Abortion Back On World Agenda


The recurring battle over abortion was bound to resurface in the U.S. presidential campaign, becoming what the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most personal, intense” moments of last night’s debate between the respective running mates of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Both Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence and his Democratic rival Tim Kaine are opposed to the practice, but Kaine argues that his personal (and religious) views shouldn’t guide his policy choices. Pence said such a stance was "anathema" to him.

Pence was also forced to respond to a statement made last spring by Trump supporting criminal prosecution against women seeking abortion. Not even ardent American social conservatives like Pence still defend such a harsh approach on the delicate issue.

That is, apparently, not the case in Poland. A proposed law by the ruling government would ban all abortions, and carry five-year jail sentences for women who have them. The issue prompted a momentous series of demonstrations on Monday across what is still a very Catholic country. Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza described the protests as “unprecedented” in the way that Polish women exerted their democratic force: “Something unprecedented has happened. Polish women showed what they’re capable of. They proved they have veto power, a power greater than what the heads of many trade unions hold. After all, which union would be able to organize so many protests in so many cities all over the country in just one working day? Only Polish women can do something like that.”

The past half-century has shown that the issue of abortion has the power to inflame legitimate passions on both sides of the debate. In religious or moral terms, it is hard to argue with either side. In electoral terms, it is bound to be a winning issue for abortion rights supporters anywhere that women exercise their right to vote. And to protest. And some day, to even run for president.



Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced yesterday that the current ceasefire with the FARC rebels will expire on Oct. 31, after a short majority of Colombians rejected the terms of the peace accord on Sunday, El Espectador reports. The FARC leader, Timochenko, asked on Twitter whether this meant that “from then onwards, the war continues?”


For more than a year, Yahoo has been secretly scanning the incoming emails of its hundreds of millions of users to comply with an order from U.S. intelligence officials, Reuters reports. The internet company was looking for a specific “set of characters” in the emails and attachments.


It’s already been five years since Apple founder Steve Jobs died. That, and more, in today’s 57-second shot of history.


Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful hurricane the Caribbean has seen in years, slammed into Haiti and the Dominican Republic yesterday. The death toll of the hurricane, which is now headed toward Cuba, is as of yet unclear. See how the Dominican Republic’s daily El Caribe featured the news on its front page today.


Italian coastguards rescued some 4,650 migrants who were attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya yesterday, bringing the total rescued to more than 10,000 in just two days, Reuters reports. Since the beginning of this year, at least 142,000 migrants, most of them from Africa, have reached Italy’s shores, and 3,100 died in their perilous journey across the sea.


There is a dark side to the Silicon Valley. The boom of the high-tech sector has led to an exponential growth of the housing demand but not of the offer, with dire consequences for those less well-off, Les Echos reporter Anais Moutot writes.

“This housing crisis is not hard to see on the streets of San Francisco. With housing prices up to 64% over the past decade, San Francisco now ranks highest in the U.S. for the number of homeless people who sleep in the streets. On the sidewalks of the city's downtown, not far from the headquarters of such tech giants as Twitter, Airbnb and Uber, dozens of men and women wander the streets, some with swollen feet and dirty clothes. One woman talks to an imagined mobile telephone, which is in fact her left hand, another sings a lullaby to a Donald Duck doll, as if it was a child, while a man jumps on the floor, lowering his pants and imitating a frog. Nearby, employees at Twitter meet for lunch inside the company's shiny cafeteria that offers quinoa and kale salad.”

Read the full article, Housing Crisis, Silicon Valley’s Dark And Shiny Underbelly.


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded jointly to three scientists: Frenchman Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Scotsman Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Dutchman Bernard L. Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines."


The world needs to create close to 69 million teaching positions if international pledges to guarantee primary and secondary places for all children are to be kept, UNESCO warns. The United Nations agency estimates that 263 million children around the world are without a school and calls for a “seismic shift” in recruitment.


Forbidden Fun â€" Tivoli, 1968


Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of Hong Kong’s Occupy movement two years ago, was arrested in Thailand last night at China’s request, shortly after landing in Bangkok, the South China Morning Post reports. Wong, 19, was later released and put on a plane back to Hong Kong before he could speak as planned at a university event in Bangkok.



British cook Jamie Oliver found out the hard way with Twitter vitriol that the authentic recipe of the classic Spanish dish paella doesn’t include chorizo. Maybe he should have checked the website: Wikipaella.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020


Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!