The Daily Visionary: Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Trump, Trudeau, Macron, and May among the global leaders skipping pro-globalization Davos summit


The Story


American President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, all of whom delivered their positions on globalisation in 2018, will not be attending this year’s World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland from January 22 to 25.


It would be politically unwise for these leaders to attend this meeting of the globe’s super powerful. The US is into its fifth week of government shutdown. Canada heads into a federal election this fall, and PM Trudeau took heat for the cost of no less than CAD $678,000 for his 2015 Davos visit. France just kicked off a national debate on taxes as Yellow Vest protests continue. PM May’s government is barely surviving with the inability to progress Brexit. In India, PM Modi faces a revived Congress party in the polls this year.


The theme of the 2019 meeting is ‘Globalization 4.0’, where the WEF has determined climate change to be the most critical existential challenge for humanity requiring urgent global action. Their premise is based upon the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) posit that humanity has only twelve years to act before global climate catastrophe, thereby justifying meeting, if not exceeding, the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement. The WEF intends to meet these terms by requiring a world order transformation of geopolitical, economic, and environmental outlooks globally – a new phase of global cooperation they call Globalization 4.0.


The Details


  • Long-standing heads of state such as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel will be present.

  • Among the new disruptive leaders are Brazil’s newly elected President, Jair Bolsonaro, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, representing an anti-establishment political coalition.




The World Economic Forum is a left-wing, independent international organization advocating for public-private cooperation to further its objective to improve the state of the world.


The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is the only yearly gathering that brings together leaders of global society. The heads and members of more than 100 governments, top executives of the 1,000 foremost global companies, leaders of international organizations and relevant non-governmental organizations, the most prominent cultural, societal and thought leaders, and the disruptive voices of the Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers and Technology Pioneers come together at the beginning of each year to define priorities and shape global, industry and regional agendas. Participation is by invitation only and reserved for members of the Forum’s communities.


Key Quotes


The Annual Meeting remains the foremost gathering of top leaders from politics, business, civil society and academia to shape global, industry and regional agendas in the context of Globalization 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the true “Davos Spirit”, the aim is to advance these agendas with bold ideas and exciting opportunities to consider in the year ahead.” from the WEF 2019 Meeting Overview.


PM May digs her heels in for Brexit Plan B, risking intervention from the Queen


The Story


British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had listened to the concerns of Members of Parliament (MP) but would not give in to calls for a customs union, a second referendum vote, or ruling out no deal. She warned that a second referendum would "shatter" faith in democracy and would damage "social cohesion" as she set out her 'Plan B' for Brexit.


The PM said she would again go back to the European Union (EU), headquartered in Brussels, to seek changes to the Irish backstop, will give MPs more say in future trade discussions, and will look to give greater assurances on environmental protections and workers' rights than those currently offered in the withdrawal agreement. However, her refusal to budge on no deal or a customs union has angered many MPs, who challenged her to put alternative options to a vote before ruling them out.  She was also attacked by Mr. Corbyn, who said that her statement to the Commons felt like "Groundhog Day".


Conservative MPs Dominic Grieve and Nick Boles are pushing for proposals that would take power away from Government and put it in the hands of Parliament. The Queen could be asked to block their legislation by refusing to give royal assent. Her veto would be the first time a Monarch has blocked Parliamentary legislation since Queen Anne vetoed the Scottish Militia Act in 1707. It would also place her at odds with the position of Parliament’s Speaker John Bercow, who has


The Details


  • Addressing those who have called for an extension of Article 50, PM May said that doing so would only "delay" the need to make a decision on Brexit, adding that it would still not rule out no deal.

  • Peers in the House of Lords voted on an amendment moved by Labour to block progress of the Trade Bill until the government provided more information on post-Brexit trade deals, defeating it by 243 to 208 votes. The change was branded a "tactic of obstruction" by the Government. The motion passed today will hold up the Report Stage of the bill, which had been set for February 25, until a white paper or other detailed proposals on trade have been published.




