The World Today for May 29, 2017


New World Order

The world order ended on Sunday.

It’s not the first time, of course. Plenty of folks remember when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, paving the way for the Soviet Union to collapse and the conclusion of the Cold War.

The ending on Sunday was less dramatic.

“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign stop in Munich after meeting with NATO allies in Brussels and Group of 7 leaders in Italy. “This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

Calling her comments “a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations,” the New York Times explained why Merkel was feeling so glum. The chancellor was “clearly disappointed” with President Donald Trump’s positions on NATO, Russia, climate change and trade, the newspaper reported.

Trump has famously savaged Germany and other NATO members for allegedly paying too little for their defense. He is embroiled in scandals regarding his potential links to Russia. He is considering quitting the Paris climate change accords. He has also threatened protectionist measures if Germany and other countries don’t reduce their trade surpluses with the US.

Some experts suggested Merkel needed to highlight her differences with Trump to maintain her lead in the polls as she prepares for parliamentary elections in September. But they were also taken aback by her blunt language.

“To preserve her own credibility, she had to speak out against Trump,” said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But for someone as cautious as Merkel, it is still astonishing for her to take the lead in Europe against Trump on something like this. It’s incredible.”

As USA Today noted, citing comments by David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, Moscow has long sought to drive a wedge between the US and Germany.

Trump officials waived off those concerns, touting how Trump was pursuing his America First agenda and shaking up perceived wisdom, the New York Times reported.

Whether Merkel’s comments signaled a lasting division between Washington and Europe’s most powerful country is unclear. She emphasized that Germany and the US would remain friends.

But something has changed. For years, because of the legacy of World War II, Germany, more so than Britain and France, let the US take the lead on the global stage.

That world order is no more.

“We Europeans really have to take our fate into our own hands,” said Merkel, according to Deutsche Welle. “We have to wage our own fight for our future, as Europeans, for our fate.”


Still Going?

South African President Jacob Zuma survived a no-confidence motion brought against him by top African National Congress officials on Sunday.

Zuma has been facing pressure since his controversial decision to replace respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March, Reuters reported. The move resulted in credit rating downgrades that have further hurt the prospects of South Africa’s struggling economy.

Reuters cited South Africa-based News24 as reporting that as many as 70 party officials took part in the debate for and against the motion for Zuma’s removal, and that the president had the support of most speakers.

At a similar meeting in November, the ANC also backed Zuma to continue at the helm of the party – from which he’s due to step down at the end of this year. His term as president runs until 2019.

Elsewhere, South African media published emails purporting to show that Zuma has been planning to set up a second home in Dubai, allegedly demonstrating his deepening ties between President Zuma and the controversial Gupta business family, the BBC reported.

Heir Raising Calls

Osama bin Laden’s son is pitching to take over his father’s legacy on jihadist websites, where the 28-year-old calls on militants to “follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before you.”

The recording by Hamza bin Laden, first aired on May 13, is one in a string of recent pronouncements by the man whom many terrorism experts regard as the crown prince of al-Qaeda’s global network, the Washington Post reported.

The message includes a specific call for attacks on European and North American cities to avenge the deaths of Syrian children killed in airstrikes, the paper said. Moreover, it signals a possible resurgence of al-Qaeda as the Islamic State falters in Iraq and Syria, according to analysts.

“Al-Qaeda is trying to use the moment — [with] Daesh being under attack — to offer jihadists a new alternative,” the paper quoted a Middle Eastern security official as saying.

Hamza bin Laden has been groomed as a figurehead since as early as 2015. But in recent months he has emerged in new prominence. He’s not pushing the spectacular, carefully planned attacks advocated by his father, however, but rather lone wolf attacks like those preferred by Islamic State.

Off-brand Loyalty

India’s plan to slash the cost of medical treatment by requiring doctors to prescribe only generic medicines has unsurprisingly come under fire from doctors and pharmaceutical executives.

Such a law would worsen an already serious problem of substandard drugs, given the country’s lax regulatory system, Reuters quoted companies like Cipla and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries as saying.

Both those companies deal in so-called “branded generics” that many doctors believe to be of higher quality than the equivalents produced by smaller, lesser-known companies with less to lose from damage to their reputations. Though there is no national data to back up that belief, various studies have shown that 10 to 31 percent of drugs procured by the government are substandard, the agency said.

Health experts say a “generics only” law could cause chaos, as it would force doctors to write prescriptions for a series of chemicals rather than a simple combination drug, while doctors say it would invite pharmacists to recommend whatever formulation has the highest profit margin.

Global pharma giants that have been battling India’s “branded generics” for decades are no doubt enjoying a good chuckle.


Homemade Biases

Many parents say they love all their children equally. But when it comes to how they interact with them, some major differences emerge – at least when it comes to dad.

It turns out fathers of toddler daughters are far more attentive to their children than those of sons, according to a study recently published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.

Researchers found “striking differences” between the way fathers spoke to and played with boys versus girls, wrote the Guardian.

The study found that fathers of daughters spend 60 percent more time attentively responding and interacting with their children than those with sons and spoke more openly about emotions.

Fathers of sons, meanwhile, engaged more frequently in physical play and used more “achievement-related language” with words like “win” or “best.”

The results suggest “unconscious gender biases” and social biases may affect the way parents treat their children and how these children in turn develop their own preferences and attitudes, said the study’s authors.

“It’s a really thorny thing to understand,” lead author Jennifer Mascaro, an assistant professor at Emory University, told the Guardian. “As soon as they come into the world they are part of a society that has huge biases in how we interact with males and females.”

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