Europe/Americas update: May 31 2017


Via Axios, Donald Trump is reportedly, and unsurprisingly, about to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Or if you prefer visual representations of your world news, he’s about to do this:

Without disparaging Nicaragua and, ah, Syria, I’m not sure that’s the best company for the United States to be keeping. But what do I know?

The European Union and China both say they remain committed to the deal, but realistically the agreement is hollow without the participation of the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas producer. If Trump does withdraw from the agreement there’s some question as to how he’ll do it:

The agreement stipulates a three-year waiting period before a country can give notice of leaving, which adds another 12 months and brings us to June 2021.

It could be that President Trump will be out of office before the US would be out of the deal.

Alternatively he could declare that the agreement is a treaty which in US law needs approval by the Senate. It’s likely that the Republican majority in the chamber would mean the end of the road for Paris.

A more extreme option would be to pull out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change upon which the Paris deal is built.

It dates back to 1992 and was agreed by President George Bush, and left in place by his son, George W, who was no great fan of climate action.

Leaving this longstanding convention would only take 12 months, but would be seen as perhaps a bigger slap in the face for the international community, as it places strong emphasis on the environmental rights of developing nations.

Withdrawing from the deal is going to damage America’s international standing, which has national security implications, and will likely cripple the alternative energy industry in the US. On the plus side, we can expect that a whole lot of currently defunct coal jobs…will stay defunct, because they’re not ever coming back, sorry.

Trump is being lobbied from all sides–international, political, corporate–to stay in the deal. He’s also got a Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, who has been a leader at the Pentagon in studying and preparing for climate change and its impacts on global security. But while Trump may suddenly reverse course, what’s more likely to happen is that he’ll issue a withdrawal statement that leaves some room for him to change his mind in the coming months.



Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are scheduled to meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on Sunday. They will, of course, be discussing the many possible meanings of “covfefe” trying to restart reunification talks.


Well, this is interesting:

A newspaper in Siberia said on Wednesday it was threatened with retribution after reporting the death in Syria of a Russian private military contractor.

Galina Komornikova, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, told Reuters a man had phoned the editorial office soon after the story’s publication and threatened to come over and “deal with” her and the relevant reporters.

“He introduced himself, said he works for the FSB (the Federal Security Service), and that it’s not allowed to report on Syria,” Komornikova said.

The man did not show up at the office, she said.

Journalists? Intimidated? In Vladimir Putin’s Russia? I’m afraid that’s just a bit far-fetched for me, sorry. But if this story is true then it might suggest that Moscow is getting a little sensitive to reports of casualties due to its adventures abroad.

As expected, Moscow retaliated to Estonia’s expulsion of five of its diplomats last Friday by expelling two Estonian diplomats today.


Also as expected, the Macedonian parliament, by a very slim majority, approved Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s cabinet today, giving the country its first functioning government in over a year.


Amnesty International is accusing the French government of using a state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 ISIS attack in Paris, and that looks like it will be extended indefinitely at this point, to suppress political protest. Who could have predicted.


On April 18, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for snap elections to be held on June 8. She was under no obligation to do this–her Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority wasn’t in question, nor was there any particular public outcry for a new vote. In fact, after she succeeded to the PM office last July she said–repeatedly–that she wouldn’t call for early elections. But with Brexit talks looming and her party’s poll numbers high, May figured it was a good time to increase her majority in order to ensure that she had strong legislative support when negotiating with Brussels.

At the time, May’s decision was hailed as a genius political move. A landslide of historic proportions looked to be in the Tories’ near future. So with the vote just a bit over a week away, let’s all take a sophisticated sip of English Breakfast tea and check in on how May’s landslide is looking no–

British Prime Minister Theresa May dodged a reporter’s question on Wednesday about whether she would resign if she lost seats in a June 8 election.

Huh. Well, that’s interesting. But, hey, losing seats isn’t so bad…I mean, it isn’t what May wanted when she called for the vote, but she can lose seats and still retain her majori–

Prime Minister Theresa May could lose control of parliament in Britain’s June 8 election, according to a projection by polling company YouGov, raising the prospect of political turmoil just as formal Brexit talks begin.

The YouGov model suggested May would lose 20 seats and her 17-seat working majority in the 650-seat British parliament, though other models show May winning a big majority of as much as 142 seats and a Kantar poll showed her lead widening.

If the YouGov model turns out to be accurate, May would be well short of the 326 seats needed to form a government tasked with the complicated talks, due to start shortly after the election, on Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

A later poll, a separate regular survey carried out by YouGov for Thursday’s Times newspaper, showed May’s Conservative Party just three percentage points ahead of the Labour opposition, which has been eating into her lead since the start of the campaign.

The Conservatives were on 42 percent, down a point from last week, with Labour up three points, the YouGov survey said.

Now, it’s important to note that these YouGov polls are outliers, so they could easily be wrong. But poll after poll, even the polls in which May and the Tories are still doing well, has showed the Conservatives’ lead slipping over the past month, so the trend is clear and it’s not going in May’s direction. The more voters see of her party’s platform, the less it seems they want to vote for it. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been embarrassing her with young voters and is now gaining among women as well. May’s favorability rating has slipped into the low 40s, not a comfortable place to be for an incumbent in any election.

May’s lead right now in some polls is hovering around the line, believed to be seven percent, where the Conservatives might win a plurality but not an outright majority. Which would mean forming a coalition with…who, exactly? The Liberal Democrats, who oppose Brexit? The Scottish National Party? LOL. UKIP? They’re not projected to win any seats anyway, but yikes.

The punchline to all this drama is, to reiterate, May didn’t have to do this. She voluntarily called for new elections because the political winds seemed to be at her back. And now there’s a chance, albeit still a slim one, that she’s made a massive miscalculation.



I honestly am starting to think that the Trump presidency may be an extended performance art piece. Nothing can possibly be this stupid:

President Donald Trump has been handing out his cellphone number to world leaders and urging them to call him directly, an unusual invitation that breaks diplomatic protocol and is raising concerns about the security and secrecy of the U.S. commander in chief’s communications.

Trump has urged leaders of Canada and Mexico to reach him on his cellphone, according to former and current U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the practice. Of the two, only Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken advantage of the offer so far, the officials said.

Trump also exchanged numbers with French President Emmanuel Macron when the two spoke immediately following Macron’s victory earlier this month, according to a French official, who would not comment on whether Macron intended to use the line.

Trump’s fans are undoubtedly thinking this is great, because Trump is a “regular guy” who “doesn’t play by your rules, man” and “does things differently” or whatever. But phone calls between the president of the United States and other world leaders can have far-reaching ramifications and really need to be prepared. This is particularly true when the president of the United States is, to all outward appearances, an imbecile. Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the leaders to whom he’s given his number, presumably as a friendly gesture, all seem to pretty much hate his guts. But hey, whatever, go nuts. Hopefully no foreign intelligence agencies will be eavesdropping on these calls–but then Trump blabs state secrets to foreign agents in the Oval Office, so why not on the phone too?

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on what is easily the most important story of the day: what the hell is “covfefe”?

It’s “coverage.” Trump was trying to type the word “coverage” and dozed off. I hope that helps.

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