The World Today for May 24, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

May’s Mission

With Britain weeks away from a general election, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservative Tory Party has just one mission in mind: destroy Labor.

The terror attack that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on Tuesday might have helped her achieve that goal.

Terror attacks preceding an election often benefit the most hawkish politicians. Considering that Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has praised Hamas and Hezbollah, May now has a rhetorical cudgel to beat him with again and again until the June 8 election, Slate wrote.

May won’t pull punches, either.

She and her fellow Tories believe wiping Labor off the map and achieving a solid majority in Westminster is the key to giving the prime minister a “commanding voice” as the United Kingdom begins divorce talks with the European Union for Brexit, wrote Reuters.

Some observers have already called the election a “foregone conclusion,” citing May’s estimated 15- to 20-point lead in the polls.

Labor has been struggling under party leader Corbyn, a left-wing rebel who many say appeals to the party’s socialist grassroots but lacks pull with the wider electorate.

Even Labor’s long-standing dominance of London is in jeopardy next month, according to the BBC.

The party risks hemorrhaging voters in the British capital to the Liberal Democrats – the Tories’ erstwhile coalition partner under Prime Minister David Cameron – who have positioned themselves as the only party to unequivocally oppose Brexit.

Labor isn’t the only potential casualty of next month’s election, either.

Having already suffered staggering losses in Britain’s local elections in early May, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is now on track to lose seats to the Tories in Westminster, according to polls.

Under its outspoken leader Nigel Farage, UKIP successfully campaigned for Brexit last summer. But the party has imploded after it achieved its primary goal – and May pilfered much of its electoral agenda – wrote Politico.

Still, Labor shouldn’t be counted out yet.

Recently, the party unveiled a campaign manifesto that includes abolishing university tuition fees and the renationalization of railways and utilities, goals long viewed as unachievable among many Brits frustrated with the decline in public services in recent decades.

Polls have since put Labor at new highs vis-à-vis the conservatives, confirming a slight but gradual upward trend for the party, according to the Independent.

But those polls were taken before the attack.

Now May can expect to command the headlines in the coming days as she oversees the country’s response to the attack and manages fears of more violence among voters. That could very well put her in a stronger position as she confronts European leaders in the next two years.

WANT TO KNOW

Critical Threat

Britain warned that another terror attack may be imminent and raised the threat level to critical on Tuesday as the search continued for possible accomplices of a suicide bomber police identified as Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old born in Manchester to parents of Libyan origin.

“Critical” status means armed soldiers may be deployed instead of police at sporting events and other large public gatherings, the Associated Press reported. The threat level had been at the second-highest rung of “severe” for several years.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but there appeared to be contradictions in its account of the operation, Reuters said.

As disturbing as these reports are, experts point out that the actual loss of life from terrorism in the UK and US is relatively small, while the climate of fear resulting from such attacks can prompt citizens to accept authoritarian rules they might otherwise reject.

In America, poll respondents ranked terrorism among their top 10 fears in 2016.

Lockdown

The Philippines placed the island of Mindanao under martial law on Tuesday, after alleged terrorists killed a police officer and two soldiers.

The decision is part of a crackdown on a militant group called Maute and the better-known terror organization Abu Sayyaf, the New York Times reported.

A joint force involving the military and police are battling the two groups in the hope of capturing Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader. So far, though, the Islamists have burned a school, several homes and a church and taken the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, hoisting the black banner of the Islamic State above the hospital. And Maute snipers roamed the city of Marawi Tuesday night.

Still, in part because of President Rodrigo Duterte’s strongman image, the imposition of martial law has raised fears of a return of a dictatorship reminiscent of the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos – who placed the entire country under martial law to fight what he said was a communist insurgency.

Changing the Rules

Beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered thousands of protesters clamoring for his removal a stick disguised as an olive branch on Tuesday. Instead of the presidential elections they’re demanding, he vowed to push ahead with congressional elections and a new constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

“Votes or bullets, what do the people want?” Reuters quoted Maduro as asking a crowd of supporters. “Let’s go to elections now!”

But what he was offering was a 540-member “constituent assembly” that would be partially elected by votes at a municipal level and partly by different groups, including workers, farmers, students and indigenous people, the agency explained.

Voting for the congress would be held in late July, while regional elections, meant to be held in 2016, would take place on Dec. 10.

Opposition leaders say the project is a scheme to avoid a general election and keep Maduro in power.

At least 53 people have been killed as a result of the unrest, which began in early April. Hundreds of people have been injured. Around 2,700 have been arrested, and around 1,000 are still behind bars, Reuters quoted rights groups as saying.

DISCOVERIES

A Loose Tooth

When German soldiers uncovered a fossilized jawbone while constructing a bunker in Greece in 1944, they dismissed it as an oddity.

“It was considered to be a specimen that nobody really knew what to do with,” University of Toronto paleobiologist David Begun told the Washington Post.

But more recent analysis suggests this broken jaw with its humanlike characteristics is about 7 million years old, said Begun.

If that’s true, the fossil comes from one of the oldest known human ancestors and supports the highly disputed claim that mankind diverged from apes in Southern Europe, not Africa.

In a pair of reports recently published in the journal PLOS One, researchers claim the Eastern Mediterranean could “just as likely” be the site where apes and humans diversified as tropical Africa.

Other researchers disagree, pointing to far more extensive fossil evidence that hominins migrated north from Africa, wrote the Washington Post.

As for Begun, he plans to travel to Bulgaria next to find more fossils supporting his study.

“If you have one tooth, that means there has to be other specimens out there,” he said.

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