The PM cannot simply ignore or rule out a no deal – either a deal must be agreed to or Article 50, which triggered the Brexit process, must be revoked, which the European Court of Justice concluded was a viable option.


Mr. Grieve is pushing several proposals, the most controversial of which is to strip the Government of its control of Commons business and give it to MPs. That proposal would allow a minority of MPs – 300 across five parties, including 10 from the Tory benches – to put forward a motion that would stand as the first order of business. This has inspired the greatest hope among Remainers of derailing Brexit.


Mr. Boles is pushing a different proposal, that would give Parliament the power to put forward its own EU Withdrawal Bill, which if it becomes law, requires the Government to delay the end of the Article 50 process by nine months, if it cannot get a deal ratified by Parliament by February 28. That would mean the Brexit date would be postponed to near the end of the year. It is backed by a cross-party group of select committee chairs including Yvette Cooper, Nicky Morgan, Hilary Benn, and Norman Lamb, but delaying Article 50 still does not take no deal off the table.


Key Quotes


"This House voted to hold the referendum. It voted to trigger Article 50. There is a clear majority of this House to support a deal in principle and to respect the referendum result. But it requires the Prime Minister to face reality, and accept her deal has been comprehensively defeated. Instead, we now understand the Prime Minister is going back to Europe to seek concessions on the backstop. Can I ask the Prime Minister, what is the difference between legal assurances and concessions? What makes her think that what she tried to renegotiate in December will succeed in January? This really does feel like Groundhog Day." Mr. Corbyn told MPs in Parliament.


"It is a sacred duty of all UK politicians not to involve the monarch in politics. They have a constitutional responsibility to resolve difficulties between themselves in accordance with the rules, and so as not to call on the ultimate referee. However, might not a Government in that situation think that this was precisely the last resort for which the Royal Assent process is retained? How should the monarch react to such advice? The answer is not straightforward, and the prospect of it needing to be considered in a real-life political crisis is unthinkably awful." said Sir Stephen.


A new study links infection in children to subsequent mental illness risk


The Story


A new nationwide study in Denmark from iPSYCH, published in the academic journal JAMA Psychiatry, shows that infections in children is tied to subsequent mental illness during childhood and adolescence, expanding our knowledge and understanding of the role of the immune system in the development of mental disorders. The study suggests a link between infections in childhood and adolescence and increased risk of subsequent mental disorders.


Although the results cannot prove causality, these findings provide evidence for the involvement of infections and the immune system in the etiology of a wide range of mental disorders in children and adolescents,” the researchers wrote. Researcher Michael Eriksen Benrós, PhD, of the Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark said, “The temporal correlations between the infection and the mental diagnoses were particularly notable. As we observed that the risk of a newly occurring mental disorder was increased by 5.66 times in the first 3 months after contact with a hospital due to an infection and were also increased more than twofold within the first year.



The Details


  • The nationwide register-based cohort study involved more than 1 million people born in Denmark between 1995 and 2012. Researchers looked at treatment for childhood infections as well as mental health diagnoses and treatment.

  • Infections requiring hospitalization were associated with an 84 percent increased risk of a mental disorder diagnosis and a 42 percent increased risk of psychotropic medication use. Less severe infections treated in primary care were linked with a 40 percent increased risk of a mental health diagnosis and a 22 percent increased risk of psychotropic drug use. Antibiotics in particular were associated with higher increased risk.

  • Post-infection risks were highest for schizophrenia spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality and behavior disorders, mental retardation, autistic spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, and tic disorders.




The study is a part of the national iPSYCH psychiatry project. The new knowledge could have importance for further studies of the immune system and the importance of infections for the development of a wide range of childhood and adolescent mental disorders for which the researchers have shown a correlation.


Infections are caused by micro-organisms that are invisible to the naked eye and which invade and reproduce in the body. Some bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi can cause infections in healthy people. Other microorganisms are due to infections in humans with a weakened immune system.


