Welcome to Wednesday, where Japan has a new Prime Minister, Canada grants asylum to four Edward Snowden "guardian angels," and a rodent gives cryptocurrency trading advice. Spanish daily La Razon also crunches the numbers to counter those who blame immigrants for spikes in crime.
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Fumio Kishida wins race to become Japan's next prime minister: The former finance minister won a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) race for the top spot, and with the LDP-led party coalition holding a majority in both parliament houses, Kishida is virtually assured the role, taking over for TK. He will now lead a country rattled by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, and fallout from the controversial Summer Olympics.
• Canada grants asylum to four Edward Snowden "guardian angels": These four refugees housed the former NSA contractor in Hong Kong while he was on the run for stealing and releasing classified documents. Originally from Sri Lanka, Supun Thilina Kellapatha and Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and their two children are now resettling in Montreal thanks to the support of the nonprofit For the Refugees.
• Mexican president offers apology to Indigenous people: President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador issued an official apology for crimes committed by the state against the Yaqui people, including under Porfirio Diaz's 1884-1911 dictatorship. The government will establish a welfare program for the Yaqui, as well as return their land and grant them water rights.
• UK grants only a dozen licenses to EU fishing boats: Just 12 out of 47 of applications for small boats were accepted, angering French fishers who have become frustrated over the UK's control of its waters post-Brexit. While some boats were rejected based on insufficient evidence, French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin argued that "French fishing must not be held hostage by the British for political ends."
• At least 24 dead in Ecuadorian prison gun fight: The battle in the port city of Guayaquil involved inmates wielding firearms, knives and grenades, resulting in close to 50 injuries. It's the latest bloodshed in a conflict between rival drug gangs that has caused at least 100 deaths this year.
• Manny Pacquiao officially retires from boxing, clearing way for presidential run: The 42-year-old Filipino boxing champion announced he was ending his 26-year long career in a Facebook video. Pacquiao has 12 world titles and won 62 of the 72 fights during his career. As president of the PDP–Laban Party, he will run in the My 2022 elections to replace President Rodrigo Duterte, whose term will expire.
• Meet the crypto-trading hamster: Live streaming on Twitch, a hamster named Mr Goxx runs in his "intention wheel" to decide on his cryptocurrency investments — and has beat out many human experts trading these digital tokens professionally. The rodent even has a separate part of his cage with a trading desk. His human owners, two friends, reassured BBC News that they created "Goxx Capital" to have fun during the pandemic, and not to take the crypto pet's advice too seriously. Should we say the same about the human traders?
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
UK daily The Independent reports on the premiere in London yesterday of much-delayed "No Time to Die," the 25th James Bond movie which will feature actor Daniel Craig for the last time in the role of the debonair English spy.
After the narrow victory of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in German elections to replace retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel, the country's political parties are facing months of negotiations to form a coalition government. The center-left SPD said it was likely to make an alliance with the Greens and the liberal Free Democracy Party, creating a "traffic light coalition," (Ampelkoalition), dubbed as such for the party's colors red, green and yellow. The CDU party of Merkel, which came second at the election, also said it would seek to form a "Jamaika-Koalition" with the Greens and FDP (black, green and yellow), named for the colors of the Jamaican flag.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Immigrants don't drive up crime: Here are the facts
Crunch the numbers, or just look around… and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe, reports Alfonso Masoliver in Spanish daily La Razon.
🗺️ In 2019, the 125,100 illegal entries into Europe were at the lowest number in seven years, while 491,000 non-EU nationals were thrown out of the EU. European Commission figures from 2020 indicate that 37 million EU residents, or 8.2% of its population, were born outside the block. Worldwide, the five countries with the most foreign-born residents are Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the United States, respectively. Only 10% — or about three million — of the world's refugee population is currently in the EU. Most settle in neighboring states like Turkey.
🔪 Comparing crime rates from 2012 to 2020 in the five countries with the most foreign-born residents, does not necessarily yield a rise in crime rates clearly and proportionately attributable to immigration. Australia's crime rate of 41.36 in 2012 stood at 40.36 in 2020. The United States' crime rate rose from 47.2 to 64.93, but Norway's fell from 35.43 to 19.07. The four EU countries with the most foreign-born residents are Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In those same years, Germany's crime rate rose from 21.02 to 34.81, France's rose slightly from 44.76 to 46.79, and Italy's fell from 56.67 to 44.26.
⚠️ The U.S. is facing so many social problems — including the 390 million firearms circulating among 330 million Americans — that blaming migrants for criminality is at best, simplistic. Nor can crime be linked to particular groups, like Muslims, or to regions. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had the lowest crime rates in 2020 (and numerous migrants), while the Global Peace Index placed several African states like Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia above France as peaceful nations. The idea that migrants export the violence of their home countries is also debatable.➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
According to new figures released by the FBI, an additional 4,901 homicides were recorded in the United States in 2020 compared with the year before — an increase of 29.4%, the largest since national record-keeping began in the 1960s. A greater percentage of the homicides were the result of gun violence (76%). While there is no simple explanation for the steep rise, possible factors driving the violence include the economic and social toll taken by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn't make you 'woke'.
— Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in his first ever speech at the United Nations, slamming those who oppose Israel out of ignorance. "Adopting clichés about Israel without bothering to learn the basic facts, well, that's just plain lazy," added the leader, who also called on the international community to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet & Hannah Steinkopf-Frank
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.
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.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.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.
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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