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16 Oct
2019

United Nations sets up new mission in Haiti

HAITI (WNF) - The United Nations Integrated Office in Port-au-Prince (BINUH) replaces the organization’s 15-year peacekeeping mission in Haiti, (MINUJUSTH), which ends officially on the previous day. BINUH, designed to help strengthen political stability and the government in Haiti, has been criticized for not addressing the country’s vulnerability to climate change.
According to the United Nations, BINUH will be run by a Special Representative. That individual will assist the government of Haiti with planning elections; training the Haitian National Police on human rights; responding to gang violence; ensuring compliance with international human rights obligations; improving prison oversight; and strengthening the justice sector.

The World Bank notes that Haiti has a long history of political violence and economic imbalance, and population pressure has led to extreme environmental degradation. An estimated 98 per cent of forest has been cleared for fuel. The Bank points out that these destabilizing forces have left most Haitians extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Hurricanes and tropical storms routinely hit Haiti, causing massive flooding and deadly landslides.

Some UN diplomats were disappointed that the resolution did not stress Haiti’s climate vulnerability. In the BINUH news release, Germany’s Ambassador to the UN, Christophe Heusgen, described climate change as a “threat multiplier” that could further destabilize the country and “create new conflicts over increasingly diminishing resources and derail efforts in peace-building and stabilization.” #23164 Published: 07/08/2019

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17 Oct
2019

More marijuana products available for legal sale in Canada

CANADA (WNF) - Canada legalized the sale of recreational marijuana on Oct 17, 2018, and the legal sale of edible, topical and extract forms of the drug is due to follow no later than the first anniversary. Health Canada is finalizing rules for a new wave of businesses eager to capitalize on the expansion of the marijuana industry.
The rules are likely to cap the amount of the active ingredient, THC. Explaining the anticipated new rule, CBC says that edible cannabis in solid form will be limited to 10 milligrams of THC per container – meaning if there are two cookies in a package, each can only contain 5 milligrams of THC. Alcohol is banned from solid edible cannabis or beverages containing THC, according to the broadcaster, and restrictions are also expected on ingredients, such as sweeteners, that would make edible cannabis appealing to children.

The rules are also likely to prohibit manufacturers from making any claims about health benefits or nutrition. The country’s wellness industry, nonetheless, could be one of many to benefit. Cannabis creams and ointments are believed to help patients relieve pain and itching. #23071 Published: 04/11/2019

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17 Oct
2019

Brexit and Turkey join climate as the hot issues at EU summit

EUROPEAN UNION (WNF) - Britain’s struggle to finish the journey it started when it voted to exit the bloc in Jun 2016 hangs over the proceedings when EU leaders meet in Brussels. They also need to grapple with Turkey’s controversial oil search off the coast of divided Cyprus, and the bloc’s unraveling migration deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Climate will also be on the agenda.
Britain’s exit was due on March 29, and might not be completed by the new deadline of Oct 31. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suffered multiple setbacks to his plan to take Britain out of the bloc by the October date. The developments in the saga ahead of the EU summit will shape his approach to the EU leaders. It might be an appeal for a new extension.

Turkey is searching for oil and natural gas in maritime waters claimed by EU member Cyprus. With a rebuke from the bloc unlikely to shift Turkey from its drilling hopes, the leaders might find themselves discussing sweeteners that include bringing the country’s mired accession bid back into the conversation. The Carnegie Foundation observes that despite growing divergences between Turkey and its Western allies, neither side can afford for political, economic, and security relations to deteriorate beyond a certain point.

The EU's deal with Turkey, thrashed out in 2016, is meant to keep asylum seekers from crossing the western Aegean Sea for Europe in exchange for billions of EU aid funds and political concessions towards Ankara. Erdoğan threatens once again to allow high numbers of migrants to make their way through Turkey to Greece, should European politicians fail to provide his country with further financial support, or dismiss his plans to extend Turkish influence in northern Syria.

The leaders failed at their June summit to produce an ambitious draft climate plan for 2050, and EU countries pushing for a firm commitment are likely to try again in October. Estonia, Hungary and Poland are among states resisting the pressure. They want to stick to existing targets and say the deadline for climate neutrality – zero emissions – should be softened to mid-century rather than the explicit date of 2050. #23172 Updated: 09/15/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE 15 SEP TO INCLUDE BREXIT AND TURKEY MIGRATION DEVELOPMENTS

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18 Oct
2019

World Bank-International Monetary Fund view gloomy economic picture

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The World Bank Group (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meet in Washington DC to contend with the dark clouds over the global economy and to welcome a new IMF chief, who is expected to be Kristalina Georgieva.
Global economic weakness has a key impact on the Bank’s principal role: to promote economic development and the reduction of poverty.

