Europe/Americas update: July 12-13 2017

EUROPE

CYPRUS

Although reunification talks collapsed last week, observers say there are positives to take away from the negotiations. For one thing, Turkey showed more flexibility on the issue of its future military role on the island (there are reports they actually offered to give up any right to intervene to protect Turkish Cypriots, though they refused to put that in writing absent a comprehensive deal) and Greek Cypriots showed an openness to the idea of a rotating presidency for the nation. For another, President Nicos Anastasiades is taking flak from his fellow Greek Cypriots for the failure, and that kind of pressure on a Greek Cypriot leader is almost unprecedented. Despite a Turkish agreement on intervention and on drastic troop reductions, Anastasiades is said to have held out for a full Turkish withdrawal, which was not forthcoming. If he pays a price for his hardline position at the polls and loses reelection next year, it’s possible that the talks could be reopened under his successor.

On the other hand, Turkey is now dispatching naval vessels to the eastern Mediterranean to monitor for Cypriot offshore drilling activity, and that could quickly turn into a contentious issue.

RUSSIA

Moscow wants NATO to stop “demonizing” its September Zapad military exercises with Belarus. NATO has been sounding the alarm about the exercises, which it says could include as many as 200,000 troops and cover nuclear drills. After a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Thursday in Brussels, Moscow’s NATO ambassador, Alexander Grushko, said that if the exercise reaches the so-called “Vienna threshold” then Moscow would invite NATO to send observers. The term refers to a Cold War-era agreement that any war games involving more than 13,000 troops would be well-publicized and allow observers to be present. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the Russians could try to conceal the true number of troops involved, but it seems like a 200,000-man exercise, or even a 100,000-man exercise for that matter, would be hard to hide.

Russia’s main point of contention with NATO these days is of course Ukraine, and particularly its annexation of Crimea. That problem got a little worse this week, when it was learned that Moscow diverted two gas turbines it had ordered from Germany to Crimea, violating European Union sanctions and, for that matter, the terms of the sale of the turbines by German manufacturer Siemens. Berlin says it’s considering what actions to take in response. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Russia may have diverted two more turbines to Crimea, possibly also made by Siemens. The German company said it had evidence that two of four turbines it sold Russia had wound up in Crimea–if this Reuters report is accurate then it appears all four were sent there.

FRANCE

Donald Trump is visiting France for Bastille Day celebrations, where on Friday he’s going to get to watch a cool parade just like a big boy president should! His trip has been a great, great success in which Trump acted in a very normal and usual manner for an American president visiting a foreign head of state:

First, they shared an awkward handshake. Then, President Donald Trump complimented Brigitte Macron’s “physical shape.”

“You’re in such good shape. She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful,” Trump told the French President’s wife, who was standing next to first lady Melania Trump.

Earlier in the day, at the welcome ceremony in Paris, Trump and French first lady Brigitte Macron extended their hands to one another — fumbling to make contact for a handshake — before they embraced for a traditional kiss on the cheek. Afterward, they rejoined hands while they continued to talk.

To sum up, President Trump is a strong, normal, unembarrassing man who definitely is somebody who is a great symbol for the United States.

Anyway, in actual news Macron continues to push one of his pet projects, deeper Eurozone fiscal integration:

The European Union remains an incomplete project and will require changes to its treaties that bring greater convergence between euro zone member states, French President Emmanuel Macron said in comments published on Thursday.

In an interview with French regional daily Ouest France, Macron, who favors deeper European integration, said Germany was benefiting from a “dysfunctional” euro zone.

Macron, elected in May, has called for giving the euro zone a single finance minister and a common budget – a proposal that has been met with caution by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and suspicion in Berlin that German taxpayers might be left having to shoulder common debts.

Macron reiterated that he was not in favor of turning national debts of euro zone countries into a single pool of euro zone debt.

Joining the Euro and giving up sovereign control over monetary policy is a terrible deal for most nations. It’s a great deal for Germany, which still gets to set monetary policy and now gets to do it for a bunch of other nations as well. But for all those other nations it’s a lousy situation. Some level of common fiscal policy would help to make it a less terrible deal for those other nations, but then it would also make the Euro less beneficial to the Germans, hence their resistance.

UNITED KINGDOM

If the idea of reading legislation thrills you for some reason, then you can now read the UK’s Brexit bill, the legislation that will begin the process of severing Britain from the EU and replacing EU law with British law where applicable.

You cannot, and will not, be able to read the UK’s report on extremist funding. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has decided not to publish the full report because it really hammers Saudi Arabia contains sensitive information about how Saudi Arabia is funding extremists.

