Morning Briefing

Warmbier and First Strikes

Following the death of American college student Otto Warmbier after more than 18 months in North Korean custody, conservative America has been in an uproar. Notable senators and former Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida have called for retaliatory measures. Never mind that even the most devastating preemptive strike would leave North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with enough time to destroy neighboring South Korea. With hundreds of thousands of South Korean lives on the line, conservative saber-rattlers continue to push President Donald Trump to take action. Few situations are more dangerous than when the vengeful have the ear of the unwise.

Speaking of the latter, last night Trump made an appearance at a mass rally in Iowa organized by his election committee. The president greeted thousands of fans, telling them how happy he was to escape the swamp in Washington for a few hours. He also vowed not to quit and emphasized that the dishonorable media was only fighting for their own survival. “But I’m fighting for you, fighting for you,” he repeated defiantly. For Trump, the rally was like a fountain of youth: His narcissistic self-image, maimed by politicians in Washington, was magically restored by the presence of enthusiastic supporters and yea-sayers.

In London yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II ceremonially outlined Prime Minister Theresa May’s government program in an address to British parliament despite the fact that May has yet to assemble a government. Across the channel, the French have managed to choose a prime minister, though four other ministers resigned due to two separate scandals. The US, still the only true global superpower, also has yet to appoint an ambassador to Germany, Europe’s largest economy. What were once the world’s permanent political foundations are starting to crack.

Europe is marching in lockstep toward a common defense force. At today’s European Council summit meeting in Brussels, the bloc’s heads of state will outline the basic principles of a European army, including coordinated arms purchases, a logistical plan for common combat operations and permanent turnkey EU battlegroups. Trump undoubtedly had an effect on Europe – though not one he had planned.

Yesterday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice in favor of a French man who died from multiple sclerosis after receiving a hepatitis vaccination has strengthened consumer protection – and sent a signal to Big Pharma. No longer do plaintiffs suing multinationals need to show indisputable “proof” that they were harmed by vaccinations. Instead, they only need to present a “bundle of evidence.” The pharmaceutical industry’s immunity has been de facto repealed. In the future, the courts will rule – when in doubt – for the accuser.

Although the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, recently decided to throttle oil production, prices are still extremely low. “They haven’t hit rock bottom yet,” said Commerzbank’s raw material expert Eugen Weinberg, who speculates that a barrel of crude could reach $40. In mid-2014, it was more than $100. Should prices continue to fall, that would be a boon for the German economy – a nice gift with no strings attached. German CEOs like the oil sheiks’ energy policy far more than Merkel’s green transition.


Picture of the Day

SOURCE: REUTERS A child plays in a fountain of water to cool off from the heat at the Miroir d'Eau (Mirror of Water), in Nantes. Unusually high temperatures have hit France and other European countries this week. Source: Reuters
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