The World Today for July 10, 2017



A Tequila Sunset

At 77, Carlos Slim – Mexico’s billionaire media mogul and sometimes-contender for the title of ‘Richest Man in the World’ – should probably be considering retirement.

Instead, he’s pouring his ambitions into the construction of a massive new airport – slated to be the world’s third-largest – on the outskirts of Mexico City, wrote the Guardian.

The stakes are high for Slim’s latest vanity project, with failure likely to doom his reputation among future generations, they added.

Adding to his difficulties, Mexico is potentially entering a period of profound uncertainty, said the Harvard Business Review.

For one, the country is preparing to hold a general election next year – with a populist candidate threatening to upend the status quo here, too, they noted.

But a more immediate threat will arrive at Mexico’s doorstep in August, when renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are set to begin.

The US government has already threatened to pull out of NAFTA if it can’t strike a better deal for US workers. It’s part of President Donald Trump’s America First strategy, which unnerved most allies wary of a trade war at the G20 in Hamburg Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the sidelines of the G-20. The wall he wants Mexico to pay for came up. So did other issues such as border security and immigration. On NAFTA, Mexico is willing to renegotiate. Trump called the Mexican leader a “friend” even though the meeting was a bit chilly.

Still, businesses on both sides of the border are viewing negotiations as an opportunity.

Owners of “maquilas,” the mostly US-owned factories located just over the Mexican border, said they hope talks will cut down on NAFTA’s burdensome paperwork, wrote

Other US-based firms with ties to Mexico said they still see a bright future for doing business over the border.

Lance Fritz, the CEO of Union Pacific, the largest publicly traded railroad in North America, told Bloomberg he believes Mexico will continue to be a “great opportunity” and that pragmatic US trade officials will strike a fair deal.

Fritz might have a point here. Trade negotiators from the US and Mexico already achieved a victory in early June by agreeing to a deal on sugar, paving the wave for broader negotiations in August, wrote the Associated Press.

Still, other industries are warning against the disastrous consequences that could result from an abrupt US withdrawal from the agreement.

Energy firms, for one, have been sounding alarms in Washington over the importance of relations with Mexico – whose heavy imports of natural gas would render both Mexico’s energy supply and US firms especially vulnerable to a trade battle, wrote the New York Times.

And for American businesses, a healthy, functioning NAFTA would be preferable over another alternative that results in Mexico cozying up to China.

Chinese officials said last week they are open to discussing a free-trade deal with Mexico, currently China’s second-largest trade partner, noting that it would pose “no difficulty from China’s side,” according to Reuters.

Depending on the outcome of NAFTA talks in August, that could be an all-too tempting proposition for Mexico.

[siteshare]A Tequila Sunset[/siteshare]



With a Small ‘V’

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul, saying the city once claimed as the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate had finally been liberated.

Dressed in black military fatigues and a black cap, Abadi visited Mosul on Sunday to congratulate troops, shaking hands with rows of soldiers, NPR reported. By that time, the militants had been rooted out of all but one neighborhood, where about 2,000 civilians are still caught in the ongoing fighting there.

The human costs are likely to continue elsewhere, too, due to remaining mines and explosives and the large number of people who have been displaced. UNICEF noted that “Children’s needs remain acute,” both inside the city and in nearby camps where civilians have sought refuge from warfare, NPR said.

The current push to recapture Mosul began in October. It’s a vital symbol in the broader fight against Islamic State, as it was from the city’s 12th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri that leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi first declared the caliphate in July 2014.

[siteshare]With a Small ‘V'[/siteshare]


A 25-day Step

Hundreds of thousands of protesters reached Istanbul for the culmination of a 25-day march from Ankara challenging the crackdown launched by President Tayyip Erdogan after last year’s failed military coup.

Addressing a rally on Sunday, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Turkey’s main opposition leader, said the country was living under dictatorship and vowed to keep fighting to restore real democracy. “We will be breaking down the walls of fear,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

He called on the government to lift the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt in July 2016. He also demanded the release of scores of journalists from prison and called for the government to restore the independence of Turkey’s courts.

Sunday’s rally was the largest protest against Erdogan’s crackdown yet. Earlier, Erdogan criticized Kilicdaroglu for taking the fight to the streets, likening the protesters to those who carried out the attempted coup and saying they could face charges.

[siteshare]A 25-day Step[/siteshare]


Squatters, Cars and Rage

Many residents of Hamburg are questioning Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to host the G-20 summit in the protest-prone port city in northern Germany, after days of violent clashes between anti-globalization protesters and the police.

The violence left more than 400 police officers injured, around 400 protesters in jail, and caused untold damage to businesses and homes, the Globe & Mail reported. Meanwhile, the summit itself failed to accomplish much of anything concrete, many complain.

Critics said Merkel overreached in her bid to showcase her birthplace as a bastion of free speech, particularly as the summit was held only a 20-minute walk from a neighborhood known for a squatters’ movement and other far-left causes.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters gathered near the famous Rote Flora, or Red Flower, theater, the city’s de facto center of leftwing radicalism. Demonstrators looted stores, vandalized buildings, burned cars and set up barricades.

However, holding the summit in the leftist bastion meant “everybody sees the real emotions behind this,” the paper quoted a resident as saying.

[siteshare]Squatters, Cars and Rage[/siteshare]


The Big, Toxic Red

So long, little green men.

Pounded by ultraviolet light, Martian soil contains a mix of chlorine compounds and other toxins that kill bacteria, according to researchers at the Edinburgh University in Scotland.

The research put the kibosh on hopes of finding life on the Red Planet, at least for now.

Organisms might best survive around eight feet underground to escape the radiation that creates the toxic environment, they added in a study published recently in Scientific Reports.

The study’s authors said some might believe the findings suggest that manmade probes likely don’t present a grave danger of spreading Earth germs on the planet’s surface. But they didn’t agree.

“It’s not out of the question that hardier life forms would find a way to survive,” said astrobiologist Jennifer Wadsworth in “It’s important we still take all the precautions we can to not contaminate Mars.”

[siteshare]The  Big, Toxic Red[/siteshare]

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