The World Today for January 05, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

Win-wins and Losses

Amid the American presidential election, Brexit, the Syrian Civil War, terrorism in Europe and other big news this year, many folks have been too busy to focus on a slow-moving but major development that would be garnering headlines in the absence of other shockers.

China’s economy, long the engine of global growth, is poised to slow even further this year, raising serious questions about who might fill the vacuum.

The forecasting department at State Information Center, a government think tank, predicted that China’s annual economic growth would decrease to 6.5 percent in 2017, a 0.2 percent reduction from last year and the slowest expansion in 25 years, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal described the signs of the slowdown. Steel prices peaked in December, around seven months after credit hit a high. That suggests state-controlled banks had opened the taps earlier in the year for construction loans in a bid to counteract the beginning of the slump that became obvious in the country in 2015.

“When it comes to China, investors should mind the lag,” the Journal wrote.

Experts now fear a topsy-turvy economy as Chinese leaders struggle to maintain growth and stability.

Generous credit has ballooned China’s debt to 250 percent of gross domestic product, noted Stratfor, a think tank.

But state-owned companies are carrying much of those loans. And defaults and bankruptcies are on the rise amid anemic worldwide economic growth. If construction slows, as some predict – recall how steel prices are on the way down as demand flags – the prosperity that has kept many Chinese happy despite the Communist Party’s record on civil liberties could stall and lead to civil strife.

The wild cards in the situation aren’t only in China, of course. President-elect Donald Trump has all but threatened a trade war against China for allegedly undercutting American workers.

Trump appointed University of California, Irvine economist Peter Navarro, for example, as a new White House trade council to forge a new policy toward China. Navarro is author of “Death by China: How America Lost its Manufacturing Base,” a cry for action against the supposed menace.

It’s not a stretch to say Chinese leaders are nervous.

“The new administration should bear in mind that with economic and trade ties between the world’s two largest economies now the closest they have ever been, any move to damage the win-win relationship will only result in a loss for both sides,” opined a recent editorial in the state-owned China Daily.

WANT TO KNOW

Hail to the Chief

Gambia’s election chief has fled the country due to threats made against him since he declared that Yahya Jammeh lost last month’s presidential election.

Independent Electoral Commission chairman Alieu Momarr Njai has fled to Senegal, as the political standoff continues between Jammeh and President-elect Adama Barrow, the Associated Press reported, citing Njai’s family members.

Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for more than 20 years, at first accepted defeat. But a week after the election he changed his mind and said irregularities in the ballot affected the outcome of the December 1 polls. His party has challenged the verdict in the country’s Supreme Court, even as Barrow makes plans for a January 19 inauguration, the agency said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Gambian army chief Lieutenant General Ousman Badjie reaffirmed his loyalty to Jammeh, despite the threat of a regional military intervention if Jammeh refuses to step down, Agence France Presse reported.

Pacific Spat

After Indonesia made a surprise announcement that it was severing military ties on Wednesday, Australia has leapt into damage control mode.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said Thursday she is confident Indonesia will soon restore ties, the BBC reported.

The spat seems to have arisen over teaching materials at an Australian army language facility, which a visiting instructor from Indonesia’s special forces group Kopassus said were offensive to Indonesia’s founding principle — Pancasila. It’s not clear exactly what the materials said, and Maj Gen Wuryanto told the BBC there were many reasons for the suspension of ties. But an Associated Press report indicated the issue might have been an apparent suggestion that West Papua – where a separatist struggle has been underway since its absorption into Indonesia in 1969 — should be given independence.

The official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state, Pancasila is a combination of two Javanese words and means “five principles.” Those principles are the one God system (monotheism), just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy and social justice for all.

Under Arrest

France has been swept into the long-running conflict between Serbia and Kosovo once again.

French police have detained Kosovo’s former prime minister based on an arrest warrant issued by Serbia, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from the Kosovo foreign ministry.

Ramush Haradinaj, who was a guerrilla fighter with the Kosovo Liberation Army, was stopped as he flew in to France from Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, on Wednesday, the agency said.

A UN tribunal cleared Haradinaj of war crimes charges in two lengthy trials. But Serbia still accuses him of the kidnapping, torture and killing of Serb civilians when he was a senior rebel commander during the 1998-99 war.

He was prime minister of the Republic of Kosovo from December 2004 to March 2005. Currently, his party is in the opposition.

France is now looking into whether there are grounds for Serbia’s extradition request, but this is not the first time such an incident has occurred. In June 2015 Haradinaj was also arrested by Slovenian police. That  time, he was released after two days following diplomatic pressure, the Guardian noted.

DISCOVERIES

A Dead Man’s Hand

Scientists are learning about dinosaurs’ difficulties breaking out of their shell. According to a new study, the long length of dinosaur egg incubation contributed to their ultimate demise.

By examining tooth development in multiple species of fossilized dinosaur embryos, the study’s lead author, paleobiologist Gregory Erickson of Florida State University, was able to pinpoint the length of dinosaur egg incubation to between three and six months.

This could have seriously hurt dinosaurs’ ability to bounce back from the asteroid strike that wiped out 75 percent of life on Earth 66 million years ago, Erickson told the Washington Post.

Whereas successful doomsday survivors were able to quickly reproduce and keep moving, dinosaurs were confined to those locations with perfect incubation conditions, exposing parents to predators and natural disasters.

Coupled with dinosaurs’ energy inefficiency and warm bloodedness, this made it an evolutionary endgame for them.

“Dinosaurs found themselves holding basically a dead man’s hand,” Erickson said.

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