The World Today for August 14, 2017



Three-dimensional Chess at the Top of the World

Only around 300 feet separate angry Chinese and Indian soldiers on the Doklam plateau, where the border of Bhutan, China and India meet.

The two sides have hunkered down into a dangerous stalemate after the Indian army heeded a Bhutanese request to stop Chinese troops from building a road that Bhutanese officials feared would violate border agreements.

In a so-called “flag meeting,” Chinese and Indian military brass conveyed messages to each other. China wants the Indian soldiers off land claimed by Beijing. But the Indians won’t leave unless the Chinese also remove their construction equipment from the area. Neither side bent. So now they expect to stay through the winter.

“Since this flag meeting hasn’t resulted in a resolution of the conflict at Doklam, it appears to be a long-drawn affair,” S. L. Narasimhan, a defense analyst and ex-Indian army officer, told Bloomberg.

The conflict pits the world’s two most-populous countries against each other as well as the largest democracy against the largest economy by purchasing power parity – a standard that accounts for price differences, as explained by the World Economic Forum.

India lost a war with China that stemmed from a Himalayan border dispute in the 1960s and India’s army is still smaller and less well-equipped than China’s, so Indian leaders are justifiably cautious, especially since economic ties between the two countries have increased in recent years.

But nonetheless, it seems New Delhi is not only prepared, but also has little choice but to stand up to China.

“India’s decision to move more troops closer to India-China border in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh is guided by the ground realities of the northeast,” wrote India Today over the weekend. “Doklam plateau is not very far from the Silliguri Corridor – also referred to as the Chicken Neck – that connects the northeastern states with the rest of India.”

The standoff reflects Beijing’s new aggressiveness, a stance exemplified by China flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and frequent incursions into disputed territories in what India considers part of the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. Chinese aggression in the region is also probably a play to shore up its hold on Tibet, whose leader, the Dalai Lama, now lives in exile in India. Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom, by the way.

“China has been trying to dominate the Himalayan region because it believes unless it does, it will not be able to retain firm control over Tibet,” said Brahma Chellaney, a strategic studies professor at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, in an interview with the Financial Times. “The big obstacle it still faces is Bhutan. Driving a wedge between Bhutan and India is clearly a Chinese strategy.”

It’s a game of three-dimensional chess that adds yet another hotspot to the world, this time at the top.

[siteshare]Three-dimensional Chess at the Top of the World [/siteshare]



Calling Chicken

The threat of US sanctions appears to have had as little impact on Iran as US President Donald Trump’s threat of “fire and fury” has had on North Korea.

Shouting “Death to America,” Iranian lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an increase to the country’s budget for its ballistic missile program and foreign operations by the Revolutionary Guards on Sunday, the New York Times reported.

The move came in direct response to new US sanctions on Iran over its missile program passed this month. It also comes amid Trump’s apparent efforts to pull the US out of the nuclear agreement formed between the United States, Iran and other world powers in 2016 – while moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been trying to improve US-Iran relations.

At around $800 million, the increase is small relative to spending by regional rival Saudi Arabia, however. Iran will spend $260 million on its ballistic missile program and around $300 million on the international arm of the Revolutionary Guards.

[siteshare] Calling Chicken [/siteshare]


Votes Versus Machetes

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga continued his refusal to accept the results of polls that re-elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and called for his supporters to skip work on Monday – even as a skirmish between machete-wielding members of two rival ethnic groups broke out in a Nairobi slum late Sunday.

More widespread ethnic violence is feared if the dispute continues, because many Kenyans vote along ethnic lines, the Washington Post reported. President Kenyatta is a member of the Kikuyu ethnicity, while Odinga is a Luo.

More than 1,000 people died in ethnic-fueled violence following Kenya’s 2007 election, the paper noted.

Prior to Odinga’s call for a work stoppage, some analysts had speculated that he was on the brink of dropping his claims of election rigging. But an oblique reference to an announcement of a “next step” on Tuesday has observers wondering if he will contest the election in court or through some other means.

International election observers have not bolstered Odinga’s claims of vote tampering.

[siteshare] Votes Versus Machetes [/siteshare]


Moving On

Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) voted to relax its rules for the selection of presidential candidates in a move seen as paving the way for President Enrique Pena Nieto to push Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade as his successor in elections slated for 2018.

The party on Saturday voted to axe a rule that formerly required its presidential candidate to have been a party member for 10 years before running for the office, Reuters reported.

Pena Nieto described the change as a move toward building a modern and more inclusive party, saying it “opens us up to society and brings us closer to citizens,” the agency said.

Having served in various cabinet posts under both the PRI and the conservative National Action Party (PAN), Meade has a reputation for honesty – which could prove to be a powerful asset for a party reeling from a series of corruption scandals.

If selected, he would likely face leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose party was far ahead of PRI in a July poll.

[siteshare] Moving On [/siteshare]


Coddling Conundrum

Humans have long known that overcoming a few obstacles early in life can spell success in the future.

According to a new study published recently in the journal PNAS, the same is true for puppies.

Using a group of 98 puppies bred to become the ideal guide dog for humans with visual disabilities, researchers found that the secret to becoming the top “seeing-eye” dog was stress at a young age.

Of the one-third of pups sampled that failed at the guide dog academy, many spent their first weeks of life nursing and getting a lot of attention from their mothers.

Conversely, there was a clear trend among those 66 puppies who went on to graduate from the training academy: Many had been the runts of the litter who scrambled for mom’s attention and a chance to nurse, the Los Angeles Times reported

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who conducted the study posit that the puppies’ early strife cultivated those abilities that guide dogs need on the job, such as navigating physical obstacles and suppressing animal instincts.

Nothing good ever comes easy, apparently, even for the cuddliest among us.

[siteshare]Coddling Conundrum[/siteshare]

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