Global Pulse: French military chief quits, Suu Kyi’s press freedom reputation hit and Putin’s off limits for Hollywood

French military chief Pierre de Villiers | Source: Wikimedia Commons

FRENCH MILITARY CHIEF QUITS IN FEUD WITH MACRON

France’s top military officer, General Pierre de Villiers, resigned Wednesday, in response to a public feud with the nation’s new President Emmanuel Macron. Unhappy with Macron’s planned budget cuts, de Villiers said in a statement he felt compelled to resign because he no longer believed he could command a military that could “guarantee the protection of France and the French people.”

Though Macron has indicated that he will increase France’s military budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2025 as part of its commitment to NATO, last week his administration announced 870 million euros in military cuts for the current year. Numerous top military officers have publicly opposed Macron’s budget tightening, but the new president has forcefully asserted his control over the military. Earlier this week he told a French newspaper that, in the case of a disagreement between him and the armed forces, “It is the chief of the defence staff who will change his position.”

 

POLITICIANS SHOW SUPPORT FOR JOHN MCCAIN FOLLOWING BRAIN TUMOR DIAGNOSIS

Partisan divides briefly evaporated Wednesday, as politicians of all stripes showed their support for Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain following his brain tumor diagnosis.

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter,” President Trump said in a statement, echoing the words of former President Barack Obama who tweeted “Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.” Former Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton likewise tweeted that McCain “is as tough as they come.”

Doctors discovered the brain tumor during surgery McCain received last week to remove a blood clot from above his left eye. McCain returned to Arizona for the surgery, where he plans to consult physicians about potential chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Medical experts say McCain’s tumor, a glioblastoma, is extremely serious, with a median survival period of approximately 16 months.

 

 

NETANYAHU CAUGHT CALLING EU “CRAZY” ON HOT MIC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was caught on a hot mic Wednesday telling Eastern European leaders that the EU’s behaviour towards Israel is “crazy.”

“The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, that produces technology and every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it,” said the Israeli leader. “It’s crazy. It’s actually crazy.”

The comments came in a closed-door meeting with the leaders of four EU members—Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic—in Budapest, but were accidentally recorded on headphones distributed to reporters.

Pointing to Israel’s transactional relationship with India over water, Netanyahu also said that EU nations moralizing with Israel is counter-productive and could compromise their security. Netanyahu further dismissed Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s remark that the EU is “unique” in that it considers human rights in international economic and security relations, Netanyahu responded that Europe will “shrivel and disappear” if it does not change its attitudes.

 

SUU KYI CHALLENGED OVER PRESS FREEDOM

A viral video of protesting journalists bound in chains released Tuesday has put new pressure on Burmese leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over her country’s human rights record. Though Burma has made significant strides in democratization since 2011, notably resulting in Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy electoral victory in 2015, critics say that the military continues to wield significant influence over the country’s government and that anti-democratic practices continue in some arenas.

The video, released by the news outlet Democratic Voice for Burma, features three journalists each charged with violations of the Unlawful Associations Act, which outlaws association with any illegal groups, for their coverage of rebel groups. Critics have called on Suu Kyi, currently the nation’s de facto political leader, to do more to halt human rights abuses across the country, including related to the country’s beleaguered Rohingya minority.

 

HOLLYWOOD TIPTOES AROUND PUTIN

Though Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has led to renewed interest in films portraying nefarious Kremlin operators as villains, a new report says studios believe portraying Russian President Vladimir Putin unkindly may lead to cyberattacks. According to The Hollywood Reporter, two upcoming blockbuster films based on books in which Putin features prominently have dropped the Russian strongman’s character entirely over fears of reprisals that target the films’ studios.

“For a studio to release a movie about Putin that makes him look like a fool would be suicide,” Ajay Arora, CEO of security firm Vera, told the magazine. “That’s a certain way to be targeted [for retaliation].”

News of studios avoiding Putin comes only three years after North Korean-aligned hackers targeted Sony Pictures for its film, The Interview, a farce about a plot to assassinate the country’s leader, Kim Jong-Un. The Sony attack led to the release of significant amounts of the company’s private data and forced the company to cancel the movie’s mainstream release.

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