The World Today for November 09, 2016


Challenges and Black Swans

Domestically, President-elect Donald Trump has the tough job of reuniting the nation after one of the most divisive general elections in American history.

Internationally, the picture is no better.

A CNN analysis predicted President Trump next year would confront not only “black swans,” or unforeseen emergencies, but also early challenges from international rivals eager to test a green administration.

Here are five challenges reportedly on deck for POTUS 45:


Under his so-called “pivot” to Asia, President Barack Obama has started building a coalition to encircle Beijing, especially among countries nervous about China’s military buildup in the South China Sea. But Obama has been reluctant to engage in saber-rattling, and his Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which excludes China, faces serious trouble in Congress.

Trump will begin where Obama left off – though his campaign rhetoric suggests he won’t be shy about saber-rattling or scrapping TPP. Meanwhile, wildcards like China’s pseudo-client state, North Korea, could also upend expectations for the region, the Washington Post warned.


The Middle East is a mess. President Trump will confront multitudes of challenges in the region, but the greatest is the Islamic State.

Iraq is depending on American support against the jihadists. In Syria, the US is backing rebels who aim to conquer Raqqa, the so-called capital of the group’s so-called worldwide caliphate. Obama likely won’t be in office when that support is most crucial, though.

“The victor of Tuesday’s US presidential election almost certainly will inherit the job of routing the militants from the city from which they have run their shrinking territories in Syria and Iraq, overseen branches from West Africa to South Asia and plotted attacks in Western Europe and elsewhere,” Reuters reported.


Dealing with the Middle East now means dealing with Russia, too.

The next president will not be able to end the Syrian Civil War without the assistance of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But CBS reported that the Kremlin is angry at Washington for supporting pro-democracy movements in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere.

Despite his alleged ties to Putin, it’s hard to see how President Trump can avoid confronting the Russian leader over alleged Russian meddling in US politics without looking soft.


The last eight years haven’t been kind to Brussels.

That means the next president will have to manage the decline of the European Union, the United States’ largest trade partner and home to the largest number of American allies, former US diplomat Nicholas Burns argued recently.

The big test will come around March 2019 – the scheduled date of the impending Brexit.

Given the slowdown in China and other developing countries like Brazil, a meltdown in London, a top financial center rivaling New York, could have devastating consequences.


President Trump vowed to build a Berlin Wall-like barrier on the Mexican-American border. He also pledged to make Mexico pay for it.

Mexicans will almost certainly balk at paying for a wall directly, but they won’t necessarily have much say if Trump imposes fees on Mexican imports, money transfers and other business that crosses the border. That could bring relations between the two neighbors to new lows.

Meanwhile, drug wars in Mexico threaten to spiral out of control, prompting a potential new migration north. Economic injustices in southern Mexico could spark similar instability. And Trump’s fiery rhetoric could well give an anti-American spin to Mexico’s own presidential elections in 2018.


Mosul Murder

A mass grave outside Mosul is revealing an all-too familiar picture of the brutality of the Islamic State.

Iraqi authorities have begun the process of identifying some 100 bodies, many of them decapitated, discovered in the newly liberated town of Hamam al-Alil, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The victims are believed to have been killed by Islamic State militants before they evacuated the town, forcing some 1,500 families to retreat with them to Mosul as human shields. So far the identities of the dead have not been established, but the discovery of a stuffed animal among the remains suggests that the victims may include some children.

Reports of the abduction and killing of Iraqi police and security officers in the same area suggest that they also may number among the dead, according to a UN spokesperson. Others claim the militants have herded thousands of civilians into Mosul, where they may be used as human shields or murdered in mass killings designed to terrify their opponents.

Scotching Brexit?

Can Scotland – which narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in 2014 – scotch Brexit?

Scotland will seek to prevent Britain from exiting the European Union by opposing Theresa May’s Supreme Court appeal against a decision requiring a parliamentary vote before she can invoke Article 50, the BBC reported.

A panel of three High Court judges ruled this week that attempting to exit the EU without parliament’s approval would be unconstitutional, even though a referendum indicated that was the will of the electorate.

May hopes to see that decision overturned by the Supreme Court. But Scotland has leapt into the fray as well, arguing that the consent of the Scottish Parliament and the UK’s other devolved parliaments and assemblies should also be sought before Article 50 is triggered.

The governments of Wales and Northern Ireland have also indicated they may join the fight.

Hungarian Harmony

A narrow vote against bigotry has prevented a blanket ban on refugees in Hungary.

In a rare defeat, the country’s controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday failed to get the needed two-thirds majority to push through a constitutional amendment that would have instituted a national ban on refugees relocated from the rest of the European Union, the New York Times reported.

The defeat of the constitutional amendment follows a similar failure to push through the same measure through a popular referendum – which did not succeed because of insufficient voter turnout.

At issue is an EU plan to resettle migrants who have made their way into Greece and Italy in other countries of the block. Hungary would be compelled to accept a paltry 1,294 of about 160,000 migrants under the scheme – which Orban has vowed to stymie.

While some interpreted the failure as evidence that his unassailable hold on power is waning, others cautioned against writing Orban off too soon.

“I wouldn’t say that this is a huge failure for Orban – it’s a failure, but a minor one,” said a local political analyst.


You’ve Got a Friend

Spending time with a good buddy after a long day can breathe a bit of calm into an otherwise stressful existence.

That’s because social contact decreases levels of stress-related hormones – in chimpanzees as well as humans, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Well known for being sociable, chimpanzees develop especially close ties with individual members of their troop through continuous interaction, what scientists call “bond partners.”

Moreover, they tend to groom with their bond partners before and after highly stressful situations, like turf wars with encroaching chimp troops.

Analysis revealed that such grooming caused a drop in the stress hormones in the chimps’ urine, an indication that social interaction between bond partners helps to both prepare chimps for the stress of dealing with outsiders, and to calm them down after the fact.

But the chimp besties help mitigate chronic stress as well, Roman Wittig, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute, told the Christian Science Monitor.

“We believe humans are very special because they can have these interesting relationships between each other that last over the years,” he said. “(But) this is nothing that’s typically human. The feeling of good friendship, of strong bonds is something that chimpanzees can feel, too.”

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