In July the World Bank described the global economy as at its weakest since the aftermath of the financial crisis, and it points the finger at escalating trade tensions. The Bank’s assessment preceded Beijing’s Aug 5 devaluation of its currency, which followed President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States was putting 10 per cent tariffs on another US $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective Sep 1. The devaluation, which can make Chinese exports cheaper, is expected to intensify the trade war between China and the United States and further threaten the global economy.

The United States has accused China of manipulating its currency, and it is expected to push the IMF to referee in the dispute. China denies the charge, explaining that the move was designed solely in response to market forces.

China scored a coup when the IMF blessed the Chinese renminbi as one of the world’s elite currencies, alongside the dollar, euro, pound and yen.

The devaluation fallout awaits the new IMF president, who will be selected on Oct 4. Christine Lagarde resigned from the position in July, and she will take charge of the European Central Bank on Nov 1. World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva was the sole contender for the IMF presidency after the nomination deadline passed on Sep 6.

An unwritten transatlantic agreement typically allows Europe to select the managing director of the IMF and the U.S. to choose the president of the World Bank. Earlier this year, Trump successfully pushed for U.S. Treasury official David Malpass to run the World Bank.

About 10,000 people attend IMF/WB meetings officially, and thousands more unofficially. The unofficial thousands usually include anti-globalization and anti-capitalism demonstrators. #23207 Published: 08/11/2019

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20 Oct
2019

Swiss voters elect new parliament with far-right expected to do well again

SWITZERLAND (WNF) - Swiss voters elect members of the 46-member Council of State and 200-member National Council for four-year terms, with migration concerns giving the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) a boost again. The new government inherits the challenge of simplifying relations between Bern and the European Union, an issue that has spilled into the campaigns of parties contesting the election.
Talks on formalizing Bern-Brussels relations have been under way since 2014. They are defined by 120 separate bilateral accords negotiated since a 1992 referendum in the Alpine state rejected joining the European Economic Area. The present draft agreement covers five of the larger bilateral deals: free movement of people, mutual recognition of industrial standards, agricultural products, air transport, and land transport. The right-wing SVP is strongly against signing the agreement. The left and left-leaning parties are mainly pro-European Union, but have reservations about parts of the agreement.

Experts say failure to endorse the treaty and begin the ratification process could severely shake Swiss ties with its biggest trading partner, potentially disrupting commerce and cross-border stock trading.

Four parties predominate, the SVP, the center-right Radical Party, the center-right Christian Democratic Party and the left-wing Social Democratic Party. Switzerland has been scolded by the human rights group Amnesty International for its tough treatment of asylum seekers and migrants, but the country’s stance has helped make the anti-immigrant, anti-European Union SVP the largest party in parliament. In the 2015 parliamentary elections the SVP won a record 65 out of 200 seats in the lower house, boosting its MPs by 11.

SwissInfo reports that in 2017 the government decided in principle to expand e-voting options across the country, noting that the advocates of digitization in voting are currently on the rise. Damian Müller, a member of the Swiss Senate, has submitted a motion that instructs the government to examine possible steps to digitize the entire democratic process, a process that would make citizens aware of political issues online and via smartphones. The process holds the potential for fostering discussions, getting quick feedback from the people on political issues and simplifying the collection of signatures. #22836 Updated: 09/11/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE SEP 11 TO INCLUDE EU-BERN DRAFT AGREEMENT

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20 Oct
2019

Bolivia headed for more of the same after election?

BOLIVIA (WNF) - President Evo Morales appears headed for victory in the 2019 election despite the controversy over the results of the 2016 referendum, which allowed him to seek a fourth consecutive 5-year term. The ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) is riding into victory in the bicameral legislature on the same wave.
Morales’ advantages over his main rival, ex-president Carlos Mesa, an historian and journalist, include the country’s robust economy and present political stability. France 24 reports that Morales’ supporters argue that now is not the time to stop such a productive presidency, while his detractors claim he is anti-democratic and running against the wishes of the people.

Mesa, the candidate of the minority Revolutionary Left Front party, faces an additional hurdle: the Anti-corruption Specialized Prosecutor’s Office of Bolivia is investigating his finances for evidence of wrongdoing.

Bolivians narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment proposed by Morales in 2016 that would have scrapped term limits altogether. The constitutional court overturned the referendum result.

