The World Today for September 18, 2018

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The Great Complicated North

It’s been hard for American and Canadian negotiators to reach a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and it’s crunch time this week.

Dairy is one sticking point. Canada has blocked American “ultrafiltered” milk, used in making cheese and yogurt, opting instead for a system that gives preference to Canadian suppliers, Vox explained. Europeans are also balking at the Canadian dairy industry’s closed-door mentality.

But the United States is also holding up a deal. President Donald Trump wants to scrap a provision known as Chapter 19 that allows independent (read: non-American) panels to adjudicate trade disputes between the countries rather than US or Canadian courts.

That’s a red line that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t cross. Canada needs Chapter 19, he said this month, because it “ensures that the rules are actually followed, and we know we have a president who doesn’t always follow the rules as they’re laid out.”

That jab at Trump was perhaps Trudeau’s way of pushing back against suggestions like those in the Toronto Star that he doesn’t have the wherewithal to stand up to the American president.

Complicating the negotiations, Trump has already landed a deal with Mexico, and Mexico didn’t balk at letting the independent panels go, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation explained.

Mexican officials told the news agency that Canada “cares more about Chapter 19 partly because it already had this mechanism with the US before NAFTA and has come to see it as a central part of the agreement.”

What’s more, Canada’s trade surplus with the US is growing, Bloomberg reported. For Trump, that’s proof that Canada is operating unfairly. But it might also indicate that American exports are weak.

The details get murky.

More interesting is the way that Canada illustrates how the international order is changing.

“Canada must prepare for multidimensional conflict,” reads the headline of a Globe and Mail opinion piece by Louis Vachon, chief executive at the National Bank of Canada.

Vachon cited Saudi Arabia’s decision to expel the Canadian ambassador and its call for Saudi students in Canadian universities to come home. But he clearly had the US in mind, too. “In this new world, friend can turn quickly to adversary,” he wrote. “In light of these realities, we must rethink national security, national defense and foreign policy.”

Canada is striking back.

Even as Trump is pushing for a coal renaissance, Canada and the United Kingdom have brought the states of Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York and the cities of Honolulu and Los Angeles into a global alliance to reject coal, the National Post reported.

But a backlash is mounting. A top American official recently warned that Canadians working in the marijuana industry – Canada is legalizing recreational marijuana on Oct. 17 – risk a lifetime ban from the US, Politico said.

Popular American humor has long portrayed the neighbor to the north as boring and stalwart. It’s neither.



Membership Privileges

European Union membership has its privileges. But following its decision to slap Hungary with sanctions for flouting EU laws, Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the cost of those privileges may be too high.

In the wake of an EU vote last week to initiate sanctions procedures that could lead to Hungary losing its voting rights in the bloc, Orban told the Hungarian parliament that an EU proposal for a 10,000-strong joint border force represents an effort to strip nation-states of their right to defend their territory, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, his chief spokesman said Hungary would resist any EU-wide migration reform that was proposed before European parliament elections in May, while his chief of staff said Hungary will challenge the European parliament’s ruling that it has violated democratic standards in the European Union’s court, according to Reuters.

The EU’s beef with Orban extends to his efforts to consolidate power through measures that weaken the judiciary, but he could benefit from the spat at home by casting it as a battle over migration.


The Notebooks

A federal judge indicted former Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez on Monday, calling for her arrest along with the seizure of around $100 million allegedly connected to a kickback scheme for public works projects.

Known as the notebooks case, the investigation stems from a probe by the newspaper La Nacion that allegedly uncovered detailed notebooks tallying the bags of cash that were allegedly delivered to Fernandez’s apartment in Buenos Aires, among other locations, the Washington Post reported.

Fernandez, 65, is currently a senator, which makes her immune to arrest, though not to prosecution. Two-thirds of the country’s senators would have to agree to circumvent that immunity. She has in the past denied any wrongdoing and characterized the case as an effort led by President Mauricio Macri to distract from Argentina’s economic crisis.

Judge Claudio Bonadio also indicted more than 40 former business leaders and former government officials, including former Planning Minister Julio de Vido.


Killing the Hand that Feeds

A female aid worker from the International Committee of the Red Cross who was abducted by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria earlier this year has been “murdered,” according to a spokesman for the ICRC.

The ICRC refused to comment on the “motives or the details” surrounding the nurse’s death, and called for the immediate release of two more aid workers who are still captives of the militant group, CNN reported. But Eloi Fillion, head of ICRC delegation in Abuja, left little doubt about the nature of 25-year-old Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa’s death.

“We are devastated by the murder of our colleague Saifura,” Fillion said.

CNN noted that a local publication had previously claimed to have obtained a video that showed Khorsa being shot by her captors.

Around 3,000 aid workers, most of them Nigerians, work in the area – where Boko Haram has been waging a decade-long war.


Eating Their Veggies

Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” reinforced the image of the great white shark as a bloodthirsty flesh eater. But another shark common in America’s coastal waters isn’t that scary.

According to the Guardian, a team of US scientists recently discovered that bonnethead sharks are omnivores – meaning they feed on both meat and vegetation.

When the scientists came upon a bonnethead feeding on seagrass, at first they thought the consumption was accidental and provided no nutritional value. But their study revealed that the shark was indeed munching on greens.

“I wanted to see how much of this seagrass diet the sharks could digest because what an animal consumes is not necessarily the same as what it digests and retains nutrients from,” researcher Samantha Leigh told the British newspaper.

Lab tests showed that the sharks easily digested the seagrass and gained a few pounds in the process.

Researchers are now speculating about how the predators’ feeding preferences might affect seagrass habitats. Leigh added that the discovery raised questions about the dietary habits of other species, both land and marine.

“We should be taking a closer look at what animals are consuming, digesting, and excreting in their environments around the world,” she said, “because it impacts habitats that we depend on as well.”

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