Landslides & Low Turnout


Macron Set for Parliamentary Landslide Thanks to Not So Many Voters: A first-round election result on Sunday set French President Emmanuel Macron on course for a crushing majority in Parliament after 28 percent voted for his Republic on the Move (LREM) party. Pollsters said Macron could win as much as three quarters of National Assembly seats when the second round of voting takes place on June 18. That would be France’s biggest majority in decades and would effectively leave only the powerful trade union movement as a potential obstacle to the pro-business reforms Macron has promised to introduce. But fewer than half of 47 million eligible voters turned out in Sunday’s first round–the lowest turnout by far in a legislative election in 60 years. We’re picturing the famous French shoulder shrug and a flippant and flirty toss of a scarf. I mean, remember what Charles de Gaulle said: Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?” (“How can you govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”). Exactly.

Philippine Army Still Battling ISIS: US special forces are helping the Philippine military retake the southern city of Marawi from the Maute Group, who are ISIS-backed militants. US forces are providing technical help but are not fighting, the Philippine army says. The Islamist group has been under siege since attempting to overtake Marawi on May 23. As of Saturday, the number of security forces killed in the battle for Marawi stood at 58. The death toll for civilians was 20 and more than 100 had been killed overall.

The seizure of Marawi by fighters allied to ISIS has alarmed other Southeast Asian nations, which fear that the terrorist group is trying to set up a stronghold on Mindanao that could threaten the entire region. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he had not expected the battle for Marawi to be as serious as it has turned out, adding it had now emerged “that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself, the leader of the ISIS, has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines.” The New York Times reports that Duterte, so focused on an anti-drug campaign that has claimed the lives of thousands of Filipinos, seems to have been caught unprepared for a militant threat that has been festering in the south for years. “The government has largely been in denial about the growth of ISIS and affiliated groups,” said a professor at the National War College in Washington who specializes in Southeast Asian security issues.


US House Takes Another Step Toward Repealing Financial Protection Bill: The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd–Frank) was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama in 2010 as a response to the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The bill brought the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the regulatory reform that followed the Great Depression. It made changes in the American financial regulatory environment that affected all federal financial regulatory agencies and almost every part of the nation’s financial services industry.

On June 8, the Republican-led House passed the massive, 600-page Financial CHOICE Act, which, if signed into law, would undo a number of Dodd-Frank’s key provisions. According to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the bill is part of the Republican Party’s broader efforts to spur job growth by eliminating regulations. President Trump weighed in on the bill via Twitter, congratulating its sponsor, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. Having passed the House, the bill now moves to the Senate. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the CHOICE Act would significantly weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Dodd-Frank established in 2011, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


Puerto Rico Unemphatically Votes for Statehood: 97 percent of votes cast favored statehood as Puerto Ricans voted in a non-binding referendum on Sunday. Voter turnout was just 23 percent, leading opponents to question the validity of a vote that several political parties had urged their supporters to boycott. But Governor Ricardo Rossello vowed to push ahead with his administration’s quest to make the island the 51st US state. Congress has final say in any changes to Puerto Rico’s political status.

Puerto Rico is exempt from the US federal income tax, but it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes, and receives less federal funding than US states. It is also barred from voting in presidential elections and has only one congressional representative with limited voting powers. Many believe the island’s territorial status has contributed to its 10-year economic recession, which was largely sparked by decades of heavy borrowing and the elimination of federal tax incentives. Opponents of statehood worry the island will lose its cultural identity and warn that Puerto Rico will struggle even more financially because it will be forced to pay millions of dollars in federal taxes. Carlos Delegado, secretary of the opposition Popular Democratic Party, said, “Whatever we might receive in additional federal funds will be cancelled by the amount of taxes the island will have to pay.”

Iran Sends Planeloads of Food to Qatar: Five Iranian planes filled with food have landed at Doha airport as the blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt starts to take its toll. Iran said the planes were filled with vegetables and that it plans to send 100 tons of fresh fruit and legumes every day to the import-dependent nation. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut ties with Qatar last Monday, accusing Doha of supporting and financing terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere–a charge Qatar denies. The countries have also accused Qatar of destabilizing the region because of its ties to Iran (so the lesson is, if your friendship is causing your friend’s other friends to starve it to death, it’s a good thing to send over a few planes stuffed with food).

…and Qatar Hires John Ashcroft, Former US Attorney General: John Ashcroft, the former US Senator and the US Attorney General under President George W. Bush, has been tapped to guide Qatar through its diplomatic crisis. Ashcroft’s firm is charging Qatar a $2.5 million flat fee to cover the firm’s first 90 days of expenses on this project “given the urgent need to commence work.” Ashcroft will take the lead on the case, and his firm says it will provide Qatari officials with “comprehensive strategic advice, legal counsel, support and representation related to confirming, educating, assessing and reporting on [Qatar’s] efforts to combat global terrorism.” It will also advise the Qatari government on America’s anti-terrorism finance laws and Treasury regulations.


Start of the Week Reads:

  • Why Are Australians So Laid Back? (BBC)
  • Kenya’s mobile internet beats the United States for speed (Quartz)
  • Cryptoeconomics is the study of economic interaction in adversarial environments (The Control)
  • Slipping in the shower, tripping down the stairs, taking a tumble in the supermarket – falls kill over 420,000 people per year and hospitalize millions more. We can’t eliminate all falls, so we must to learn to fall better (Mosaic Science)
  • The red squirrel is under threat of extinction across Britain. Their supporters believe the only way to save them is to exterminate their enemy: the greys (The Guardian)
  • Binky is a ruse, a social network with no people, where the content is fake and feedback disappears into the void. And it might be exactly the thing that smartphone users want—and even need (The Atlantic)
  • China has already wrestled the mantle of leadership on climate change from the United States (TIME)
  • “The United States is the only nation in the world where it is easier to get into college if one of your parents happened to go there. Oxford and Cambridge ditched legacy preferences in the middle of the last century. The existence of such an unfair hereditary practice in 21st-century America is startling in itself. But I have been more shocked by the way that even supposedly liberal members of the upper middle class seem to have no qualms about benefiting from it.” (NYT)

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