Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Tone Deaf Macron

Sheesh.

It was the most important TV appearance of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency: the 40-year-old former banker had to prove to an angry nation that he was not an arrogant “president of the rich” and that he understood ordinary French people’s struggle to make ends meet.

Yet Macron’s choice to deliver his prerecorded speech on social inequality from one of the most opulent and golden rooms in the luxurious, 365-room Élysée Palace was not lost on gilets jaunes protesters who have been occupying protest barricades on rural roundabouts.

Indeed, the Élysée Palace, the French presidential residence and workplace that is twice the size of the US White House and costs €104m a year to run, has been the object of fury during the protests. The demonstrations, which began as a citizens’ revolt against a proposed fuel tax on 17 November have quickly morphed into wider anti-government demonstrations against inequality.

[…]

Macron chose to announce his measures aimed at calming the gilets jaunes protests by speaking from the traditional presidential office known as the salon doré, with its gold decorations.

He sat behind the large antique desk that has been used by all presidents since Charles de Gaulle and is the most valuable piece of furniture in the gilded palace. At the edge of the frame was a golden cockerel, the symbol of France, between golden lamps, and three carefully placed antique books. Behind him, just to the right of a pair of ornate gold leaf doors, were the French and European flags.

Protests Continue in France

Of course, now the anarchists have joined in with the legitimate protesters.

PARIS (AP) — Paris tourist sites reopened, workers cleaned up broken glass and shop owners tried to put the city on its feet again Sunday, a day after running battles between “yellow vest” protesters and police that left at least 71 injured in the French capital and caused widespread damage in cities around France.

The man at the focus of protesters’ anger, President Emmanuel Macron, broke his silence to tweet his appreciation for the police overnight. However, pressure mounted on him to propose new solutions to calm the anger dividing France.

Macron will address the nation “at the very beginning of the week,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday, without specifying a day.

The economy minister lamented the damage to the economy.

“This is a catastrophe for commerce, it’s a catastrophe for our economy,” Bruno Le Maire said Sunday while visiting merchants around the Saint Lazare train station, among areas hit by vandalism as the pre-Christmas shopping season got underway.

[…]

The movement began as a protest against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has long been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.

Diesel prices have risen by about 23% over the past 12 months – and Mr Macron’s decision to impose a tax increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol from 1 January enraged protesters.

Mr Macron had blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise, but said higher taxes on fossil fuels were needed to fund renewable energy investments.

Um, I don’t know what world Macron lives in, but world oil prices are low.

Tax Riots in France

Meanwhile, in pre-Brexit Europe:

Protesters from France’s “gilet jaunes” (yellow vests) movement have pulled out of a meeting with PM Edouard Philippe scheduled for Tuesday.

Some members of the group said they had received death threats from hardline protesters warning them not to enter into negotiations with the government.

The “yellow vests” have been protesting about a controversial fuel tax since mid-November.

But the protests now reflect more widespread anger at the government.

Three people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism – notably when statues were smashed at the Arc de Triomphe last Saturday – have been widely condemned.

Orangutan Rescued From Sex Slavery

There are some depraved people on this planet.

An orangutan kept as a prostitute in an Indonesian village ‘screamed and defecated’ when the brothel madam who kept her captive visited her in a rescue centre.

Pony, an endangered Bornean orangutan, was discovered in February 2003 inside a darkened room in the village of Kareng Pangi, Central Kalimantan chained to a wall and lying on a mattress.

She had been ruthlessly and abhorrently exploited by local palm oil farmers who would come to the village and pay £2 to have sex with her.

The brother ‘madam’ who enslaved Pony was initially allowed to visit her once a month at a conservation centre to ‘reduce the risk of retribution among villagers’ who were angry she had been taken.

[…]

Having been snatched from her mother when she was a baby, her captors treated Pony extremely harshly – shaving her every two days and forcing her to wear perfume and makeup.

She was even taught to perform sex acts on demand for her customers.

Mexico Suggests Payout to Keep Foreigners Out

Ummmmmmnnnnnnn… no.

