The World Today for June 27, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

INDIA

A President, an Administrator and Drones

Fresh off his resounding win in the heavyweight Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the early spring, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday as part of a two-day visit.

Modi and Trump issued mutually admiring statements, but refused questions from the press, the Washington Post reported. They mentioned cooperating on counterterrorism, sharing intelligence and expanding trade and defense ties, but neither statement referred to the H1-B visa issue or Paris climate accord, the Times of India noted.

If the two are alike, Trump should consider avoiding Modi’s fate.

The Hindu nationalist entered office in 2014 promising to push through a reform agenda that would transform India’s economy for the 21st century.

But the Economist argued that Modi has not lived up to his self-touted reputation as a radical reformer.

Instead, they call Modi an “administrator” who has failed to tackle India’s chronic problems despite high-profile stunts like radical demonetization and adopting a national goods and service tax (sometimes called a value-added tax).

Given the strong position of his Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s government, Modi is “squandering a golden opportunity” to enact truly groundbreaking reforms in India that might unleash the country’s economic potential, they said.

But Modi’s visit to Washington at least gave him the opportunity to revitalize something else: India’s ties to the United States.

Relations between the US and India “prospered” under former President Barack Obama, whose administration saw India as a potential partner to help counterbalance China’s rise in Asia, wrote the Associated Press.

But the current administration has shifted to partnering with China to deal with North Korea and similar issues, they added.

India has also been concerned over the Trump administration’s crackdown on the H-1B visa program that allows thousands of skilled Indian workers to live in the US, noted Bloomberg.

Modi will therefore try to convince Trump to allow this key visa program – IT firms in India have cut thousands of jobs as a result of the crackdown, with workers blaming the US president for the firings – to continue functioning, they added.

Rifts have also emerged between the two countries over the Paris Agreement on climate change, too.

The US has accused India of exploiting the climate deal, agreeing to its ambitious targets only so it could wrangle billions for itself in aid, wrote Reuters.

The US has since pulled out of the Paris Agreement. Modi on the other hand has reiterated his commitment to it, promising to go “above and beyond” the deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, wrote France24.

The ultimate indicator of how ties between the US and India are faring may boil down to something more prosaic in geopolitics: weapons sales.

The US is expected to authorize India’s purchase of 22 unarmed drones for more than $2 billion during Modi’s visit – a “key test” of where these relations stand, said Reuters.

[siteshare]Modi’s Mission[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

UNITED KINGDOM

Citizen Bane

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she wants citizens of the European Union living in the United Kingdom to remain even after Brexit in an announcement intended to put their “anxiety to rest.”

Unveiled on Monday, the plan would allow EU nationals who have legally resided in the UK for at least five years to apply for “settled status,” which would also allow them to bring over spouses and children, the BBC reported. The cut-off date for eligibility is undecided but will be between March 2017 and March 2019. Also under the plan, EU nationals in the UK for less than five years at the specified date will be able to continue living and working in the UK. Once resident for five years, they too can apply for settled status

However, May also said the scheme would be contingent on a reciprocal deal for the 1.2 million British expats living in EU countries.

Critics from both the UK and EU said the plan isn’t generous enough, and would result in a huge administrative hassle both for the UK government and foreign residents.

[siteshare] Citizen Bane[/siteshare]

BRAZIL

Under Pressure

Brazil’s top prosecutor issued a 64-page indictment of President Michel Temer on Monday, detailing charges of corruption that will increase the pressure on him to resign.

The indictment makes Temer the first sitting president in Brazil to face criminal charges, the Washington Post reported.

The lower Chamber of Deputies in Congress must now decide whether the case has merit. If two-thirds of the legislature decides that it does, then the president will be suspended for up to 180 days while a trial is conducted, the paper said.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot alleged that Temer took a bribe of around $150,000 offered by Joesly Batista, former chairman of meatpacking giant JBS, between March and April this year. Temer has also been implicated by a recording that appears to feature him soliciting a payment to former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha to prevent him from testifying to the authorities.

Temer insists he has done nothing wrong and says he won’t resign. But his already dismal approval rating is plunging and he faces growing pressure to step down.

[siteshare]Under Pressure[/siteshare]

SYRIA

Red Lines

The White House warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he would “pay a heavy price” for another attack using chemical weapons, citing “potential” evidence he is preparing for such an attack.

Without supporting evidence or further explanation, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” the Associated Press reported.

The evidence in question likely refers to the identification by intelligence officers of several sites where they suspected the Assad government may have been hiding newly made chemical weapons from inspectors, Reuters quoted an unnamed US official as saying.

Several State Department officials told AP they were caught off guard by the White House announcement, which typically would have first been discussed with the State Department, the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies.

The AP quoted an unnamed non-governmental source with close ties to the White House as saying the administration received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country.

[siteshare]Red Lines[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Cracking a Mystery

The egg evolved over 300 million years ago after vertebrates started making their way onto dry land. Nowadays, these efficient microsystems of life come in tens of thousands of shapes, sizes and colors.

But the mystery of the egg’s diversity has stumped scientists for generations – until now.

Many theories have floated around about what determines an egg’s proportions. Some claim flat eggs are better for incubation. Others say oblong eggs will roll away from the nest less easily, NPR reported.

But according to biologist Mary Caswell Stoddard of Princeton University, there’s something else at the core of this mystery.

After analyzing almost 50,000 eggs and cross referencing them with 1,400 bird species, Stoddard and her team concluded that egg shape is related to flight ability in birds. Their study was recently published in the journal Science.

Long-distance fliers developed slimmer, more streamlined bodies, meaning less storage space for a budding egg, which “has an effect on the egg-shaping process,” said Stoddard.

[siteshare]Cracking a Mystery[/siteshare]

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