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French Courage, Trump Danger, Pokemon Goes Home

SPOTLIGHT: A FRENCH HERO AND THE REST OF US

When a murderous truck hurtled down a promenade in the French city of Nice last week, slamming into innocent bystanders and leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake, a 49-year-old man riding his scooter nearby threw his life on the line to stop it. Franck, a mild-mannered local airport employee, says he’s not a hero. But his attempt to stop the attacker, as recounted to French newspaper Nice-Matin, is certainly heroic. We have it here in English.


For most of us, it’s hard to imagine reacting with such physical courage in front of a 19-ton vehicle and its well-armed driver. But we are all called on to think about how we must react as a society in the face of a terrorist threat that will not go away by itself. A piece by Worldcrunch editor Jeff Israely explores the symbolism of the Nice attack, which took place on Bastille Day, an occasion that marks the values of the French Revolution. The article refers to the 2011 book by historian Yuval Noah Harari that argues that humans have always organized themselves around “myths,” which includes ideas such as liberté, égalité and fraternité that we take for granted as natural law and a public good. Israely writes: “The more frightening lesson in Harari's book is that the sheer scale of human history makes our supposedly self-evident progress look immensely small and fragile.” You can read the piece here.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)

  • G20 meets in Chinese city of Chengdu to talk about “Brexit” and China’s weakening currency.
  • On Sunday, the Tour de France’s final leg in Paris.
  • The International Olympic Committee will take a decision on whether to ban all Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympics.


TRUMP SPEECH

Dark, dangerous, fear-mongering, apocalyptic, terrifying â€" these were some of the words used in the press to describe Donald Trump’s speech last night as he accepted the Republican party nomination for president. The real estate mogul painted a picture of the U.S. as rife with terror and lawlessness (despite the declining crime rate) and declared a date when violence would vanish: “Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored.”


RIO OLYMPIC TERROR THREAT ...

Ten people suspected of belonging to an organized group supporting ISIS were arrested, after discussing via social media acts of terrorism for the Rio Olympic Games, which start Aug. 5. See how Brazilian daily O Globo featured the news on its front page today.


… BEIJING AND LONDON OLYMPIC DOPING BUSTS

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee has announced it had uncovered 45 new doping failures from the 2008 to 2012 games in Beijing and London. This brings the total number of athletes who have tested positive from 2008 and 2012 to 98.


POKEMON GOES HOME TO JAPAN

The addictive Pokémon Go smartphone app, which became a worldwide hit after launching overseas two weeks ago, will finally be available in the country that gave birth to the Pokémon franchise two decades ago.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Willem Dafoe, the actor famous for his prominent cheekbones and mentally unstable characters, is turning 61 today. That, and more, in today’s 57-second shot of History.


SEARCH FOR MH370 FLIGHT TO BE SUSPENDED ...

The ongoing underwater search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight will be suspended if no sign of the plane is found in the 120,000-square-kilometer (46,300-square-mile) area currently being probed, China, Malaysia and Australia said in a joint statement today. The flight had been carrying 239 onboard when it went missing in March 2014.


… AND AN INDIAN MILITARY PLANE GOES MISSING

An Indian Air Force plane carrying 29 military personnel aboard disappeared today on its way to a remote chain of islands in the Bay of Bengal.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Countries and industries around the globe must make the painful choice between lucrative fossil fuel exploitation and efforts to prevent climate change. As Alieto Aldo Guadagni writes in Colombian daily Clarin: “The many speeches and good intentions on display at last December's Paris climate summit have not yet managed to slow the fossil fuels' carbon dioxide emissions from continuing to heat up the planet. The development of alternative energy sources is simply not happening fast enough. ... To achieve the Paris agreement's lofty goals â€"a global temperature rise of no more than 2 degrees Celsius â€" the world should be emitting 33% less greenhouse gases than it does today.

Contrary to earlier predictions, we have as much fossil fuel reserves today as we have ever had in the past. ... Using all those reserves â€" already factored into company balance sheets â€" is incompatible with the goal of avoiding the two-degrees rise in temperatures set at the Paris summit.”

Read the full article, Time To Choose Between Oil Wealth And Saving The Planet.


FRANCE ATTACKER HAD ACCOMPLICES

Paris chief prosecutor Francois Molins told journalists yesterday that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the driver of the truck that killed 84 people in the southern French city of Nice, had accomplices and been planning the attack for months.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

For Whom The Bell Tower Leans â€" Pisa, 1969


MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

LET TRUMP INSULT YOU

Wanna know what the Donald has to say about you? Hillary Clinton's campaign unveiled “Trump Yourself,” a Facebook app that turns your profile picture into a Trump-insult-based piece of art (and incidentally shares your Facebook info with Hillary’s campaign).

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Geopolitics

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

-Analysis-

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

commons.wikimedia.org

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.

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