Newscoop Footnotes: March 25, 2019

Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes —

the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.

A wild world this week.

  • After the European Union agreed on Thursday to delay the UK’s exit from the EU, a British online petition to cancel Brexit went viral — garnering 4 million signatures by Saturday. Saturday was also the day that nearly a million Brits took to the streets in central London to demand a second referendum on Brexit.

    In the two plus years since the original 2016 referendum on leaving the EU, the UK has seen total political deadlock. Economists warn that all of it points to future economic chaos for the country. Many Brits are feeling that pro-Brexit politicians lied to them in 2016 about the likely effects of exiting the EU. They say the situation now requires a fully-informed confirmation vote by the people.

     Source: Al Jazeera

  • Next, for the last several months, we’ve been hearing warnings from researchers about the decline in insect numbers around the world, due largely to widespread use of agricultural pesticides. Insects are critical for pollinating and recycling nutrients, and they serve as food for other animals. Now, a global study just published in the journal Biological Conservation warns that the insect decline could mean “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems” within just a few decades.

    Along those same lines, scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society have released the results of their look at biodiversity loss, and that too was frightening. Those researchers examined more than 5,400 species of birds, mammals and amphibians around the world, and found that 1,237 of them were threatened in 90% of their habitats. They face “almost-certain extinction” without some kind of serious conservation intervention. The five countries facing the greatest threat were all in southeast Asia.

    Here’s something else that’s concerning: With just a few exceptions, the results of that last study did not even appear in most of the major U.S. newspapers.

     Source: The Guardian, National Geographic, Science Direct

  • And finally, on Thursday, U.S. president Donald Trump tweeted: “…it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” By signaling his willingness to sanction Israel’s takeover of the Golan Heights, Trump effectively thumbed his nose at international law and turned decades of U.S. foreign policy on its head.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lobbied Trump hard for this, and he was quick to publicly praise Trump’s move — widely seen as a gift to Netanyahu as he heads into an April 9th election. With the Israeli leader facing criminal indictment on multiple charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, that election has grown very tight.

    Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expressing his belief that God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran.

    A quick reminder that Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence are both fervent evangelical Christians. As with many U.S. evangelicals, supporting Israel unconditionally is an article of faith — something that is tightly interwoven into their belief in a “second coming of Christ.” And those beliefs (and the religious dogma underpinning them) now seem to also have been woven into U.S. foreign policy in the region. The result is an unconditional support of the political and territorial objectives of Israel’s far-right government that has produced a frighteningly unbalanced U.S. policy with respect to Israel — as well as an irrational antipathy toward Iran. The upside for Trump is that those policies are widely supported by the wider evangelical community in the U.S., a voting block that Trump will badly need if he seeks reelection in 2020.

    But there’s more at stake here than control of the Golan Heights. In his opinion piece last Friday for the New York Times, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum in Washington, Michael Koplow, stressed that Trump’s moves are “also being read by the Israeli right wing as an encouragement to pursue annexation of territory in the West Bank — a far more dangerous step that would present Israel with an unparalleled existential threat to its Jewish and democratic character.”

    Here’s the risk: If Israel were to try to annex the Palestinian West Bank, the Jewish makeup of the country would change markedly. Israel’s borders would also become indefensible. And Israel’s relations with much of the world would be destroyed. Israel would also then face the dramatic choice of either giving Israeli citizenship to millions of Palestinians, or giving up Israel’s democratic system.

    It’s pretty clear that Trump has little sense of the waters he’s stepping into.

    Source: New York Times, The Guardian, BBC

This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes –  important events getting too little attention.


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