The World Today for November 07, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

The World is Watching

The world is watching the American presidential election more closely – and with more horror, it seems – than ever before.

“If Donald Trump wins, it’ll be a new age of darkness,” reads the headline of a recent John Freedland column in The Guardian.

That sentiment might be straying into hyperbole.

But elite opinion around the world appears stacked up against the New York real estate mogul.

“It’s terrifying,” said Australian Minister of Defense Industry Christopher Pyne, according to Politico. “The Donald Trump phenomenon is a real problem for the United States — it’s making their democracy look kind of weird.”

Keeping in mind his country’s history with demagogues and the rise of the far right not only in the US but also in France and the Netherlands, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he feared a Trump win would bolster efforts to deconstruct the European Union and hinder international commerce.

“Whether Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders – all these right-wing populists are not only a threat to peace and social cohesion, but also to economic development,” he told Politico.

Numerous reports cited how world leaders are worried that Trump might shred military alliances and trade agreements and reshuffle lines of power around the globe.

American relations with Mexico would turn sour, the US and China would declare trade wars against each other and Russia would feel empowered as the Kremlin manipulates the U.S. government if Trump wins, declared numerous reports.

Some embraced Trump, however.

Trump’s pledge to draw the US close to India was welcomed by some in that country, which is on track to becoming the most populous in the world in the next decade.

“Obama has been in power for eight years, but what have the Democrats done?” asked Rashmi Gupta, a member of Jindu Sena, a Hindu national activist group in India, during an interview with The Washington Times. “There is no pressure on Pakistan. If Hillary Clinton comes back to power, it will be the same thing. If Trump gets in power in the U.S., India will get an extra boost.”

Others disputed the forecasts of doom and gloom if the leader of the free world happened to have an orange tan and a mane-like comb over.

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek doesn’t like Trump. But he said he feared Hillary Clinton would commit more injustices and cause more chaos in the world as the candidate of the establishment that has waged wars and helped the rich become richer despite the 2008 global financial crisis.

At least a Trump presidency might shatter the old political coalitions that have caused so much gridlock and anger among Americans, he said in apocalyptic tones.

“It will be a kind of big awakening,” he told Britain’s Channel 4 news.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s forecast was less apocalyptic. If Americans don’t like the result of the election, they can always go north, he said.

“Canada is always welcoming,” Trudeau told Politco.

WANT TO KNOW

New Front

Led by Kurdish troops, Syrian forces on Sunday began an assault on the city of Raqqa – the Islamic State’s headquarters in the country – presaging a more difficult and complex operation than the one underway for Mosul in Iraq.

That’s because the US-led Iraqi coalition is more or less united, while in Syria Washington’s Arab and Kurdish allies include fierce rivals, the Associated Press reported. Making matters more complicated, Russian and Syrian forces and Turkish forces are united against IS, but the Kurds fear Turkey may never give up territory its soldiers occupy during the fighting.

At the beginning of Sunday’s offensive, the Kurdish-led troops warned Turkey not to interfere in the battle.

“Our hope is that the Turkish state will not interfere in the internal affairs of Syria,” said Cihan Ehmed of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – referring to anxiety about Turkey’s recent aggressive moves in northern Syria. “Raqqa will be free by its own sons.”

Basic Unrest

China’s parliament has stepped into the fray over democracy in Hong Kong with its most direct intervention in the administration of the city since the 1997 handover of the former British colony.

Responding to the provocation from two democracy activists who revised their vows to swear allegiance to “the Hong Kong nation” after their election to the city’s legislature, China’s parliament on Monday passed an interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law making it mandatory for lawmakers to swear allegiance to the city as part of China, Reuters reported.

The ruling, which is expected to bar the two renegade legislators from taking office, comes a day after a peaceful protest over Beijing’s planned intervention turned violent on Sunday, when demonstrators attempted to storm a police barricade outside the Chinese government’s headquarters.

The police responded with pepper spray and truncheons, Time reported. Still, the crowd continued to push against the metal barricade, unfurling umbrellas — an icon of the Umbrella Revolution — to protect themselves, the magazine said.

Death by Choking

New Delhi’s air pollution is now so bad that it’s visible to the naked eye as well as from outer space – and thus impossible to deny.

On Sunday the state government announced a slew of emergency measures alleviate the worst effects, including closing down schools, halting construction and ordering that all roads be doused with water to settle dust, the Associated Press reported.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also instituted a 10-day ban on the use of all diesel-powered electricity generators and said all major roads in the city will be vacuum cleaned once a week.

But New Delhi – like India – is notorious for bans, rules and laws that sound great on paper but cannot be enforced, and plans to curtail crop-burning in neighboring states have not gotten off the ground because nobody wants to alienate farmers ahead of state elections in early 2017.

DISCOVERIES

The Frankenstein Effect

During Halloween, most of us are consumed with little more than planning the most fruitful candy route in the neighborhood.

But scientists this year tackled a more sinister problem: Could the offspring of Frankenstein have completely wiped out humanity?

A new study published last Friday in the journal BioScience simulated Frankenstein’s procreation rate based partly on information from Mary Shelley’s acclaimed 1816 sci-fi thriller of the same name.

The results don’t look too good for mankind.

In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein reneges on a promise made to his ghoulish creation to fashion him a bride with whom he could roam freely in the “wilds of South America.”

He feared the repercussions of “a race of devils” tinkering with human existence on Earth – and he may not have been too far off.

By coupling population statistics from 1816 with ecological models on the effects of invasive species, scientists predicted that the Frankensteins would have eliminated humans after about 4,000 years, since South America was so sparsely populated at the time.

While Shelley’s classic is a work of fiction, Dr. Frankenstein’s speculations predicted real advances in scientific thought, Nathaniel Dominy, an evolutionary biologist at Dartmouth College and one of the study’s authors, told the Christian Science Monitor.

“[Ms. Shelley] correctly alluded to the science of ecology and evolution, which of course didn’t come until much later,” he said, referring to Charles Darwin’s 1859 “On the Origin of Species.”

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