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TOPIC: policy

food / travel

Squash That Vegan Cannelloni! The Politics Of Going Meat-Free Is Hotter Than Ever

A German politician got a taste for the backlash that can come from getting close to the vegetarian movement, especially as environmental factors make the choice even more loaded than at its birth in the animal rights movement.

PARISEating meat-free can sometimes come with consequences. Just ask German center-right politician Silke Gorissen, who has been in full damage-control mode since participating at a seemingly ordinary vegan-vegetarian awareness event last month at the University of Bonn.

Gorissen, who serves as the Minister of Agriculture for North Rhine-Westphalia state, made the usual rounds at the veggie event, offering typical politician praise for the local fruit and vegetable products. And then she tasted the vegan cannelloni…

Indeed, it was the Minister’s public praise for the meatless take on the classic Italian stuffed pasta recipe (traditionally served with ground beef or pork) that set off an uproar — a reminder that the debate over vegetarian diets can still be explosive.

German daily Die Welt reported that rumors followed the University event that the government was about to declare a meat-free month for the state — rather than just the student dining hall. In the heartland of German pig farming, it makes sense that the local farmers oppose anti-meat initiatives that could affect their livelihoods.

Still, there is something about vegetarianism that goes beyond simple economics.

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Hong Kong's Strict COVID Rules  Are Sparking An Exodus Of Foreigners

Enduring COVID restrictions are the final straw for many expats in Hong Kong. They're leaving by the thousands, threatening the city's reputation as a financial hub.

HONG KONG — “It's not the policy itself, but the lack of any rationale behind it that's made me choose to leave...” Steven (not his real name), an American senior executive of a strategic consulting firm who had been working in Hong Kong for seven years until April of this year.

More than two years on since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hong Kong administration has been closely following mainland China's “Dynamic Clearing Policy”. The particularly strict social restrictions, vaccination policy and business operation limits, as well as the two to three weeks of quarantine imposed on arrival in the city, have pushed both local and international business circles to request the Hong Kong government to review the intangible and tangible economic costs behind the COVID-zero strategy.

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In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan: Perils Of A Diplomatic Triangle

Russia's foreign minister visited Pakistan for the first time in nine years — just in time for the deadline for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan. It points to an important change of actors in one of the deadliest conflict zones in the world.

On April 6, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Pakistan to lead conversations on Afghan peace, military supplies and cooperation in the nuclear sector. It was the first visit by a Russian official to the country since 2012.

"We can confirm that Russia is willing to continue to assist in strengthening the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including supplying them with appropriate equipment," Lavrov said at a press conference, as Russian daily Kommersant reports. According to Lavrov, Russia and Pakistan will continue practicing regular joint tactical exercises to combat terrorism and piracy together.

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Juan Manuel Ospina

To Fix The Border, Biden Needs To Look Beyond It

Rather than ratchet up spending on America's already bloated military, the U.S. president should take a broader view of national security and help develop economies elsewhere.


BOGOTA — Can imperialism appear humanitarian? The short answer, as the United States has demonstrated time and again, starting in the period after World War I, is yes.

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David Barroux

Europe Is Right To Call Up Big Guns Against Big Tech

Europe is moving forward in a united front to force Big Tech that could lead to a historic showdown on the future of how the digital economy functions.


PARIS — Facing the rise of Big Tech, which by now has crossed the line far too many times, European states had forgotten the three basic requirements that make any police force effective: political will and backing; the right laws to give it the means to take action; and, finally, it needs to be armed.

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Hamed Mohammadi

Inside Iran, Biden's Election Is Cause For Both Hope And Fear

Donald Trump's departure renews the possibility of talks between Washington and Tehran. But the Iranian leadership has reasons to be wary of the incoming administration in Washington.

How does Iran feel about Joe Biden's victory in the recent U.S. presidential election? Depends on when you ask.

On Nov. 3, the day of the election, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the American broadcaster CBS that Iran sees no difference between the sitting president of the United States, Donald Trump, and his Democrat rival. But just three days later, speaking to Venezuela's TeleSUR, the Islamic Republic's top diplomat told a different story: there's "clearly" a difference between the two, he said.

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Frédéric Lemaître

Traditional Chinese Medicine At The Service of Xi Jinping

At the heart of Beijing's health diplomacy, traditional Chinese medicine accounts for nearly 30% of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry's turnover, and anyone who criticizes it could be punished.


BEIJING — It's official. The Chinese people have a strong ally in the "war" against coronavirus: traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The white paper published by the government on June 7, "Fighting Covid-19, China in Action," devotes several paragraphs to this form of medicine, described as having a "unique strength." Although China certainly employs Western medicine, "Chinese herbal formulas and medicines have been used in 92% of confirmed cases," the white paper says.

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Filippo Femia

How A 'Refugee Town' Fell Victim To Italy's Populist Politics

Fourteen months ago the progressive mayor of Riace, in Calabria, was arrested. Soon after, many of the refugees he'd help settle pulled up stakes and left.

