The World in a Flash
The Round-Up this week sees Brexit take some baby steps towards completion, Mexico’s President cancels his meeting with Trump at the White House, communities in the Niger Delta will have to sure the Dutch Shell oil company in Nigerian court, President Adama Barrow lands in The Gambia to begin his administration, and The Donald defends torture but needs Congress on board to legislate.
1. Bill to Begin Brexit
Following the UK Supreme Court decision this week that limited the British Cabinet’s power to invoke Article 50 and begin the Brexit process. According to the ruling, parliament approval is required to formally trigger the process to remove the UK from the European Union. Following that, the government has published a bill to achieve this end. As the Guardian reports “the European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill states as its aim to “confer power on the prime minister to notify, under article 50(2) of the treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.” The minister responsible to oversee Brexit, Mr. Davis, says that this will not likely derail the UK leaving the EU, but rather just obtains the necessary permissions. However, many MPs are looking at this legislation as method of ensuring that the UK remains within the common market as a condition of Brexit.
2. Mexico’s President Cancels Meeting with Trump
In his latest foreign policy snafu, newly elected President Trump managed to aggravate Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto into cancelling their meeting. This comes after Trump signed an executive order to begin construction on the border wall, and continue to claim that Mexico would be paying for it. Apparently, the new plan to achieve this will be by using the revenue from a tax to be imposed on goods imported from Mexico; a 20% tax would generate about $10 billion in tax revenue a year, according to Sean Spicer. He’s proven that he’s not too good with counting, though, so take that with a grain/box of salt. This fallout has reignited the debate on cost. If you’ll recall, Trump’s wall cost guesses on the campaign trail drew widespread criticism. It started out with an estimate of $6-7bn on November 8, moved up to $8bn by February 9, then moved up to $10-12bn by the end of February 2016. Now that it‘s back on the table, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell estimates that it’ll cost $12-15bn. Other estimates have put the price tag much higher. Our only institutional hope: a Republican-controlled Congress still has to vote on funding for the structure. This #fuckingwall, right?
3. Niger Delta Villagers Lose in UK Court
The two communities of the Ogale and Bille in the Niger Delta, Nigeria attempted to sue the Dutch Shell oil company in a UK Court. The Court agreed with the oil giant’s argument that the case ought to be held in a Nigerian court. The leaders for the villagers represent roughly 40,000 members of their communities who have been subject to severe pollution of their communities through oil exploration. They have lost their access to clean water, farmland, and rivers that used to provide for strong fishing industries. They have been given the chance to appeal the decision. In 2015, another community won $84 million USD in the UK High Court.
4. President Adama Barrow Lands in The Gambia
Newly-elected President Adama Barrow has finally returned home, after the threat of ECOWAS troops and fears of persecution after the fact forced Yahya Jammeh out of the office and the country. The looted $11 million (USD) on his way out have now become part of the call for his persecution, though President Barrow has previously stated he wouldn’t pursue the matter. Among some of the challenges awaiting him: a growing power vacuum that many claim was created because he did not return fast enough, and appointing a Cabinet, including a Vice President. His original pick Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang is constitutionally disqualified from serving as she is over the 65 year old legal limit. His pick for aide, General Masanneh Kinteh, is also stirring some controversy. Kinteh served in the previous administration, but also defied Jammed in the aftermath of the recent elections, and denounced the military’s continued allegiance to the Jammeh regime. Despite objections, it is hoped that he will help increase military standards and the newly-elected administration’s legitimacy with the military. 4,000 ECOWAS troops remain in the country to ensure Barrow’s safety and quell fears of retaliation from rogue pro-Jammeh supporters.
5. Trump Defends Torture
In President Trump’s first televised interview from the White House, he touched upon many controversial issues. Of the many alarming glimpses into the thinking of the President, one that stood out was his insistence that waterboarding works. He is not moving to bring it back, and will follow the advice of his CIA Director and Defense Secretary to allow them to do all they can within legal boundaries. There are two main tenants to unpack here. Does it work, and can it become legal? First, one expert in the psychology of torture seems to disagree with Trump’s assessment that ‘it works.’ Under extreme stress, human cognitive functions become highly unreliable. Thankfully, on the second tenant, it is unlikely Trump can bring back torture on executive order alone. The legal barriers to torture are ‘iron clad’ and he would need an unprecedented act of Congress to maintain his campaign promise in defending torture. Given the crazy pace of executive orders that has come from the first week of the Trump administration, this is welcome news.