The World Today for December 03, 2018

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NEED TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

What Now?

Nearly everyone in the United Kingdom seems disappointed with Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union.

The question now is, what happens if members of parliament reject the deal when they’re slated to vote on it on Dec. 11?

“There is a sensible deal that could win the support of parliament, based on a comprehensive customs union, with a British say in future trade deals, and a strong single market deal that protects rights at work and environmental safeguards and helps us to rebuild our economy and expand our public services,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, according to Sky News. “However, Theresa May’s worst of all worlds deal is miles away from delivering that.”

May is framing the issue in black-and-white terms that suggest only fools would give her plan the thumbs down. The chaos that would result if parliament voted against the plan would wreak more damage to the British economy than Brexit is already expected to cause, a government report predicted.

There’s no amending the thing, either, claims May, who now faces a call to publish all the legal advice she received instead of a partial version in what critics say could scuttle the deal, according to the BBC. Refusing to release it would result in a “constitutional crisis” according to the Labour party.

May recently said that postponing Britain’s scheduled exit from the EU in March 2019 – as laid out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which governs how countries withdraw from the 28-member bloc – would compel the government to go back to the drawing board. The current deal took months to achieve. Starting anew would be disastrous, she said. On the other hand, those pushing for the publication of the full legal advice say it would reveal Britain would be indefinitely tied to EU customs rules under the deal on the table.

“There’s a paradox here,” May, a Conservative Party member, said in the Guardian. “To extend Article 50, actually, you’re then in the business of renegotiating the deal. This is the point. The deal is the deal at this point in time.”

The same logic would suggest that the United Kingdom would quit the EU without a deal if lawmakers in Westminster reject the plan May reached with her European counterparts in late November, the BBC reported.

That means Europeans living and working in Britain and Brits who have moved to sunny Spain or Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast might lose their residency status overnight; European goods might be stranded in Calais; investors might pull their money out of London, et cetera.

A group of parliamentarians from the Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National and Wales-based Plaid Cymru parties are therefore drafting legislation to prevent Britain from leaving the EU if there is no deal to govern relations between the two sides after exit, the BBC reported.

Many Britons, including some Conservatives, have even floated the possibility of a second Brexit referendum that would let voters reconsider their original pro-exit decision in June 2016, wrote the Financial Times.

Of course, voters might choose to leave the EU again. What would happen then?

WANT TO KNOW

MEXICO

An End to Lawlessness

On his first day in office, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended his plan to deploy a new national guard to fight the country’s endemic crime problem – less than 24 hours after an apparent grenade attack on the US consulate in the city of Guadalajara.

Having focused on peaceful reconciliation and rehabilitation during his campaign, on Sunday Lopez Obrador pivoted further toward focusing on more soldiers and police, Reuters reported.

“We must adjust to a new era,” he said, explaining the rationale behind his plan to create a 60,000-strong national guard made up of army, navy and other federal police to fight crime. “The people of Mexico need their armed forces to address this grave problem of insecurity and violence right now.”

The speech came in the wake of an apparent grenade attack on the US consulate in Guadalajara on Saturday, Reuters reported separately. No one was killed in the incident. The state of Jalisco is the home base of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs.

SPAIN

Vox Pop

The anti-immigration Vox party became the first far-right dispensation to win parliamentary representation at any level in Spain’s recent history in regional elections on Sunday.

With 11 percent of the vote, Vox won 12 out of 109 seats in Andalucia’s parliament, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported. Among its promises: An end to autonomy in Catalonia and the expulsion of all immigrants who entered Spain illegally.

Though it managed a narrow victory, the long-dominant PSOE Socialist party of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez managed only an all-time low of 28 percent share of the vote. Its meager tally of 33 seats means it can’t achieve a majority, even with the support of the Left-wing coalition Adelante Andalucia, which includes the populist Podemos.

Further illustrating the erosion of the center, Spain’s main conservative opposition force, the Popular Party (PP), dropped six percentage points to just under 21 percent. Nevertheless, PP leader Juan Manuel Moreno proposed himself as the head of a right-of-center coalition including Vox and Ciudadanos.

ISRAEL

Three Strikes

Israeli police recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery and corruption in a third case – ramping up pressure on him as the possibility of early elections looms ever larger.

Police said they suspect Netanyahu eased business regulations for Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications company, in exchange for favorable coverage for him and his wife on the popular Walla news website owned by the firm, the Washington Post reported.

They also recommended the indictment of majority Bezeq shareholder Shaul Elovitch — a close friend of Netanyahu —for his alleged role in the affair.

It’s up to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to launch a formal prosecution, and the charges aren’t really news, as local media have widely reported the prime minister’s alleged manipulation of Walla. But the call for an indictment itself prompted opposition calls for Netanyahu to resign, even as early elections look ever more likely.

For his part, Netanyahu says this and other cases against him are nothing more than an opposition ploy to oust him through corruption allegations since they can’t do so at the ballot box.

DISCOVERIES

More Than Pillagers

History remembers the Vikings as brutal pillagers. But archaeologists are challenging that story.

A recent dig in the town of Ribe, Denmark, revealed that the Vikings lived in civilized and organized urban environments filled with various professions, the Guardian reported.

Archaeologists discovered many artifacts suggesting that Vikings were involved in production and trade, with high levels of specialization and division of labor – characteristics uncommon for nomadic raiders.

“What we have here defies the opinion that all the Vikings did was to raid and to rape,” said British archaeologist Richard Hodges.

Researchers speculate that raiding was just “the tip of the iceberg of trade.”

The emerging evidence shows that the Vikings created one of the first post-Roman Scandinavian centers for trade and exploration. This was decades before they launched their infamous raids on Britain at the end of the eighth century.

So, what led to their current reputation?

Christian chroniclers of European history portrayed the Vikings as godless, barbarian savages.

“We cannot completely trust people writing at the time,” said archaeologist Sara Hee. “Are they describing what they saw or imposing their own understanding on it?”

New revelations, for example, reveal that Christianity was present in Ribe long before King Harald Bluetooth brought the religion to the Danes around 965.

 

Correction: In Friday’s DISCOVERY section, we said in our “The Dark Ages” item that the plague of 541-542 AD hastened the collapse of the Roman Empire. The plague struck the Eastern (or Byzantine) Roman Empire, but it didn’t accelerate its collapse. The empire continued for another 900 years. We apologize for the error.

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