist said.

[siteshare]Not So Secret[/siteshare]


Solidarnosc, Do widzenia

The European Union has issued what amounts to a cease and desist order to Poland’s rightwing government.

The ultimatum gives Warsaw a week to halt planned reforms that would give the government complete control over the judiciary, and includes a threat the EU could invoke a “nuclear option” that could lead to suspending Poland’s voting rights in the bloc, Reuters reported.

Led by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Poland’s parliament is debating a proposed law that would give the government more direct control over the Supreme Court, whose tasks include validating elections. Last week, it passed a law ousting the current members of the National Council of the Judiciary, one of the main judicial bodies, and granting the parliament the right to choose 15 of its 25 members.

“These laws … would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government,” the agency quoted the EU executive arm’s deputy head, Frans Timmermans, as saying.

Though thousands of Poles have protested the maneuver, wondering what happened to the promises of open and fair government – and checked – government following the Solidarity-led fall of the Soviet-backed regime in 1989. Still, PiS remains broadly popular in the conservative former communist country.

[siteshare]Solidarnosc, Do widzenia[/siteshare]


Extreme Renditions

A new report by Amnesty International alleges Cameroonian forces have been torturing suspects in their campaign against Islamist group Boko Haram at military bases that are also used by American and French troops.

Amnesty’s report documented 101 such cases between 2013 and 2017 and alleged that some of the victims were tortured to death, Reuters reported. The US Africa Command told the agency it had not received any reports of human rights abuses at the base, while French Defense Ministry officials did not comment on the claims.

Reuters cited a Cameroon defense ministry spokesman as accusing Amnesty of “bad faith” and of trying “to transform killers into victims.”

The alleged torture techniques included beatings, waterboarding, being deprived of food, forced to drink urine, given electric shocks and burned, Amnesty said. Victims included women, the disabled and the mentally ill.

Amnesty claimed to have observed French troops at the base in May 2015 and said it has still and video images “clearly showing the regular presence of US personnel in numerous locations across the base.”

[siteshare]Extreme Renditions[/siteshare]


Not-So-Sweet Deal

In principle, artificial sweeteners are a win-win.

They liven up coffee and other beverages as much as sugar, but without the extra calories and other health issues that can result from consuming too much of the real thing.

But it turns out this sweet deal might be too good to be true: a recent study has debunked the claim that artificial sweeteners are a healthy alternative to sugar, wrote NPR.

The authors of this study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said they found no evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can help people manage their weight.

Researchers also observed that people who regularly consume sweeteners are more likely to develop future health problems like diabetes, weight gain or cardiovascular problems – although it’s unclear whether these problems are caused by artificial sweeteners, noted NPR.

The impact of artificial sweeteners matter given the amount of people who use them, said NPR.

More than 40 percent of American adults consume artificial sweeteners, they added.

Perhaps folks should maybe consider foods without any added or artificial sweeteners, and take their coffee black.

[siteshare]Not-So-Sweet Deal[/siteshare]

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