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GLOBAL PULSE: NATO raises defence spending, sexual abuse charge against Vatican cardinal and socks-and-ties politics

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NATO allies of the United States plan to boost their defence spending by 4.3 per cent this year in response to intense pressure from Donald Trump that nations need to invest more in their militaries. Trump has repeatedly castigated NATO allies for their dependence on the U.S. military and has even questioned the basic U.S. security guarantees toward European stability since World War II. The increase — an estimate for 2017 — will boost military spending by non-U.S. NATO members to about $295 billion, which is still far less than the United States spends alone.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has earlier underplayed Trump’s rhetoric.

“For me, ‘America First’ is not America alone,” he said in the interview, echoing a Trump mantra. “The best way to secure the United States is to be committed to NATO.”



Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Vatican, has been charged with multiple sexual offences by police. Pell, an Australian, is facing multiple charges, and there are multiple complainants, police said.

The charges are all “historical sexual assault offences”. Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal. He has again strenuously denied all allegations. A statement released by the Catholic archdiocese of Sydney said Pell would “return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name”.

When Pope Francis was asked about Pell last year, he said: “It’s true, there is a doubt. We have to wait for justice and not first make a mediatic judgment a judgment of gossip because that won’t help. Once justice has spoken, I will speak.”



Women now sit in 118 of the 462 seats in Algeria’s People’s National Assembly — a proportion that’s unique in the democratised Arab world. A combination of political will and a breakthrough law enacted in 2012 to set-aside 20-40 per cent for women candidates appears to be working to end under-representation.

Now, Algeria ranks first in Arab legislative systems when compared to Tunisia, Iraq and Sudan. Despite the impressive numbers of female deputies, Algeria remains a patriarchal society, similar to other parts of the Arab world where politics is seen as a largely male domain. In the rural areas many parties were short of female options to pick from. In some areas, election banners had blank faces of women candidates running under different parties. The government had to force them to use women’s photos or face legal action.



Male members of French parliament representing Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left party turned up without ties. It was no mistake. For the party’s members, it was an important and politically symbolic move.

“It is the people who are returning to the National Assembly,” MP Alexis Corbiere said. “I campaigned without a tie and I did not have a tie on my posters. I sometimes wear them, but I do not want to be given a dress code.”

Mélenchon himself, clad in a black workers’ jacket for the meeting, compared his party’s lack of ties to the sans-culottes (literally “without breeches) of the late-18th century. It was the nickname for the radicalized lower classes who became a driving force for the French Revolution and wore long trousers, rather than the short silk breeches worn by the upper classes. A representative of the far-right National Front, called it a “silly provocation”.



The love-fest for Canada’s Justin Trudeau continues. Now fashion columnists are dissecting his socks. His themed socks were at first described as a charming idiosyncrasy. Now it is being analysed as a form of political statement and cultural outreach.

He marched in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade wearing a rainbow-striped pair printed with the words “Eid Mubarak” and he insisted it was locally made. He wore patriotic maple leaf socks to a government meeting, a pair with the NATO flag to a meeting in Brussels and “Star Wars” themed socks on International Star Wars Day. His socks have begun to take on a life of their own, chronicled, and mostly celebrated. They might reinforce the stereotype of him being a lightweight, but it also shows he is a next-gen leader, who can embrace multiculturalism. Besides, they’re a good icebreaker.

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