The World Today for July 19, 2016

Need to Know

The Same Old Same Old

Tens of thousands of people congregated on the Promenade des Anglais Monday to observe a moment of silence in honor of the 84 people killed when an angry young man drove a 19-ton truck through a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks last week.

When French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stood to speak, people booed and cried “resign, resign.”

Some in the crowd exhorted the hecklers to show respect. But others asked, who could blame the catcallers?

Since January 2015, Islamic State-inspired killers have staged the Charlie Hebdo attacks, shot up the Bataclan music hall and other venues in Paris, masterminded the Brussels explosions and assaulted and beheaded the manager of a Lyon chemical factory.

Valls and his boss, French President Francois Hollande, are clearly doing something wrong, some believe: The French internal intelligence services were notoriously inadequate to the task of rooting out terrorism when the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred, a parliamentary inquiry found.

Still, French prosecutors on Monday also suggested that Hollande and Valls could have done little to stop the Nice attack.

The driver of the truck, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was surfing Islamic State propaganda websites a few days before the July 14 massacre. His seized computer yielded images of corpses and Islamic State fighters. A smoking gun that is not. Bouhlel was an unsavory character who reportedly beat his wife and flouted Islamic dietary laws, but little about his life suggests he was more than a pathetic man who sympathized from afar with jihadists.

For some reason, however, he crossed the line.

“What we want to know now is what were the links between the man who was behind this dreadful attack and the terrorist networks,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, according to CNN. “Those links, for the moment, have yet to be established by the investigation. So we must still be prudent with what we say on that subject.”

From France to Cleveland – where Republicans are now meeting to tap Donald Trump as their candidate for president of the United States – citizens are disappointed in leaders who can’t stop the violence that’s taking lives from Dallas to the French Riviera to the Middle East.

Yet, in a world where Americans can easily obtain firearms and move about freely and an angry young man can log onto the Internet and drive a truck through a road barricade, it’s arguably unrealistic to expect leaders to change anything unless they change everything.

Most folks aren’t prepared or willing for everything to change. In the meantime, they’re dying amid the same old same old.

Want to Know

Valid Anxiety

A 17-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan injured several people with a hatchet and a knife on a train in southern Germany Monday evening before being shot dead by police as he fled the train.

One witness said the train carriage where the attack occurred “looked like a slaughterhouse.” Two of the victims are currently in critical condition, authorities say.

German authorities later found a hand-painted flag of the Islamic State among the attacker’s belongings, said the state of Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Hermann early Tuesday.

Police say that are still investigating whether the teenager radicalized himself individually or was part of a larger Islamic group. He reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) during the attack.

The assailant traveled to Germany as an unaccompanied minor two years ago and claimed asylum afterward. He had been living with a foster family since he moved out of a refugee center earlier this year.

Germans have grown increasingly nervous about attacks by Islamist extremists following the wave of violence that has occurred in neighboring France. More than a million refugees arrived from mainly Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

Null and Void

A top Filipino diplomat announced Tuesday that the country was rejecting an offer from China to hold negotiations “outside of and in disregard to” a ruling from an international tribune in The Hague last week that dismissed Beijing’s claims to ownership of the South China Sea.

The Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that China’s offer “was not consistent with our constitution and our national interests.”

Wang reportedly added that “we might be headed for a confrontation,” should the Philippines insist that China complies with The Hague’s decision.

The Hague ruling invalidated China’s sprawling territorial claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas: It said China violated the treaty by creating artificial islands in the South China Sea that destroyed coral reefs and impeded the Philippines’ right to fish there.

The US and other countries welcomed the ruling. China refused to participate in the process and called the tribunal’s July 12 decision “null and void.”

Useful Pretext?

Turkey’s initial crackdown on plotters following a botched military coup expanded into a sweeping purge Monday that reached deep into the country’s security services, civil servants and business and political elite.

A total of nearly 18,000 people were detained or dismissed from their jobs Monday – including 6,000 members of the military, 9,000 police officers and even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal military attaché.

The numbers suggest that support for the coup was either greater than initially believed, or that Erdogan is using the failed putsch as a pretext to dismiss other adversaries, writes the NY Times.

Followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen – a former ally of Erdogan now living in exile in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan has accused of trying to overthrow the government from abroad – came under particular scrutiny as the purges widened.

Meanwhile, Erdogan addressed supporters outside his Istanbul home early Tuesday and said he would reinstate the death penalty “if the people demanded it.”

Western nations have already expressed alarm at what they believe to be score-settling: US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Turkey to “show restraint” and uphold the rule of law, while EU officials warned that the reinstatement of the death penalty would end Turkey’s bid for EU membership.

Discoveries

Introducing the Welcome Germs

Parents of young children are constantly pulling their children’s thumbs out of their mouths, believing, usually correctly, that the kids’ hands are filthy and covered in germs.

Yet many of those same parents often ask themselves why kids do that in the first place if it’s an unsanitary habit that could lead to illness, the Star Tribune reported.

Now scientists have found that children who suck their thumbs are less likely to have allergies later in life, suggesting that thumb-sucking is nature’s way of introducing allergens to the body, thus giving the tots’ immune systems a chance to grow stronger, according to research published in the journal Pediatrics. The same goes for another bête noire of parents far and wide: nail-biting.

The scientists did not assess whether the children suffered any detrimental effects from the social stigma associated with the so-called bad habits. Accordingly, they said they don’t necessarily suggest that parents encourage thumb-sucking and nail-biting.

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