The World Today for June 18, 2018

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The Squeeze

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently told Chinese and Russian leaders that US efforts “to impose its policies on others are expanding as a threat to all,” according to Radio Free Europe.

Rouhani referred to US President Donald Trump’s decision last month to pull out of the 2015 deal in which Iran pledged to limit its nuclear program, and the US and Europeans lifted sanctions that had hampered the Iranian economy for years.

As a consequence of that pullout, European companies are rethinking whether they should retain business stakes in Iran.

“A lot of companies in the aeronautical, pharmaceutical, energy and car sectors have invested in a significant way in Iran, and some have concluded contracts in good faith which must be respected,” French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told Politico last month.

European leaders want Trump to exempt those and other companies from American punishment for continuing their trade with Iran, the New York Times wrote. But success on that front seems unlikely. Washington has threatened to cut off companies’ access to the US financial system and markets if they continue to do business with Iran, explained the Hill.

European oil companies, which usually conduct business in US dollars, are already departing, Reuters reported.

Some have called on European leaders to defy the US threats.

“Europe faces a choice over Iran: uphold its values or surrender its credibility,” Peiman Seadat, Iran’s ambassador to the European Union, wrote in Euronews.

The Iranians are squeezing Europe, too. They know the Europeans don’t want to lose out when their economies are also struggling to grow.

On the same day as Rouhani spoke, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said it’s time for Europe to show it can save the nuclear deal. “This issue must be clear, that Iran’s officials will not wait for Europe’s endless promises,” Larijani told parliament.

The pressure was the context for some of the drama at the G7 meeting in Canada this month.

Israeli officials, meanwhile, have been seeking to convert the Europeans into hawks on Iran.

“We are chipping away,” an Israeli diplomat told Voice of America. “When it came to the issues of Iran’s ballistic missile development and Tehran’s meddling in the region and military entrenchment in Syria and the threat to Israel, we got sympathetic hearings from Merkel, Macron and May,” said the diplomat, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Iran is a key chance for Europe to reaffirm the Atlantic partnership – or shove it to the sidelines.

Stay tuned.



Holiday’s Over

After a weekend in which Taliban fighters streamed into cities to hug police officers and mingle with ordinary Afghans during Eid celebrations, leaders of the militant group rejected the government’s offer to extend a three-day ceasefire called for the holiday.

The Taliban leaders said they were calling for all insurgents to resume fighting “the foreign invaders and their internal supporters,” the Washington Post reported, while a video posted on social media showed militants in Kabul shouting, “Death to America!”

Though there were dozens of optimistic peaceful gatherings around the country over the weekend, reports indicated that groups of militants were preparing to resume fighting even before the scheduled end of the truce, and suicide bombings allegedly linked to Islamic State killed 36 and 10 people on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

President Ashraf Ghani had called on the Taliban to extend the cease-fire, which he had unilaterally declared a week before Eid, offering to release Taliban prisoners and provide medical aid to their wounded and to discuss the militants’ repeated demands that foreign troops leave the country.


Past and Progress

Following moves in Ireland and Argentina to loosen restrictions on abortion, Pope Francis compared the use of terminations to avoid birth defects to the eugenics practiced by the Nazis, who used abortion and sterilization to try to eliminate people with mental and physical illnesses.

“In the last century the whole world was scandalized about what the Nazis did to purify the race,” the pope said before a delegation of Italy’s Family Association in Rome on Saturday. “Today we do the same, but now with white gloves.”

He also made clear that where the Catholic Church is concerned, “family” means a marriage between a man and a woman, CNN reported. “The human family in the image of God, man and woman, is the only one,” the news channel quoted Pope Francis as saying.

The remarks come shortly after the lower house of parliament in Argentina, the pope’s home country, approved a bill that would allow abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, and ahead of his trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in August.


Revising the Future

Right-wing candidate Iván Duque trounced his leftist rival to win the runoff vote in Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday.

Colombia’s election authority said Duque won 54 percent of the popular vote, while former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro won 41.8 percent, NBC News reported. Another 4.2 percent of voters cast blank ballots, a popular form of political protest in Colombia.

In an election that pitted hard-right against hard-left, Duque had campaigned on a pro-business platform promising lower taxes and a stronger military – and vowed to amend the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that won his predecessor the Nobel Peace Prize.

With the support of many Colombians, Duque argued that the peace deal wrongly allows the former rebels to avoid prosecution for alleged war crimes. Others say tampering with the deal, which has already shown signs of fraying, could result in a resumption of fighting.

Though he won’t become president, Petro was the first leftist candidate to reach the runoff stage in Colombia’s modern history, NBC noted.


Feed Me!

When her pizza wasn’t promptly delivered, a Canadian woman last week phoned the police in what the Toronto Star reported was another case of someone being “hangry,” or experiencing amplified anger due to hunger.

Though the science behind being hangry is still elusive, a study published recently in the journal Emotion is shedding a bit of light on the phenomenon.

Researchers first divided some Psych 101 students into two groups: those who had fasted for more than five hours, and those who had eaten before the experiment began. They then put the students through the ringer with a series of purposely malfunctioning computer tasks.

Hungry participants, especially those who had difficulties expressing their emotions at the start of the experiment, were particularly peeved by the time it finished, Jennifer MacCormack, who conducted the study, told NPR.

“They said they felt significantly more hate than other people,” said MacCormack, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The results show that it’s not hunger alone that makes one hangry, rather the negative situation in which a famished person may find him or herself, NPR reported. But being aware of it, the study noted, can also prevent a sudden spike in anger when the stomach grumbles.

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