What You Might Have Missed… Again!

Nicola Biggerstaff

This week, as the results of the leadership election dominate the news, we wanted to bring you another round up of news from around the world. While it may not be pertinent to the work we do here at Common Weal, it is certainly still worth our attention. When we feel like there’s nothing more we can do, we can still remain vigilant.

In France

Recent protests over President Macron’s decision to overhaul the pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 have escalated to nationwide strike action with up to one million people partaking in walk outs and street marches.

Following Macron’s decision to force the legislation through parliament without a vote using constitutional powers, trade unions have unanimously staged mass, wildcat protests across the public sector. Teachers, transport workers, refuse collectors and even museum staff have all taken to the streets. Airports have been advised to massively reduce services over public safety fears, following actions at Charles de Gaulle and Biarritz airports.

Fair pensions are considered the bedrock of French society, in which those of working age are willing to pay higher rates in exchange for guaranteed security when they themselves qualify. The French pension system is not market-based, and the retirement age in France is currently among the lowest in Europe. This attempt by Macron to bring France in line with their capitalist-driven European neighbours has rightfully angered those who would, under these proposals, see their excess contributions to the pension system not be returned to them in kind on retirement. It will disproportionately affect those who began working earlier, such as those who did not attend higher education, and the reforms are opposed by up to two thirds of the population.

The protests have escalated in recent days as grievances spread beyond pension reforms and into environmental policy, with police accused of conducting arbitrary arrests and being heavy handed with their responses following the admission of one protestor to hospital with head injuries.

In Israel

President Netanyahu’s most recent attempt to take his nation even further to the right has finally hit an obstacle. His proposed judicial overhaul legislation and subsequent sacking of defence minister Yoav Gallant sparked protests that shut down the airport in Tel Aviv, and earlier this week it was confirmed that the legislation would be delayed until the next parliamentary session as a result.

The proposed reforms would have seen the government gain unprecedented powers over the judiciary, overseeing the committee in charge of the appointment of judges and would prevent them from declaring a prime minister as unfit for office. It has been criticised as the latest in a series of power grabs by the ultra-nationalist government in order to protect Netanyahu himself from potential future charges. He is still subject of an investigation into alleged corruption which contributed to his initial ousting in 2021, before returning following election victory last November. He claimed in a public address that while overhaul was still necessary in his view, he saw the crisis as a ‘threat to national unity’.

In the United States

Speculation over the indictment of former President Donald Trump has increased over the last few weeks as the grand jury deciding whether to charge him over the settlement paid to Stormy Daniels in the final days of his 2016 presidential campaign remains in deliberation.

Pressure on Trump has been increasing in recent months as more steps towards filing criminal charges against him for various alleged offences appear to be reaching a crescendo. The January 6th Select Committee investigating the attempted insurrection following the 2020 presidential election recommended in December that Trump be charged with various counts associated with his actions that day as well as those preceding and following it. The matter is still with the Department of Justice at time of writing.

His supporters, as usual, have branded the various pursuits of criminal charges as a witch hunt, with the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, being subjected to death threats in response to the latest development.

In Ukraine

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine reaches its 400th day, movement on the ground has reached a stalemate as world leaders begin to engage in a series of diplomatic tap dances.

The International Criminal Court’s decision last week to issue an arrest warrant for Putin appears to have only inflamed his brutal campaign further. He has now announced plans to station nuclear weapons in Belarus following a deal with President Lukashenko. While Russia already stores jets in Belarus which would be capable of carrying such weapons, this latest development signifies a worrying escalation to the potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine in response to the stalemate. The storage facility under construction to house them is expected to be completed in July.

His justification by comparing the deal to that of the US’ ability to station weapons within the borders of NATO allies such as Poland and Germany, has been discredited by western commentators as a false comparison.

President Zelenskyy has also met with the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi in Zaporizhzhia to discuss the declining situation in the area’s nuclear plant, which is facing a water shortage as a result of the occupation of the site.

Meanwhile, 29 out of 30 NATO members have now ratified Finland’s membership following the latest concession by Hungary. Turkey is expected to announce their ratification in the coming days, officially confirming their membership.

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