RIACE — The blue plaque at the entrance of the pottery shop says "Home sweet home." It also seems to read Tsehayneshe's thoughts. This is where she belongs and plans to say, even if things aren't as they used to be.

"In Eritrea, my name means sun. Here in Riace, it feels like the sun's been gone for some time now," she says while hand-coloring a terracotta butterfly.

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Claude Fouquet

'Blue Cards' And Quotas: Europe's Search For A United Immigration System

The EU introduced its 'Blue Card' system to facilitate the arrival of qualified, non-European professionals. But only one country — Germany — really takes advantage of it.

PARIS — Immigration quotas of the kind that the French government wants to implement have sparked plenty of debate over the years, but they are less common perhaps than people imagine, at least in their visible form.

Two months ago, speaking before the French National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee, Jean-Christophe Dumont, head of the OECD's International Migration Division, recalled that of the 36 members of the international organization, only nine used such a quota system. Among them are the United States, Canada, New Zealand and even Australia.

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Thierry Mayer*

A French Defense Of Trump's New Tariffs On European Products

The U.S. president has a history of strong-arming trading partners. But the move to tax things like French wine and Spanish olives is actually justified.


PARIS — The United States announced a series of protective measures last month on a list of emblematic European products. The decision, made public on Oct. 3, includes a 10% tax on commercial flights, and a 25% tariff on things like English and Italian cheeses, Scottish and Irish whiskeys, French wines, German tools and Spanish olives.

It's tempting to see this as the Trump administration's latest attempt to wage a trade war it sees as both beneficial and easy to win. But in reality, the development is actually a return to normalcy in terms of international trade, and should be welcomed.

Trade disputes are a constant reality in relationships between sovereign states. And between Europe and the United States, there were plenty of problems — with the two sides accusing each other of dumping, trade agreement violations and discriminatory practices — before Donald Trump took office.

Trump is now trying to bend China to his will before tackling the European Union.

Commercial conflicts are par for the course, in other words, and they tend to be of two varieties.

The first are disputes that take place within an organized and structured legal framework, which can be multilateral, like the World Trade Organization (WTO), or regional. Such conflicts operate through the long and tortuous processes to which countries have agreed to settle their differences. They involve a complex, often imperfect set rules. But behind the process is a common goal: to foster cooperation between countries, and stop from them ratcheting up protectionist measures that end up hurting all parties involved.

The second category are disputes in which countries use every tool at their disposal to gain the upper hand. In these types of conflicts, it is common to circumvent or violate international agreements, and even to manipulate national legislation in order to "win" the battle.

The second strategy is only natural if one believes that international commerce is a zero-sum game where the winner is whoever manages to impose its conditions on others. And Trump, since coming into office, has shown that he clearly favors this second approach. In keeping with his campaign promises, he has used a number of American legal provisions — sometimes bending them to fit his goals — in an attempt to threaten and force his trading partners to acquiesce. Examples include section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, and section 232 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1962.

Trump discussing tariffs in June — Photo: Andrew Harrer/CNP/ZUMA

After successfully coercing his partners into "renegotiating" treaties like NAFTA (involving the United States, Canada, and Mexico) and the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, Trump is now trying to bend China to his will before tackling the European Union — and the German automotive industry in particular.

But the announcement his administration made on Oct. 3 regarding custom duties on European products was of a different kind. Indeed, it came just after the WTO ruled in favor of the United States in a 15-year-old case regarding illegal subsidies provided to the European airline producer Airbus. As part of the ruling, the trade organization authorized the U.S. to recuperate its losses — thus the new tariff regime.

By the same token, financing concerns regarding the U.S. plane manufacturer Boeing are being examined, with a ruling due next year, so the EU may soon have an opportunity to impose its own sanctions.

Either way, all of this is an example of the first type of dispute. And looking at the larger picture, it is exciting to see the return and legitimization of this kind of foreign policy tactic. The overarching message is clear: Even Trump's America can be in the right against Europe sometimes.

That being said, the multilateral system will not come out unscathed from Trump's administration. Cooperative-type institutions, such as the WTO, promote trade development by limiting trade barriers, but also (and perhaps more importantly), by removing the uncertainty of future arbitrary behaviors by member countries. And yet, if there's anyone who has shown the world that multilateral frameworks don't provide absolute assurance against erratic behavior, it's Trump himself.​

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Guy Vallancien*

Canada v. France: Rethinking Role Of Nurses To Meet Healthcare Needs

To meet its current healthcare needs, France looks to the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec which are giving more autonomy to nurses rather than boost the number of doctors.


PARIS — After Ontario, the Canadian province of Quebec has also moved to give specialized nurse practitioners the authority to make autonomous diagnoses and practice certain kinds of therapeutic, even high-risk interventions.

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