The World Today for May 31, 2017


A Difficult Goodbye

After nearly 40 years in power, ailing Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos has announced that he will finally leave office and hand over the reins of power to his 62-year-old defense minister, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço.

The decision came shortly before dos Santos went to Spain for medical reasons. He has since returned, but the signs say the 74-year-old is trying to prepare for his departure from public life.

Dos Santos, Africa’s second-longest-serving head of state, has been an “omnipresent” force in the country during his tenure, which has spanned generations, the New York Times reported.

His face adorns the country’s currency, every citizen’s identity card and myriad billboards throughout the country that boast results of his party garnering 99.6 percent of the vote in the last elections – a number all should greet with skepticism.

Dos Santos and his family gained firm control over state-run oil riches after the country’s three-decade civil war in 2002, turning Angola into one of Africa’s most stable and fastest-growing economies, which further helped the president consolidate his power.

His handpicked successor, Lourenço, is a popular figure both at home and abroad. He’s respected among military and party elites for his part in fighting piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

“He will continue to represent the same group that shares the same fundamental interests, people who fear an open democracy and won’t let control over the media and the wealth slip away,” said Marcolino Moco, who served as dos Santos’s prime minister in the 1990s.

But even with a well-known successor in place and elections slated for late August, guarantees of stability are fleeting in tumultuous southern Africa.

Tensions are bubbling over in both public and elite spheres in Angola.

While the government continues to squash popular calls for freedom of expression, elites could be plotting against Lourenço’s ascension to power.

The dos Santos family still wields control over the state-run oil company, Sonangol, which could lead to a parallel state and two centers of power after Lourenço assumes the presidency.

Meanwhile, Angola is dealing with tens of thousands of refugees flooding over the border from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Violence in that country, coupled with turmoil stemming from President Joseph Kabila’s resistance to relinquishing power, displaced almost 1 million people last year – more than any conflict around the globe, Quartz reported.

In this area of the world, even in the region’s bastion of stability, an uneventful transition of power is difficult.


Missile Skullduggery

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was “shocked” to learn that four additional American missile launchers had arrived in his country without his knowledge, roiling diplomatic waters as tensions in the Korean Peninsula continue to rise.

The additional Thaad launchers have not been installed, but the president’s aides said Tuesday that word of their arrival had been intentionally omitted from reports by South Korea’s defense ministry. Moon has called for an investigation into the ministry’s conduct.

Before his election win earlier this month, Moon wanted deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, to be delayed for review, Reuters reported.  But the United States hurriedly put it in place in April.

Moon, who campaigned on a platform of dialogue with North Korea, now finds himself squeezed on all sides.

On Monday, Pyongyang launched what South Korean officials called a Scud-type missile that flew 280 miles before falling into waters near Japan.  The increasing provocations from the North make dialogue more difficult, while the beefed-up presence of an American missile system sharpens U.S.-China rivalries, which in turn has prompted the Chinese to boycott South Korean goods.

For now, Moon agrees with the view of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who favors greater sanctions and pressure on North Korea.

A Different Kind of Wall

A new law introduced in the Australian parliament will deny passports to convicted pedophiles in an effort to stop child-sex tourism. Billed as the first measure of its kind, the proposed legislation would affect some 20,000 offenders who had served their sentences but remain under supervision, CNN reported Tuesday.

“No country has ever taken such decisive and strong action to stop its citizens from going overseas, often to vulnerable countries, to abuse kids,” said Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Keenan added that some 2,500 people will be added to the list every year and remain ineligible for passports as long as they are obligated to report to authorities. Last year, almost 800 convicted pedophiles traveled overseas, with more than one-third doing so without permission.

UNICEF estimates two million children globally are affected by sexual exploitation every year, and the child sex trade is worth around $20 billion annually.

To Win a Prize

As Turkish-EU ties grow increasingly shaky, the US military’s announcement Tuesday that it has begun arming Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State is likely to further aggravate tensions with the NATO ally, analysts said.

President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met earlier this month and discussed the administration’s plans to arm Kurdish militias in Syria. The move concerns Ankara as Turkey views the militia as terrorists, NBC reported.

However, the US considers the Syrian Kurds to be the most effective force fighting Islamic State on the ground in Syria.

To calm Turkey’s concerns, US defense officials said the supplies and weapons will be parceled out just enough to accomplish specific objectives related to efforts to retake Raqqa from the terror group.


Looking Smart

The right outfit can instill a sense of power and confidence throughout one’s day.

Now, a group of scientists at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have found a way to turn the power suit into a power source that could potentially charge a cell phone or other small devices.

The process involves coating clothing with a microscopically thin layer of conducting polymer that turns fabric into an electrode capable of conducting energy generated by the friction of moving, Quartz reported.

The coating is so light that the clothing doesn’t lose its properties, such as breathability or flexibility, and so permanent that it won’t rub off through washing, touching or ironing.

At this point, a practical application for the coating is pretty far off. Current tests only register enough energy to charge a Fitbit, and doing so would require the clothing to be outfitted with an adapter, a costly upgrade for any wardrobe.

Still, textile manufacturers and tech giants are already teaming up to bring a new line of integrated wearables to the market as early as this fall.

Click here to check out the newest line of smart jackets from Levi’s and Google.

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