AMERICA

Trump transgender army ban outrages Americans

President Donald Trump's announcement that transgender people will no longer be able to serve in the military has angered Americans, least of all those who have risked their lives to keep the US safe. Trump courteously told servicemen and women in war zones across the world that their jobs could be on the line via a Twitter message. […]"We're going to consult a bunch of lawyers and start having a bunch of really tough talks." Others have said that the public will know who to side with - a "draft dodging president" or the men and women putting their lives on the line for the US. (Read more on The New Arab)

Donald Trump and the Coming Fall of American Empire

A new book by the famed historian Alfred McCoy predicts that China is set to surpass the influence of the U.S. globally, both militarily and economically, by the year 2030. At that point, McCoy asserts the United States empire as we know it will be no more. He sees the Trump presidency as one of the clearest byproducts of the erosion of U.S. global dominance, but not its root cause. At the same time, he also believes Trump may accelerate the empire’s decline. (Read more on The Intercept)

EUROPE

Spain’s Long Economic Nightmare Is Finally Over

The economy is growing again, expanding at around three percent pace over the last year, producing goods for export, generating jobs and restoring a sense of normalcy to a nation that has been saturated in despair. This is good news not merely for Spain, but for Europe and the rest of the global economy. Now, Spain’s economy has returned to its pre-crisis size, according to data released by the government on Friday. This seemingly puts the finish to one of the worst economic catastrophes to play out in Europe in the years since World War II. (Read more on The New York Times)

MIDDLE EAST

Why the Saudi war on Yemen is seen as US state terrorism

The US/Saudi war on Yemen is now in its third year, and the indiscriminate Saudi bombing campaign has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, left thousands dead and millions starving in a man-made famine, and triggered a cholera epidemic that has infected almost half a million people. Most Americans are not aware of their country’s role in this war on the Middle East’s poorest country, but the Yemenis know very well that Washington supplies the weapons and sponsors the Saudi bombing campaign responsible for their suffering. In the capital Sanaa, anti-American graffiti are plastered on walls throughout the city screaming “USA kills Yemeni people,” and they see the war as not just as a Saudi war, but as a US war on their country. (Read more on Reuters)

ASIA

Taiwan is readying howitzers to defend its one contested islet in the South China Sea

In the South China Sea, no area is quite so heavily contested as the Spratly archipelago, where five countries occupy various reefs, cays, and islets and watch each other warily. Taiwan occupies the best and largest bit of land, an islet called Itu Aba. Taiwan’s military recently gave six howitzers to the coast guard, which is charged with defending Itu Aba (also called Taiping Island). Rather than install the weapons at Itu Aba and risk encouraging escalation, the coast guard will store them on Taiwan proper, but have them ready to go at the first sign of trouble. (Read more on Quartz)

Philippines: Duterte’s Extended Martial Law and the Future of Marawi

Both the lower House and the Senate approved the appeal of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law to quell rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao until the end of the year. This constitutional mandate allowed representatives and senators to vote jointly in a special session after a majority vote from Congress. Duterte’s martial law lays down a peculiar context, separate from the dark time of the country’s abusive experience of martial law under the tenure of former President Ferdinand Marcos. (Read more on The Diplomat)

For China’s Global Ambitions, ‘Iran Is at the Center of Everything’

For millenniums, Iran has prospered as a trading hub linking East and West. Now, that role is set to expand in coming years as China unspools its “One Belt, One Road” project, which promises more than $1 trillion in infrastructure investment in over 60 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. Iran, historically a crossroads, is strategically at the center of those plans. Iran is now critical to China’s ability to realize its grandiose ambitions. Other routes to Western markets are longer and lead through Russia, potentially a competitor of China. (Read more on The New York Times)

AFRICA

‘I’m a Civilian. I’m Innocent’: Who’s in Congo’s Mass Graves?

United Nations representatives have so far discovered 80 mass graves in the region. But they cannot exhume the bodies; that is the responsibility of the national authorities, which the United Nations is mandated to support. The Congolese government says the graves are those of militia fighters, buried by fellow members, and were not meant for civilians. If any are in them, it says, they are victims of recent cholera and yellow fever outbreaks, not government-sponsored killings. In Nganza, a commune of Kananga, the capital of the Kasai, recent interviews with witnesses and residents painted a picture different from the government narrative. (Read more on The New York Times)

Nigeria: Self-help vigilante groups are reshaping security against Boko Haram

Boko Haram militants have killed more than 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million others in north east Nigeria since 2009. Under siege, communities in the north east could flee, join the insurgents, or risk being killed. But a fourth option emerged – self defence. People began to organise into emergency community vanguards to defend themselves. Community vigilante movements were born in several communities across the region. But critics contend that vigilantes operate illegally, and argue that giving them a front line role in counter-insurgency operations implies that the state is abdicating its primary responsibility of ensuring sustainable national security. (Read more on The Conversation)

OCEANIA

Australia to accept first Central American refugees under US deal: Sources

Australia will accept several dozen Central American refugees within the next few months, two sources familiar with the process told Reuters, the first transfers under a controversial refugee swap arrangement agreed with the United States. Canberra pledged to take an unspecified number of Central American refugees under a deal struck with former US President Obama late last year. A group of approximately 30 refugees from El Salvador currently being held in Costa Rica will move to Australia in the next couple of months, the two sources said, with a second group of a similar size to follow shortly afterwards. (Read more on The Straits Times)

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