Lost your passport? Go to McDonald’s


A partnership between McDonald’s Austria and the U.S. embassy in Austria now allows McDonald’s to assist American travelers get into contact with the U.S. embassy. Should an American lose a passport or be in service of any other consular services, workers at McDonald’s in Austria can help the travelers get the help they need.

Scandal shocks Austria, leads to resignation of vice chancellor


Video recordings of Austria’s Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache were released showing him asking a woman posing as a daughter of a Russian oligarch for political help. The scandal has shocked Austria and led to Strache’s resignation. The leader of the far-right party Freedom Party, Strache, promised the woman posing as the daughter of the Russian oligarch contracts in exchange for media coverage and funding.

What does the world think of American democracy?


How ya like US now? It’s a mixed bag. The Eurasia Group Foundation conducted a poll to determine whether countries see American democracy as a model. We fared the worst among key allies included in the poll (Germany, Japan), while a majority of the Chinese would like to see their government become more like ours. The most-cited reasons for unfavorable views of the U.S. were opposition to President Trump, interventions abroad, and economic inequality.

US and EU take down global cybercrime syndicate


The cybercrime network is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from businesses around the world and has members in several Eastern European countries. Authorities have arrested most members of the syndicate. Prosecutors in Eastern Europe and in the U.S. are preparing to file criminal charges against those in custody.

Angela Merkel calls US a global rival similar to China and Russia


German Chancellor Angela Merkel lumped in the United States with Europe’s other global adversaries on Wednesday, arguing that the countries on the continent need to band together against the challenges posed by Russia, China and the U.S. “There is no doubt that Europe needs to reposition itself in a changed world…. The old certainties of the postwar order no longer apply,” the German Chancellor said.

Thousands protest cathedral in Russia


Several thousand people rallied on Wednesday in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg to protest plans to a build a new cathedral in a local park. Opponents of the cathedral, which is promoted by authorities and funded by the owners of two major local industrial giants, say the construction project, smack in the city center, would take away green and recreational space needed by residents of a city with 1.5 million people.

US won’t join international agreement against online extremism


The U.S. says it supports an international effort spearheaded by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron to find ways to stop social media from spreading hate — but won’t take part in it. Signing onto the effort are the UK, Japan, Australia, Italy, India, Germany, and Spain, along with tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube. The White House suggested it has concerns about First Amendment violations.

More than half of countries are democratic


Concern has been growing for the past several years about the future of democracy, and there is considerable dissatisfaction in many countries with how democracy is working in practice. But public support for democratic ideals remains strong, and by one measure, global democracy is at or near a modern-day high. As of the end of 2017, 96 out of 167 countries with populations of at least 500,000 (57%) were democracies of some kind, and only 21 (13%) were autocracies.

Duterte on track to tighten grip on power


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks set to strengthen his grip on power after unofficial results of a mid-term election showed big wins for his candidates, and resounding public endorsement of his controversial rule. Nine of 12 available seats in the all-important Senate looked set to go to pro-Duterte candidates.

Sri Lanka blocks social media to fight anti-Muslim backlash after bombings


Sri Lanka has blocked Facebook and WhatsApp after an eruption of retaliatory attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the wake of the Easter bombings by Islamist militants. “The attack continued for nearly two hours and they attacked one house also in the village. There were hundreds of attackers,” a resident of the Muslim-majority town of Kiniyama told reporters.

Myanmar plane lands without front wheels


A Myanmar pilot was forced to improvise after his aircraft’s landing gear failed, safely putting the jet on the runway with no front wheels on Sunday, an official said. The miracle landing, in which none of the 89 passengers were hurt, was the second instance of a malfunctioning flight in Myanmar in less than a week.

Two Saudi oil tankers sabotaged


The incident, which could threaten global oil supplies, came three days after the U.S. Maritime Administration issued a warning that “Iran or its proxies” were planning to target commercial vessels and oil production infrastructure. The Saudi state-run press agency reported one of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil for customers in the United States.

Istanbul braces for election do-over on June 23rd


After failing to change the outcome of Istanbul’s mayoral election through a recount of the votes, Turkish president Erdogan decided that voiding the vote and re-doing the election was his only chance of winning. The new election is set for June 23rd, and residents of Istanbul are not sure how to feel about it.

Rudy Giuliani traveling to Ukraine to push for investigation into Joe Biden and his son


President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says he is heading to Ukraine to meet with the country’s incoming president in the hopes of persuading him to continue investigations related to former Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There’s nothing illegal about it,” Giuliani said.

Jeffrey Smith and Hilary Matfess: No democracy is an island


“To be sure, literally embracing illiberal strongmen and rubber-stamping stolen elections spans multiple U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican. However, the Trump administration’s endorsement of deliberately broken democratic processes and the leaders who have benefitted from them has shifted America’s position toward democracy promotion from tepid to outright hostility.”

Pope issues law aimed at fighting abuse and coverups


Pope Francis announced Thursday morning a sweeping new law that will make it easier for whistleblower priests and nuns to report their bosses for sexual abuse or coverups. The law gives unprecedented power to the Catholic Church’s 415,000 priests and 660,000 religious sisters who, until now, could not go directly to the Vatican with complaints about their supervising bishops, cardinals, or superior nuns.

Who gets to define ‘fake news’?


Singapore’s ruling party defended its planned bill to combat “fake news” amid continued debate about who gets to define what’s true and false. Under a new bill backed by the government, it will be government ministers who make that call. “Free speech should not be affected by this bill,” Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in parliament this week. “We are talking here about falsehoods, we are talking about bots, we are talking about trolls, we are talking about fake accounts, and so on.”