The World Today for July 12, 2017



Narratives and Sidekicks

Rioting protesters running rampant through the streets of Hamburg may have overshadowed many of the high-level policy issues like climate change debated during last week’s G20 summit.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping was happy to avoid the limelight and focus on other goals – like presenting China as a partner for Europe, wrote Reuters.

With the US turning toward protectionism, China sees itself as “the new defender of multilateralism and especially global free trade,” Angela Stanzel of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin told the New York Times.

According to the Chinese narrative, Europe – and in particular Germany – are sidekicks supporting these values, she added.

China has been working to improve its relations with Germany for at least a year, wrote Newsweek.

The results are starting to show. Last year, China supplanted the US to become Germany’s top trade partner.

The consequences of these increased ties between China and Europe could be dramatic.

For one, China’s strategy to increase connectivity with Europe under the Silk Road Economic Belt could open up new export possibilities for Europe by speeding up overland rail transport routes, wrote the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

And for years, China has been buying up middle-sized family-owned companies known in Germany as the Mittelstand. These are the backbone of the German economy, which is in turn the economic engine of Europe.

Meanwhile, not all of China’s aims are as sensational. Chinese investors are even taking an interest in fourth-tier German soccer teams as a means to boost the sport’s prominence in China, according to Deutsche Welle.

This newfound drive for cooperation extends beyond business ventures, too.

The European Union and China are also backing new rules to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the global shipping industry, wrote Bloomberg.

That would turn shipping into a zero-carbon operation and close a loophole in the Paris climate agreement – which doesn’t cover maritime emissions.

Nonetheless, some stark limits on China’s influence on the continent remain.

For example, French President Emmanuel Macron’s “protection agenda” cautiously eyes Beijing while simultaneously embracing free trade.

Macron’s agenda would restrict foreign – read Chinese – takeovers in wide swathes of the French economy like energy, banking and technology where China has a keen interest in benefiting from European know-how, reported Reuters.

That strategy has found resonance among countries like Germany and Italy that are keen for the EU to be able to block Chinese investments given similar constraints EU firms face in China.

And even China and the EU are prone to bickering over steel tariffs and other trade issues, as a recent EU-China climate summit demonstrated.

So while China and Europe may be taking steps to come together, they have a long way to go before sealing anything as far-reaching as the recently negotiated free-trade deal between the EU and Japan.

Still, there’s time.

[siteshare]Narratives and Sidekicks[/siteshare]




The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed, shortly after local news reports quoted the militant group as admitting that the terror group’s 45-year-old leader died in an air strike in the Iraqi province of Nineveh.

The human rights organization told Reuters on Tuesday it had “confirmed information” that Baghdadi is dead. But the news agency had not yet been able to verify the claim through other sources.

In June, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it might have killed Baghdadi in an airstrike outside Raqqa. But Western and Iraqi officials remain skeptical. That’s understandable, considering his history of coming back from the dead.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has a record for credible reporting, however, and attributed its information to activists who are in contact with Islamic State leaders in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor, giving the claim an authoritative specificity.



A Dangerous Bias

After seven Hindu pilgrims were killed by terrorists attacking a bus to the Amarnath shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir Monday, officials are raising the specter of an uptick of Hindu-Muslim violence.

In contrast to his slow response to a spate of lynchings of Muslim and lower-caste Indians accused of eating beef or transporting cattle for slaughter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately tweeted that he was “pained beyond words” and said the attack “deserves strongest condemnation from everyone,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Both India and Pakistan lay claim to the area, which on the Indian side is part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri militants, as well as sponsoring terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba – which both India and the US have blamed for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Local police accused Lashkar of orchestrating this ambush, as well.

Though Kashmiris, too, have condemned it, the attack may deepen the divide between Hindu majority Jammu and Muslim majority Kashmir, India’s FirstPost noted.

[siteshare]A Dangerous Bias[/siteshare]


Slow ‘Poison’

Moscow says it’s considering ways to retaliate following Washington’s expulsion of its diplomats and seizure of some of its diplomatic premises in the US.

On a visit to Austria on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the US action “outrageous” and said Moscow is “thinking of specific steps,” Reuters reported.

A Russian daily cited a Russian diplomatic source as saying Moscow’s response might include the expulsion of around 30 US diplomats and the takeover of two US diplomatic compounds in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In December, President Barack Obama’s administration seized two Russian diplomatic compounds and expelled 35 Russians over their alleged involvement in hacking the US presidential election campaign.

Lavrov’s claims come as Donald Trump Jr. has admitted to meeting a Russian official allegedly offering opposition research during the race, and immediately following a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that failed to resolve the issue.

For his part, Lavrov said Obama took the action to “poison to a maximum” US-Russian ties before Trump could assume office.

[siteshare] Tough Talk [/siteshare]


Go with the Gut

There are over 1,000 species of sea spider worldwide – some are just centimeters long, while others could fill your dinner plate, National Geographic writes.

They’re mostly just one tiny body connected to many oversized legs.

“They do all their business in their legs,” says Amy Moran, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Their gonads are in the legs, and the females store eggs in their legs.”

In order to breathe, sea spiders diffuse water through their porous exoskeleton.

But herein lies a problem: Sea spiders don’t have organs for gas exchange, like lungs in humans.

And their heart is too weak to move both oxygen and blood from the center of the body to the tips of their legs.

The solution: Go with your gut.

Sea spiders’ guts extend all the way down to the bottom of their legs. So when they contract their gut, they’re able to move oxygen molecules around the body more efficiently.

“These sea spiders are using the gut as a heart,” says Moran, who worked on a study about the spiders published recently in Current Biology.

Click here for a closer look at these unusual creatures.

[siteshare]Go With the Gut[/siteshare]

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