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — As Mexico wrestles with what to do with more than 5,000 Central American migrants camped out at a sports complex in the border city of Tijuana, President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government signaled Tuesday that it would be willing to house the migrants on Mexican soil while they apply for asylum in the United States — a key demand of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mexico’s new foreign minister also called on the Trump administration to contribute to development projects to help create jobs in Central America to stem the flow of migrants from the impoverished region, suggesting an appropriate figure would start at $20 billion.

The fact that there are thousands of people who want to come to America and that Mexico allowed them to stream across their country does not obligate American taxpayers to pay to fix their home countries.

Border Forces Repel Attempted Incursion

Thankfully, it looks like no Americans were injured in repelling this foreign incursion.

Mexico will deport up to 500 migrants who attempted to storm the US border, according to its interior ministry.

The group were rounded up after trying to cross the border “violently” and “illegally” on Sunday, the ministry said in a statement.

Video footage shows dozens of people – including women and children – running towards the fence that separates the two countries near the city of Tijuana.

They were repelled by tear gas used by US border officers.

Mexico’s interior ministry said in a statement that a group of “nearly 500 migrants” had “tried to cross the border in a violent way”.

Those identified as having taken part in these “violent events” would be deported immediately, it said.

The ministry added that, “far from helping their objectives”, the migrants’ actions had violated the legal migration framework and could have led to a “serious incident”.

Russia Escalates War on Ukraine

There’s still a war going on in Europe and Russia is being… well… Russia.

Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.

The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

Russian jets fly over the bridge, and a tanker is seen under the huge arch of the bridge. Photo: 25 November 2018Image copyrightPHOTOSHOT
Image captionA tanker under the bridge shut all navigation from and into the Sea of Azov

During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.

ICE Does Its Job

I didn’t know that church sanctuary was still a thing. In any case, hats off to ICE for finally catching the scofflaw.

An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested on Friday after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son.

He has been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

Ice said Oliver-Bruno, who has lived in North Carolina for two decades, had no legal basis to be in the US and had exhausted his “extensive” appeals. In 2014, according to court documents, Oliver-Bruno pleaded guilty to using false documents to try to re-enter the US in Texas.

UN’s Environment Chief Resigns

Is there a more hypocritical creature in the world than a UN bureaucrat?

A draft internal UN audit leaked to the Guardian in September found Solheim had spent almost $500,000 (£390,000) on air travel and hotels in just 22 months, and was away 80% of the time. The audit said this was a “reputation risk” for an organisation dedicated to fighting climate change.

A UN staff union leader called some of the revelations “mind-blowing” and a prominent climate scientist accused Solheim of “obscene CO2 hypocrisy”.

Mexicans Protest Migrant Horde

I hear ya, amigos. I also wish the Mexican government would have enforced their southern border and not allowed thousands of people to spend weeks roaming through Mexico.

Hundreds of Tijuana residents congregated around a monument in an affluent section of the city south of California on Sunday to protest the thousands of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan in hopes of a new life in the U.S.

Tensions have built as nearly 3,000 migrants from the caravan poured into Tijuana in recent days after more than a month on the road, and with many more months ahead of them while they seek asylum. The federal government estimates the number of migrants could soon swell to 10,000.

U.S. border inspectors are processing only about 100 asylum claims a day at Tijuana’s main crossing to San Diego. Asylum seekers register their names in a tattered notebook managed by migrants themselves that had more than 3,000 names even before the caravan arrived.

On Sunday, displeased Tijuana residents waved Mexican flags, sang the Mexican national anthem and chanted “Out! Out!” in front of a statue of the Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the U.S. border. They accused the migrants of being messy, ungrateful and a danger to Tijuana. They also complained about how the caravan forced its way into Mexico, calling it an “invasion.” And they voiced worries that their taxes might be spent to care for the group.

“We don’t want them in Tijuana,” protesters shouted.

Violent Second Horde Uses Human Shields to Storm into Mexico

This will end badly. Build the wall.

The second migrant caravan, believed to be armed with bombs and guns, crossed into Mexico on Monday despite a huge police presence.

Hundreds of migrants following in the footsteps of the first caravan heading to the U.S. border crossed a river from Guatemala.

A low-flying police helicopter hovered overhead as the migrants waded in large groups through the Suchiate River’s murky waters, apparently trying to use the downdraft from its rotors to discourage them.

