Monday, December 2, 2013

Royal News Roundup

Starting in Spain, a little cuteness proved a good cure as Princesses Leonor and Sofia visited their recovering grandfather in the hospital, there for a four-day stay to undergo hip surgery. Not long after HM the King was released, joking with reporters that he was “bad, very bad” but later, in all seriousness, saying that everything went phenomenally well. The King is back at home now while the Prince of the Asturias made a lightning visit to Brazil after leaving the United States and while HM Queen Sofia tried to break the cuteness meter herself in an encounter with a panda cub. Moving to the Low Countries, in Luxembourg this week Grand Duke Henri met with members of the coalition set to form the next government. Among the items on their agenda is to separate church and state in Luxembourg, removing religion from the schools, changing the funding of religious groups and replacing the traditional Te Deum on National Day with a secular ceremony. In Belgian royal news, Princess Astrid and other government officials were in India this week where they attended a special ceremony honoring the victims of the 26/11 terrorist attack. For the Dutch, TM King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima visited Venezuela, meeting with President Nicolas Maduro amidst anti-government protests following the arrest in the night of a key opposition leader. What was the funniest thing about the trip? The ignorance of the mainstream media of course as the AFP referred to the Queen being from “nearby” Argentina. Yes, Argentina is “nearby” Venezuela in the same way that Alaska is on the same continent as Mexico.

In British royal news, Prince Harry is making slow progress on his Antarctic trek, being snowed in (what a surprise). Prince William sang a duet with Taylor Swift (the most charitable member of the American music industry) and Jon Bon Jovi (who has some people grow grapes at one of his mansions so he can collect a farm subsidy from American taxpayers) and joined with the Prince of Wales to condemn poaching. The antics of anti-British Argentina gained some headlines this week as the tantrum-prone republic threatened to arrest anyone they can get their hands on engaged in oil exploration in or around the Falkland Islands. Argentina would be wiser to simply stall for time. The way the British military is being reduced, in the near future the U.K. will be totally unable to defend the islands any longer without the agreement of the European Union and that sort of cooperation will probably not be forthcoming. What would be my solution you ask? For Britain to leave the EU, become a haven for all the money-makers being taxed and regulated out of Europe, rebuild the Royal Navy and settle the issue with Argentina once and for all with their choice of the easy way or the hard way. That, of course, is unlikely to happen. In other news, HM the Queen unveiled new Diamond Jubilee windows and Guildhall and handed an OBE to raunchy x-rated author Jackie Collins. Nice to see a knighthood still means something. And in the Scandinavian monarchies it has really been a rough week with not much good news to be had. The Danes are still enduring gasps of shock at a Royal Family portrait that looks like a horror movie poster (and yes, I didn’t believe the hype either until I actually saw it and yes it really is that bad and yes “The Omen” did come to mind). In Sweden Prince Carl Philip was hit by a bus, doing little to no harm to the royal thankfully but crunching up his Porsche pretty badly and in Norway Crown Princess Mette-Marit sold some of her clothes on-line for charity. However, the news there was rather overshadowed by rumors that the Crown Princess and Crown Prince Haakon may be on the verge of separation. Of course, these are just rumors and nothing more and the Palace will not comment on them. Still, be they true or be they lies, it is not good to hear.

Moving on to the Middle East, word came out this week that the music loving Sultan of Qaboos (who travels with his own orchestra) was the man behind the recent agreement between the United States and Iran, being the one who first arranged for the Americans and Iranians to start talking to each other for the first time since the Revolution and the hostage crisis. Meanwhile, Kuwait is trying to ease tensions between two other monarchies in the region, Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the problematic republic of Egypt. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cheered the military overthrow of President Morsi in July while the Emirate of Qatar, which had heavily subsidized Morsi, saw its influence evaporate when the military took charge. Saudi Arabia is also upset with support from Qatar for the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that their brand of populist Islamic revolution could unseat the reigning monarchies of the region. Kuwait is apparently acting as a go-between to ease the tensions between Qatar and the Saudis. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also been more and more unhappy with the United States lately, first over Syria (where the Saudis strongly supported action against the Assad regime) and over the deal with Iran. White House sources say President Obama called the Saudi King as soon as the deal was made in an effort to reassure him -which I doubt accomplished much.

In East Asia, tensions were on the rise this week in the Kingdom of Thailand as anti-government (pro-monarchy) protestors took to the streets in demonstrations against the lady Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, leader of the Pheu Thai Party and brother to deposed former PM and convicted criminal Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted by the army and fled the country to avoid going to jail. Outrage mounted over a failed effort to pass an amnesty bill that would have allowed the former PM (leader of the red shirts) to return to Thailand without being held accountable for his crimes. There have also been accusations that Thaksin is still pulling the strings of the current government from afar and previous efforts at an amnesty bill have been perceived as simply attempts to do whatever it takes to get Thaksin cleared, returned to Thailand and restored to power. Meanwhile, in northeast Asia, HM the Emperor of Japan received rice from Hirono in Fukushima prefecture which will be served at dining halls and imperial residences to help reassure people of the safety of products from the region where local farmers have been struggling due to fears stemming from the tsunami-hit nuclear plant. Rice was first sent to the Prime Minister and government agencies and HM the Emperor is quoted as saying, “We want to have some too, because the rice must have been grown with great effort.” Plans are also underway for the upcoming imperial visit to India, the first such trip for an Emperor of Japan. Indo-Japanese ties have been increasing in recent years and Japan is the largest source of foreign aid to India. This can also be seen in the context of Japan reaching out to many south and southeast Asian countries in response to increased hostility from mainland China, threats from North Korea and an uncooperative South Korea. Japan is also deeply concerned over the “air identification zone” declared by Red China over a vast track of the China Sea, including the Japanese Senkaku Islands. Japan, South Korea and the United States have said they consider this move invalid and provocative and will not recognize the Chinese claims, although in a rather contradictory move, the U.S. State Department has urged commercial American airliners to comply with Chinese demands.

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