The World Today for January 12, 2017


Name of the Game

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines came up during Secretary of State Designate Rex Tillerson’s grilling on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

When Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio asked Tillerson whether Duterte has committed human rights abuses, the ex-chief executive of Exxon said he needed more information to answer.

But Tillerson didn’t shirk from sharing his ultimate goal for the archipelago Duterte has ruled since he won office last summer. “We need to make sure they stay an ally,” he said, the Week reported.

It was a curious response.

In the Philippines, Duterte is facing a backlash for boasting about his role in the killings of three kidnapping suspects when he was as mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao.

That’s not the only time his loud mouth has garnered headlines.

Duterte once compared his no-mercy war on drugs, which has reportedly claimed more than 5,300 lives since he took office in June, to Hitler’s execution of the Holocaust.

The president has also joked about rape, accused the US of plotting his overthrow, called for closer relations with China, memorialized the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and advocated for martial law.

For many, his admission of aiding and abetting murder has been the last straw. A chorus of criticism has erupted against him even as those critics have claimed they’re exercising their democratic rights and aren’t plotting his ouster.

“I cannot keep quiet in the face of evil. I cannot,” said Filipino-American human rights lawyer Ted Laguatan, who has used his residence in San Francisco as a perch to condemn Duterte.

That’s not stopping Duterte’s venomous rhetoric – even after government human rights monitors launched an investigation into the murders and international observers condemned his comments.

“We pay your salary,” Duterte said in response to a reproach from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “You do not talk to me like that, you son of a bitch. Only the Filipinos can call me a son of a bitch if I’m remiss in my job.”

Duterte has also given material to critics of President-elect Donald Trump, too.

Duterte appointed businessman Jose Antonio, a Trump business partner, as a special trade envoy to Washington before the election, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Antonio is now building a $150-million, 57-story Trump apartment complex in Manila. There are reportedly other projects in the works as well.

Potential conflicts of interest for Trump don’t begin or end with Duterte, of course.

But one thing’s for sure: Both leaders have an affinity for speaking their minds and straddling ethical gray areas.


Falling Numbers

The number of new arrivals seeking asylum in Germany dropped to 280,000 in 2016, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière announced Wednesday.

Those numbers represent a decrease of more than 600,000 compared to 2015, when Germany saw a record influx of 890,000 people after Chancellor Angela Merkel instituted an open-door refugee policy primarily for Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war.

De Maizière attributed the decrease to the closure of the migrants’ so-called Balkan route in 2016, and the migrant deal reached between the EU and Turkey.

Migration issues and the refugee crisis are expected to play a prominent role in Germany’s upcoming federal elections later this year after Germany suffered a series of terrorist attacks in 2016.

Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats already experienced setbacks in state elections last year at the hands of voters dissatisfied with the government’s handling of the refugee crisis.

A Delicate Balance

Lebanon’s new Hezbollah-backed president Michel Aoun is attempting to mend ties with Saudi Arabia as the country simultaneously draws closer to the desert kingdom’s main Middle Eastern rival, Iran.

Aoun met with Saudi King Salman in Saudi Arabia this week in an attempt to restore $3 billion in military aid, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Saudi Arabia suspended that aid in February due to Hezbollah’s growing role in Lebanese politics. But Aoun wants to resume that aid to purchase weapons to help contain spillover effects from the war in Syria.

It’s a delicate balancing act for the Lebanese president: For years, Lebanon has been a caught in a political tug-of-war between Iran, which supports the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, and Saudi Arabia, the backer of Lebanon’s Sunni bloc.

Observers considered the rise of Aoun, a Christian ally of Hezbollah, to be a victory for Hezbollah and proof of Saudi Arabia’s declining influence in the country.


South Korean prosecutors questioned Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Lee Thursday morning in their investigation into the bribery and influence-peddling scandal that could remove President Park Geun-hye from office.

Bloomberg reported that Lee apologized to the Korean people for his “behavior” but he’s still technically a suspect though he hasn’t been charged.

Lee, 48, allegedly gave gifts, including a prize horse worth $837,000, to a confident of the president, Choi Soon-sil, in return for help on business deals that could help Lee gain control of the company his grandfather founded in 1938. Prosecutors have said they found a computer that contained emails proving connections between Choi and Samsung.

Lawmakers have already impeached Park in the scandal.

Lee has taken over many of the duties of his father, Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, since the elder Lee suffered a heart attack in 2014.

Now, as he potentially faces criminal charges, Lee might also see his dreams of leadership slipping away.


Warp Speed

It’s hard to eat an orange without making a mess.

Their stickiness might be an inconvenience during one’s lunch break, but it’s also making for some sweet scientific discoveries.

Using a high-speed camera, scientists documented in slow motion what happens to citrus fruits when they’re squeezed.

They used specialized tools to measure the pressure of oil glands beneath the surface of the peel and were shocked at their findings.

Before bursting, glands become so pressurized that they can shoot droplets at approximately 10.5 meters per second. That’s faster than a raindrop falls, Science Magazine reported.

Furthermore, the droplets warp from stationary to full speed in a distance of less than a millimeter – an acceleration 1,000 times faster than a rocket blasting into outer space.

While scientists are still unsure about the logistics of the warp speed, they believe future medical designs modeled after the fruity phenomenon might allow them to create a more efficient asthma inhaler.

Click here for footage of the experiment in action.

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