File photo of Emmanuel Macron. Source: Twitter
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Macron’s approval ratings continue to plummet

Trump has an unlikely partner when it comes to rock bottom approval ratings: Emmanuel Macron. And the situation won’t be changing anytime soon for the 39-year-old French president. Hailed as the darling of social democrats, Macron now enjoys the support of only 36 percent of the French voters – a drop of 30 percentage points from May when 66 percent of the voters supported him.

His steep decline is perplexing for analysts and pollsters in France. But they agree on some of the factors contributing to the unusual drop-off.  His apparent lack of respect for the military, coupled with the relative inexperience and lack of discipline shown by his deputies are some of the obvious ones. However, for many it’s just Macron’s personality that is the problem. Whatever the reasons, Macron has reason to worry. It’s not just his political career at stake, but that of his newly established political party as well.

Trump’s chief strategist would’ve exited gracefully if not for Charlottesville

Reporting directly to the president, he operated with the sort of autonomy few have enjoyed in the White House. Despite that, Donald Trump’s chief strategist was rudely forced out of office last week. Some reports now say that Stephen K. Bannon’s departure from the White House was pre-planned. It’s just that it was to happen more gracefully.

Then came Charlottesville, and Bannon clashed with John F. Kelly over how Trump must respond. “Give no grounds to your critics,” he urged the president. And after he tripped himself up publicly it became clear to Trump that Bannon was a liability. The stage was set for another embarrassing ouster from the White House. It didn’t help that a day earlier, Bannon had spoken in opposition to Trump’s fire and fury policy toward Pyongyang in an interview to left-wing magazine.

With his eccentric and irreverent style of working, Bannon always had enemies in the administration. The president’s chief economic advisor, national security advisor, the president’s daughter and son-in-law – are just some of them. Adding the president to that list just hastened what might have inevitable.

Another advisory committee on climate change gone under Trump

In other news from the US, the Trump administration just made sure that a committee that aims to help policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into planning, ceases to operate very soon.  The 15-member National Climate Assessment, whose charter was to expire on Sunday, was informed two days earlier that its panel would not be renewed.

The Trump administration has been jittery about the Assessment, which is to be released in 2018. This move is also no surprise under the Trump regime, whose officials have consistently altered the make-up of advisory panels or suspended them altogether. But the concern among academics and civil society is palpable.

“We’re going to be running huge risks here and possibly end up hurting the next generation’s economic prospects,” a Maryland University professor said.

Protests, prison, more protests in Hong Kong

The arrest of three pro-democratic activists in Hong Kong does not amount to political persecution, they are just paying the price for breaking the law. At least that’s what the city’s administration says. But the island’s pro-democracy groups are seething. They see the arrests as “Beijing’s grand plan” to strip Hong Kong of its freedoms and thousands marched in the semi-autonomous city to demand their release.

“It (the huge turnout at the protest) is proof that Hong Kong people will not be scared away by political persecution,” a student leader said.

The second highest official in the Hong Kong government dismissed allegations of political retaliation as “bias in the views of foreign media”. Yet, the pro-democracy groups are convinced that the trio were arrested in order to prevent them from fighting elections during the next five years.

Kabul’s musical rebellion

Kabul doesn’t usually make the news for a music concert. Defying opposition from conservatives and security threats from radical outfits, Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed went ahead with her concert – despite a last minute change in venue. And what a show it was for the audience of hundreds of men and women (who outnumbered the men).

With her long hair and body-hugging clothes, Sayeed is an inspiration for some and seen as a disgrace by others in a country where her music is seen by some as an act of defiance and transgression. And defiant, she is.

“At the end of the day, we are also human beings and these are basic human needs – music, celebration, Independence Day, New Year,” she said.

Girls who attended her concert knew only too well that attending a music concert is not just about entertainment.

“I asked some of the girls: ‘Why you are here?’ They told me they were here to defy those who were against the concert,” said one of the fans.

Compiled by Sanya Dhingra. 

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