International Headlines: Politics


Senate Hands a Victory to Obama on Trade Pact
June 23, 2015 The New York Times
President Obama’s ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP) is back on track after several near-death moments over the past month. With the help of top Republicans, the Senate narrowly voted to end debate on legislation, granting Obama enhanced negotiating powers to complete the trade accord and virtually assuring final passage of the TPP. The House also approved trade promotion authority last week. With congressional support for “fast track” authority, the president can now press for a final agreement that will require only 51 votes instead of the typical minimum, and will require lawmakers to vote for or against without being able to amend or filibuster. The TPP will link 40% of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia, in a web of rules governing Pacific commerce. While the agreement is not expected to be completed until the next administration is in office, trade negotiating powers would stretch for six years; together, the two would put much of the globe under the same trade rules, not only lowering tariffs and other import barriers but also creating new standards for Internet access, intellectual property, and investor protections. Most Democrats, along with labor unions, environmental groups, and liberal activists, say that such trade agreements will result in lost manufacturing jobs and lower wages for American workers.

Hong Kong Legislature Rejects Beijing-Backed Election Plan
June 18, 2015 The New York Times
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers rejected a bill that could have been their last chance to achieve general elections. In doing so, they redrew battle lines in the struggle over Hong Kong’s future. The measure, which garnered only eight out of 70 votes, would have allowed the public to elect Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017 from a slate of two or three candidates nominated by a committee, controlled by China’s ruling Communist Party. The legislature’s pro-democracy camp voted unanimously against the plan, arguing that since it allowed Beijing to screen candidates before appearing on the ballot, it would have been a perversion of true universal suffrage. By rejecting Beijing’s offer of a partial step toward open elections, the pro-democracy lawmakers are taking a huge gamble, betting that they will find a way to pressure Chinese leadership to concede. But the public seems to have little appetite for more mass demonstrations such as the ones that attracted global attention last year. Some Hong Kong politicians believe the best way forward is to tackle incremental changes to the 1,200-member committee that currently picks the chief executive, by giving people greater say in who sits on that panel and making it more representative of Hong Kong society. Such changes would not require the approval of the Beijing central government.

Podemos Parties Enter Government for the First Time in Madrid, Barcelona, and Five Other Spanish Cities
June 13, 2015 The Spain Report
After 24 years of Popular Party control in Madrid and 20 years of control in the Andalusian city Cádiz, Podemos candidates in each city were sworn in as mayor on Saturday morning. Candidates linked to Podemos were also appointed as mayor in the Galician cities of Santiago de Compostela and La Coruña, where the PP has governed since 2011. Applause and loud cheers of “Yes we can!” could be heard in the chamber as the results were announced, and Podemos leaders Pablo Iglesias, Iñigo Errejón and Juan Carlos Monedero applauded and smiled from the visitors gallery. The appointment of four mayors from parties related to Podemos represents the first time the party has been awarded government power in Spain. In the 2014 European elections, Podemos won five seats and, during the Andalusia regional elections on March 22, won 15 seats in the 109-seat regional parliament (though an insufficient number to enter government). The total number of residents in the seven cities controlled by mayors connected to Podemos is 5,896,028 people, according to the latest census data from the National Statistics Institute (INE).

Court Allows Germany’s Key Role in Deadly US Drone Program to Continue
June 1, 2015 The Real News
A German court ruled against a lawsuit brought by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and Reprieve (an English civil liberties organization). The lawsuit sought to stop the use of the US Ramstein Military Base in Germany as a relay station for drone commands operating in Yemen. The basis of the lawsuit was: 1) Yemen is not a war zone 2) Germany’s laws obligate it to protect lives and not allow its territory to be used to kill people. The court acknowledged the obligation, but stated that the German government had the discretion on the basis of its foreign policy to take the measures that it did. The German court did allow an appeal to an upper court.

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Divine Eagle Revealed: Chinese ‘Stealth Hunting’ Drone Pictured for the First Time
May 28, 2015 The Daily Mail Online
Images were leaked on the internet of China’s Divine Eagle, a high-altitude drone for detecting stealth aircraft. The drone contains seven radars to detect aircrafts, warships, anti-missile trucks and air defenses on land.