Morales is the first indigenous candidate to hold the country’s highest office and is Latin America’s longest-serving head of state. His assets include rural support and the fractious nature of the opposition, which, if it doesn’t boycott the election, is expected to base its strategy on the referendum controversy.

According to France 24, analysts believe Mesa, who previously governed Bolivia between 2003 and 2005, is the only hope of uniting the whole opposition.

According to the survey reported in April by TeleSUR, Bolivians say improvements in education and health should be the priority of the next president of Bolivia, as well as the construction of hospitals and schools. The fight against corruption was their third priority for the winner.

MAS holds 25 of the 36 Chamber of Senators seats and 88 of the 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. #23095 Published: 05/10/2019

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21 Oct
2019

Canada’s federal election a referendum on Justin Trudeau’s four years as leader

CANADA (WNF) - Voters go to the polls to elect the vast country’s 43rd Parliament, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau battling for his political survival. The governing Liberal Party’s majority is under threat, despite Canada’s strong economy, because of the deeply damaging ethics scandal engulfing Trudeau.
Canada's ethics watchdog has accused the prime minister of breaking a conflict-of-interest law in trying to help a prominent Canadian business avoid corruption charges.

Energy and environmental issues are also defining the election, trapping Trudeau between the demands of the oil and gas sector and activists fighting to curb emissions. Heated debates over oil pipelines have further damaged his once-booming popularity.

CBC reports that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer will be fighting his first campaign as party leader and will continue to tear into Trudeau over his ethics record and performance on the world stage. A poll published by the broadcaster in September shows the two main parties neck and neck. The tight polling could be an indication that the winning party won't hold a majority, which would force the victor to work with opposition parties to form a government.

The Liberal Party holds 184 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons to the 99 seats of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). The National Democratic Party (NDP) holds 44 seats, and Bloc Quebecois, Greens and Independents hold the remainder.

Trudeau’s other rivals for leadership are NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier and Yves-François Blanchet of Bloc Québécois.

The rising tide of populism, and possible cyber attacks on the voting process, are reported to be increasing the Liberals’ worries. Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario successfully campaigned in the country’s most populous province on a populist platform targeting asylum seekers and carbon pricing. The strategy ended more than 15 years of Liberal rule in the province. The success of Ford’s campaign themes in Ontario suggests it will find its way into the platform of conservative candidates at the federal level. #22840 Updated: 09/11/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE SEP 11 TO REFLECT DEVELOPMENTS

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21 Oct
2019

Benjamin Netanyahu turns 70 as Israel’s prime minister?

ISRAEL (WNF) - Benjamin Netanyahu turns 70, possibly as the country’s former prime minister. By October, an election and legal woes might have stripped him of office.
Born Oct 21, 1949, in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu holds the distinction of being the first Israeli prime minister who was born in Israel. He is currently serving his second term – already a record-breaker for a single term – and the election that must be held before Nov 2019 might deny him a third. He has hinted it will be held early.

In 2018 there seemed no end in sight to the legal troubles of Netanyahu, his wife Sara, his family and close circle. In February Israeli police announced that they had found sufficient evidence to charge Netanyahu with bribery and fraud in two cases. In the first case, Netanyahu had allegedly traded political favors for gifts, including expensive cigars, champagne, and jewelry. In the second, he had allegedly sought to secure favorable coverage from the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in exchange for cutting the circulation of a rival paper, Israel Hayom. In a televised address, Netanyahu denied the allegations and vowed not to step down as prime minister.

The New York Times reported in May 2018 that Israeli pundits have been speculating for days on whether Netanyahu’s worsening legal situation would spur him to call an early vote, given polls that show he still has the support of his voters. He benefited politically from the decision of United States President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy to contested Jerusalem.

The newspaper adds that he is in political danger from the looming crisis involving a clash between two parties in the governing Likud coalition over a proposed law formalizing the exemption of ultra-Orthodox youths from mandatory army service. The issue adds to the uncertainty over his future as prime minister. #22852 Published: 11/26/2018

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21 Oct
2019

British Parliament prods Northern Ireland parties with ultimatum

UNITED KINGDOM (WNF) - Fresh talks aimed at restoring Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive began in May, and the British parliament has given the parties until Oct 21 to resolve their differences. Same-sex marriage and abortion rights, controversial issues in Northern Ireland, will be law there by 2020 if the deadline is not met.
MPs at Westminster voted overwhelmingly in July to impose the deadline, with the vote seen as a way to add impetus for a resolution to the dispute between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) over same-sex marriage, abortion rights and other issues.