Guatemala’s Noti7 channel reported that one man drowned and aired video of a man dragging a seemingly lifeless body from the river.

Once on the Mexican side the migrants were surrounded and escorted by black-uniformed officers as sirens wailed.

The second group back at the Guatemalan frontier has been more unruly than the first that crossed. Guatemala’s Interior Ministry said Guatemalan police officers were injured when the migrant group broke through border barriers on Guatemala’s side of the bridge.

Mexico authorities said migrants attacked its agents with rocks, glass bottles and fireworks when they broke through a gate on the Mexican end but were pushed back, and some allegedly carried guns and firebombs.

On Monday, Mexican Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida lamented what he called a second ‘violent attempt’ to storm the border, accusing people of placing the elderly, pregnant women and children at the front, putting them at risk of being crushed.

Roving Horde Rejects Mexico’s Offer of Asylum

Of course. It’s not about that.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto launched a program on Friday dubbed “You are home,” which promises shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to Central Americans who agree to stay in the southern Mexico states of Chiapas or Oaxaca.

Police commissioner Benjamin Grajeda said that authorities only blocked the highway Saturday to tell people about the offer. “Here in this truck right now you can get help,” he said.

Thousands of migrants in the city of Arriaga rejected the plan Friday night, but said they could be willing to discuss it again once they reach Mexico City. Some fear they will be deported if they take advantage of the program.

Russia Warns of New Arms Race

Let’s be clear… the only reason it isn’t a race now is because America hasn’t been racing. That hasn’t stopped Russia from running down the track. Russia is now upset because America is lacing up our cleats.

Russia says it will be forced to ‘respond in kind’ if America pulls out of a key nuclear weapons treaty and begins developing new missiles.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke out after Donald Trump threatened to quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty on Saturday, accusing Russia of violating it.

If the US and Russia make good on their threats, it would mark the first nuclear arms race between world superpowers since the end of the Cold War.

Peskov’s comments came as National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Russian security chiefs in Moscow on Monday, ahead of talks with Putin on Tuesday.

Hondurans Return Home

Key phrase: “”organized with political purposes and low deceptions.” Yup

2,000 migrants return to Honduras, foreign ministry says

In a press release, the Honduran Foreign Ministry said 2,000 people in the migrant caravan have now returned to Honduras from the Guatemala border with Mexico.

In addition, the foreign ministry says 400 more Hondurans in the caravan will be on their way back.

The foreign ministry said in the release the “atypical and irregular mobilization… was organized with political purposes and low deceptions.”

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández also promised an offer of jobs and other type of aid to those who return to the country.

Migrant Mob Breaks into Mexico

The United States is under no moral obligation to allow this mob into our country.

Tapachula, Mexico (CNN)A chaotic scene unfolded as a massive caravan of Honduran migrants reached the Guatemala-Mexico border Friday.

A surge of migrants broke through a steel fence that had been padlocked shut. Mexican police in riot gear pushed them back, setting off smoke canisters.
Hundreds of Mexican Federal Police sealed the border as drones and helicopters hovered above the crowd, which waited on a bridge in sweltering heat.
Thousands of migrants are waiting to cross, according to CNN teams at the scene.

US Threatens Saudi Arabia over Alleged Killing

We are at a new place in our nation’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia warned on Sunday that it will respond to threats and political pressure with tough measures of its own after President Donald Trump said the oil-rich kingdom deserves “severe punishment” if responsible for the disappearance and suspected murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

The apparent threat of economic retaliation from the world’s top oil exporter came after a turbulent day on the Saudi stock exchange, which plunged as much as 7 percent at one point.

The statement was issued as international concern grew over the writer who vanished on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul over a week ago. American lawmakers have threated sanctions against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain jointly called on Sunday for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish officials have said they fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom has called such allegations “baseless” but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

For generations, the United States and Europe would look past Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses because we needed their oil to fuel the economy. Those days are over. Thanks to American innovation and fracking, the US is now the largest producer of oil in the world and the world’s largest exporter of oil. Saudi Arabia’s importance in world affairs has diminished.

There is still risk to isolating Saudi Arabia. They have been a force of stability in an unstable region. And they are still a major oil producer whose behavior can impact the world economy. But it isn’t like it used to be.

Turkey Frees American

Great!

