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May 24, 2017

Daily News Brief

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Trump Meets Pope to Talk Global Peace Promotion

U.S. President Donald J. Trump met with Pope Francis on Wednesday for what the Vatican said was a discussion about "the promotion of peace in the world" (CNN). The pair discussed health care, education, humanitarian assistance to migrants, and protection of Christians in the Middle East (BBC). Francis gave Trump a copy of one of his encyclicals, which argues that capitalism has degraded the environment (WSJ) at the expense of the poor. Trump said that he would read the document and that he "won't forget" what Francis told him. The president's inaugural foreign trip, which also included stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, will continue with meetings with Italy's president and prime minister (BBC) and with G7 leaders. Trump then travels to Brussels for a NATO summit.


"Like Trump, the Argentine pope has shown a predilection for unscripted comments that have shaken the staid Vatican bureaucracy, as when he criticized candidate Trump's proposed stricter immigration policies including a border wall as 'not Christian.' Trump fired back, calling the pope’s remarks 'disgraceful'," Michael A. Memoli writes for the Los Angeles Times.

"The president's PR advisors will hope that being seen alongside the charismatic and highly popular Francis will give Trump kudos, and that there will be more to it than the curiosity of seeing this odd couple trying to get along. That PR opportunity has been taken up countless times by world leaders visiting the Vatican," Catherine Pepinster writes for the Guardian.

"Catholics in the U.S. were supportive of Trump, who eschews political correctness, during the presidential elections: As much as 52 percent of Catholics and 60 percent of white Catholics opted for the Republican candidate over Hillary Clinton," Anna Momigliano writes for the Atlantic.


Philippines Declares Martial Law in South

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law (BBC) on the island of Mindanao on Tuesday, later saying it could last up to a year as security forces fight Islamist militants. The declaration follows a siege by militants (VOA) there that left two soldiers and a policeman dead.

TAIWAN: Taiwan's highest court gave parliament two years to amend current laws or pass new ones permitting same-sex marriage, paving the way for Taiwan to become the first Asian country (BBC) to legalize gay marriage.


Pakistan Dismisses Bombings Claim by India

Pakistan said India's claim that it bombed Pakistani army outposts (RFE/RL) along the countries' de facto border in Kashmir was "false." India alleged that Pakistan uses the posts to shuttle militants across the border (BBC).

PAKISTAN: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could increase geopolitical tensions between India and Pakistan, according to a UN report (Dawn) prepared at the request of China.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at China's soft power efforts.


Five Dead in Bahrain Raid on Shiite Cleric

Five protesters died and 286 people were arrested after Bahraini security forces raided the hometown of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim (AP). Qassim was sentenced this week to a year in jail for corruption; authorities revoked his citizenship (Al Jazeera) last year.

IRAQ: The Interior Ministry announced it will launch an investigation into an elite Iraqi security unit after a news photographer embedded with the unit reported that he witnessed rape, torture, and killing of suspected Islamic State militants (AP)


WHO Elects First African Director General

Former Ethiopian Health Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was chosen as the World Health Organization's next director general (BBC); he will assume the position next month.

CFR's Laurie Garrett discusses the WHO's vote for a new leader in Foreign Policy.

DRC: The UN Security Council met on Tuesday to discuss the killing of two UN experts (NYT) in the Democratic Republic of Congo in March. The DRC said it opened an investigation into a former government minister one of the experts had accused of possible involvement with militia violence.


UK Says Manchester Bombing Suspect 'Likely' Had Accomplices

The UK home secretary said that the suicide bomber who killed twenty-two people at a concert in Manchester on Monday "likely" did not act alone (BBC) and that authorities are investigating the suspect's trips to Libya (WaPo).

FRANCE: French President Emmanuel Macron will try to persuade President Trump to remain in the Paris agreement (Reuters) on climate ahead of a G7 summit later this week, according to diplomats.


Maduro Moves Ahead to Rewrite Constitution

President Nicolas Maduro said he will go forward with plans to hold a July constituent assembly to rewrite the country's constitution (Reuters) before December regional elections. Last year, the government postponed the elections (AP), which the opposition was favored to win.

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

BRAZIL: Police carried out search and arrest warrants as part of a probe into alleged bribes paid by construction companies to build Brasilia's World Cup stadium (WSJ). Two former governors and an advisor to President Michel Temer are among those arrested.

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses the likelihood that Temer will stay in office.


Former CIA Director Testifies in Russia Probe

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House intelligence committee that he warned the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FT) to cease interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.