Same-sex marriage is currently outlawed in Northern Ireland, though civil partnerships are allowed. The Belfast Telegraph notes that the DUP believes marriage is only between a man and a woman. It has used a mechanism known as a petition of concern to prevent changes to the law from being passed at Stormont, the home of Northern Ireland’s Executive and Assembly.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive collapsed in Jan 2017 amid a bitter row between the two parties about a green energy scheme. Stormont has been without an executive for more than two years, and Westminster has had to pass some key legislation for Northern Ireland in the interim.

Northern Ireland will need a government in place to deal with critical logistical issues should Britain leave the European Union on Oct 31.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to take Britain out of the EU on Oct 31, with or without a deal. There has been no sign Westminster plans to ease up on the ultimatum it delivered to Northern Ireland even if his present setbacks sink his Oct 31 target. #23274 Published: 09/16/2019

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22 Oct
2019

Emperor Naruhito enthroned during frantic year for Japan

JAPAN (WNF) - Emperor Naruhito is formally enthroned in a ceremony attended by dignitaries from nearly 200 countries. The enthronement – and the banquets and festivities that follow – fall about midpoint in Japan’s long sojourn under an international spotlight.
He succeeded his father, Akihito, on May 1, during a brief ceremony in which he was handed the three sacred relics known as the Imperial Regalia. Consisting of a sword, a mirror and a jewel, the relics are said to be housed in three sacred sites spread around the nation.

Naruhito is 126th in the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy, believed to stretch back more than 2,600 years.

Scores of events linked to the abdication of one emperor and the succession of another unfold in the months preceding the enthronement. Naruhito’s enthronement is likely to be at least as much of a draw as his father’s. Some 2,500 guests attended the Nov 1990 event, including seven members of royal families, 46 presidents and 11 prime ministers.

Japan also will be in the international spotlight in 2019 for a host of non-accession events: local and Diet Upper House elections, the G20 summit and concurrent ministerial meetings which will be held in eight different cities, and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which brings many African leaders and ministers to Japan. TICAD 2013 brought 39 leaders from 51 participating countries to Japan. At the same time, the country will be hosting the Rugby World Cup and continuing preparations for the 2020 Olympics.

The challenge lies in handling the arrangements and security for so many visitors with a limited pool of employees. In 2017, Japan Forward’s Foreign Ministry sources foresaw a “2019 Problem.” According to the publication in Dec 2017, the entire Ministry is involved in the scramble for human resources, with a plan to establish a special secretariat and recall ministry staff from consulates and embassies to help with the effort. #23058 Published: 04/01/2019

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23 Oct
2019

Botswana holds general election with its reputation on the line

BOTSWANA (WNF) - Diamond-rich Botswana elects its National Assembly, the body that chooses the country’s president after the vote, with the country’s reputation and the long reign of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in jeopardy. Sluggish economic growth and high youth unemployment have given the opposition a big foothold, along with the fight over elephants and hunting.
The BDP has held the presidency and a majority of the 63 National Assembly seats since independence in 1966. During that time the country has won an international reputation as an African economic and political success story and a bastion of conservation.

In Mar 2019 the World Bank noted high levels of income inequality and high unemployment, particularly youth unemployment in the country. It also lauded the orderly transfer of power to Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi at the end of Ian Khama’s second term as president in Apr 2018.

Khama and his hand-picked successor are at odds. Masisi took office vowing to diversify the economy away from diamonds. He targeted tourism, Botswana’s second largest source of foreign income after diamond mining. He also changed several key policies adopted by Khama, one of which was the 2014 ban on elephant hunting and culling in Botswana, home to a third of Africa’s elephants.

Khama, whose father led the southern African country to independence, quit the ruling party in May. He accused Masisi of becoming an autocrat and threatening the country's reputation as a beacon of stability in a troubled continent.

Khama leads a BDP splinter group, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). An opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) brings the BPF together with three other parties. If it holds together until the election, the country could see its first change of government since independence from Britain in 1966.

Reporting on the elephant issue in Feb 2019, the BBC noted that the massive animals can be very destructive when they encroach onto farmland and move though villages – destroying crops and sometimes killing people. The broadcaster pointed out that the government has to balance lifting the hunting ban to win rural votes against the impact it may have on Botswana’s international reputation as a luxury safari destination and as a beacon for conservation.

The poll will elect 57 national assembly and 490 local government representatives. #23028 Updated: 09/15/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE SEP 15 TO INCLUDE ECONOMY SITUATION

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