The World Today for July 20, 2016

Need to know

No Peace To Keep

The African Union has approved a peacekeeping force for South Sudan.

But, in a twist that illustrates the long-suffering country’s dilemma, the troops can’t deploy unless they receive permission from the South Sudanese government.

President Salva Kiir doesn’t want the troops. He’s in control, after all. They would only halt his progress in fighting Vice President Riek Machar, who is fighting an insurgency against Kiir.

In other words, there is no peace for the African Union to keep.

The letdown comes shortly after the anniversary of the country’s fifth Independence Day on July 9. Ordinarily, such occasions call for celebration. But fireworks were far from the minds of the South Sudanese.

Instead, renewed fighting in the capital of Juba between Kiir and Machar’s forces shattered an almost year-old peace deal and left many wondering whether the country was veering back toward civil war. Machar had recently returned to the city in expectation of joining Kiir in the government.

It appears as if a dispute between Kiir and Machar’s forces at a road checkpoint sparked the violence. More than 300 people have died since July 7. A fragile ceasefire has taken hold but sporadic violence is still occurring.

Around 36,000 civilians were displaced by the outburst of violence, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. Thousands more have taken shelter in Uganda, the UN said Tuesday. No one is going home anytime soon. Foreign nationals from the United States, European Union, Japan and elsewhere, as well as international businesses, have evacuated, suggesting diplomats, business people and others don’t expect the shaky truce to hold, either.

Machar’s whereabouts are now unknown, the BBC reported. He’s withdrawn his troops from Juba and insists he’s not planning on war. His spokesperson said he was staying away from the capital until the ceasefire was more secure. He called for an outside force to act as a “buffer” between the two parties. The African Union’s force is an answer to that call even as on Wednesday, thousands of Juba residents poured into the streets to protest foreign forces being deployed to the country.

In 2013, the last time full-blown civil war erupted in South Sudan, two years of fighting displaced over two million people and left tens of thousands dead.

Now some South Sudanese citizens are asking whether South Sudan’s hard-won independence from Sudan in 2011 after a 20-year guerilla war has been worth it after all.

“I am sure that if the South Sudanese were given a second chance to choose between having their own country and remaining (with) Sudan, they would think twice,” Gabriel John, 28, a Juba businessman, told USA Today, adding that corruption was as much as a plague as violence in the country.

Want to Know

Upping the Ante

North Korea announced Wednesday that it had successfully conducted a ballistic missile test simulating a preemptive strike against South Korean ports and airfields used by US forces.

While North Korea did not give a date for when the exercise took place, it’s a likely reference to three missiles Pyongyang launched Tuesday, according to Reuters.

North Korea fired those missiles over 300 miles off its east coast into the sea, according to South Korean military officials. Those launches defy both UN Security Council resolutions and are part of a recurring series of provocations by the Hermit Kingdom involving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

They were also seen as North Korea’s response to the US and South Korea’s selection of a site in South Korea last week to install an anti-missile system to counter threats from the north. North Korea has threatened a “physical response” to that decision.

A Brutal Price

At least 56 civilians – including 11 children – were killed and dozens more wounded in airstrikes Tuesday north of the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based NGO.

Residents said they believe the attack was carried out by aircraft from the US-led coalition and that they were fleeing from the nearby village of Tokhar north of Manbij when they were hit.

The US-led coalition has been providing air support to Kurdish forces as part of a wider offensive launched at the end of May by the so-called Syria Democratic Forces – an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters – to seize Manbij from IS militants.

The area around Manbij is one of the last major pieces of territory held by IS militants on Syria’s border with Turkey.

Kurdish forces have surrounded Manbij with the help of US-led airstrikes but IS attacks continue in the surrounding countryside.

Buying Time

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin Wednesday for private talks where May will tell Merkel she needs time to prepare for Brexit.

May will likely argue that she needs time to consult with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and different industries before triggering formal exit negotiations, says the Guardian. Similar discussions are scheduled between May and French President Francois Hollande in Paris Thursday.

May’s first visit to the continent as prime minister comes one day after the first legal challenge to Brexit began with a hearing in a UK High Court in London.

During the hearing, government lawyers confirmed that May will not trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty kicking off the UK’s departure from the EU before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, new UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dismissed questions from reporters about his previous remarks on world leaders in his first meeting with the US press corps. He’s made so many controversial comments about world leaders in his career that it isn’t worth taking the time to apologize for them all, he said.


The Humming Speed Racers

Unless they’re race-car drivers, most humans would have trouble executing a tight turn at 60 miles per hour.

Yet some hummingbirds can move that fast in a forest packed with trees. Why don’t the little creatures crash into trunks, branches or each other?

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains why.

Insects and many people would judge their direction, velocity and location by how fast objects move around them. The Christian Science Monitor illustrated the phenomenon: People can tell they are traveling fast based on how telephone poles whizz by and blur while skyscrapers in the distance remain relatively solid.

Hummingbirds, on the other hand, look at the size of objects around them.

In a press release, the researchers said they put the birds in an 18-foot-long laboratory and projected moving and still light patterns on the walls. The birds changed course based on the size, not the speed, of the patterns.

Hummingbirds are cute. Now we know they’re also darn smart, too.

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