Macron Defends Pension Reforms

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at French pension protests, the United States’ unusual decision to summon Israel’s ambassador, and a Japanese pledge of support for Poland and Ukraine.

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at French pension protests, the United States unusual decision to summon Israel’s ambassador, and a Japanese pledge of support for Poland and Ukraine.

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Macron Defends Reviled Pension Reform

On national television Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to push through wildly unpopular pension reforms. The reforms, which will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, will have to be implemented by the end of the year, he said.

In the following weeks, the Constitutional Council will review the bill, which cannot progress without the council’s approval.

Macron, speaking publicly for the first time since using constitutional powers to push the bill through last week, called the legislation “not a luxury. It is not fun. It’s a necessity for the country.”

Unions, meanwhile, have called for strikes and protests on Thursday, and transportation around the country is expected to be disrupted. French Democratic Confederation of Labour union leader Laurent Berger accused Macron of lying by saying unions were unwilling to compromise. Politicians on the left and right slammed Macron for both disregarding and inflaming French feelings.

What We’re Following Today 

U.S. summons Israeli ambassador over settlements. Michael Herzog, Israeli ambassador to the United States, was summoned to the U.S. State Department, an exceedingly rare move in U.S.-Israeli relations. The meeting followed a Knesset vote passing a law to allow the resettlement of evacuated West Bank areas. A readout of Herzog’s meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Sherman “conveyed U.S. concern.”

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel did not actually intend to build settlements but that the vote ended a “discriminatory and humiliating law that prohibited Jews from living in the northern Samaria”—a Biblical term used by Israel to refer to the West Bank— that some take as a sign of creeping annexation. Netanyahu noted that some figures in the opposition supported the legislation.

Japan pledged support to Poland to help Ukraine. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has promised to provide development support to Poland to help it support Ukraine. He was hosted by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki after Kishida made a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Kishida said Japan normally provides aid to developing countries, which Poland is not, but in this case and given the extenuating circumstances, Japan would make an exception.

Meanwhile, Ukraine secured the first International Monetary Fund loan to a nation at war. The agreement is worth $15.6 billion and is expected to be approved in coming weeks.

Keep an Eye On

Marburg virus kills five people in Tanzania. Following five fatalities, Tanzania has announced an outbreak of the Marburg virus, an Ebola-like virus that has hit the northwest of the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said about 161 people have been identified as being at risk of infection. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said: “The efforts by Tanzania’s health authorities to establish the cause of the disease is a clear indication of the determination to effectively respond to the outbreak. We are working with the government to rapidly scale up control measures to halt the spread of the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible.”

The virus was first discovered in Marburg, a small city in Germany, in 1967. It is from the same family as Ebola. Fatality rates vary from 24 to 88 percent. There are no vaccines or treatments, though rehydration and managing blood and oxygen levels can help chances of survival, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New anti-LGBTQ law passed in Uganda. All but two of Uganda’s 389 lawmakers voted to pass a new law that makes homosexual acts punishable by death. “The bill is ill-conceived,” said Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, one of the two lawmakers who voted against it. “It contains provisions that are unconstitutional, reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence, and criminalizes individuals.” Human rights campaigners described the bill as “hate legislation.” Its passage follows an increase in reported attacks on LGBTQ people in Uganda; transgender Ugandans have been disproportionately impacted.

“We shall continue to fight this injustice. This lesbian woman is Ugandan even this piece of paper will [not] stop me from enjoying my country. Struggle just begun,” tweeted Kampala-based activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera.

This month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called homosexuality a deviation and said whether it was the result of nature or nurture had to be investigated. The bill is not purely a product of local politics. As Caleb Okereke argued last week in Foreign Policy, politicized homophobia in Africa “has deep links to white evangelical Christianity and is an export of a made-in-the-USA movement and ideology that is polarizing African countries and harming and endangering LGBTQ+ people.”

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The Nuclear Education of Vladimir Putin by Amy J. Nelson

Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing by Winthrop Rodgers

Badgering them. Badgers caused Dutch train cancellations after burrowing under rail lines in the northern and southern Netherlands. One line was halted for at least a week, according to the country’s national rail company. Badgers also knocked a different service line out for weeks this month. Badgers are protected in the Netherlands, meaning that rail operators must get permission to move or otherwise disturb them.

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