July 01, 2016

July 1, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

No BoJo Means No

With former London Mayor Boris Johnson, aka BoJo, out of the race for prime minister, the odds that the UK will step away from the ledge just got longer.

“If there is one British politician who could pull off a U-turn shamelessly, fudge things and keep the UK in (the European Union), with chutzpah, it was Johnson,” Simon Tilford, deputy-director of the European Center for European Reform, told Bloomberg.

In a surprising turn of events Thursday, Johnson said that he would not run for prime minister, after fellow Conservative Party pol Michael Gove threw his hat in the ring. The two leaders had been allies in the so-called Brexit campaign, and as of a week ago, when Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, Johnson had been the odds-on favorite to succeed him.

After Gove said Johnson lacked the “team captaincy” skills for the job, Twitter users and the Washington Post likened the plot twist to an episode of the popular Netflix Washington potboiler “House of Cards” – which was adapted from a British television series of the same name. But the fallout is likely to extend beyond social media.

Over the past week, pundits had speculated that the Conservatives might seek to delay and eventually thwart the voters’ decision to leave the EU, established by a nationwide referendum, after Cameron and several candidates tipped to replace him suggested that they would not immediately seek to “trigger” negotiations for leaving the union. Now that Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May are the frontrunners, however, it’s become increasingly clear that “Brexit means Brexit,” as May herself put it Thursday, according to the Guardian.

The pound, which had plunged 10 percent on the referendum results, dropped 1.4 percent on Thursday’s developments.

There are now a total of five candidates (see bios here) in the running. Conservative members of parliament will narrow the race down to two in a series of votes, most likely before September 9.

As of now, May is the bookies’ favorite to replace Cameron. That is a bit strange because she was a tepid backer of the “Remain” camp and “vulnerable to charges” that she failed to stem immigration in her current post, writes the New York Times.

But it should be clear by now that plot twists are the new normal for this particular house.


WANT TO KNOW

Expanding Influence

Tuesday's airport bombing in Istanbul may mark the first time that Russian-speaking terrorists have carried out an attack on a western target, amid negotiations between Moscow and Washington over coordinating their strikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

Though so far no group has claimed credit for the Istanbul attack – which has so far claimed 44 lives – Turkish officials said Thursday that the three suicide bombers who carried it out were from Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Associated Press reported. The officials did not provide any details about how they identified the nationalities of the attackers, and Kyrgyzstan denied the claim that one of its citizens was involved.

Russian-speaking terrorists – as many as 7,000 of whom have reportedly joined IS – could add to the problems counterterrorism officials in Europe already face in profiling possible attackers, according to the New York Times.

If the Istanbul attackers are indeed confirmed to have been Russian speakers, it’s unclear what impact, if any, that might have on the problematic cooperation between US and Russian forces in Syria. Washington is currently negotiating with Moscow to coordinate their attacks, provided Moscow stops its bombing of US-backed rebels and use its leverage to convince President Bashar al-Assad to cease his assaults on them as well, CNN reports.

The trouble is, Moscow sees Assad as the best bet for establishing stability and guaranteeing its influence after the shelling stops, while 51 US diplomats have called for direct US military action against him.


The Downgrade

Myanmar, Sudan and Haiti were among 27 countries to be downgraded to rank among the worst offenders in the latest US State Department report on human trafficking, while Thailand managed to break out of the basement thanks to “significant efforts” to eliminate the problem.

Meanwhile, on the same day that “tough on crime” President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in Manila, the annual Trafficking in Persons report noted that his country had improved to rank among the “Tier 1” nations, even though sex trafficking is still considered a serious problem in the Philippines, CNN reported.

It wasn’t brutal justice of the kind advocated by Duterte that won accolades, but “increased funding in the battle to prevent migrant worker trafficking, implementation of a number of awareness campaigns and convictions in the areas of child online sex trafficking and forced labor,” says CNN.

The report covers 190 countries, out of which 45 ranked among those fighting effectively against human trafficking (Tier 1) and 27 ranked among the worst offenders (Tier 3). Another 44 are on the Tier 2 watch list, which means they’ve failed to provide evidence of increasing efforts to fight the problem.


Who’s Counting Cameroon?

The Islamic State strikes in Europe and beheads western journalists, so it grabs more headlines. But in Africa, Boko Haram is as vicious a scourge, judging by the death toll.

The Islamist militant group has killed at least 480 civilians in Cameroon alone over the past year, since it began carrying out suicide bombings in the West African state, Bloomberg cites an Amnesty International report as saying.

Boko Haram has conducted at least 200 attacks, including nearly 40 suicide bombings in northern Cameroon, the human rights group says. The latest, on Thursday, killed at least nine people when two bombers detonated explosives at a gathering in Djakana, near Limani, a town on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria.

In comparison, Kurdish and Islamic State militants have staged at least 14 major attacks across Turkey over the past year, killing more than 280 people, according to the New York Times.


DISCOVERIES

Step Away From the Bowl

Cookie dough can kill you. Sure, it probably won’t. Maybe you’ll get off with nothing but a delicious aftertaste. Maybe some guilt, some mild nausea. Nothing a glass of milk won’t fix.

Then again, “eating raw dough or batter—whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas—could make you, and your kids, sick,” the US Food and Drug Administration saw fit to warn in a recent consumer update.

It’s not just the risk of salmonella from raw egg, which is actually pretty low. It’s the E. coli bacteria and the flour industry, according to Smithsonian.

FDA officials recently found a Shiga toxin-producing variety of the bacteria after people in 20 US states were hospitalized or sickened after handling or eating raw dough. They traced the bug back to a batch of General Mills flour produced at a Missouri facility in November 2015, which was later recalled. But according to the food cops “flour, regardless of the brand, can contain bacteria that causes disease.”

What the hell, live dangerously.

joverdorf
Fri, 07/01/2016 – 05:14