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In Kazakhstan's capital Astana
In Kazakhstan's capital Astana

Well that was quite a first weekend. After Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, an estimated two million people took to the streets worldwide to protest against the controversial new president, who continued his open warfare with the American press — and some would say, with the truth itself. Now, he faces a first work week at the Oval Office that promises to be no less hectic, as he starts rolling out his plan for his first 100 days, before welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

But even for the man who promised to put "America first," the most important event of his first Monday in office, which could shape his whole presidency, is taking place halfway across the world, in the capital of Kazakhstan.

Representatives of the Syrian government and of the rebellion are gathering today in the city of Astana for peace talks brokered by Russia, together with Turkey and Iran. While the long-term goal is to bring back peace to Syria and initiate a political transition, French reporter Georges Malbrunot writes in Le Figaro that the immediate objective in Astana is to reinforce a fragile ceasefire agreed on Dec. 29.

But for Moscow, the summit also takes on a strategic dimension. Any positive outcome from Astana will resonate as a diplomatic victory for the Kremlin, and like yet more evidence of the American hegemony's demise. The timing and setting could not be better for Vladimir Putin's Russia. Out with an Obama administration that has stood in the way of its interests. Out with the old world's summits in places like Vienna and Geneva, replaced by the futuristic, shiny capital of a former Soviet state. What it all suggests is plain to see: In the Middle East, at least, America is no longer first.

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Society

Colombia Celebrates Its Beloved Drug For The Ages, Coffee

This essential morning drink for millions worldwide was once considered an addictive menace, earning itself a ban on pain of death in the Islamic world.

Colombia's star product: coffee beans.

Julián López de Mesa Samudio

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — October 1st is International Coffee Day. Recently it seems as if every day of the calendar year commemorates something — but for Colombia, coffee is indeed special.

For almost a century now we have largely tied our national destiny, culture and image abroad to this drink. Indeed it isn't just Colombia's star product, it became through the course of the 20th century the world's favorite beverage — and the most commonly used drug to boost work output.

Precisely for its stimulating qualities — and for being a mild drug — coffee was not always celebrated, and its history is peppered with the kinds of bans, restrictions and penalties imposed on the 'evil' drugs of today.

Keep reading...Show less

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