The World Today for May 22, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

Good and Evil

US President Donald Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday reinforced the battle lines that have long riven the Middle East in two.

“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion,” Trump said, reported the New York Times. “This is a battle between good and evil.”

Those identified as good embraced the president’s remarks. The other folks balked.

Riyadh and its Sunni Muslim allies applauded the speech, which focused on the US and Muslim countries cooperating to fight terrorism.

“An excellent & poised speech by President Trump at Islamic American Summit,” tweeted United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash. “A balanced narrative & way forward. America’s role reaffirmed.”

Iran and others were less than enthusiastic. Trump in his speech signaled out Iran for supporting groups that Washington considers terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted the US for signing arms deals with Saudi Arabia. On Twitter, Zarif noted that Iran had completed a presidential election on Saturday – the kind of vote that has never occurred in the Saudi kingdom.

Iranian voters opted to reelect moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who signed the nuclear deal with ex-President Barack Obama, which Trump has criticized.

“Iran — fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?” Zarif tweeted, referring to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

That dollar figure might have been an exaggeration, however. American and Saudi officials put the value of the deals at around $380 billion.

Others in the region also noted the irony of asking Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism.

“The problem with this approach is that it totally disregards the fact that Saudi Arabia has provided the ideological structure upon which these organizations stand,” 29-year-old Egyptian aid worker Hussein Salama told the Los Angeles Times in Cairo. “Saudi Arabia has played a role in creating these crises in the first place.”

Former Jordanian Justice Minister Ibrahim Aljazy said he wished Trump had laid out more concrete details of American policy in the Middle East.

But given how Trump’s critics have painted him as an anti-Muslim xenophobe, the president’s remarks amounted to at least an attempt at a rapprochement with the Islamic world, Aljazy told CNN.

“Trump has moved from ‘Islam hates us’ to a friendlier approach of common values and shared interests,” he said.

WANT TO KNOW

Gloomy Forecast

Just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned of a “high possibility of war” with North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom on Sunday claimed to have successfully tested a solid-fuel ballistic missile that would make a first strike more difficult to detect.

The rocket was fired near the county of Pukchang in South Phyongan province and flew eastward about 310 miles, the Associated Press quoted an official from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff as saying. Pyongyang is about 120 miles from Seoul.

With fuel already on board, solid-fuel missiles can be fired more quickly and secretly than those using liquid fuel, which must be fueled using trucks that can be detected by satellites.

The launch came a week after the North’s latest ballistic missile test, continuing its defiance of international sanctions and other efforts to rein in its nuclear weapons program. On Saturday, it said it has the capacity to strike the US mainland, but Reuters quoted US experts as saying that claim is an exaggeration and the North has yet to show it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to mount on a ballistic missile.

Sour Paolo

As many as 20,000 protesters marched on Sao Paolo’s main art museum to call for the impeachment of Brazilian President Michel Temer.

Other cities across the country also held protests against the president and other politicians besmirched by the long-running investigation of a corruption scandal involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Unlike past protests, these demonstrations included people from both the political right and left coming together against Temer, who was allegedly caught on tape encouraging a powerful businessman to bribe the jailed former speaker of the Lower House to keep him quiet.

In plea-bargain testimony given to Brazil’s Supreme Court, Joesley Batista, the head of the meat-packing giant JBS, accused Temer and former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of receiving millions in bribes. Temer became president in September when Rousseff was impeached.

The testimony is expected to derail the controversial pension reform that Temer was attempting to push through Congress. However, he has denied any wrongdoing and vowed he will not step down.

“The only future for Brazil now is an election,” the Times quoted a protester as saying.

The Art of the Deal

Asian trade ministers took a page from US President Donald Trump’s book on Monday.

Members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathered for a summit in Hanoi on Monday debated the merits of the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump abandoned soon after taking office, Reuters reported.

The RCEP deal would create a free trade area of more than 3.5 billion people, bringing together China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as well as Southeast Asian nations. But members of the TPP vowed on the sidelines of the discussion that they’d continue to pursue it, with or without the US.

The TPP does not include China. But the two deals are not mutually exclusive, so some nations could be members of both.

Earlier, the summit devolved into “heated discussions” and failed to generate its usual joint statement after the US rejected language on fighting protectionism which Asian countries wanted to include, the agency said.

DISCOVERIES

Ladybug Learning

New insights into ladybug wings could someday revolutionize airplanes and umbrellas.

Research published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined how and why ladybug wings are strong and durable yet delicate and flexible enough to fold and collapse inside the little insect’s red-and-black, polka-dotted shell.

To learn the secrets of ladybug wings – which are hard to study because they retract into the bugs’ shell as it closes – University of Tokyo scientists made artificial transparent shells out of chemicals used in nail art.

The scientists then used high-speed cameras to videotape the wings movement as well as CT scans of folded and unfolded wings.

They discovered that ladybug wings fold up like origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into tiny figurines. The process might be studied further to innovate in a variety of other fields, said the researchers.

“The ladybugs’ technique for achieving complex folding is quite fascinating and novel, particularly for researchers in the fields of robotics, mechanics, aerospace and mechanical engineering,” said lead study author Kazuya Saito.

To see the bug do its stuff, click here.

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