It appears that infections and the inflammatory reaction that follows afterwards can affect the brain and be part of the process of developing severe mental disorders. This can, however, also be explained by other causes, such as some people having a genetically higher risk of suffering more infections and mental disorders.


Key Quotes


This knowledge increases our understanding of the fact that there is a close connection between body and brain and that the immune system can play a role in the development of mental disorders. Once again research indicates that physical and mental health are closely connected,” says Ole Köhler-Forsberg.

France fines Google USD $57 million for European privacy rule breach


The Story


France’s data protection agency CNIL fined Alphabet’s Google a record €50 million for breaching European Union online privacy rules by failing to provide users with transparent and understandable information on its data use policies. The French regulator said the world’s biggest search engine lacked transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data and failed to properly obtain their consent for personalized ads.


It is the biggest such penalty levied against a US technology company. Google was fined using new terms laid out in the pan-European general data protection regulation. The maximum fine for large companies under the new law is 4 percent of annual turnover, meaning the theoretical maximum fine for Google is almost €4 billion.


CNIL justified the large fine by noting that the violations were continuous, and still occurring. It added that Google’s violations were aggravated by the fact that “the economic model of the company is partly based on ads personalisation”, and that it was therefore “its utmost responsibility to comply” with GDPR.


The Details


  • The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the biggest shake-up of data privacy laws in more than two decades, came into force in May 2018. It allows users to better control their personal data and gives regulators the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue for violations.

  • Google issued a statement saying that people “expect high standards of transparency and control from us” and “We’re deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR,” adding that it was examining its next steps.




The CNIL decision follows complaints by two non-governmental organizations, None Of Your Business and La Quadrature du Net, which the regulator said had been mandated by 10,000 people to present the case. Both groups accused Google, as well as a number of other large internet companies including Facebook, of not having a valid legal basis to process the personal data of users of its services, “particularly for ads personalisation purposes”.


Additionally, CNIL found that even when user consent was collected, it did not meet the standards under GDPR that such consent be “specific” and “unambiguous”, since users were not asked specifically to opt in to ad targeting but were asked simply to agree to Google’s terms and privacy policy en masse.


Key Quotes


This is a milestone in privacy enforcement, and the history of privacy. The whole European Union should welcome the fine. It loudly announced the advent of GDPR decade,” said Dr. Lukasz Olejnik, an independent privacy researcher and adviser, who noted the ruling was the world’s largest data protection fine.


More than just a significant amount of money, this sanction is particularly detrimental to Google as it directly challenges its business model and will, in all likelihood, require them to deeply modify their provision of services,” said Sonia Cissé, Managing Associate at Linklaters.


Russian state pollster sees trust in President Vladimir Putin fall to 13-year low


The Story


A new poll by the Public Opinion Research Centre found that public trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin had fallen to 33.4 percent, its lowest level since 2006. Though the results do not pose an immediate problem for Mr. Putin, who won a landslide election victory and a new six-year mandate in March last year, it is considered a setback for the Kremlin, which works hard to burnish Mr. Putin’s image as a wise father-of-the-nation-style leader. The drop is trust could embolden would-be successors to begin what is likely to be a long game of jostling for position.


The Details


  • Putin’s overall approval rating, which is different from his trust rating, is still high at just over 60 percent.

  • His approval rating has slipped from its peak of nearly 90 percent amid dismay over falling household incomes and unpopular government moves to raise the retirement age and hike value added tax.

  • Putin’s trust rating hit a high of 71 percent in July 2015 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea the previous year.




On the eve of last year’s Presidential election, Mr. Putin’s level of trust with the public stood at 55.3 percent. Since then, public trust in him has dropped sharply, falling to 38.3 percent three months later, ending 2018 at 36.5 percent.


However, the same poll showed that Mr. Putin remains far more trusted than any other politician in Russia. The second and third most trusted politicians in the poll were Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who received trust ratings of 13.7 percent and 9.3 percent respectively.

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