IZMIR, Turkey — American pastor Andrew Brunson walked out of court a free man today after 24 months of imprisonment, including house arrest.

A Turkish judge convicted Brunson on charges of “providing aid to terrorist groups without being a member,” while sentencing him to time served and lifting a ban on foreign travel, clearing the way for his return to the U.S.

Brunson hugged his wife and shed tears of joy as he left the courtroom flanked by an American delegation. Making a statement in perfect Turkish, the Evangelical Presbyterian minister, who moved to Turkey in 1993, said, “I’m an innocent man — I love Jesus, and I love this country.”

[…]

Brunson, who had maintained his innocence throughout the the trial, ran a small Evangelical Presbyterian parish in the coastal city of Izmir with about 50 members. He was active in humanitarian aid projects to serve Syrian refugees, and that’s where Turkish investigators say he came in contact with members of terrorist groups.

He was jailed in October 2016 amid accusations of having links to groups Turkey blames for a bloody coup attempt three months earlier. Several of Brunson’s parishioners testified as witnesses, both for and against him.

The final courtroom drama played out in a series of bizarre and dramatic surprises as several witnesses for the prosecution recanted their testimonies.

One woman said she did not personally know Brunson. Two men contradicted their past assertions. When the newly appointed prosecutor asked them about past statements they made asserting that a parishioner — a member of the blacklisted Kurdistan Workers Party — was building bombs, both men said that the statements were rumors they had heard from the other.

A Winning Trade Deal

It will take some time to ferret out all of the details in the new trade deal between America, Canada, and Mexico , but so far it looks good – especially for Wisconsin.

In a win for the United States, USMCA will open up some of Canada’s dairy market to US farmers. The issue was a big sticking point between the two negotiating teams.
Under the original NAFTA, Canada limited how much milk, cheese and other dairy products could come in from the United States.
But under the updated agreement, Canada will set new quotas for the United States. It will increase market access for US dairy, poultry and eggs. In return, the United States will allow more Canadian dairy, peanuts and peanut products, and a limited amount of sugar to cross the border, according to a document from US Trade Representative’s Office.
Canada has also agreed to end a system that had kept the price of some milk products, including milk protein, low. This change will also allow more US dairy products to enter the Canadian market.
And…
The new trade agreement aims to support American workers in several ways.
Most notably, it requires that 40% to 45% of car and truck parts be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. The goal is to level the playing field between American and Mexican auto workers and to incentivize manufacturers to build more in the United States. One of the main criticisms of NAFTA is that it prompted American car makers to shift production south of the border, where workers earn much less than their US counterparts.
The deal also mandates that 75% of a vehicle’s parts must be made in North America, up from the current 62.5% rule. The Trump administration argues that this will help incentivize billions in new auto sector production in the US.
Also, Mexico has committed to recognize workers’ right to collectively bargain, and the three countries agreed to enforce rights recognized by the International Labor Organization.
Overall, it doesn’t look like there’s anything hugely transformational for good or bad, but the agreement moves the needle a little further in America’s favor. I’ll take it.

Trump Asserts America at U.N.

Don’t read the news reports of Trump’s speech at the U.N. today. It was a long speech that covered a lot of topics. The media will only cover small parts and will focus on the parts they didn’t like. Instead, go read the whole thing. It was an impressive speech for its clarity of vision and robust assertion of American values.

For example, here’s one part:

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.

I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

Amen. And this:

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken. So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

This:

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken. So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

And:

In America, we believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual. We believe in self-government and the rule of law. And we prize the culture that sustains our liberty -– a culture built on strong families, deep faith, and fierce independence. We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and above all, we love our country.

One might not agree with all of it (I disagree with him regarding trade policies), but he has articulated a clear vision for his administration. Go read it.

Red China Balks at Sanctions Against Moscow

Remember that these are sanctions that the Democrats supported. Will they stand by Trump now?

China has told the US to withdraw sanctions on its military over purchases of Russian jets and missiles or “bear the consequences”.

The US says China has contravened US sanctions on Moscow introduced over Russian actions in Ukraine and alleged interference in US politics.

China recently bought 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles.

Beijing has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and its Western allies since 2014.

Its forces took part in giant Russian war games held earlier this month.