Analysis: Why Iran’s rejection of uranium enrichment restrictions is cleverer than it looks

The hawks were gleeful when Iran announced it would no longer respect restrictions on uranium enrichment on Sunday.

“Another good day,” former White House security advisor John Bolton wrote on Twitter. Final proof, he said, that Iran had ditched the 2015 agreement Donald Trump’s administration controversially pulled out of last year. 

But that is not entirely – or even remotely – true.

Iran’s latest rejection of the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement is actually more cautious and much more diplomatically shrewd than Mr Bolton claims. 

And that is important not only for arms control wonks. 

It also says a lot about the instincts that guide the Islamic Republic’s decision makers, and will probably…

France on shutdown as pension strikes halt trains, shut schools and hit Eiffel Tower

France’s vaunted high-speed trains stood still on Thursday, schools across the country shut down and the Eiffel Tower warned visitors to stay away as unions held nationwide strikes and protests over the government’s plan to overhaul the retirement system.

Paris deployed 6,000 police for what is expected to be a major demonstration through the capital, an outpouring of anger at President Emmanuel Macron for a reform seen as threatening the hard-fought French way of life.

The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum warned of strike disruptions, and Paris hotels struggled to fill rooms. Many visitors, including the U.S. energy secretary, canceled plans to travel to one of the world’s most-visited countries amid the strike.

Subway stations across Paris were shuttered, complicating traffic _ and prompting many commuters to use shared bikes or electric scooters instead. Many workers in the Paris region worked from home or took a day off to stay with their children, since 78 percent of teachers in the capital were on strike.

Historic train stations stood empty, with about nine out of 10 of high-speed trains canceled. Signs at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport showed "canceled" notices, as Air France called off about 30 percent of domestic flights.

Bracing for possible violence and damage along the route of the Paris march, police ordered all businesses, cafes and restaurants in the area to close. Authorities also issued a ban on protests on the Champs-Elysees avenue, around the presidential palace, parliament and Notre Dame Cathedral. Yellow vest activists plan to join unions at the protests in Paris and cities around the country, pressing their campaign for more economic justice.

The empty Gare Du Nord in Paris, as tourists cancel travel plans and the authorities deploy thousands of police as France girds for massive, nationwide strikes and protests Credit: Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP

Public sector workers fear President Emmanuel Macron’s reform will force them to work longer and shrink their pensions. And they see this fight as crucial to saving France’s social safety net.

"The five weeks of paid vacation, the state health care system _ we got all that through social struggles from people who sacrificed themselves financially for us to get that," said rail worker Gilles Pierre, taking part in Thursday’s march.

Pierre, who is 41 and according to the current system can retire at 52, acknowledges that the current system is generous, but argues that it’s fair compensation for the constraints that go with their jobs, like working on weekends and holidays.

"What do we want for our retirement years? To enjoy it or being a retiree in a hospital or in a bed and not being able to enjoy life?"

To Macron, the retirement reform is central to his plan to transform France so it can compete globally in the 21st century. The government argues France’s 42 retirement systems need streamlining, and the transportation minister said he will meet with unions Thursday to try to defuse tensions.

The big question is how long the strike will last. Unions say it’s an indefinite movement and hope to keep up momentum at least for a week, in hopes of forcing the government to make concessions.

At Montparnasse train station, Samira Quasan, a 28-year-old tourist from Chicago, described moving around her travel plans to and from Bordeaux because of the strike. Parisian Marie Boudal had to do the same for her grandchild’s baptism in Lyon.

Some travelers complained about the disruptions, while some showed support for the striking workers.

18,000-year-old puppy discovered in Siberia could be missing link between dogs and wolves

An 18,000-year-old puppy unearthed in Siberia could prove to be the missing link between dogs and wolves, scientists believe. 

The puppy was discovered perfectly preserved by permafrost near Yakutsk, eastern Siberia last summer and carbon dating has revealed it has been frozen for around 18,000 years.  

Researchers at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden announced this week that extensive DNA tests have so far been unable to confirm whether the animal was a dog or a wolf. 

The experts believe this may be because the canine comes from the period when dogs were domesticated and hope the creature will prove crucial to uncovering when exactly the evolution began.  

"It’s normally relatively easy to tell the difference between the two," researcher David Stanton told CNN.

Dogor was so well-preserved because he was found in a tunnel that was dug into the permafrost

"We have a lot of data from it already, and with that amount of data, you’d expect to tell if it was one or the other. The fact that we can’t might suggest that it’s from a population that was ancestral to both – to dogs and wolves".

A 2017 study published in the journal Nature Communications suggested that modern dogs were domesticated from a single wolf population 20,000 to 40,000 years ago but tests on this specimen could offer further clues as to the precise period.

"We don’t know exactly when dogs were domesticated, but it may have been from about that time. We are interested in whether it is in fact a dog or a wolf, or perhaps it’s something halfway between the two," Mr Stanton added.

Scientists believe some modern dogs descended from just one wolf population that lived continuously in Europe for thousands of years. 

If confirmed to be a dog, scientists believe it will be the earliest confirmed

"It seems that dogs were domesticated from a lineage of wolves that went  extinct," said Mr Stanton. "So that’s why it’s such a difficult problem to work on to understand where and when dogs were domesticated."

The researchers’ genome analysis has revealed that the puppy was a male so the scientists, after discussing with their Russian colleagues, have named the puppy ‘Dogor’. The name means "friend" in Yakutian – as well as referencing the question "dog or wolf?"

