Trump to investigate China’s trade practices

After expectation of Trump breathing fresh air into US-Russia relations came tumbling down, hopes of greater cooperation with China may also finally be turning to dust. Frustrated by China’s reluctance to take on a more aggressive stand on North Korea, the Trump administration is all set to open a broad investigation into Beijing’s trade practices.

The move also comes in the wake of growing concerns in the US over the Asian economic giant’s effort to make itself the world leader in microchips, electric driverless cars and other crucial technologies. Under its “Made in China 2025” policy, Beijing aims to be a global leader in 10 fields of industry. It would do so not only with the help of massive infusions of state money, but also the protection of those industries from American competitors. The alleged Chinese violations of American intellectual property would be the primary focus of the investigation.

Procrastinated Brexit negotiations could be a trap

The UK’s seemingly aimless procrastination with regard to Brexit has got some in Brussels wondering if Brits have “a strategy of pretending not to have a strategy”. While most in the European Union’s negotiating team still think that London’s disorganisation comes from the divisions within the British political class, there are at least some EU diplomats who are growing suspicious given the country’s consistent meandering.

Accusing the British of playing for time on purpose, an attaché warned, “In September they’re going to swamp us with (position) papers on the fault lines — exactly the issues where they know we (the EU27 countries) are divided”. In fact, the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat shares the skepticism. “A non-prepared British government official simply doesn’t exist,” he had said. Some fear that the British could very well be using this time to aggressively reach out to corporate executives in the EU27.


Sanctions might not be particularly effective, after all

Whatever may be Trump’s reasons to oppose sanctions on Russia, the efficacy of sanctions is far from being undisputed. This opinion piece asks if sanctions on an already isolated and ever belligerent North Korea can force it to jettison its nuclear program. Worse still, would Trump’s reservation about the sanctions pushing Russia, China and North Korea even closer be true? What would sanctions on Venezuela, already ravaged by an economic crisis, achieve? As for Russia, the country was already under sanctions imposed by the Obama regime when it was accused of meddling in the US elections. Thus, throwing open the question, how effective sanctions really are in taming recalcitrant countries.

Sanctions have become the talk of Washington once again with Trump grudgingly signing what he called a “seriously flawed” bill imposing sanctions on Russia. It is the first bill that Trump signed in over a month, and one that he was reluctant to sign at all!

Rouhani is popular among women, now he’s under pressure from them

He enjoys unparalleled popularity among women. But now the Iranian president faces a tough choice between pleasing them and the hardliners. In the run up to the reshuffle, Hassan Rouhani  is under pressure from women to appoint female ministers in his cabinet, while the hardliners continue to push against it.

Despite his image of being a moderate cleric, Rouhani failed to nominate a single woman minister in his previous term – something which hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ironically did. In his previous term, Rouhani had appointed a number of women as vice-president, but none as ministers – a comparatively senior position in Tehran’s political hierarchy.  “This structure has eliminated women on the excuse of meritocracy and experience but it looks like that main criteria for them is being male,” a Tehran-based women’s rights activist said.

One of Syria’s most prominent democracy advocates executed

“This is the end that suits a hero like him. Thank you for killing my lover. I was the bride of the revolution because of you. And because of you I became a widow,” wrote one of Syria’s best known democracy activists’ wife, as she broke the news of her husband’s execution in a Facebook post. Her post was possibly directed at the Syrian government.

The fate of Bassel Khartabel, who brought open source software to the authoritarian land, had been unknown since two years when he was taken to the country’s notorious Adra prison. But this week, his family finally heard the deeply dreaded news of Khartabel’s execution in 2015. His story, though, is the story of thousands in Syria who simply disappeared into the black hole of Syrian prisons after taking part in the country’s protest movement. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, since the uprising, over 100,000 people have been detained.

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