Top News Stories for Today – January 17, 2017
Trump’s historically low poll numbers
Three new polls show President-elect Donald Trump being viewed favorably by about 40 percent of Americans, a huge shortfall from the approval numbers for Trump’s four predecessors. In Gallup and Washington Post/ABC News polls, Trump is viewed favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 55 percent (Gallup) and 54 percent (WaPo), while a CNN/ORC poll pegs Trump’s transition approval rating at 40 percent but his favorable numbers slightly better, at 44 percent.
President Obama’s favorability numbers before his inauguration were about 80 percent in all three polls. The polls were split over expectations for Trump’s presidency, but majorities expected him to do well with the economy and jobs. Trump is viewed favorably by a sizable majority of Republicans but has high disapproval numbers from independents as well as Democrats. The Washington Post, CNN, The Week
China goes big in World Economic Forum
The leader of the world’s largest Communist Party will take to the stage at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss ski resort arguing for globalisation and the wonders of free trade. At the same time as the US – the home of capitalism – has a new president saying that the present free trade rules need to be ripped up.
President Xi Jinping is the first Chinese president to visit the WEF. His message is likely to be uncompromising. China is making a very major point via Mr Xi’s visit to the WEF. With other leaders, notably Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, staying away, China is bringing the largest delegation it has ever mustered. Business leaders such as Jack Ma – the founder of the global internet giant Alibaba – are in Davos, as is Wang Jianlin, another of China’s richest men and chairman of the property developer Dalian Wanda.
The message is clear. America might start looking inward, but China is seeking to extend its influence, and the chosen route is economics. BBC
Theresa May calls for clean Brexit
British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a clean break with the European Union in a long-awaited Tuesday speech, saying that the UK will leave the European single market but still “seek the greatest possible access to it through a new comprehensive, bold, and ambitious free trade agreement.”
May indicated that controlling Britain’s borders is the government’s priority, even if it means losing trading advantages. She said an “independent, self-governing” Britain would seek “a new and equal partnership” with the countries in the EU. The New York Times, Reuters, The Week
Istanbul nightclub attacker captured
Several Turkish media outlets are reporting that a man suspected of killing 39 people during a New Year’s Day attack at a nightclub in Istanbul has been caught. The NTV television channel reports the suspect was tracked down to a house in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district owned by a friend from Kyrgyzstan and captured during a special operations police raid.
The Hurriyet newspaper has identified the suspect as Abdulkadir Masharipov, an Uzbekistan national, and NTV says he resisted arrest, but was detained along with his friend and three others. ISIS claimed responsibility in the aftermath of the massacre at Reina nightclub, saying it was in retaliation for Turkish military operations in Syria. The Associated Press, The Week
Search for MH370 suspended
Nearly three years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the underwater search for the missing plane has been suspended. The plane vanished over the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.
“Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modeling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft,” Chinese, Australian, and Malaysian officials said in a statement. “The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness.” Last July, it was decided by Australia, China, and Malaysia that if the aircraft was not found by the time 46,000 square miles had been covered, the search would be suspended. CNN
Iraqi forces push Into IS-held pocket in Mosul
Iraqi special forces pushed into a pocket of Islamic State-held territory in eastern Mosul on Tuesday, the military said, seeking to recapture the remaining districts under the group’s control east of the Tigris river. The militants have been driven out of most eastern districts in their Iraqi stronghold in a 3-month-old US-backed campaign. A second statement said the CTS had also seized al-Muhandiseen district, nearly 3 miles further northwest, which lies a short distance from the river.
Advances have gathered pace in the new year thanks to improved battle tactics and better coordination between different military branches, US and Iraqi military officials say. Further south, elite rapid response units of the Iraqi federal police have secured much of the eastern bank of the Tigris. Several thousand civilians have been killed or wounded in fighting since October. Advances slowed towards the end of last year as the military sought to avoid hitting civilians, Iraqi military officials say. VOA
From Merkel to Trump
German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Monday to seek agreement with US President-elect Donald Trump once he is sworn in later this week, but insisted that Europe will chart its own path forward in spite of differences with the incoming American leader.
She said “The president-elect has outlined his views, so once he is in office – which he isn’t at this point in time – we will cooperate obviously with the new American administration and we will then see what sort of accord we can achieve.” Speaking wtih The Times of London and Germany’s Bild newspaper, Trump had said on Sunday that NATO is obsolete “because it was designed many, many years ago.” He also repeated his complaint, frequently voiced during the election campaign, that NATO “countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.” VOA
Warming US-Russia ties worries China
Donald Trump’s hints ties with Moscow could improve after he assumes office has been a source of controversy and heated debate in the US. And that is unlikely to go away after his inauguration later this week. Across the Pacific, in China, it is an increasing source of hand-wringing and worry for Chinese officials because some believe if ties between Russia and the US improve that could only be bad for Beijing.
“In the West, people have been extremely concerned about Russian involvement in the US elections, and Trump’s commitments, but very few people take seriously the idea that he could lure Russia away from the partnership with China,” says David Kelly, research director at China Policy, a research group in Beijing. “In China, it’s taken much more seriously and is a subject of daily speculation.” VOA
Last man to walk on moon dies at 86
Former US astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the surface of the moon, died Monday at age 82. The US space agency, NASA, gave no cause of death in announcing the news. Cernan was a Navy captain when NASA chose him and 13 other astronauts for the pioneering Apollo program, created after President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Cernan flew on Apollo 10 in May 1969, the final test flight before the actual moon landing two months later. He was part of the last manned moon mission in December 1972 — Apollo 17. Just before leaving the moon as the last man to walk on it, Cernan said man would return there one day “with peace and hope.” Speaking to VOA on the 40th anniversary of the last mission, Cernan said he is not proud to be the last man to walk on the moon because of a fading interest in space travel. Cernan retired from the Navy and NASA in 1976 and later did television commentary for early space shuttle flights. VOA
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