The scientists hope that further genome data tests on the creature will reveal more about Dogor’s origins. Photographs released by the Centre for Palaeogenetics show the puppy in an almost perfect condition, with its nose, whiskers and teeth remarkably intact. Dogor can be seen almost completely covered in fur except for an exposed rib cage. 

Dogor was discovered in a remote part of north-east Siberia and is so well-preserved because it was found in a tunnel that was dug into the permafrost.

He was later sent to Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit for dating, which revealed that the corpse dated back at least 18,000 years, meaning Dogor would have lived during the last Ice Age.

He is being kept in Russia while Mr Stanton and his colleague Love Dalen study his rib bone back in Sweden. 

 

World’s best sushi restaurant dropped from Michelin Guide after refusing to serve public

The world’s best sushi restaurant seats just ten people and is famously housed in a Tokyo metro station. 

But despite its cult following, the famously exclusive restaurant has lost its listing in the Michelin Guide, not because the quality of the food has dropped, but because it is no longer open to the general public. 

Sukiyabashi Jiro, run by the renowned nonagenarian Japanese chef Jiro Ono, has been recognised with three Michelin stars each year since the culinary guide launched a Tokyo edition in 2007. 

But this year’s Tokyo edition of the Michelin Guide declined to include it within its pages, saying it is “out of their scope” because of its decision to only offer reservations VIPs and return customers. 

“We recognise Sukiyabashi Jiro does not accept reservations from the general public, which makes it out of our scope,” said a spokeswoman for the Michelin Guide after the decision was announced on Tuesday. 

She added that “it was not true to say the restaurant lost stars but it is not subject to coverage in our guide," rather that the guide’s "policy is to introduce restaurants where everybody can go to eat.” 

Jiro Ono's restaurant has become a cult classic

With former diners including US president Barack Obama, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and a host of Hollywood celebrities, booking a table has never been easy. 

But now prospective diners must be regular customers, be part of an elite network or book through the concierge of a luxury hotel – as well as stomach the 40,000 yen (£285) price tag for the chef’s selection menu. 

Sukiyabashi Jiro said it was “currently experiencing difficulties in accepting reservations” and apologised for “any inconvenience to our valued customers” in a statement on its website. 

It added: “Unfortunately, as our restaurant can only seat up to 10 guests at a time, this situation is likely to continue.” 

The restaurant opened in 1965 but has gathered a cult following in recent years, particularly since the release of a 2011 documentary "Jiro Dreams of  Sushi", which follows the life of its star chef and owner. 

Barack Obama arrived in a motorcade when he dined at Sukiyabashi Jiro  Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

The documentary followed Ono, who is considered something of a national  treasure in Japan, as he performs his meticulous sushi preparation ritual. 

The rice at the restaurant is crafted to fit the diner’s mouth, with Ono examining customer’s hands and faces to work out what size portion is appropriate for them.

Diners are asked not to wear strong perfume or take photographs of the food. 

Ono has also faced criticism for his previous comments about women –  particularly his suggestion that women make inferior sushi chefs because their menstrual cycles affect their sense of taste. 

Despite being in his 90s, he continues to serve sushi with the help of his eldest son Yoshikazu. A second branch run by Ono’s younger son remains open to the public and has retained its two stars.

NHS claims back just one third of the £91m billed from ‘health tourists’

NHS hospitals recouped just one third of the £91 million billed from patients from outside Europe last year, despite Government pledges to crack down on so-called “health tourists”.

New figures show that some hospitals managed to claim back just 10 per cent of monies owing, with leading medics warning that the system is “not working”

Just £35 million out of a £91 million total was reclaimed by the health service for care it provided to citizens from countries not in the  European Economic Area.

The amount billed in 2018-19 is up £4m on 2017-18, while the amount received has increased by just £5m, Health Service Journal said. 

It follows a series of clamp downs aimed to ensure overseas patients pay for their care.

Since 2017, hospitals have had a legal duty to charge overseas patients upfront for non-urgent care if they are not eligible for free treatment.

But many medics are opposed to the policy.

Earlier this year medics at the British Medical Association’s annual conference voted “overwhelmingly” to scrap the rule which they said was racist, insisting ‘We are doctors not border guards”.

Nine of the top 10 hospitals which racked up the most debt were all in London.

Barts Health Trust, which runs St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, invoiced overseas patients for £10.2million worth of NHS treatment last year but only got £1.1m of that paid back.

Imperial College Healthcare Trust billed patients for £6.7m but received just £2.4m. And Guys and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust recouped just £1.5m of the £4.2 mi it was owed. 

John Chisholm, BMA ethics chair said: “The system as it stands is not working and, given the difficulties in recouping charges and assessing a patient’s ability to pay, it is not cost effective or beneficial to the NHS.’

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said: “Trusts understand that as far as is practicable, these costs should be recovered, and there is evidence that we are seeing improvements in the amount recouped”

A spokesperson from Barts Health NHS Trust said: “We make every effort to recover payment from patients who are liable for the cost of their treatment. However, these patients are not usually resident in the UK and recovering payment is therefore often difficult. 

“In addition, some patients are able to demonstrate their eligibility for treatment after invoices have been issued.”

An NHS Improvement spokesperson said: “The NHS recovered an additional £20m last year from overseas patients compared to two years ago, and continues to provide expert support to trusts to ensure as much money as possible is recovered so it can be reinvested into frontline care for patients.”