AMERICAS

BRAZIL

President Michel Temer got a break on Thursday when a congressional committee voted that his corruption case should not be sent to the country’s Supreme Court for trial. The full congress now has to vote on the same measure, but with a two-thirds requirement Temer’s chances of avoiding prosecution look fairly good at the moment.

VENEZUELA

Oscar Perez, the police officer/movie star who attacked the Venezuelan Supreme Court building by helicopter a couple of weeks ago, turned up at a Thursday night opposition rally in Caracas. Now maybe I’m just lacking imagination, but this seems to work against all those theories that Perez is a Maduro supporter and that his helicopter stunt was a false flag operation. It doesn’t completely discredit them, but it is evidence, it seems to me, that Perez really is in the opposition.

UNITED STATES

BREAKING: This just hit within the last hour, but a Hawaiian court just hit the travel ban pretty hard:

A federal judge in Hawaii ordered the Trump administration on Thursday to allow grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and other relatives of people in the U.S. to circumvent the travel ban policy, dealing a temporary blow to one of the president’s signature initiatives.

In an order issued Thursday evening local time in Honolulu, Judge Derrick Watson also prohibited the administration from blocking refugees with a commitment from a resettlement agency in the U.S., a move that could revive the flow of refugee admissions this year.

When the Supreme Court voted to reinstate the travel ban in advance of hearing a case on it this fall, it said that people with “bona fide” ties to the US should still be allowed in. Naturally the court didn’t feel the need to define “bona fide,” because clarity is for suckers, and just as naturally the Trump administration took the most restrictive possible interpretation of the term, defining even grandparents as distant relatives.

The House of Representatives did not treat President Trump’s proposed foreign aid cuts kindly on Wednesday:

The fiscal year 2018 bill specifically sets aside “not less” than $1.28 billion in total aid for Jordan — Trump sought only $1 billion — and $150 million in economic assistance for Egypt, twice more than the $75 million called for in the Trump budget. A summary of the House bill, meanwhile, specifies that military assistance to Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco should remain “at or above current levels,” overriding the administration’s effort to zero out Moroccan military aid, which stood at $5 million in the fiscal year 2017 request.

Tiny Tunisia, however, is the biggest winner, following an intense push by Tunis and its US allies. While the Trump administration had sought a 61% cut over the current year’s request (from $140.4 million to $55 million), the House bill instead appropriates “not less” than $165.4 million for Tunisia.

In addition, the bill also backs loan guarantees for Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. And it seeks more details on the administration’s strategy in North Africa with language requiring the State Department to report on its engagement strategy in the region and explain how it intends to prioritize diplomatic engagement and assistance.

Hopefully they’ll be a little more amenable to his next big policy proposal, which is that the border wall with Mexico must be transparent so that Americans can see when Mexican drug kingpins are about to hurl giant bags of drugs right onto their heads. Yes, you read that right:

The government has asked for design submissions for two types of wall: a reinforced concrete barrier wall as well as one made of an alternative material with see-through capability.

Trump said it’s vital that the wall be transparent for safety reasons.

“As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” he said.

What a normal, typical president we have whose normally functioning brain thinks very usual, regular thoughts.

Finally, I’d like to leave you, which I’m doing for the next two weeks, with something that should be considered a national embarrassment. And no, I’m not referring to Trump for once. This time the shame belongs to all of us:

Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told, a poll of US voters has revealed.

Research by the International Rescue Committee showed that millennials, loosely defined as young adults born between 1981 and 1997, are the generation most concerned about solving the hunger crisis in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

Yet overall public awareness of the situation is low, with only 15% of Americans apprised of the facts even though 73% said, once informed, that it was a major global concern.

Speaking as a member of Generation X, Millennials are going to fucking save us all from ourselves and I really hope we let them. But speaking as an American, it is an absolute travesty that only 15 percent of the country is aware of these desperate humanitarian crises, particularly given that at least one of those hunger crises, the one in Yemen, is partly America’s fault. In a country with three major and countless minor 24 hour news networks, it is ridiculous that this is not a bigger media story. It’s outrageous that LOL COVFEFE WTF IS THAT got more US news coverage in one day than South Sudan will probably get this year.

The excuse that news outlets offer as to why they don’t cover these stories is that people don’t care about them. This is horse shit, because as the data shows a lot of people would care about them if they were aware of them, but for our television media (print could do better too, but a lot more people get their news on TV than they do in print) it’s cheaper and easier to bring in 12 people to analyze the latest fart sound emanating from the West Wing than it is to put reporters in the field to inform people about what’s happening in the world. We deserve better than that.

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Author: DWD

writer, blogger, lover, fighter

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