The World Today for July 06, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

GERMANY

The Street

The leaders of the world’s most powerful countries will finally descend on the German port city of Hamburg on Friday and Saturday for this year’s annual G20 summit.

And dozens of protest groups and thousands of activists are already here – protesting the G20 as a symbol of global capitalism’s ills in Hamburg’s streets.

This year, protesters aren’t limiting their complaints to economic issues, wrote Deutsche Welle. Climate change and Western governments’ response to the refugee crisis are also major issues for demonstrators.

Some are also criticizing divisive political leaders. They say they plan to take advantage of the summit’s location in a crowded Hamburg neighborhood – which has a long-standing anti-establishment pedigree, noted the Guardian – and “kettle,” or encircle, President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

Hamburg authorities have bolstered security amid concerns that things could get violent if the estimated 10,000 far-left activists clash with police on the city’s streets, said Politico.

On Wednesday, cops were already using water cannons to disperse demonstrators, Reuters said.

They want to avoid a repeat of the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, when violent clashes with police resulted in hundreds of injuries and the death of one protester.

But if previous G20 summits are anything to go by, it’s unlikely that protesters will succeed in derailing the group’s high-flying agenda.

Still, their complaints haven’t gone completely unregistered by this year’s G20 host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel said in her weekly podcast that G20 leaders will have to focus on fostering more inclusive and sustainable economic growth and put aside thinking only about their own prosperity, according to Fortune.

As such, this year’s summit is going to take a cue from protesters and dive head first into issues like the unequal distribution of wealth, resource consumption and climate change, they added.

The G20 together account for roughly 80 percent of global GDP. The body was originally conceived as a forum to address global economic policy – as demonstrated by the group’s robust handling of the 2008 financial crisis, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Over the years, leaders have expanded the group’s focus to include cross-border issues like climate protection, inequality and the fight against terrorism.

But if the G20 really wants to succeed in these newfound goals, it’s going to have to expand its focus further to areas like education, said observers.

“Without increased investment in quality education for all, the G20 agenda is on shaky ground,” opined former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the Guardian.

Otherwise, vulnerable groups risk being left behind despite the group’s good intentions, she added. That’s one message that sure to resonate among protesters.

[siteshare]The Street[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

UKRAINE

Slow-moving Wheels

Prosecutors investigating the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine in 2014 announced that suspects would face trial in the Netherlands, but stopped short of filing charges or releasing the names of some 100 people of interest in the case.

Last year, the prosecution team said there was strong evidence that the surface-to-air missile system used to shoot down the plane was fired from Russian territory and the launcher returned to Russia afterward. But Wednesday’s official statement did not say whether or not Russian soldiers were among the suspects, the New York Times reported.

The prosecution team includes members from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. Those countries would continue to work together as the case moves toward trial.

Russia has denied any role in the strike – which killed all 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

Any criminal indictments are likely to result in a diplomatic standoff, as Russia does not allow extradition of its citizens for trial abroad.

[siteshare]Slow-moving Wheels[/siteshare]

BHUTAN

Borderline Behavior

A spat over territory in the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan is threatening to boil over.

Beijing insisted on Wednesday that India must pull back its troops “as soon as possible” to facilitate negotiations to resolve a month-long standoff over China’s moves to begin building a road on territory also claimed by Bhutan earlier this month, the Associated Press reported.

The spat could well extend to the G20 summit this week, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. China and Bhutan have disagreed about the precise border for decades. But this provocation prompted Bhutan to ask India to send troops to the Himalayan plateau to stop the road project.

High-level officials from both India and China have raised the specter of military conflict with references to the 1962 war between the two countries, and their respective media outlets have amped up the volume.

For the most part, experts see the maneuver as part of a Chinese strategy to keep India on the defensive within South Asia, and therefore slow New Delhi’s progress as a broader regional power.

[siteshare]Borderline Behavior[/siteshare]

RUSSIA

A Rock, A Hard Place

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea are a form of “covert protectionism” on Thursday, drawing the battle lines ahead of the G20 summit in Germany this week.

Protectionism is on the rise “and unilaterally imposed and politically motivated sanctions on investment, trade and, in particular, technology transfer become its covert form,” Putin wrote in a guest editorial published in the German business daily Handelsblatt, according to Reuters.

The statement comes as US Senator Richard Blumenthal is trying to push a bill issuing more sanctions against Russia through the House of Representatives, and just ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Putin on Friday. In conflict over the future of Syria and the fate of Crimea, the two leaders have “little concrete to agree on” noted ABC News.

Nevertheless, Exxon Mobil and various other energy companies have echoed Trump’s opposition to the proposed sanctions, saying they could shut down oil and gas projects around the world that involve Russian partners.

[siteshare]A Rock, A Hard Place[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Solid as a Rock

Concrete is prone to crack, presenting major issues for engineers. They often have to reinforce the stuff with other materials, like steel.

But the ancient Romans developed a recipe for a type of concrete that can endure the corrosive power of seawater that may have applications in modern times, the Washington Post reported.

“It’s the most durable building material in human history, and I say that as an engineer not prone to hyperbole,” said Philip Brune, a research scientist at DuPont Pioneer who studied the properties of ancient Roman monuments.

The secret lies in a chemical reaction between saltwater and Roman concrete, which is developed from volcanic ash and quicklime, scientists recently reported in a study published in American Mineralogist.

When the mineral phillipsite, naturally found in volcanic rock, reacts with seawater percolating through cracks in the concrete, it creates rare tobermorite crystals, which then naturally reinforce the structure.

Over time, Roman concrete only gets harder, providing scientists with a solution to rising costs associated with coastal flooding.

[siteshare]Solid as a Rock[/siteshare]

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