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Syria Summit Begins, China's Tough Rhetoric, Aussie Spirits

Syria Summit Begins, China's Tough Rhetoric, Aussie Spirits

SYRIA SUMMIT BEGINS IN VIENNA

Envoys from 17 countries are gathered in Vienna for the broadest peace talks since the beginning of the Syrian war, a summit nevertheless marked by the notable absence of both the Syrian government and its opposition, The Guardian writes. The U.S., France, Turkey, Russia and China are among the participants, but the presence of arch rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran will likely pose the toughest challenge, with both sides unlikely to agree on a common position, according to The New York Times. But the Obama administration seems to have abandoned its stance that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, and is now open to him staying on as part of a political transition, The Wall Street Journal reports.


NARCOTICS HUB OF THE AMERICAS

Photo: El Universal/ZUMA

The violence-plagued state of Michoacán on Mexico's central Pacific coast has risen to become the center of narcotics production in the country, according to an investigative report by leading Mexican newspaper El Universal. Mexico is the world's leading supplier of methamphetamines, as identified in a 2014 UN report. And Michoacán, where some 460 clandestine drug laboratories were dismantled between 2006 and 2015, is the country's top center of production. Read more in Le Blog.


CHINA SAYS U.S. INCURSIONS COULD "SPARK WAR"

China's naval commander Wu Shengli told his U.S. counterpart Admiral John Richardson that incursions in the South China Sea like that of USS Lassen Tuesday could represent a "a minor incident that sparks war," Reuters reports. Beijing has denounced U.S. movements in the area as "provocative actions." This came after an international court in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled it had the authority to decide whether China was violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea over an island dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea.


ON THIS DAY


The Rumble in Jungle, The War of the Worlds and the on-field brilliance of Diego Maradona. All that and more in today's shot of history.


U.S. CITIZEN ARRESTED IN IRAN

Siamak Namazi, a U.S.-Iranian businessman, was arrested earlier this month in Tehran, becoming the fourth American of Iranian descent currently detained in the country, and the first to be arrested since a nuclear deal with Iran was reached, The Washington Post reports. According to the newspaper, it's not clear what charges might be brought against him.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Manufacturers agree that the manual transmission, otherwise known as the stick shift, is probably doomed in the long run, Jean-Michel Normand reports for Le Monde. "A double movement that has seen automatic transmissions both improve and diversify is now threatening to make stick shifts about as relevant as crank handles and starter buttons. What used to be a slow, gas-guzzling and noisy torque converter has now become much more reactive thanks to electronics and the rise in the number of gears (the norm having gone from six to nine)."

Read the full article, Are Stick Shifts On The Road To Extinction?


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



LAST BRIT HELD IN GUANTANAMO FREED

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident detained at Guantanamo Bay, was released this morning after 13 years and is heading back to Britain, the BBC reports. Aamer, a 46-year-old born in Saudi Arabia, was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 over American suspicions he had led a Taliban unit and met Osama Bin Laden. He consistently denied the claims but was never tried.


9%

A new study shows that headphones or earphones have replaced lullabies for 9% of French babies up to 2 years old, leaving pediatricians and ENT specialists dismayed, Le Monde reports. "They'll be deaf at 30," one doctor said. The study also reveals that 21% of children under 6 use headphones to fall to sleep in bed or during car journeys, and the number rises to 74% for kids between 7 and 12.


MIGRANT BOAT CAPSIZES OFF GREECE

At least 22 migrants, including 13 children, drowned last night off the Greek coast after their sank as it tried to reach European shores, AFP reports. Another 144 people were rescued. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed "endless grief" for the victims and said he felt "shamed as a member of this European leadership, both for the inability of Europe in dealing with this human drama, and for the level of debate at a senior level, where one is passing the buck to the other."

  • Another four migrants were found dead near the southern Spanish coast and 35 more are missing after their boat capsized yesterday, ABC reports.

ORIGINS OF THE AUSSIE ACCENT

A theory that the Australian accent originated from widespread drunkenness isn't making everybody down under happy.

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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