Liberté, Egalité, & Macron


In France, the Europhile Beats the Europhobe: On Sunday, the French elected centrist Emmanuel Macron as their president, the youngest in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic and now the youngest head of state in the world. Macron, with 66.1 percent of the vote, roundly beat far-right stalwart Marine Le Pen, who won 33.9 percent. Macron’s victory was hailed by his supporters as stemming the tide of Western populism after Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US. Likewise, in Brussels and Berlin, there was a collective sigh of relief as Le Pen’s anti-EU, anti-globalization platform was rejected.

Though Macron won decisively, nearly one third of the electorate did not vote (or turned in a blank ballot) in the country’s worst voter turnout in more than 40 years. In the largely immigrant suburbs of Paris, there was severe lack of enthusiasm for either candidate, and stopping Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim movement was not incentive enough for many. Before the election, a 26-year-old French Muslim from a Parisian suburb (who said she was reluctantly supporting Macron) put it simply: “White people who say ‘You have to vote against Marine Le Pen because you will lose more than we will’ don’t realize that for us, we already live in a racist country.”

As a fringe candidate, Macron has no affiliation with any of France’s traditional political parties, and he must win a parliamentary majority in the upcoming June elections if he is to carry out his reforms. Outgoing President François Hollande is leaving office with a dismal four percent approval rating. (Yes, you read that right. 4 percent. Quatre. Quatro. And, appropriately enough, the number of bad luck for much of East Asia.) Hollande, more than anyone else, knows all too well how quickly ecstasy over campaign promises can lead to bitter disappointment.


82 Girls Released by Boko Haram: On Sunday, 82 of the young schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram three years ago arrived in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. Their release came after months of negotiations and in exchange for the release of several terror suspects held by the government. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with the girls on Sunday and vowed to continue efforts to obtain the release of those still captive.

In April 2014, Boko Haram took 276 young girls in the middle of the night from their boarding school in Chibok. The horrific raid sparked international outrage, and the Nigerian government was sharply criticized for their inability to find the missing girls. More than 20 girls were released last October, but over 100 girls are still missing, their fates unknown.

Merkel’s Party Wins German State Election: Voters in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein were called to the ballot yesterday to vote in one of three local elections before the German general election in September. The conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, easily won the election with 33 percent of the vote, while the Social Democratic Party (SPD) earned 26 percent of the vote. The initial hype surrounding the SPD’s new leader, former European Parliament president Martin Schulz, has failed to materialize into electoral successes in the states of Saarland and now Schleswig-Holstein. Merkel’s CDU will now attempt another win in next week’s election of a new state parliament in Germany’s most populous state of Nord-Rhein Westphalia (NRW). This election is by far the most crucial in ensuring that Merkel keeps the chancellorship come September.


Jared Kushner’s Conflicts of Interest in China: On Sunday, reporters were barred from a publicly advertised event in Shanghai hosted by family members of President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner Companies and KABR Group are developing a luxury apartment complex in New Jersey and are seeking to raise $150 million in funding for the project through the controversial EB-5 visa program. This program effectively allows wealthy foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in certain American development projects to then buy US immigration visas for themselves and their families.

Guests at the event reported that Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, spoke for about 10 minutes. Meyer attended a similar event in Beijing the previous day and told the audience that the New Jersey project “means a lot to me and my entire family.” Jared Kushner previously headed Kushner Companies but sold his stake to a family trust early this year, prior to joining White House staff as Senior Advisor to the President.


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Trump Saves Taxpayer Money by Spending Weekend at…One of His Golf Clubs!: President Trump made his first visit to New York as president last week, but spent this past weekend in New Jersey’s lush horse country at the Trump National Golf Club, his 500-acre resort in Bedminster. On Friday he tweeted: “Rather than causing a big disruption in N.Y.C., I will be working out of my home in Bedminster, N.J. this weekend. Also saves the country money!” Might it save the country even more if he just Netflixed and chilled at the White House for a few weekends (or ten)? Trump has been criticized for spending the majority of his weekends as president at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The conservative organization Judicial Watch reported that the cost of Trump’s flights to Mar-a-Lago for just two of his weekends (in February and March) totaled $1,281,420. Air Force One must definitely beat first class.

With Mar-a-Lago ready to close for the summer season, Trump appears ready to shift operations to his club up north. Bedminster Mayor Steve Parker has asked the federal government to reimburse the township for security costs, estimating that each visit will cost $42,000, or 1.5 percent of the township’s total budget.

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