Week in Review

3 June 2018

Subi Reef, South China Sea. Chinese dredging vessels are constructing the artificial island, 2015.

Subi Reef, South China Sea. Chinese dredging vessels are constructing the artificial island, 2015.


A RELIGIOUS REVERSAL. Ireland, one of the most socially conservative states in Western Europe, has legalized abortion in a monumental referendum. The government will now have to pass legislation, reversing a constitutional amendment that is a near-complete ban on abortion. The result was 66.4% in favour with high turnout including only one constituency that voted below 50%, making the verdict highly legitimate. This represents a landmark victory for women’s rights, progressive movements, and reaffirmation of typically secular Europe.

WORST U.S. DEATH TOLL SINCE 9/11. Puerto Rico has made the headlines again and again coming with devastating news. A previously reported 64 deaths from Hurricane Maria was misreported, with the true number being more than 4 600 people. While the numbers are staggering alone, what is truly distressing is that most of the deaths were not from the storm itself. Researchers report that approximately two-thirds of the deaths were due to disruptions in healthcare largely related to constant power outages. The mayor of San Juan has called it a violation of their human rights; with the negligence of the U.S. federal administration, a violation of human rights is not far off.

A STEP TOWARDS STABILITY. Libyan leaders met in Paris Tuesday agreeing on an joint eight-point declaration for upcoming elections. While there is still disagreement on a constitutional basis for the upcoming elections, French President Emmanuel Macron, who hosted the meeting, believed this is a significant step forward for the maligned state. Since 2011, the state has been divided into different factions, and in some regions, run by militias. Many hope these new elections will bring more stability and certainty, but this is far from a guarantee.

AMERICA FIRST, AMERICA ALONE. The United States applied severe tariffs to Canada, Mexico, and the European Union on June 1st. These included steel and aluminum, isolating the global hegemon from its greatest allies even more than President Donald Trump has already. Canada was quick to respond with carefully calculated retaliatory tariffs designed to target Republican strongholds in the United States. Prime Minister Trudeau dismissed Trump’s national security argument as “inconceivable”. Mexico has also responded with retaliatory tariffs and the EU has announced it will initiate a dispute settlement case at the WTO as well as additional tariffs. The ‘America First’ policy has been tougher on allies than most adversaries, shaking up post-World War Two tradition.

U.S. TAKING HARDER LINE ON SOUTH CHINA SEA. The United States has taken a more aggressive policy against China in the South China Sea, particularly around its disputed islands. For the first time, the United States sailed two navy ships within twelve nautical miles of four of China’s disputed islands. One of which was Woody Island that has been artificially built up and militaritized. As China has become more aggressive, the new administration feels that it must play tit-for-tat to ensure stability. Such a tactic can often lead to a military build up, but there does not seem to be many other options.

THROUGH TURMOIL, ITALIAN GOVERNMENT SWORN IN. After weeks of uncertainty, Italy’s two populist parties have successful formed government with Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement, being sworn in by the President. The President has previously attempted to block the parties from forming government, presenting the possibility of early elections. The new government will focus on labour and economic development, particularly punishing companies leaving Italy and being harsher on immigrants. Being the first populist government in Europe in over 70 years, Brussels will be watching carefully.

IMMIGRANT TURN SUPERHERO TURN CITIZEN. Mamoudou Gassama, from Mali, made international news with a video of him climbing four stories to save an enfant hanging off a balcony. What makes this story so incredible is that Emmanuel Macron offered him a job with the emergency services and to begin process of naturalization for him to become French. This signals a sign of goodwill by the French president as he has been strict on immigration since taking office, often being criticized by left-wing voters. Demonstrating that while his immigration policies have shifted centre-right, he still recognizes the value immigrants bring to France.