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July 21, 2017

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Move to Force Out Polish Judges Raises Alarm in Europe

Polish lawmakers have passed legislation allowing the government to forcibly retire all judges in the country's highest courts. Tens of thousands of Poles protested ahead of the next parliamentary action—today's expected vote by the Polish Senate to ratify the measure. The ruling Law and Justice Party has accused the judiciary of being inefficient and corrupt. European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said the move "goes against European values" (FT), while the U.S. State Department expressed concern that the bill could undermine the rule of law (Radio Poland). Poland's prime minister said the government will not give into foreign pressures, an apparent reference to the threat of EU sanctions (AP).

ANALYSIS

"These developments are probably the most frightening manifestation yet of the rightwing, nationalist, populist illiberalism that has taken root in Poland and Hungary," writes the Guardian.

"The government has brushed off both protesters and Brussels, arguing its reforms are needed to cleanse a dysfunctional justice system," writes Jan Cienski for Politico Europe.

"Civil society [in Poland] remains strong, and the government responds to public pressure: last year it backed down from a strict abortion law when faced with massive protests," writes the Economist.

Listen to 'The President's Inbox'

Listen to 'The President's Inbox'

Pew Research Center's Bruce Stokes joins CFR's Robert McMahon to discuss Pew's latest survey on global perceptions of the United States.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Tour Agencies: U.S. to Ban North Korea Travel

Two tour operators that arrange trips to North Korea said the United States will soon ban its citizens from traveling there (Reuters). The move follows the death of a U.S. student who was arrested while touring North Korea.

Evans J.R. Revere discussed the North Korean regime and nuclear threat on this recent episode of the President's Inbox.

CHINA: China, the world's largest rice market, announced it will allow U.S. rice imports for the first time (BBC).

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

White House Nominates Veteran Diplomat as Afghan Ambassador

The Trump administration nominated John Bass (The Hill), currently ambassador to Turkey, to be the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. The State Department is reportedly considering eliminating the position of U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan (RFE/RL).

UZBEKISTAN: A delegation from Human Rights Watch will visit Tashkent in August for the first time since 2011 (RFE/RL) when the U.S.-based watchdog's office there was closed. Uzbekistan's foreign minister says international organizations are welcome to visit the country to establish cooperation.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Qatar Modifies Anti-Terror Legislation

Qatar amended 2004 legislation to set new rules for defining terrorism and terror financing (DW) and created two national terrorism lists. The changes follow an agreement between Qatar and the United States on combating terrorism. A Saudi-led bloc has boycotted the Gulf nation since June over charges of supporting terrorist groups.

Bassima Alghussein and Jeffrey A. Stacey argue in Foreign Affairs that Saudi Arabia has botched its campaign against Qatar.

ISRAEL: Israel deployed about three thousand police (AP) in Jerusalem's Old City to bar Muslim worshippers from entering the Temple Mount complex, the site of a recent attack. The move comes ahead of expected protests over the installation of metal detectors.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

UN to Close Five DRC Bases

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the organization's largest, will close five bases and reduce troop numbers (DW) by more than three thousand amid funding cuts following pressure from the United States.

BURUNDI: On his first foreign trip since a coup attempt in 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza called on the quarter million Burundian refugees (AP) in Tanzania to return home.

EUROPE

Germany Warns Citizens Against Travel in Turkey

Germany's foreign minister issued warnings for German citizens (DW) visiting Turkey as part of a "reorientation" of its policy. The move follows the arrest in Turkey (FT) of a German human rights activist who was charged with terrorism.

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes in Foreign Policy that a government crackdown in Turkey has ruined thousands of lives. 

AMERICAS

Three Dead in Venezuela General Strike

Three people were reportedly killed in clashes between protesters and police during a general strike initiated by Venezuela's opposition (BBC) Thursday. The opposition seeks to halt President Nicolas Maduro's push to rewrite the constitution (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's economic and political crisis.

PERU: Peru's justice minister fired the special counsel investigating corruption linked to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, saying a recent move by her put thousands of jobs at risk (Reuters).

UNITED STATES

Exxon Sues Treasury to Stop $2 Million Fine

The U.S. Treasury Department fined oil giant ExxonMobil $2 million on Thursday for what it called "reckless disregard" (WSJ) of U.S. sanctions on Russia during a period when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson led the company. Exxon is suing the Treasury (FT) in response to the fine.

California will fine German automaker Volkswagen an additional $154 million for installing software in some of its cars to cheat emissions tests. That would bring the settlement total VW faces to $1.3 billion (DW).